You are on page 1of 22

pantheon of other gods and goddesses such

as Bindu, Tur, Anzotik, or the divine serpent


Boa, whose roles in the religious system
were not negligible. But, as a starting point
for further observation when researching
ways of healing by our forefathers the most
important are Vidasus, Tana, Tur and Bind.

Raif Esmerovi

Folk medicine of
Bosnia and
Herzegovina healing with
magical formula

Thana

What we need to stress at the beginning


is the fact that thanks to these deities of our
forefathers, today we can be proud that we
have a durable cult of healing, which has a
deep reach in the ancient times.
Documented data from the National
Museum in Sarajevo present examples of
continued ritual practice of visiting streams
and washing the diseased, which ends in
leaving a piece of clothing or food next to
the stream or even throwing a coin inside of
it, which is without a doubt a preserved
tradition of respecting and seeking help
from god Bind, which our forefathers the
Illyrians worshiped as a deity of streams. In
pagan Bosnia he was offered animal
sacrifices, usually of smaller animals such as
goats, which was latter exchanged by
symbolic gifts.

Illyrian religion
By its natural wealth Bosnia and
Herzegovina was always full of forests and
numerous water streams, which by itself, in
a very logical manner, predetermined the
religious system of the Illyrians, this system
was entirely dedicated to worshiping natural
forces. This is why Tana and Vidasus became
symbols, but also personifications of the
human environment, and as such they
signified the strength of nature and
everything that nature offers to mankind.
With them, of course, comes an entire
1

Altar of Vidasus and Thana from Topusko,


Archaeological Museum in Zagreb
Altar with dedication to Bindus Neptune from
Privilica, Territorial Museum in Sarajevo

What was especially interesting to


notice when gathering materials for this
research are individual ways of initiation of
certain persons into the world of magic and
healing and for which it is impossible not to
find a direct link with Tana, Vidasus or even
a snake, holly totem of our forefathers.

Cult of Bind1 was especially dominant in


the part of Bosnia, which was dominated by
Japod's, as well as boarder parts of the
Croatia at that time, especially in Lika,
where it was practiced until the middle of
the previous century. Belief that spring
water, especially the one taken before
sunrise, medicinal and suitable for healing is
another segment of the mentioned cult.

Tana and Vidasus


Sculptures which depict god Vidasus,
sometimes accompanied by Tana, show him
encircled by girls dancing or in the form of
nymphs, water faeries. Beside the data
which confirm that the Bosnian folk were
familiar with faeries from ancient times, this
information is extremely important for
further study about correlation with persons
which came into direct contact with faeries
and gained healing powers as well as texts
of spells. From Bosnian tradition we know
that faeries are skilled in healing with
medicinal herbs and spring water in which,
according to legends, they would bathe.

The figure of the goddess Thana (Diana of lead), Mounj


(the former Roman city of Bistue Nova) near Vitez, central
Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Bosnian folk believes that spells are a


gift from spirits, especially faeries, which is
evidenced by numerous testimonies about
initiation. A large part of older women in the
past that used to work with spells were
illiterate and they used to live in villages.
Their initiation into supernatural was always
based on weird dreams in which young and
beautiful girls used to appear, usually three,
they would teach the chosen woman
healing formulas in the dream. There are
different examples. According to sayings of
a well-known witch from Velika Kladua
called anka, an unknown man and woman
appeared in her dream, clad in white

See: http://magic.bosnianforum.com/t172-cultof-the-god-bindu

Cult of god Tur

clothes. They pulled her by her large toe and


"woke her". Then they told her that they
chose her to heal and help people. Another
woman received her initiation into the
world of magic by a snake bite. Namely, at
one time while she was out working in the
field she got tired and she laid down to rest.
Without realising she fell asleep and when
she woke up she felt pain in her lips. As soon
as she came home she saw that her lips
were swollen and dark. She quickly went to
a doctor who determined that she was
bitten by a snake. It wouldn't have been a
sensational event if she hadn't felt that she
"knew" strange things and that suddenly she
knew how to perform love magic and cure
people of it.

