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PostSubject: CULT OF THE FROG    Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:43 pm

Thanks to ethnological materials present today around museums in Bosnia and Herzegovina and partially present oral tradition, at least among the older population, we know of the more important cults which were present among the Bosnian people since ancient times. Their peculiarity was based on worshiping nature and its divine manifestations. Presumably on the basis of that all, or most of, Illyrian deities were in a zoomorphic shape so that later on, under Roman influence, they gradually got their anthropomorphic shape.

But, it would be wrong to conclude that cults of snake, frog, zviždenjak or even trees, water, fire, caves or hills and mountains, were the only cults that existed. Authenticity was the key element of existence of the above mentioned cults since otherwise they would be lost in history, especially because of foreign influences and new religious dogmas and tenants.

The continuity of worshiping these cults outlasted all breaking events in the long history of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the Roman empire all the way up to the advent of monotheism, but also the Communist system which was based on atheism. An especially fascinating data is that these cults existed successfully in parallel with Christianity and Islam, transforming itself into that which is today referred to as "folk religion" in which pagan and cult beliefs are intertwined with elements of Christianity and Islam.

In my personal opinion the most merit for the survival of old Illyrian cults is credited to the most dominant cult among them - cult of fertility. Namely, in each of them, elements of cult of fertility were present in its widest sense, regardless of its particularity. An ideal example of this is the cult of the snake which nurtured not only the cult of fertility, but also the cult of the dead (ancestors) and so it connected an entire community into a whole. Snake as a holly animals and a totem became one of the holders of an identity of a people and in the following centuries and periods it found its place in folklore and art of all those countries that once constituted parts of the Illyricum, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Representation of the snake in various forms on tombstones presents a continuation of Illyrian sacral art, but it is important to mention that this animalistic motif is found on outside walls of numerous Bosnian houses, especially next to entrance doors, such as the old house of Beglerović family in Repovci near Konjic. Snake as a figurative motif was regularly carved onto fiddles and numerous other artistic artefacts.

The thing which is especially characteristic for ancient cults is fatalism, which is intensively present in all cults which were recorded in the tradition of the Bosnian people. It is surely a logical summary, especially if we take into consideration the traditional propensity towards superstition and magic in everyday life of our ancestors.
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PostSubject: Re: CULT OF THE FROG    Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:44 pm

In the cults of our forefathers, which were permeated by strong influences of animism, shamanism and fatalism, certain animals, and in this case a frog, had their religious function since they represented an incarnation of a certain deity or they included its spirit through which they influenced the environment. The most famous example of a divine role of the frog we find in ancient Egypt where Heketa was worshiped, goddess of fertility, protector of mothers and children, usually depicted as a goddess-frog. She represented life in its fullest sense and that's why she can be considered to be the Grand Mother, which was later replaced by Izida. But, the origin of that symbol was not originally Egyptian, but a component of the religious-magical system which was shared among the old cultures, among whom were the Illyrians.

In Sarajevo but also in the rest of BiH, until the end of the last century it was believed that every house, besides a snake, had its frog which had a beneficial effect on cow's milk, namely, it made it tastier and of a higher quality. A special respect was shown to the frog which would choose its place of dwelling in front of the doorstep, which directly links this animal to the Grand Mother, primarily because of the role of the doorstep in the cult of fertility, but also milk. Another belief which supports the thesis of a frog, protector of the household and family and holly symbology of the doorstep as a symbol of the Grand Mother which we find in Velika Kladuša. If a frog comes to someone's doorstep, or a frog is found there in the morning, it is believed that such an event warns the inhabitants of that household that their house has become a target of evil and black magic.

