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According to scientific definition, mythology is a science that studies stories of fantastic content whose heroes are various gods and goddesses, warriors, demons, etc. Seen through the eyes of modern psychology, mythology is a bond that binds the man of today with the past, shapes his identity and even his childhood. No matter the geographic location, culture or period every mythological story whether from a large civilization or a small one is based on a classic Pantheon or more commonly on a dualistic division of fantastical beings and spirits, where humans are in the centre. Today, mythology is present in large numbers of various publications, TV documentaries, art and history itself. Not even movie directors could resist its call and mythology is a constant theme of many films. Analyzing the legends and stories of a country one can discern a lot about the thinking and behaviour patterns of a given people. Mainly in most of the mythological stories we find a classic fear in humans of disease, death and evil, constant need of upholding the cult of the hero and warrior, love towards his country, family, individual, etc. Besides this, mythological characters represent intractable human imagination, ability to weather the hard times as best as one can, or creation of an authentic identity for a people or a country. Mythology of Bosnia and Herzegovina abounds with various external influences because of its geographical position but also its turbulent history which shaped the Bosnian spirit and imagination. In Bosnia both the East and West always manifested which is clearly evident through mythology where we come across interesting elements of both eastern and western beliefs. With the above mentioned in mind, the mythology of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be best understood if it is divided into three groups of influence which were the keys to its creation: a) The old Slavic beliefs (Europe) b) Bosnian beliefs (Illyrians, Bogumil) c) Oriental beliefs (Iran, Turkey) Slavic pagan beliefs were preserved in legends about demons of diseases and generally in negative creatures like vampires (Lampir), Mora (Nightmare), Witch (Sihirbaza), Plague, Cholera, etc. Remnants of the old Bosnian beliefs of the Bogumil also remained especially in the beliefs about Did Adža, Black bull, mysterious bird Plačo, etc. The vast number of Oriental beliefs that were brought to Bosnia by the Ottomans originate directly from Iran. By that we mean first and foremost on the belief about angels (Melek), Faeries (Periler), visiting burial grounds (Dobri), etc.
Witch (or Naletnica, Sihirbaza)
According to a Bosnian belief girls become witches if they wish to cause someone harm, for example, to get revenge on her neighbour, her neighbour's cattle or children. Witches drink children's blood and they take away the milk from cows. While a Mora stops being a Mora as soon as she gets married, the same thing does not apply to witches. They don't lose their title after marriage because they stepped on the Holy Qur'an and they gave their souls to Iblis. The witch can turn into a large butterfly and enter any house she wants especially the one that has small children in it. When you notice such a butterfly in your house, you must catch it and burn one of its wings on a candle uttering: "Come back tomorrow, I will give you salt" and then let the butterfly out of your house. It is believed that the first woman that comes to that house to ask for some salt is a witch. If she is then told that she visited this house during the night in a form of a butterfly and that she is a witch it is believed that she looses all her demonic powers.
Mora or Nightmare
Bosniaks believe that a Mora is a discarded or cheated girl which uses this form to get back at her boyfriend. In her invisible form she comes every night around midnight and suffocates the young man by sitting on his chest. The young man feels a large pressure on his chest, he sweats and has nightmares. He awakes in the morning pale and feels powerless. It is believed that every girl can turn into a Mora if she surrenders her soul to Iblis. How does one catch a girl-Mora? From the mosque one must bring a green belt used for tying down a deceased to the stretcher during a funeral. The one who is attacked by a Mora must go to bed holding the green belt in his right hand. He mustn't fall asleep but only keep his eyes closed. Around midnight the Mora will appear and sit on his chest. At that moment the man needs to put the belt on himself and the Mora will become visible to the human eye. Caught in a trap the Mora will be scared and she will start to beg the man not to reveal her secret in return she must swear not to be a Mora any longer. That way she will lose her invisibility power and she will become a normal girl once again.
Snakes inside a human being
All until the half of the past century in smaller places around Bosnia and Herzegovina it was believed that there were snakes that can enter a human body and spend a certain amount of time inside it. Such a scenario would take place if a man fell asleep outside, in the shade of a tree, and opened his mouth during sleep. Allegedly the snake would use that moment if it was in the vicinity and enter his body. She would stay there for days, months even years. The man who had a snake inside him could be recognised by loss of weight and pale face. According to folk belief the snake would eat everything 3|Page
what the man ate not leaving anything for him. In order to cure himself of this mysterious disease the man would be told to lay somewhere outside, on the grass, and fall asleep and one of the inhabitants would bake a chicken and place it next to his mouth. According to belief as soon as the snake would sense the smell of roast meat she would get hungry and would go out and in such a way free the man of its presence.
