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 Bosniaks - snake people

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PostSubject: Bosniaks - snake people   Sun Dec 22, 2013 9:05 pm

According to Bosnian mythology the snake is the first being that God created, it appeared 40 years before the first man and animal were created. This mythological data is especially interesting from the aspect of perceiving numerous other beliefs and legends about the snake in BiH since it gives us a basis for understanding the entire concept of the snake cult phenomenon. We should especially note the connection of this cult with the tradition of our people whose Illyrian genes justify denomination of Bosniaks as snake people.

Among the multitude of beliefs a legend about a giant snake stands out, this snake encircles the entire globe, forming a belt around it, which when analysed geometrically depicts a circle which has a dot in the centre. In such a way we get the symbol of the sun which is inseparable from the snake cult. We shouldn't disregard the peculiarity  of this transcendental myth which directs us towards a mystical idea that a snake has a celestial form besides its earthly one.

Folk beliefs claim that the snake is as large as a mountain in its original form but thanks to its mystical powers it manages to appear in its miniature form in front of humans. It is, according to all aforesaid, a being of exceptional magical power and one of the greatest forces that exist in the universe. The cult of mountain peaks, which certain folklorists and ethnologists hypothesised to belong to the solar cult, can be directly connected with the snake cult through simple logic and folk descriptions of the snake as a gigantic appearance which is compared to that of a mountain. In such a manner we again confirm the hypothesis about the inseparable connection of the sun and the snake in folk beliefs.


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PostSubject: Re: Bosniaks - snake people   Sun Dec 22, 2013 9:14 pm

Tuesday - holly day


Folklore claims that snakes live like humans: they have their families but also kingdoms and monarchies. They always gather exclusively on Tuesdays in order to hold their meetings and agreements and at that moment, according to folk belief, there are hundreds of them on one place. Depending on the religion that they follow they have names which are identical to humans. How widespread this belief is still today is best shown by the statement of stravarka Alija from Velika Kladuša. On one occasion, when she went to her neighbour's house, Alija met a black snake laying on the road and observed her. Seeing the snake on the road Alija stopped and started uttering all Bosnian female names that she could think of: Mejra, Bejza, Hanifa, Fatime, Senada,. and only after she uttered the name Katka the snake reacted and started moving towards a nearby meadow, disappearing in the tall grass. According to Alija's belief each snake has its own name, which is identical to a human name, and as soon as one guesses it the snake will disappear.

Even though people avoid close contact with snakes from fear of their attack we should mention that a snake bite is not seen as a large unfortunate event. Namely, it is considered to be a heavenly gift since the person which is bitten by a snake, will according to belief, gain magical strength - it will gain the power of the curse. Alije, which was bitten by a snake at a very young age, claimed that she possessed the power of the curse which she never wanted to demonstrate sine "it is a great sin!".

All those Bosnian beliefs are the result of a tradition over a thousand years old, whose Illyrian origin is evident in all of its parts. It is especially recognizable in beliefs tied to Tuesday - holly day of snakes but also of Bogomils. That's why this day has a special meaning for understanding numerous segments of Bosnia's past but also mythology. Tuesday is a holly day which is in accordance with that marked by various taboos, especially the ones that have to do with men, which can point to an idea of a "female" day i.e. that in the past it was dedicated to a goddess, probably the goddess of moon. There is some evidence for this fact, namely, in Visoko it is believed that a deer fasts every Tuesday and that it refuses to feed its young on that day. In order to understand the hidden meaning of this belief we need to reach out to mythology of those people which had a significant influence on our Illyrian forefathers, and those people are the Celts.

In Celtic mythology the goddess of moon was transformed into a deer by magic and in that form she is taking care of her son Oisin. Moon goddess is at the same time the ruler of the dead which is analogous to the Bosnian belief that on Tuesday men shouldn't shave or that their clothes should be washed "since the dirty water is poured into the eyes of the dead". In the background of this belief we can notice the cult of the moon goddess Arianrhod, depicted on a Bosnian tombstone, which is taking care of warriors and their souls.



The connection of a deer i.e. a roe with the underworld, especially in combination with the depiction of a bird, was relatively a constant occurrence on tombstones, Šefik Bešlagić claims in his book "Stećci-kultura I umjetnost" (tombstones - culture and art), which means that he belief in the fast of the deer on Tuesday is not accidental and it is only a small segment of a once large cult of fertility in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We shouldn't forget the fact that without death there is no new life, no new fruit unless a seed is buried in the ground, and that the entire concept of the cult of fertility and cult of the dead is based upon that principle. And in other cultures one addresses the ancestors when one wishes their intervention in the form of protection for the family, facilitation of fertility and new-borns.