A house frog is considered a member of the family, just like the snake. In accordance to that it was forbidden to kill it, because otherwise cows would stop giving milk. If a housewife sees a frog inside the house, she doesn't disturb it, on the contrary, she lets it go any direction it pleases. But, if she finds it dead inside her house, she immediately places her hands on her ears, and with tight lips in the shape of the letter O she breathes in air in order to produce a sound similar to a mouse and utters before that and after that "God be with me!" The described prophylactic ritual has the goal of neutralising bad luck which could affect the house because of the death of the frog, because after the loss of its protector, that home and especially the cattle are subject to attacks from demons.

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PostSubject: Re: CULT OF THE FROG    Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:47 pm

Frog - the Grand Mother

The frog which personifies the Grand Mother, or one of her manifestations, even by her physical appearance, i.e. its back part, resembles a woman with a protruded back side and pronounced hips, which is usually the main attribute, along with large breasts and stomach, of the Grand Mother whose physical representation in numerous drawings and statues we can follow since the Neolithic period. Consistency of the symbology of the frog as a divine manifestation of fertility is for that reason can be examined chronologically from the earliest human history until today and determine her significance in development of religious consciousness on the territory of BiH.

In a recorded story about women from Dizdarević family from Gradina which one Ramadan day, right after sunset, went to visit other women in the city and one of them met on the road a large bloated frog, which she named "baba", clearly emphasising the story about a pregnant woman and childbirth. Since the frog jumped in front of one of them, a young bride, she kicked it with her foot and spotting that she is bloated, she told her out loud "You hear baba! When you give birth call me to babine!" Later the story tells of how after some time the bride was abducted by devils who took her to a cave where the frog gave birth for her to assist her during birth, threatening her that if the child happens to be a female, woe be upon her but if the child is male she will receive a huge reward. The young bride was forced to assist during the birth of the frog and since a son was born they rewarded her plentifully and organised a large feast.

In colloquial speech a frog was named baba or babetina, which in etymology is connected with the term zbabna, a folk name for a pregnant woman, or babine - a period of 40 days after birth when the young bride is subject to various dangers and taboos. That period is also a time of visits by other women when the mother and child are bestowed with gifts.

In Rogatica and Žepa it is believed that in front of a small child one shouldn't say "žaba (frog)" but "baba". That taboo hides within itself the fear of revenge from the frog, since she is connected in folk tales with demons and witches which were traditionally tied with childbirth and babine. Their primary task was to harm the mother and child in any way possible. In Rogatica that fear was camouflaged by the belief that "a frog can resurrect inside the child" which is again very similar to another belief about the snake, for which it is said that she can enter a human's body and live in it for some time.

A frog is a common motif of numerous beliefs dedicated to children. Namely, small children were always scared to open their mouths in front of frogs, out of fear that the frog might count their teeth, because, if that happened that child's mother could die. This taboo is not coincidental but it stems from the classic respect of people towards the gods. Scaring children to keep their mouths closed in front of a frog is a sign of showing respect towards the Grand Mother.

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PostSubject: Re: CULT OF THE FROG    Mon Jan 27, 2014 1:55 pm

An animal of mysterious power

We mustn't forget to mention that a snake and a frog have identical mysterious powers. Namely, among the Bosnian people it is believed that a frog eats dirt, and for the snake i.e. dragon it is believed that it attacks and devours the sun or the moon. In the same manner, both animals have mysterious powers to blow up a human or cow, sheep, or some other domestic animal which causes an unusual state among them. Besides being connected to a snake in such a way, the frog also possesses identical power which is attributed to zviždenjak - a power to make a man go deaf. In one recipe of love magic a young man or woman which wants to win over someone's heart must first catch a live frog and bring her to an anthill and burry her in it. The frog is covered with a pot to ensure that it doesn't escape while the ants eat her. As soon as the frog is covered with the pot the girl or boy have to run away because if they hear the frog croak they might go deaf.