Velika nebeska ptica
In the past in Bosnia the custom to throw peelings from fruit into the fire in order to feed the celestial bird were honoured. It was considered to be a good deed. According to a legend, Allah punished her to fly around the skies until the end of time without an opportunity to descend to earth and rest. The large celestial bird was punished by god because she wanted to defy gods will and at one opportunity she made a bet with god that she will change the fate of a girl and a boy that god had predetermined as husband and wife. The large celestial bird took the girl and carried her off to the tallest mountain among humans, far away from everyone. At the highest peak of the mountain, the bird spread the skin of an ox across the branches of the gigantic tree and placed the girl there. She took care of her for years until she grew into a fine young woman. In the mean time on the other side of the world the boy also matured into a handsome and strong young man who one day headed into the world to find himself a wife. He wondered around the world until his fate led him to the tall mountain. Weary from his journey he decided to rest under the exact giant tree that the girl lived on. She saw him and immediately fell in love with him. She asked him what was he doing under the tree and he replied that he was looking for a wife. The girl called him up, but the tree was so tall that he couldn't climb up nor could she climb down. Suddenly the girl came up with a solution and asked the young man to hide inside a sheep skin and remain there until she tells him otherwise. He did exactly what she told him. Not long after that the large bird came, the girl told her that she had seen a dead sheep underneath the tree and asked the bird to fetch it for her so she can make some clothes for herself out of its wool. The bird did as the girl told and flew off in search for some food. The young man remained with the girl for a whole year, hiding from the large bird, and during that period she became pregnant and gave birth to a child. Allah who was observing what was going on the whole time called the bird to him and asked - Do you still believe that my will can be changed? Yes, replied the bird. Then god replied that she was the one who brought the young man to the girl and helped them in consummating their love.
Gypsies were also known among the folk in BIH as children kidnappers. According to folk belief they broke an arm or a leg to the kidnapped child or they blinded him so that it can beg for money in such a disfigured form. To individual gypsy women, magical properties were ascribed which allowed them to mug anyone they wished. Usually they did it with the help of a small finger from a child's corps and by uttering secret magical formulas. For that purpose they usually used a wing from a bat. Gypsies were even mentioned in magical formulas for curing fear such as salijevanje strahe (melting lead) when the stravarka banishes the fear with the following words: "Let the gypsies take your fear and your tears in their sack far away from you!"
Coming to Bosnia the Jewish people were known as very stingy people to which a dozen sayings witness. That's why they are called Čifuti or misers. But the thing which was most linked to them was the killing of children. This belief about the Jews is not far from the truth because we find written records in Bosnia about the concoction of a magical remedy made out of human parts, called mumijo or mumya, which were made by the Jewish witches or rabbis. They acquired human parts by stealing corpses or by kidnapping and killing Christian and Muslim children. It was believed that during Pasha or some other holiday the Jews steal a child place him in a casserole and sting it with needles until it bleeds out. That's why children were frightened by these words: "Run to your uncle, run to your uncle, sting!" (Bježi amidži, bježi daidži, boc!”) in order for them to stay away from the Jewish homes.
Soul or Duša
According to belief a man should never be woken abruptly because his soul leaves his body while he sleeps and travels around the world without any limitations. There is a similar belief amongst the Bosniaks about witches, they can also travel in the same manner with their physical bodies while they are asleep. When a witch falls asleep her soul exits through her mouth and wanders off to do evil to other humans. Her body then becomes blue and cold, her mouth stretches and her lips blacken. Before dawn her soul returns in a form of a bumble bee and enters her mouth at which moment she awakes abruptly from this mystic state. It is believed that the souls of children haven't yet completely merged with the body and that their souls wander the world almost every time they fall asleep. Because of this reason mothers who want to move their child while it is sleeping, call the child by its name, or she lightly pulls its nose, wanting to alarm the soul about what is happening at that moment. Immediately the soul returns to the body. Otherwise, if the soul isn't warned, it is believed that the child can get ill or have serious psychological consequences. Today in Bosnia and Herzegovina it is believed that a dying man's soul can not leave his body until his family and his neighbours "ne halale" (forgive him for his sins).
Angels or Meleci
It is believed among the people that there are two angels, one of them is blind and the other one is deaf, which are sent by Allah to stir up the clouds and the storm to places where Allah wishes to punish the people because of some sin. If the blind one hears the prayer from the mosque he will immediately redirect the clouds and save that place from the storms. It is further believed that the Šejtan wants to hinder him in his intent and that a fierce fight between them arises. According to the legends when the angel swings his sword towards the Šejtan a lightning flashes in the sky. When a baby is smiling it is believed that it has seen an angel. The angels are considered to be the protectors of babies because of the baby's purity and impeccability. It is believed that babies are
actually angels until the moment when they learn to speak because then they can utter the bad words along with the good ones and so they lose their gracious ability.
Šejtani or Sheitan
They are demonic creatures that are similar to the Jinn. They are less powerful than the Jinn, because when a Šejtan enters a human, the human starts enjoying vices, impurity, lies or theft; but when a Jinn enters a human being, then the person suffers mental illnesses. Šejtan are easily frightened and they run away from humans as soon as the following words are uttered: "In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful". A Bosnian legend claims that that the Šejtan was present when the first man, Adam, was created. Namely, when God created the human body, He left it lifeless for three years. Each day the Šejtan would come and observe the human body and he would batter his fingers on the body. When he would reach the human's head, he would batter it to and say: "This head won't be empty". At the passing of the third year Allah gave life to the human and it rose to life. Allah warned the human immediately about the Šejtan and told him not to speak to the first creature that approaches him and not to tell him his name. In the beginning Adam resisted the Šejtan's advances, but after some time he gave in to the Šejtan's blandishment and questions and he started a conversation with the Šejtan. The cunning Šejtan jumped on his left shoulder and exclaimed that he will remain there forever since they are now friends. As soon as God saw what had happened he sent an angel to land on to Adam's right shoulder to stop the Šejtan from influencing the human to do evil all the time. In Bosnia against the Šejtan there is a saying: "Šejtanu nalet te bilo!"