Since we are talking about a lunar deity, which has an arbitrary role over water and weather conditions, it is logical that all gathering of Bosniaks on Tuesday on high places, had in their background the cult of the moon goddess, water and fertility. Their location is besides a place which were geopolitically important in the thousand year old history of Bosnia. All dovišta (pilgrimage site) are located on clearings and plateaus with lush vegetation and undergrowth, forests and local streams. The most important characteristic of all dovišta is that they are former worshiping places of Bogomils, where they gathered and prayed together to god to send them rain and ensure a bountiful harvest, successful defence from enemies, protection of the home, fertility of women, etc. However, ethnologists found out that ritual sacrifices of sheep at those places are proof that dovišta are not exclusively a part of the Bogomil tradition but that they only continued to observe much older Illyrian cults, especially astral cults and the cult of god of streams Bindu.

One of these places of worship dovište Dobre vode (good water) near Foča which is connected to the tomb of two "dobri" (good), i.e. a father and son that a stepmother wanted to kill with the help of a snake, is an ideal example of the cult of water. Visit to medicinal streams which are located there and where prayer is done during the first Tuesday up to Hidirllez and first Tuesday after it.

With the advent of Islam or better to say with the conversion of Bogomils to Islam besides Tuesday, Friday also gained the characteristic of a holly day and because of that fact we have numerous common beliefs and taboos connected to them. The most dominant belief is that during these days one shouldn't wash clothes, especially male clothes, in order to avoid lightning striking a home or even a homeowner dying, which is a clear influence of the cult of the snake, the protector of the family and home. In Rogatica and Žepa it is believed that on Tuesday and Friday it is not good to neither wash clothes nor do anything else on the river or stream in order to avoid stirring the water since it can cause hailstorm.

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PostSubject: Re: Bosniaks - snake people   Sun Dec 22, 2013 9:20 pm

Snake in the Bogomil legends


In numerous Bogomil legends the snake plays a main or supporting role like the one about Grandfather Ravuš or Did Ravuš, which folk tales describe as an old man with long white beard who performed his regular prayers, like all the other Bogomil priests, under a linden tree.

The daughter of bey Džafer, a Bogomil nobleman who converted to Islam, was a girl given for marriage. On one occasion the suitors came to ask for her hand and a beautiful young man from Duvno succeeded. The marriage was planned for a Friday, and the day before that the girl went to the meadow to pick some flowers with which she wanted to decorate the wedding procession. However, her niece was very jealous of her and her marriage and she was looking for a way to hurt her and seeing her jovially walking towards the meadow to pick some flowers she came up with the idea to plant some snakes which will bite her. Approaching her cousin carefully without her noticing it, she dropped a snake and walked away. As soon as the snake saw the girl it started to move towards her but at that moment out of nowhere Grandfather Ravuš appeared and made a circle around her uttering a few words which turned the snake into stone.

In another legend from Middle ages the snake is tied to two holly men so called evlije for which a tomb was raised which later became a pilgrimage site. When Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, conquered Bosnia, all Bogomil population converted to Islam in a very short time period. New religion and customs were not as strange to them as much as Christianity was rigid to which they never wanted to surrender. We know little today about the events that took place during the medieval Bosnia, since legends hide the truth. One of them is tied to a father and a son which converted to Islam, and they lived in a village Kolun near Foča. The father was a man of exceptional physical strength, while the son was of a more gentle constitution. The reason for that is that at a very young age the boy lost his mother and he grew up on food that his father procured.

As he could not manage without a woman, the father re-married after some time to a woman which didn't show care and respect to his son, which she also secretly tortured. On one occasion, while he was sleeping, she placed a small snake in his mouth which entered him and all that the boy ate the snake would swallow. The boy ate a lot but he was pale and skinny regardless. His body became ever weaker. At night after he said his prayers, he asked Allah to help him and that evening he dreamt of his deceased mother, who told him in his sleep to enter the room where they keep yoghurt, which his stepmother forbid him.

Tomorrow, while the stepmother was out of the house, the boy entered the forbidden room, found the yoghurt in a wooden plate and drank it. At that moment the boy fainted. A miracle happened. Disturbed by the yoghurt the snake left the boy's body and hid under a shelf with cheese. Soon after that the boy woke up and escaped from the room. He was very hungry. As soon as the stepmother came into the house he told her that he is hungry and she replied that she will give him some food. She entered the room where she kept the cheese, and the snake jumped and bit her by her face. The stepmother died and the snake escaped. When the father came, he realised what was going on, and he promised his son that he will never get married again.


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