A frog is an ambivalent symbol: lives in water and on land, it is tied to the cult of fertility but also for the cult of the dead. She is usually connected to agriculture through various folk beliefs i.e. the beginning of field work but also as a fortune teller of a fruitful year. Namely, the frog is a climatic indicator - maize sowing in the past was always determined by the beginning of the croaking of frogs. Namely, from that day on (when the croaking is heard) it was considered that it is the safest time to sow since after that there will be no more frost and cold weather. In Mostar and its surrounding it is believed that croaking of frogs in the early spring predicts sunny spring and good yield of wheat in that year.

In Bosnian mythology the frog is deeply connected with nature and its spirits, and that's why it can be called a medium. Her ability is manifested in a few ways: from climatic prognosis, connection with the human spirit all the way to spiritualistic interactions. In one of the folk tales it is said that during the Ottoman occupation of BiH there was a pretty girl named Ajša, daughter of Bosnian nobleman, she was supposed to marry Sali effendi, a young man that she loved. But, their plans were disrupted one of the numerous battles that her beloved faience had to go into. After a difficult parting Ajša spent many days waiting for the return of her beloved Sali effendi but instead of him the news of his death arrived.

From shock and pain Ajša ripped up her expensive clothes and spent three days closed up in a room crying and abstaining from food and drink. To stop her suffering a maid talked her into seeing a famous soothsayer, in order to find some comfort and a ray of hope for her aching heart. Arriving at the soothsayer's humble home, Ajša placed a rich gift in front of her and begged her to do the thing that no one else can - call forth the ghost of her dead fiancé to ask him if he is still thinking of her.

Since she was a daughter of rich parents, the soothsayer couldn't say no to her and at the same time hoping for a plentiful reward if her efforts yield results. And she also felt sorry for the young , broken rose. -Allah will forgive the sin if it's done in the name of love, the soothsayer thought to herself, and took out a frog out of a pot with water. After she placed it into a copper casserole, she placed it onto a slab full of hot coal and she began her ritual. Rhythmically swaying front and back the soothsayer started to murmur an unknown prayer while watching the movement of the frog. As soon as the casserole began to heat up the frog disturbed by the heat started to croak. Then the old woman said to Ajša to start praying since the ghost of her fiancé is on the way. As soon as she heard that the girl started to shake from fear and happiness and together with the soothsayer she started to pray. After that the old woman clasped her hand and swaying around the casserole she started to ask the frog some questions:

-What is your name o summoned spirit? The frog croaked.

-Is Sali effendi alive? The frog croaked again.

-Thank you heavenly Lord! Ajša, your faithful fiancé and future wife, is she in your heart?

The frog croaked for the third time. -Sali effendi is alive and true to his Ajša, soon he will come to comfort her, the soothsayer uttered out loud. She immediately turned to Ajša waking her up from her half-sleep and told her what the frog had said. The girl hearing the good news took of her golden necklace and gave it to the old lady and with quick steps and teary eyes she left her house. She ran outside to breathe in some fresh air and free of her burden she decided to share her happiness with her parents. She felt like the happiest woman in the world, which she was at that moment.

After three weeks a miracle happened. One beautiful summer evening Sali effendi rode right in front of her fiancés house on his steed. Alive and well, wanting to see the face of the one he loved the most. A few days later in front of an Imam they got married and they rewarded the soothsayer with a fez full of silver.

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PostSubject: Re: CULT OF THE FROG    Mon Jan 27, 2014 1:57 pm

The frog in Bosnian witchcraft takes a central position especially in segments of love magic but also spiritualism. When a family member is missing, dough is kneaded (jufka) to be as wide as the casserole. The dough is placed in the casserole and on top of it a frog is placed whose one leg is tied with silk thread. Then the casserole is covered with heated metal lid. The person performing this ritual then turns towards south and shouts 7 times the name of the missing person. After that the person stays quiet because in his ears he will hear the voice of the missing person answering the call. In order to successfully end the ritual it is necessary to lift the metal lid and see what has happened to the frog: if the frog died and the thread which is tied to its leg didn't burn the missing person is dead, but if he frog vomited on the dough then it is a good sign that the person is alive and that one can expect her safe return.
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