Jinn or Džin
Demonic creatures that have an aberrant form, which were created out of a flame. The Bosnian people describe the Jinn as small creatures with one eye and a tail. Each Jinn is limping. Even though they can take various human or animal forms they prefer to appear to humans in a form of a dark man (dark silhouette) whose face can never be seen. They also like to show themselves in a form of a black dog, a cat or a snake. It is believed that the Jinn are faithful servants but also masters of witches and wizards. When the Jinn want to seduce and subject someone to them, they dance a fiery circle and call out the name of the one they want. This usually happens when that person is sleeping. Jinn can dance a circle during the day but at that time in a whirlwind, that is why people avoid whirlwinds to this day. It is believed that as soon as the human utters: "In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful" and blows towards the whirlwind, that the whirlwind will disappear. A special group of Jinn by the name Al-Karisi attack women who have recently given birth, and babies in the first 40 days after the birth.
Dragons or Zmajevi
In the past Bosniaks believed in dragons, they described them as giant snakes with wings that were able to live both in the sky and on the land. It can be concluded from the folklore that dragons were males, there was no mention of a female dragon, and the dragons fulfilled their desire for offspring 6|Page
with human woman and animals, especially cows. According to folklore if a dragon was attracted to a woman, he would come to her room at night or wait for her somewhere outside, on a meadow, and he would use his magical powers to put her in a trance like state. After the intercourse the dragon would fly away and the woman wouldn't have any recollection of the incident. Fatima K. from Bosanski Novi claimed that she gave birth to a dragon in 1974: "I gave birth inside the house, sometime after midnight, after half an hour of painful labour, out came a child in a white placenta and after a few moments it disappeared?!" She claimed that she never saw the child again and therefore she concluded that she didn't give birth to a "Snijet" but to a dragon. Another confirmation to this claim is that her breasts were full of milk in the evening, but when she woke up in the morning they were all drained. This occurred on a daily basis for a couple of months. Being afraid she told this to her neighbour, an old lady, who in turn told her that it was the dragon-child that came each night to feed himself with her breast milk. After some time the night visits ceased.
Faeries or Vile
Faeries are young beautiful women with long golden hair. They have supernatural beauty and a soothing voice. They live inside forests and around lakes, they fly around trees and they like to dance in circles on the green grass. During that occasion they usually sing one of their many songs whose words worn people about some danger. There's a belief amongst the people that a child who feeds a fairy with his milk will become a great hero, this is best illustrated by the legend of Mujo Hrnjica. If people hurt the fairy in any way, it will immediately take revenge by making the human psychologically disturbed. Fairies were afraid of mothers, especially in the past. According to a Turkish folklore which found its place amongst the Bosnian people, in the past humans stole the first child of a fairy and ever since then the fairies seek revenge by stealing human children or by exchanging a human child for its own. For this reason Bosnian women would place a metal object, most often a spoon, near baby's feet inside the crib, when they had to leave the house or when they had to do some chores. In Bosnia and Herzegovina the most famous fairies are Bosanska vila, Gorska vila, and the queen fairy Zlatna. It was believed that Zlatna was the mistress of the forest and the water. Legend has it that every night, Zlatna accompanied by other fairies, went to the river to take a bath and after that they would dance and sing throughout the night on a nearby hillside. Bosnians believe that only those of pure spirit and a clear heart can see fairies in their sleep. Besides female fairies it is believed that there are male fairies amongst these mythological creatures. The most famous male fairy is Ušušur. According to a legend from Doboj, Ušušur fell in love with a girl, who married another man. Desperate and furious, Ušušur used his magical powers to drown the girl in a river. Comprehending the gravity of his actions, he threw himself in the river after the girl but he couldn't drown himself because he was immortal. Because of this incident he decided to punish himself and he chained himself to the bottom of the river, which became his home. Ušušur is described by the people as green man, ragged and covered in moss.
In the past it was believed that stuhe or zduhači were male witches. They possessed magical powers and they were clairvoyant. They usually helped people by performing various miracles and protecting some place from ill weather. They usually moved at night. Amongst the people there are a lot of tales about fights between stuha when there was a fight between the good ones and the bad ones. The most famous zduhači in Bosnia and Herzegovina were Gaibija and Suljo Aganović from Foča.
Bik Garonja (Black Bull)
Old Bosniaks believed that the Earth rests on the back of a giant black bull. When the bull moves his ear then an earthquake takes place somewhere in the world, and on the day when the bull shudders the whole world will come to an end (Judgement day). The tumult that is heard during the earthquake is believed to be the bulls bellow.
After WWII in Bosnia rumours started spreading about scary apparitions which were called Prepasti. Usually they appeared on roads, meadows or next to rivers and creeks as obscure, black clouds, silhouette and whirlwinds that would go high into the clouds and sometimes they would turn into scary dark figures. Those supernatural apparitions were described by the people as distempered ghosts of dead soldiers because the places where they usually appeared were battlefields where large number of soldiers died during the war. Prepasti usually appeared in places where the soldiers lost one of their body parts, and according to belief they appeared to search for their lost limbs. Prepasti would disappear forever when the rain completely washes their blood from the soil and when plough furrows their bones into the ground.