In folk religion of Bosnia and


Herzegovina, which is based on Illyrian
traditional beliefs, some segments of the
Bosnian god Tur were preserved thanks to
the cult of spells (magical formulas); in
Bosnian mythology it was believed that Tur
was a gigantic black bull who held earth on
his back. The name Tur itself probably
comes from poturiti, onaj koji potura, dri
neto ili pridrava (plant, someone who
places under, upholds or holds something)
which fully corresponds to the function
which is ascribed to this mythological
being.Though according to the writings of
ethnologists the belief about the gigantic
bull who is holding up earth is only found
among the Bosnian people, some segments
of that cult are present in the magical
practice of all three people in our country.
We are talking about healing rituals of cattle
where women or men who perform these
rituals preform a spring ritual of
transmission of divine power of Tur in order
to gain his blessing or power of healing.
Namely, in folk religion of Bosnia the
snail is a miniature representation of the
bull Tur since it possesses attributes which
symbolise the bull: horns and house on his
body which symbolises earth. It is no less
interesting to mention that for the ritual of
touching, a dark coloured snail is often
sought, since the bull Tur was described as
being of a black skin or hair, therefore the
Bosnian people in the northwest part of
Bosnia call him Garonja (black). Significance
of touching the snail is the magical
connection with earth, in which Tur lives,
otherwise in Bosnian mythology is the only
culprit for causing earthquakes, and calming
Tur, personification of the earth's strength,
which is clearly visible in the formula which
follows ritual touching of the snails horns:
"Ustuk bie, moje bie jae!" (stand down
bull, my strength is bigger than the bull's).

Vidasus or Vidas

As we can see from the examples,


touching the horns of the snail is nothing
but a magical imitation of touching horns of
Tur, whose entire strength rests in them,
and using that force to heal, since that is the
energy of earth or Grand Mother. It is
believed that after such a transfer of power
from the snail onto a woman or man, a
person can use their acquired powers to
cure throughout the entire year.

When a woman from the surrounding


area of Mostar would gain the power of
healing livestock, she would use her index
finger of her right hand to touch the horns
of a dark snail three times, pulling her finger
down his body, backwards, uttering the
following spell:

A diseased animal is brought to a rock


which is firmly fixed into the ground, i.e. it
never moved from that place, which is
alluding to a tombstone, then the woman
which is performing the healing ritual uses
her index finger to make three circles
around the diseased part of the body and
utters: "stu natrag!" (an abbreviation
of "come, tread, move"). She then spits on
her index finger uttering: "Ptuj, u ivac, u
kamen, stu natrag!" she repeats this three
times.

Go back, go back,
may your origin be
unknown, go back!
From God the cure

Right index finger in folk medicine is the


finger of healing and is brought into
connection with the finger of Hazrat Alija,
who is always depicted with a raised index
finger as a symbol of god's wisdom but also
blessing. This is no coincidence since Hazrat
Fatima and her husband Hazrat Ali in folk
medicine, especially in Iran and Turkey, are
regarded as a couple who have ascribed
mystic properties to them, among which are
healing properties. In north-western part of
Bosnia, in Velika Kladua and Cazin, right
index finger is represented in the prayer to
the new moon which is pointed towards the
moon after uttering five short (smaller)
surah, then a spell is uttered with which one
aims to renew vitality and beauty of the
body.

and my labour recovery.

Bosnian:
Stu na se!
Stu natrag,
ne znalo ti se za trag.
Stu na se.
Od Boga derman a od mog ilad!

According to traditional belief for this


magical transmission one would chose the
period from the beginning of May until the
middle of the month which is no
coincidence, namely, it was a custom in the
past to slaughter a bull (once people used to
4

say: "We'll slaughter a bull for the first of


the May!"), which was a symbol in the
former Yugoslav republic of labour day,
however, that practice of slaughtering
animals, i.e. sacrificing a bull on our territory
is an ancient practice and stems directly
from Illyrians. All of this of course has its
roots on the cult of Tur and mother earth or
goddess Grand Mother.
Actually, today's holiday St. George's
day, which is observed on May 6th among
the Bosnian orthodox Christians, is not a
Christian holiday at all, nor any other, it has
been taken over from paganism. In this data
we can find an answer as to why Bosnian
people, former members of the Church of
Bosnia before the advent of Christianity,
were pagans, therefore it is normal and
logical to conclude that they, like other
people, did not fully renounce their old
religion. Instead they continued under the
veil of Christianity and later Islam to
celebrate the holidays of their pagan
forefathers. That's why among the Bosnian
folk some so called "Christian" holidays
were marked (observed) but not in a
religious but magical way i.e. the original
pagan way, during which destiny was
foretold, spells uttered and livestock
protected from evil spirits and diseases2.