Belief in this mythological being is characteristic for the south-western part of Bosnia, in Cazin-Velika Kladuša to be more exact, where it is believed that he is a dwarf with a long white beard and black feet who rides a large white rooster. His name stems from the Bogomil name for priests- Did. According to the above mentioned it is clear that this creature is a Bogomil priest from the southwestern parts of Bosnia whose name stuck through legends in Bosnia. Did Adže presents a mystical character who was used to scare children into submission. Although in legends Did Adže possesses powers of teleporting, he is the keeper of wisdom and an entrance in the underworld.
In Bosnia there is a legend about Šehidi (martyrs) and especially evlije, holy men, that they can help people even after they die and that's why they are called dobri. It is believed that dobri rise from their graves at night and they pray to Allah. Because of that belief people leave jugs (made out of copper) of water and clean towels inside mausoleums in order for the dobri to take ablution (religious cleansing). A large number of people who were in charge of taking care of the mausoleums swore that a lot of the times they saw wet floor from the water and misplaced towels. That was usually interpreted as a dobri rising during the night to take ablution and to pray to God.
In Bosnia vampires are called lampir, lapir, lampijer, vukodlak or vukozlačina. It was believed that if a cat crosses over a deceased man that he will become a lampir. Of course the effect would be cancelled out if the cat returns the same way it came. Because people were afraid that this would happen they would place a knife on dead man's chest or they would spike a knife next to his head. There was also a custom where people would place a bowl of wheat or only three grains of wheat where the dead person was lying before he was buried, after the burial the wheat was given to a pauper. There were a lot of lampiers but the most famous ones were Meho from Glamoč, Pajo Tomić and a certain Korkut from Nevesinje. Bosnian witches were able to call forth the deadly power of the vukodlak by going to a graveyard and repeating the formula: Adali Ada to protect me" and then they would sit next to a grave keeping their eyes closed, and they would grab a handful of dirt and they would take it home. They would hold on to that dirt until one of their enemies would die and they would plant the dirt under the threshold of his house while the deceased is carried out of it. They did this because they wanted someone else dead from that household.
In the past in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 19th and half of the 20th century among the Bosniaks numerous strange cases of mysterious births were mentioned where pregnant women would give birth to strange creatures called by the people "Snijet" (Mola hydalidora). In the medical terminology we are talking about an abnormal product of conception in which the offspring doesn't develop, instead it only proliferates the placenta's embryonic tissue into a timorous formation which is called Mole by the medical profession. The belly of the pregnant woman would grow, imitating a normal pregnancy. Because the Mole is today regarded as a tumor it is natural that such a state is considered life threatening for the pregnant woman. Probably because of this most of Snijet were born during the first three months of the pregnancy. Most ethological documents agree that the Snijet would leave the pregnant woman during the first 9|Page
three to four months of pregnancy, although some documents that are found in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina claim that the Snijet could be born after nine months of pregnancy. As soon as the pregnancy would prolong itself or get complicated in any way, the midwife would suspect a Snijet, because in such situations the woman would bleed much more than usual and it would take longer for her to recuperate. Even though it was considered a good deed to give birth to Snijet, it was usually killed with a broom and buried where horse manure was stored. According to the beliefs, a woman who would give birth to three Snijet's would immediately, after her death, go into heaven. Midwife's described the Snijet as a living being that needed to be killed as soon as possible. It had red hue and it was horrible. In the past, under the guise of Snijet a lot of criminal activities (infanticide) were committed, when a woman would want to get rid of her child that she got out of wed lock. In certain ethnological documents Snijet was often connected to dragons. Namely, in Bosnia and Herzegovina it was believed that dragons could make love to a woman that was sleeping and as a result of that children that were born had dragon origins. Besides women, the dragons impregnated cows. In both cases the dragon child would fly off as soon as it was born in fear of human retribution. However, it would return every night while the woman was sleeping, to feed itself with the milk of its mother. Such women would claim that their breasts were empty in the morning which further sparked the belief that there was a mysterious birth. According to written testimony of such women, they claim that their pregnancy was normal and had all the accompanying symbols of a pregnancy, until after nine months the woman would wake up one morning with an empty belly and her child missing. Such a case would automatically be considered a Snijet or worse a dragon birth and such a case would immediately become a taboo and people avoided talking about it. People thought this appropriate because they didn't want to incur the wrath of the dragons by talking about that event.
An evil spirit of diseases which attacks the patient and burdens his psyche with various nightmares and horrible appearances.
An evil spirit that caused a lot of anxiety and fear in the patient's soul, so that the patient thought that all the evil of the spiritual world has entered him.
An evil spirit that would poison the patient's blood until he would finally die exhausted.
An evil spirit that would drink the patient's blood all night until it would completely drain the patient of his power.
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An evil spirit of hatred and disputes, he took away love and unity from people, and he made them fight one another.
Are evil spirits that appear to people only at night in various forms, mostly as cats, rabbits, goats, dogs. It is believed that whoever sees a Prikaza he will get seriously ill or die in a short time.
It is believed that these are the ghosts of dead Muslim soldiers who usually appear in the form of mysterious lights at abandoned cemeteries, ruins of old houses or military fortresses and even sometimes forests. It is believed that these soldiers were buried in Christian cemeteries and now they are wondering in search of a Muslim cemetery.
Meknjača or Plačo Karanđoloz
is the name of a mysterious bird that has never been seen but has been heard usually during eve time or at night. Its call can be compared to a child crying. The folk believe that it is a soul of a deceased child that has turned into a bird and that it is only heard when someone is about to die. It is also called drekavac.
The belief about this mythological creature was brought over to Bosnia by the Ottoman Empire. Karanđoloz as it is believed can be found at night on lonely intersections, when it surprises a traveller by jumping on his back and riding him like a horse. Besides being very heavy, Karanđoloz has an awful smell and reeks, and in that way deepens the traveller's misery and suffering. If the Karanđoloz asks the traveller "Am I heavy?" the answer mustn't be affirmative or this being of the night will become even heavier. The Karanđoloz won't stop torturing the man until dawn; when the roosters call is heard in the morning the demonic being will disappear. People used to protect themselves against the being by going around the house or a stable in circles holding a walnut in each hand and clapping one against the other they uttered: "Tučem kućnog dušmanina, što berićet odnosi a musibet donosi!". The famous Bosnian writer Mehmed Meša Selimović wrote about Karanđoloz.
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Bosniaks – Illyrians and Bogomils
Bosnian historian prof.dr.Enver Imamović, believes than the modern-day Bosniaks do not continue the lineage of any Slavic tribe, but rather of an ancient Illyrian tribe called Posen. He gives a serious reference to support his statement and adduces the ancient Greek historian Appain of Alexandria (c. 95 – 165 C.E) who mentions an Illyrian tribe named Posen as living on the territories of modern-day Bosnia and Hercegovina. Mr.Imamović corroborates that the term Posen is nothing else but a corrupted form of the Illyrian term Bosen. Thus, mr. Imamović concludes that when talking about modern-day Bosniaks and the ancient Illyrian Posens we are talking about „one and the same people with the same name and a historic continuity of 2,000 years“. To support his theory of the Illyrian ancestry of the Bosniaks, Imamović mentions that the very name Bosnia is pre-Slavic and that it was existent long before the Serb and Croat tribes moved to the Balkan. Thus, he mentions that „already in the Roman time Bosnia was called approximately Bassania“.
Bosniaks are Illyrians
Prof. dr. Enver Imamović in his book “Historija bosanske vojske” ("The history of the Bosnian army") describes at length the Bosnian Illyrians, their military and social system. For this text the most important part of the book is the one that describes the vast density of Illyrians in Bosnia before the advent of the Romans and the Slavs: After they had conquered the coastal tribes the Romans headed inland. At that time Bosnia was inhabited by numerous Illyrian tribes. They were considered as particularly brave and warlike by the surrounding tribes. The north-western part of Bosnia was inhabited by Japodi, east of them, between the rivers Vrbas and Bosna, were the Mezeji and in the central Podrinje there were Dindari. Desetijati inhabited central Bosnia, Dalmati western Bosnia and Ardijejci southern Herzegovina and the Adriatic coast. Nakon što su pokorili obalna plemena Rimljani su krenuli u unutrašnjost zemlje. U to doba Bosna i Hercegovina je bila naseljena brojnim ilirskim plemenima. Ona su od okolnih plemena smatrana izuzetno hrabrim i ratobornim. Sjeverozapadnu Bosnu naseljavali su Japodi. Istočno do njih, između rijeka Vrbasa i Bosne, živjeli su Mezeji a u srednjem Podrinju Dindari. Desitijati su naseljavali srednju Bosnu, Dalmati zapadnu, a Ardijejci južnu Hercegovinu i primorje. According to prof. dr. Enver Imamović and academician Muhamed Filipović, the Bosniak people are direct descendants of Illyrians which can be easily confirmed through various analyses especially historical but also religious. It has long been regarded that the Albanians are the only direct descendants of the Illyrians, however the things that mr. Imamović and mr. Filipović have brought forth in their historical analysis's and papers confirmed the findings of the Swiss institute IGENEA. Namely, the experts of the institute came to a conclusion that only 20% of the Albanians have the Illyrian gene on the other hand 40% of the Bosnians have the gene as well. When the Slavs arrived in the Balkans they performed genocide over the Illyrians, it is believed that 4 million of them were killed, and the survivors had to forcefully assimilate into the community of the 12 | P a g e
Slavs. However the proud spirit of the Bosnian Illyrians has never disappeared nor did it cease to resist the Slavs. Illyrians worshiped a God of sun and a goddess of moon and also kept the cult of the snake. There is a sizable amount of ethnological data about those beliefs in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In Bosnia to date the ancient Illyrian snake cult has been preserved, the cult rests on the belief that every house has its own snake. That snake is the keeper of the house. Sometimes the snake can be seen in front of the house, and sometimes it can't. Even though the snake has never been sighted in front of a house, it was still believed that it is there. Sometimes the owners of the house saw the snake and they would leave food for it in front of the house. They cared for it so that nothing bad would happen to it. If something were to happen to the snake or if it was killed, then people would expect the worse things for that household.