God Vidasus in Bosnian Steak

Oral charms
In the culture of a people a lot of
attention is devoted to linguistics and all
forms of literary expression such as lyric and
epic poetry and drama, where symbolism
and meaning of words get their strongest
expression. Not at all insignificant a part of
that concept encompasses so called magical
prose based on a rhetoric form, which we
come across in all those segments which are
tied to concepts of sorcery, spells, curses,
blessing or invocations. To better fathom in
the meaning of the poetic expression among
the Bosnian folk we need to pay attention to
a forgotten form of love expression
between loved ones - aikovanje (from the
Turkish word ak - love). In a conversation
between two lovers stress was placed on
ingenuity, imagination when choosing words
as well as their rhyme, which has the effect
to stimulate a certain dose of excitement
and elation, for example, a boy utters to a
girl:

Of course, irony is that this argument was one of


the main claims of the hegemonic and militant policy of
Serbia against the Bosniaks, as if they were Serbs which
converted to Islam?! The question, of how is it possible
that Serbs during the 500 year rule of the Ottoman
empire haven't converted to Islam, is interesting, and
the alleged "Serbs" in BiH have converted?! Were the
"Serbs" in BiH worst off than those in Serbia? And in the
end there is the question how come did one and the
same people chose two different historical paths and
renounced their "holly orthodoxy" in favour of some
wild Ottomans?! A criminal organisation such as SANU
(The Serbian Academy of Science and Arts) will never
give the right answers to these questions since they
would seriously threaten the foundation of their
carefully constructed Nazi policy with which the Serbian
political structure has been inspired for decades and
whose catastrophic consequences we felt during the
nineties of the previous century, when the aggression on
BiH started along with systematic ethnic cleansing. An

even greater irony of all of this is that those Serbs claim


that Bosniaks have been islamicized which means that
they have killed their own people and executed
genocide. Actually, Bosniaks for the Serbian people are
islamicized Serbs only when the Serbs want to perform
some hegemonic plan, but this aggression actually
showed and proved that they don't believe this claim
about the Bosniaks. Since logically, if they thought it to
be true they wouldn't kill "their own people".

When a boy frequently goes under a


girl's window, his friends usually tease him
with that familiar utterance: "Have the
bean's cracked?" With this joke they're
trying to signal to him that it is not love that
is drawing him near to her, but that the
woman used a love spell. Boys, of course
don't believe in this much and when
someone mentions bajanje (oral charms)
they reject it as a joke but it really exists.

When I see you in a tarboosh,


I go swoosh,
when I see you in a sleeveless coat,
like a quad in a coat,
when I see you in a hijab,
I go to an Imam in a mosque.

Bajanje is an old folk skill which is


popular among women, especially girls. It
has the purpose to acquire and realize those
wishes which cannot be realized in a natural
way. If a girl is interested in a boy, and he
doesn't reciprocate or even if she is being
avoided by a boy she is in a relationship
with, she then practices bajanje in order to
stimulate feelings of love and desire. Even
married women abandoned by their
husbands or disregarded by them are
looking for help in bajanje. If a woman or a
girl is skilled in this type of magic, then
success will follow. A boy, pushed by an
unknown force will start feeling sudden
desire towards the girl and will be ready to
marry her, and a husband will return to his
wife which he previously abandoned or will
change his behaviour to become more
caring and gentle, firmly believing that he is
doing it on his own accord.

Bosnian:
Kad te vidim u fesiu,
ini mi se poletiu,
kad te vidim u jeermi,
k'o kadija u meemi (sudu),
kad te vidim u amiji,
kajno hodu u damiji.

This modus operandi is recognisable in


the domain of love magic, to which girls
were inclined to for ages in Bosnia in order
to achieve a marriage covenant, through
repetition of magical formulas which usually
followed some simple actions. Namely, with
the help of love formulas the girls (love
basma) tried to "call" their beloved to come
under their window so they can lead long
conversations i.e. in order to aikovati.
Besides, by the repetition of the formulas
they wanted to make themselves even
prettier, more attractive and desirable and
in that manner influence the success of the
relationship, with the emphasis on getting
married. An interesting article published in
Novi Behar, from 1939 speaks about this.

Before there was a much larger number


of girls or women which were skilled in
bajanje. For a girl, which was versed in this
knowledge, this was a winning combination,
since she could utter magical formulas and
stay completely discrete. All other girls,
which were not aware of this magical
knowledge needed to seek help from those
women which they thought would be
discrete. And moreover, they needed to
entrust them with their most intimate
desires, which was probably not pleasant.
Therefore these girls were helped by
cousins, as the most reliable persons, and
there were cases when mothers themselves
performed bajanje for their daughters.
6

As in the past so too today, though to a


lesser extent, there are women that believe
in bajanje and who still practice it. They are
mostly provocative women spoiled and
capricious, or single daughters which want
men to please them and fulfil all their
wishes. There are those to whom this is the
only way to win over a man and get married.
It is said among the people that they never
rest and always practice bajanje even when
they go to sleep and when they wake up,
when they perform house work and when
they rest, it is even believed that they
repeat magical formulas in their sleep.

two dominant types of magical expression


based on the usage of basma in love magic
and basma for exorcism i.e. healing.

Women are extremely prone to


believing in the power of bajanje, while men
are suspicious, though they are wary not to
become victims of such magical practice.
Young men though see a potential witch in
every girl. Therefore, if a woman offers a
cake to a man as customary, as a sing of
love, he will accept it out of courtesy, but he
will not eat it. Such cakes are usually given
to children or to a friend, since it is believed
that bajanje has an effect on the person
whose name was mentioned during the
incantation of the formula.

Basma
In oral magic according to classic
division there are two forms of formula basma and bajalica. Basma is a shorter form,
usually with one or two verses, which has to
be repeated several times while bajalica is a
longer textual form. Though more rare there
are bajalice with more than twenty verses.
Though some anthropologists are prone of
connecting basma with basna, I wouldn't
agree with such a claim. It is obvious that
the idea for this comparison was based on
the similarity of the words, we are literally
talking about the change of letter M into N
or vice versa, but when we analyse the
meaning of basna i.e. that it is in its
formulation "a short story in prose or verse
whose main characters are animals", then
we come to a conclusion that basna has no
connection to basma.

Qur'an strictly condemns bajanje. That's


why god fearing and wholesome girls take
care not to practice that sin, and those that
perform bajanje hide it as the greatest
secret. If it is found out, namely, that a girl
invokes spells, a heavy taint will fall on her
and she will be considered faulty, this
stigma cannot be cured over time, no
matter if she uses spells on her own or with
the help of another woman. Therefore it is
understandable that it is difficult to find
even the smallest discoveries regarding this
skill. Secrets of bajanje are told and
entrusted only to those that are closest and
most reliable. Others can only find out
about it if an old lady decides to mention it
before she dies. (Novi Behar, 1939)
Probably because of that traditional
norm among the Bosnian people there are
7

"someone is telling lies about you!"4.


Women that use magical formulas (baju) are
not called bajarke instead they are called
stravarke, stravarue or even just "baba"
("idi kod te babe pa neka ti naui"), which is
a Bogomil heritage about the function which
was performed by Baba, wife of the priest
Did. During the middle ages up until the
advent of the Ottomans, when the Bogomil
faith was the dominant religion in BiH, cult
of healing with medicinal herbs and water
was emphatically present both in the
domain of the Bogomil priests which were
called Didovi and their wives Babe. While
Didovi were in charge of transmission of
religious ideas and solving everyday
disputes, Babe dealt with healing using
herbs, water and magical words. It is known
that they used bajanje from neita, a
disease which is manifested through pain in
the body and that the name neit itself is
actually of Bogomil origin. Similarly, in
certain parts of BiH bajalice are called
bogomolje or shortened mole which
certainly comes from the name bogumil.