The big mother (Terra Mater, Magna Mater, Mater Deorum) is one of the oldest and most widespread cults in the world, the origins of this cult can be traced to the old matriarchal age and the stone age. The big mother is considered as the mother of gods and people, but also of the whole universe during life. She was celebrated along the Mediterranean basin under various names such as Rea, Gea, Demetra (Greece), Izida (Egypt), Ishtar (Babylon), Astarta (Syria) and the most widespread name Kibela (Asia minor and parts of the middle east). The rudiments of the ancient history and the big mother cult of the Middle Ages remained vivid and present in the spiritual world of the modern times, also it has been accepted by the religions of today. In that sense it is important to pay attention to the Madonna, Eve or Hava and in the end to the Kaaba in Makkah in whose centre the black meteorite is still situated, which is in fact the symbol of the big mother. The cult of Marry "virgin and Madonna" is a direct descendant of the cult of the big mother, because after the disappearance of the pagan cult of the mother-god there was a need to insert a new cult into this empty magical and religious void, this new cult would need to cushion the human need for a motherly mediator between the human and the divine, a mediator who is always gentle, tolerant and open to the demands of the humans and from whom one could always seek comfort in difficult times. Therefore we shouldn't be surprised that the famous holiday in the name of Artemide Efesia (which contained the elements of the cult of the big mother) which was held during 15th of August is now only transcribed by the Christians into the feast of our lady of assumption. From its beginnings the cult of the big mother, the protector of fertility, was connected to agriculture. That's why the myths and legends are connected to agriculture, and the patriarchal communities claimed that the big mother thought people how to farm. From all of the above it is easy to conclude that her cult had the primary purpose of securing two key segments for the humans - food and offspring. The big mother always manifested in two forms, she was the goddess of earth and the sky and in each form she had her unique powers. Observing the lunar cycle the humans created a calendar which followed the moon phases, they noticed that women's menstrual cycle corresponded to it, but most of all they were most impressed by the lunar phases of the appearance of the new moon (birth) 13 | P a g e
and the disappearance of the moon (death) which incited a belief that the moon is he ruler of life and death. During the 28 lunar days the sky reflected a vivid description of a human life through the lunar phases - birth, growth, maturity which enables fertility and reproduction then the loss of vitality, old age and disappearance or death. In that sense the entire nature, water and earth, represented the creative powers of the big mother which feeds humans, her children, and provides them life. In accordance with the Old Bosnian believes the Moon Goddess manifested in two forms. The first form was celestial and the second one was a tellurian. In her celestial form the Goddess had the power of magic and healing whilst in its tellurian form she was the goddess of fertility and well being. The text of the old Bosnian Love Chant alludes on her tellurian form, noticeable already in the beginning of the formula “Black Earth Mother, please help me, nor is this charm related to you neither to me, but to my dear…” When Christianity came into Bosnia and after that the Islam, the old cult of Mother Goddess was preserved, thanks to Bogumils, but with time the people forgot the meaning of most of the rituals and customs. The belief in fairies is the best preserved part of the cult of Mother Goddess, which was kept in the mind of people. It is obvious that the cult could continue to exist only by loosing its religious significance and get a mark of local legends and superstitions. As such, it did not present any threat to monotheism but could have been forwarded from generation to generation. Based upon it, even the titles of Moon Goddess and Mother Earth had been changed into Zlatna (Golden Fairy) and Gorska vila (Forest Fairy). Both of them have been mentioned in the mythology of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The title Zlatna comes from the word gold which reminds of shinning, gloss or better to say the moonlight. The Gorska vila is the same as the Forest Fairy and the late title also refers to earth.
Legend of The Moon Goddess
According to a local legend that we come across in north-western part of Bosnia (Velika Kladuša and Cazin), a son that raised an axe to kill his own mother was instantly punished by God and his dead body was placed on the moon to remind others what will happen to them if they try to kill their own mother. Even today the people believe that they can see the man's shadow holding an axe when the moon is full. In this legend we come across key elements of the old Bosnian lunar cult in which God (in the original version a Goddess) saved the mother which suggested that the Goddess (moon) protected pregnant women and mothers, i.e. women.