But, there is a very interesting Persian


word which mentioned in certain love
formulas and it is baht or luck, destiny.
Namely, in any form, love or exorcist, with
the purpose of healing, basma has a task to
influence on the present state or destiny
and change i.e. allow luck in love (marriage)
to a boy or girl or recovery to a diseased. All
these actions are actually a desire to
magically try and influence the future, in
order for it to be positive, therefore it is
logical to connect the origin of the word
basma with the word bahat and not bring it
in connection with basna. Similarly, we
shouldn't forget to mention the folk name
for a fortune teller or witch - bahornica or
bahorica, whose root comes from the word
baht. In the end doesn't surprise if we recall
that even the concept of magic practice i.e.
aranje (from are - mesmerize, fascinate),
come from the Persian language.

Magical whisper
On the other hand, bajalica, in English
language the term magical whisper would
most closely be associated with the meaning
of the word bajalica, which is uttered by
whispering like a basma, as a word this
doesn't exist among the Bosnian people and
instead of bajati we say "nauiti" i.e. utter
("ona ui ono svoje"(she utters her things) uttering secret magical words, or when one
advises a diseased to go to a woman which
hears magical formula: "idi kod nje neka ti
naui, ona zna dobro uiti na vodu" ("go to
her so she can utter her words, she can
utter well with water")3. Probably that's why
the term bajati among the people is not
interpreted as an act of uttering magical
formulas but gossip, lying, which is
confirmed by the statement "neko o tebi
baje! (someone is throwing spells at you) -

Bajanje is an extremely interesting form


of oral magic, connection of poetry and
magical symbolism, whose genesis dates
from the period of paganism. As ancient
invocations and celebrations of god's were
exchanged for prayers from the Bible and
Qur'an in monotheism, magical formulas
intended for chasing away evil spirits
suffered a similar faith, i.e. their content
remained pretty much the same with small
additions of some Christian elements such
as mention of saints by name, Jesus Christ,
Virgin Marry, cross or even the ending of the
most appreciated verse from the Qur'an,
surah El-Fatiha "Veledalin amin", invitation
to "boiji emer" i.e. God's command, "boija
4

In the north-western part of Bosnia it is believed


that when someone's tongue itches that he is the target
of someone's bad mouthing, then that person, in order
to stop the negative propaganda, spits into fire three
times and utters: "Ko baje u guzicu staje!" - "May the
one that badmouths me go up the ass!" after which it is
believed that the badmouthing will stop.

Today we come across an interesting statement


which describes someone's success in some sphere of
their life: -"ide mu k'o da mu je naueno na vodu!" "he's successful as if someone threw a spell on him!"

hazma", beginning of certain chapters of the


Qur'an such as Elif lam mim, which received
its shortened form such as Elzalif, etc. In
certain formulas the daughter of god's
messenger Muhammad is asked for help,
Hazrat Fatima. This practice was taken over
from the Ottomans, in whose cult a
dominant place was taken by Hazrat Fatima
with the emphasis on the power of her
hands i.e. her hand:

monotheism. Namely, before uttering any


basma, as the old and wise Bosnian women
suggest, one must initially utter surah Ihlas a
few times, in order to summon god's
strength, and only then one can utter a
magical formula.
In parts of south-western Bosnia, still
today one can hear how allegedly, there is a
mysterious magical formula of extreme
power, which if discovered and uttered by a
man would allow him to rule over the world.
This belief entails the question: isn't Tur
(who holds earth on his back) in Bosnian
mythology also the ruler of earth? Legends
say that when Tur shakes his ears an
earthquake takes place, and on the day
when he shakes his head it will be the end
of days. Such a mythological concept is not
formed by accident it is based on the belief
that a man can rule over Tur, the one that
symbolises the strength of the earth but
also destiny of the human race; only if man
can comprehend the greatest magical
formula of all - magical words which are the
keys of destiny and also rulers of the
underworld forces.

This is not my hand,


this is the hand of Hazrat Fatima!

Bosnian:
Ovo nije moja ruka,
ovo je ruka
nae majke hazreti Fatime!
The word bajanje itself, usually present
in the Balkans, probably comes from the
area of south Caucasus primarily because of
the word bayati which in Azerbaijan signifies
an ancient form of folk poetry or better say
folk wisdom represented through verses.