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BOSNIAN CULT OF THE SUN GOD
While the moon symbolised a goddess, the sun symbolised a god i.e. the male principle without which life could also not be possible. According to the description of some folk beliefs and customs about the sun we can assume that he was called god Trzan, Trzance or Tir. Every large or small place in Bosnia and Herzegovina practiced a cult ritual dedicated to the sun. On the eastern side of a certain place there was always a holly place where people would gather to celebrate the solar deity. There they practiced the rituals dedicated to sun and also ritual games, which imitated the trajectory of the sun, competition and general fun. Such a place was usually called Igrište (a playground) or Trzan. One would always come to the holly place barefoot and one would also travel on foot which corresponded to the ritual reverence of the holly place. What is especially characteristic for the cult of the sun is playing rounds. Rounds is a game where everyone holds hands and makes a circle which symbolises the sun, its eternal cycle but also vivacity and cheerfulness. There are data that claim that until the middle of the last century, the Bosnians went to a place called Vrbanja in central Bosnia to practice Trzan and to organise various games and festivities. We shouldn't disregard an interesting analysis of folk belief according to which the sun deity had a dualistic nature. We need to enumerate a few examples to make it a bit clearer. For starters we need to mention the belief from north-western part of Bosnia where women would cover the bowl that contained cow milk when they would carry it from one house to the other. They did it out of precaution so that the milk "doesn't see" the sun since it can harm the milk with its spellbound eyes, i.e. the cow that gives milk would lose its capability to produce milk. Milk is a classical woman's symbol of fertility and food which is a characteristic of the goddess. Is there a small part of a larger myth in this belief, a myth that speaks of the possessive nature of a god towards a goddess or is there a small dose of ancient patriarchy, it's hard to conclude. Besides that people still believe that the sun is malicious and poisonous until 6th of May passes (Hidirlez) and that's why people don't recommend being exposed to the sun for long periods. A similar taboo is connected with the earth for which it is believed that it's not good to sit on it until a certain date passes or better yet the cold part of the year. So we come to a conclusion that everything in nature is harmful to humans until May because after that the danger recedes. Hidirlez or Jurjevo is also called among the folk Mijena, which literally means change, since it symbolised a change of seasons - the end of winter and the cold part of the year and the arrival of summer and the fruitful part of the year. In the past the calendar in Bosnia was divided into two seasons and not four. Therefore it is easy to assume that the cult of the sun god could be celebrated only in the second part of the year which perfectly corresponds to the old pagan division of the calendar year to the light and the dark part. It is necessary to mention that 6th of May is not the original holiday of the sun god that is depicted as returning strength and fertility to nature with his warmth, but the beginning of the month of May. However because of the strong influence of Christianity, which in fact couldn't fully ban the old pagan rituals, the holiday was moved from the 1st May to the 6th and was thus transformed into the holiday of Jurja who slays a dragon. A Dragon or a snake was always the symbols of paganism for the Christian clergy and therefore the symbolic slaying of the dragon should represent the destruction of the old religion. But, this Christian myth was also taken from a much older myth from the Iranian religion and myth about god Mithras who according to legend slays a bull out of whose dead body nature sprouts, especially grain which is necessary for the human race. However, for this text it is more important that Mithras was the sun god. The continuity of sun worship according to some available data never lost its basics but was only supplemented with new beliefs which came along with the Slavs but also with the members of the Persian religion. How strong was their influence is best depicted by the shrine of Mithras in Jajce which was built in 3rd 15 | P a g e
century AD. Of the other folk belief about the sun we need to mention those that can be classified as imitative magic based on the invocation and pleas for help and blessings from the sun. Today also Stravarke in Bosnia turn their hands clockwise while doing the melting of lead ritual, it is said that they are "following the sun". Also when they need to throw three embers into the bowl with water the Stravarka does it by first encircling the ember three times also in a clockwise direction. The above mentioned rule clearly shows the folk belief about the beneficial power of the sun when it comes to healing and annulling negative influences. However this isn't only practiced during the lead ritual, every time when one wants to do a magical step which needs to have a positive outcome or some benefit like giving to the poor, turning the beans when fortunetelling, kneading bread, etc. the rule of making three circles clockwise is always adhered. In the past every wedding procession followed this holy rule which was understood as being beneficial for the wedded couple. That's why the wedding procession always went from the bride's house towards the groom's following the "sun route". With a chronological analysis it is easy to notice that Trzan lost its religious importance throughout the ages, which is understandable due to the strong influence of Islam, however it kept its sociological value. In ethnological notes which encompass a wider area (Sarajevo, Visoko, Žepče, Zenica, Kiseljak, Sutjeska) Trzan became a synonym for green pastures that are found in the centre of the village or on its outer side. Children and the young gathered on Trzan for fun and the elderly met there to discuss village jobs of common interests. Even though the original belief about Trzan (Trzni) has been suppressed during the ages its sacred importance has never been forgotten which can be perceived in a couple of examples. In the village Vardišće there is a place called Trzan in whose vicinity there are a few Stećci (Tombs) and there is a Muslim cemetery on Trzan. In another description there is mention of a Trzan in a village called Jelići which is located above the village houses but in front of the cemetery. On that particular Trzan the deceased person was usually laid there before being buried. In the village Bučići the Trzan is located on a crossroad, however such examples are rare. Although these examples could be connected with the old cult of the dead, however such an assumption would be erroneous for several reasons. From the Illyrian and the Bogomil times, the Bosnian people managed to save only a small fraction of the ancient sun cult through various beliefs and relationships with specific places. They knew that those places had sacred features which were pagan and therefore forbidden. Hence, in order to save that ancient connection they continued the tradition but specifically through get-togethers, games and competitions, and in some cases by burying the dead in holly places. In such a way they kept their relationship with the ancient cult. In the end we need to mention an interesting fact that supports the theory about Trzan as an old solar deity in Bosnia. Namely, it is known that the Illyrians didn't build temples but that they dedicated specific places in nature to their deities, for example, to the god Bindu, streams were dedicated, Vidasusu and Thani the forest, etc. The same tradition resumes during the Bogomil's ages which refused to build churches and instead they gathered in nature in order to pray and hold counsel. If weather conditions (snow or rain) didn't allow for this then they chose a house as a gathering place