Connection of magical words and Tur


can perhaps best be surmised by this
example. Namely, according to folk belief
from Cazin and Velika Kladua earth is
connected by human speech, which can be
confirmed by this example; when a person
stutters and cannot pronounce a certain
word his interlocutor should stomp his foot
on the ground and "free his speech" so he
can end the sentence or word. Or a girl at
the end of a magical formula places her
palms on the surface of the earth and talks
to her with these words: "Dark earth, by god
mother, help me..." Analysing such a
beginning of the formula, which follows
physical contact with the earth, it is easy to
conclude that behind the term "dark earth"
none other than Tur is hidden or Garonja
(black) and in the rest of the formula the
goddess of earth i.e. Grand Mother.

Words - keys of destiny


Bosnian folk firmly believe in the power
of magical formulas (basme), which is
perhaps best witnessed by the belief which
claims that the entire earth rests on a
basma, which is a direct connection
between Tur and magical formula, and the
"dark earth", i.e. surface of the earth rests
on the words from surah Ihlas. This is why
these two segments are inseparable and as
such a perfect connection of paganism and
9

All in all, this magical representation is


not an isolated case but one of many
examples from our tradition which perfectly
testifies about the segments of a very
important cult of earth, primarily agriculture
and animal husbandry, whose strength is
personified in the form of the gigantic bull
Tur. With his horns he is undoubtedly the
symbol of pagan Bosnia, and one could
conclude the male principle of the Grand
Mother. Besides, analysing the indigenous
beliefs we can conclude and understand
religious-magical concept of our forefathers
which, as we see it, believed that one could
appease heavenly forces by mystical
formulas and in the end rule over them.
Such a fact makes this investigative work,
which constructively reveals the importance
of magical formulas and their mythological
background in folk medicine, even more
exciting and informative.

dissolving the disease. In folk medicine of


BiH there are a lot of such examples, like the
one that a person can have the ritual of lead
melting repeated nine times, where during
every individual ritual the lead will be
molten and poured into the water nine
times. Of course, every time a magical
formula for chasing away evil will be
repeated. Nine is the final number, after
that the diseased will be either cured or the
disease will be considered to be chronic. It is
interesting to mention that number nine
often appears as a symbol of the demon of
disease, which is demonstrated through
various examples of belief that there are
nine types of stomach illnesses ("from nine
hands"), nine spells and diseases, nine son's
of the demon mother Sijerma, nine winds,
etc. In accordance with this it is necessary to
perform a detailed study of the symbology
of the number nine, in order to understand
its meaning and role in magical rituals of
healing.

Nine demons of disease

In mythological tradition on life, i.e. tree


of life, nine demons keep assaulting it;
they're sometimes leaders of large armies of
evil beings. As nine is the number of the
Grand Mother, giver of life, it is very evident
that these demons represent a type of a
divine opposition which has the function of
endangering order of life at all times. What
is interesting is that these demons are
always female and as such can represent an
alter ego of the Grand Mother herself. In
modern psychoanalysis demons which
attack pregnant women and their children
could be placed under the concept of
postnatal depression or, better to say,
psychosis. Let's not forget to point out that
among the Bosnian folk there is a belief that
there are "nine types of mothers" but only
one of them is good - the one that is taking
care of her child.

Usage of exorcist formulas (Greek


exorkiza - beseech, exorkismos incantation), in folk rituals of healing it is
very old has its source in paganism. Namely,
in ancient times it was firmly believed that
diseases of the body are caused by evil
demons with their activity, through
spellbound eyes, aggression or entering the
human body, therefore the idea that
magical formulas can force a demon to
leave the human body and return physical
and mental balance to a person, was
created. In the beginning only shamans and
wizards practiced these rituals, and later the
practice was taken over by priests and
certain persons from the people, which
claimed that they were contacted by higher
forces with a certain task.
For a large part of magical formulas,
especially exorcist ones, it is suggested that
they be repeated nine times, especially if
one is looking for a stronger effort in

All those traditional prophylactic beliefs


and rituals about pregnant women and her
newborn among the Bosnian folk are an
inheritance of ancient pagan beliefs based
10

on an epic conflict of dark and light forces.


From the ancient Babylonian myths,
Mesopotamia or Egypt the story of the
creation of the world was always
mentioned, when from the allegorical
conflict of Good and Evil and ensuing chaos,
law and order are created, and with that the
necessary conditions appear for life on
earth. Evil was always presented in the form
of a woman or a hermaphrodite and that
mythological idea will dominate all stages of
human history and it will receive its
culmination with the advent of monotheism,
which will spark unheard of killing of women
under the ludicrous accusation that they are
- witches5.

In a worse position were women which


didn't give birth, they were usually
considered to be evil beings or witches.
Namely, one can notice hatred of the
community towards women which were
infertile or old, which didn't have
reproductive powers, and as such they
were, allegedly, filled with hatred towards
children, which is best illustrated by
numerous stories where the evil witch eats
children. Bosnian traditions were no
exception in which witches were portrayed
in a similar fashion6.
In Bosnian mythology witches have eight
forms; as Otrovnica she poisons people's
blood, in the form of Krvopilica she would
rink people's blood at night, Strava causes
cramps in children, Kuga - spreads, while
clad in white, the disease pestilence from
one place to the other, inilica - causes
mental diseases, when she is in the form of
More she attacks people at night, sitting on
their chest, stopping their breathing, when a
diseased gets a high fever and starts
hallucinating, then he was probably
attacked by Tvora, and if he is unlucky in

But, through observation of the role of


female demons in folklore and mythological
beliefs we can see that such a socially
acceptable concept of their role is the result
of a certain historical aversion. It is,
primarily, based on an unchangeable
attitude that a woman is the master of life,
which in a patriarchal society directly
endangers the superiority of men, and that
the decision of child birth will depend on her
decision and behaviour. That's why
monotheism wants to gain complete control
over the woman and her body, in order to
ensure its survival, and women are
traditionally encouraged to give birth, and
they are constantly suggested that they are
created to serve men. That forced
submission of the woman towards man is
actually the result of fear and feeling of
inferiority which men have towards women
because of their natural ability for creation
and control of life, which men don't have.

In mythological stories two female demons are


mentioned, Sijerma and Resma, for which legends claim
that they are "king's wives and the biggest witches",
which have certain similarities with Umm al Sibyan and
El Hamma, female Jinn from Islamic mythology, which
are also considered princesses of the Jinn world but
witches as well. Their role is to attack pregnant women
and small children, especially boys. It is believed that
Sijermi is actually the daughter of the Bosnian king
Herceg Stjepan, a Bogomil, which was a witch and which
knew lycanthropy, which she used to slaughter sheep to
local inhabitants in the form of a wolf.
"When Pope Pius II took the seat of St. Peter in the
Vatican, he to tried to uproot the Bogomil, to destroy
their sanctuary, which they found in the land of king
Herceg Stjepan. In 1460 he sent his cardinal legate to
Herceg Stjepan, to forbid him from receiving the
followers of the heretic Bogomil church in his land, but
he didn't succeed with his plan. Political events in Bosnia
and Herzegovina diverted attention from religious
questions because of the increasing danger which
threatened Christianity in the form of the Ottomans, and
Herceg Stjepan die as a Bogomil" (Epigraphic hyphens
from Bosnia and Herzegovina, GZM, nr. 1889/01, pp. 65,
01/01/1889)

Although Kron was represented in Greek


mythology as the father who eats his own children, it
never had any serious influence in creating a
mythological representation about an evil male demon
which kills children, such case would always be
considered to be an isolated case, and often, was
brought into connection with the animalistic disposition
in humans, comparing such act with the killing of the
cubs by some male animals.

11

love and is always fighting with others, he


became the victim of Mraza.

Bosnia about the demons of disease.


Namely, the Bulgarian folk believed in a type
of dangerous witches, or better to say,
female demons which attack humans in
various ways. They were called Tresavice.
According to the writing of Jeremiah they
were daughters of Irud and they were seven
in number. Among the Russians, which
latter took this belief, those demons were
12 in total.

Bogomil demon of disease


One of the grand authorities of Bogomil
religion is a priest called Jeremiah
(Jeremija), for which many historians
presumed that he could have been the
famed Bogomil preiest, founder of
Bogomilsm. But, what is certain is that
Jeremiah was indeed a Bogomil, and this
was confirmed to us by Atanasij, a Jerusalem
monk. Without a doubt, we are talking
about a very interesting historical person, an
extraordinary mind and the biggest religious
authority in this part of Europe and we
could easily call him the Balkan Zarathustra.
Jeremiah is credited with authorship over a
number of popular, but forbidden works,
but today it is obvious that many of those
books had other Bogomil authors. In Russia
all those books were called by a collective
name "Bulgarian basma (spell)" and they
were extremely popular among the folk,
which can also be discerned from the
inscriptions of the Belarus translation by
Iohannes Damascenus from the 16th
century, in which the translator complains:
"We haven't even translated the tenth
honourable book of our teachers, because
of the laziness and neglect of our nobility;
and additionally the so called teachers of
our century are entertained by Bulgarian
basma, Bulgarian magical formulas, or
better to say, old wives foolery, they read
these things and laud them".