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Illyrians legend from Velika Kladuša
Based upon the Greek legend Illyrius, progenitor of the Illyrians was a son of Polyphemus and Galatea and the brother of Celtus and Galas. Illyrius children, Auterius, Enchelus, Perrhaebus, Taulus, Daortho, Dissaro and Partho are the heroes of the epic poetry of Illyrian tribes. In this legend Illyrius is closely associated with a snake; she wrapped around him after being born and thus gave him all its magical powers. Modern philology aims to prove that etymologically names of Illyrians and the mentioned animal, plying the important role in the Illyrian religion, are connected. As Japods occupied the entire territory of present-day Northwestern Bosnia, and elsewhere, it is logical to assume that they preserved and passed, on each generational shift, some of the old Illyrian legends. Such is a legend form Velika Kladusa about a father with seven sons which reassemble the Greek one. That legend describes the giant snake that guards the Gods treasure. She was living in a deep den near Velika Kladusa, in a suburb called a Rudnik. At a time when Romans achieve military superiority over the Bosnian land, there was an Illyrian family – father of seven sons and one daughter. Life was modest but nice until the day when children, out of sheer wantonness and youthful exuberance placed the flatbread on the stone and hit it with a spear. Horrified with this sacrilege of wheat, a gift of the Gods that feeds people, the father tried to reason the children and prevent them of throwing the spear to the flatbread, but in vain. Suddenly something strange happened and forced the young man to stop their game – the flatbread started to bleed?! Seeing this strange omen, the father grabbed his head with his hands and wept because at that moment he realized that the Gods will punish them for blasphemy. Shortly after this event, all seven sons lost their sanity and scattered to all four corners of the World and any track of them got lost. The father died from deep sorrow for his sons. The only one that remained in the deserted house was the daughter, drowned in grief for her late father and lost brothers, but even she was spared of Gods’ punishment, because she was the one who baked the flatbread. They turned her into a huge snake and decided that she would guard their gold and gems until the moment when young man comes, enough brave to let the snake kiss his forehead. Many centuries passed since then, the story about the snake-girl slowly became a legend, which is told in the long winter nights. Each spring, on the Hidrelez holiday, the girl would come out from the hole in her new shape repeating the same plea: “Help me! Is there any man, of any faith to let me kiss his forehead, so I would become his wife or sister?” Many knew about her said words but there was no one brave enough to liberate her from the curse and become rich. But, one spring before the arrival of Hidrelez, a poor young man decided, persuaded by an old woman from the village, to go and let the snake kiss him. – Anyway, as poor as I am, I have nothing to loose, he was encouraging himself. He arrived at down to the hole in the ground, where the snake lived for centuries and waited on her. Soon, from the darkness of the large hole appeared the snake’s huge head followed by her long body. Seeing huge snake before him, the young man got paralyzed with fear. He could not move. But the moment the snake approached him to give him a kiss the young man pushed her and run away. The young man was running thinking that snake would go after him, but something quite different happened. She just looked after him sadly and said: - Let God gives you my sadness and loneliness, and makes you die since I can not!” After that she returned back into her hole. Shortly after this event, the unfortunate young man turned seriously ill and after great pain and suffering he died.
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During the XII century, the Bogomils movement appeared in Bosnia which spread quickly and was accepted by most, its spread lasted until the XIX century as some claim. Besides firmly resisting many rules of the Christian religion, the Bosnian Bogomils kept a large part of their old Illyrian religion which worshiped nature and its forces. Namely, it is known that the Church of Bosnia didn't have any sacral objects and also that it fought against construction of such objects. Instead they chose places in nature, in the open - according to some they were old pagan sanctuaries. Besides that the Bogomils were socially and morally conscious. prof. dr. Enver Imamović points out in regards to the remains of Bogomilism among the Bosnians of today a few character traits and behaviours which are an age-old tradition of Bosnia and Herzegovina: courtesy towards the elderly, women and children, sense of justice, patience, knack for business, hospitality and love for their parents. The holly day Tuesday The holly day of the Bogomils was not Sunday but Tuesday which is confirmed by a few old beliefs which survived in the minds of the Bosnian people until today. Namely, it is believed that the end of times will take place on Tuesday, which has nothing to do with Islam, also the believed that the most severe punishments in court should be ruled on Tuesdays. In both of these beliefs we find a strong symbolism of Tuesday and the explanation as to why the Bogomils held their prayers on Tuesday the believers prayed to God in order to amend themselves and also to postpone the end of the world. Also on Tuesday the grandfather (overseer), the priests of the Bogomils, conducted a role of a judge in disputes which certain people had amongst themselves. Almost all of the holy places in Bosnia and Herzegovina which were used in the past for duas and praying are actually old Bogomil holly places. According to many historians one of the heads of the Bosnian church was Ajvaz-Dedo (grandfather). In his famous work "The history of the Bosnian Bogomils", Salih Jalimam claims that it has been historically confirmed that Ajvaz-grandfather was a Bogomil because of the prayers held in the old Bogomil monastery, and also because of the title grandfather (Did, Djed, Dedo) which was held by the highest ranking Bogomils. In the north-western part of Bosnia we come across another grandfather called Did Adže (Grandfather Adže) who fully fits the description of a Bogomil leader - he is old, wears white clothes, has a long white beard and black shoes. The memory of him never disappeared but has been transformed in a legend about a ghost who is in charge of scaring the children. But also in this legend Did Adže has a task to scare the children better yet to teach them good manners and teach them to be obedient which clearly shows an authoritative person, like the grandfathers among the Bogomils. Another story is connected to Did Adže, namely he rides a huge rooster, has the ability to teleport and he is extremely wise. Some stories claim that he knows the location for the entrance to the underworld.
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Source: www.falanje.com www.magic.bosnianforum.com
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