In the Russian version of Jeremiah's


exorcist formula (basma) this text is
mentioned: "There is a stone pillar in the
red sea (in the original basma: Mount Sinai),
apostle Sisinij sits on the pillar and observes
how the sea has been agitated and how it
rises up to the sky and twelve long haired
women are coming out of it (in the original:
seven). Those women said: We are
Tresavice, daughters of the king Irod". Holly
Sisinij asked them: "cursed devils, why did
you come here?" They replied: "We came to
torture the human kind; whomever interests
us we will follow and torture him: who
oversleeps the morning prayer, doesn't pray
to God, doesn't respect holidays and eats
and drinks early in the morning, he is our
favourite! Holly Sisinij prayed to god: God,
God! Save the human race from these
damned devils. Christ sent him two angels,
Sihail and Anos and four evangelists. They
started beating the Tresavice with four iron
rods, causing them three thousand wounds
a day." In the rest of the basma the tortured
demons revealed their names and ways in
which they torture people: Treseja, Ognjeja,
Ledeja, Gnjeteja, Ginua, Gluheja, Lomeja,
Puhnjeja, uteja, Krkua, Gledeja and
Neveja.
But, in contrast to Russian, Bosnian folk
medicine mentions a total of seven female
demons: Mraza, Tvora, Otrovnica, inilica,
Krvopilica, Strava and Mora, of which, each
in their own way tortures a man. However,
only a few exorcist formulas were kept
about a few demons such as the ones

That the Bogomil religion left a deep


trace in Bosnian tradition is evident from
numerous examples, and some can be
found through this analysis. By investigating
available data about Jeremiah and his books
I discovered another Bogomil belief in
12

against Mora or Strava, while for others, for


now, I didn't manage to find any valid data.

until all the negative effects of this demon


has disappeared. As we can see from the
above text of the basma, the meeting
between Jesus and Neit is described,
where the demon reveals ways in which he
will torture humans, while Jesus discourages
him and tells him to inhabit a deer's head,
etc. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in all
places where Bogumils lived, the belief in
Neit has been preserved, over time Neit
was beginning to be called poganica, we will
discuss this later.

Neit or poganica
Neit is also another type of dangerous
demon of disease against which the Bogomil
priest Jeremiah revealed exorcist formulas
through which he emphasizes the dualistic
battle of good and evil, with the goal of
releasing the human body i.e. healing. One
of those formulas reads:

Neit or Poganica - demon


disease

Neit went from the dry sea, while Jesus


went from the sky, they met and Jesus told
him: "where are you going, Neit? Neit
replied: "Sir, I'm going into a human's head,
to drink his brain, brake his jaw, bite his
teeth, bend his neck and deafen his ears,
blind his eyes, stuff his nose, spill his blood.
Jesus told him: "go back, Neit, into a
desolate valley and desert, find a deer head
and move into it, etc."

According to etymology the name neit


and poganica have an interesting origin.
Neit is a term which comes from the term
"neither alive nor dead", because of the
state the person is in which is afflicted by
this disease, while poganica comes from the
term pogan(sordid) or unclean, or even
pagan, i.e. we could look for the origin of
poganica in the demons function from the
ancient times, which the demon actually
represents, namely an evil spirit which in
some ancient time in the religious history of
our region, represented one of the
numerous dieties.
Undeniably the belief in neit was
present in each territory where at some
period during the middle ages Bogomils
lived or even if their religion was present in
that area. Therefore, for example, in
Herzegovina and a part of Dalmatia, it was
believed that this disease appears mostly
through unexpected pain in human limbs,
while there is no visible wound. If the

(This is an original text of exorcist formulas


against Neit as written by Bogomil Jeremiah ).
After the basma has been uttered one
would continue with the religious prayers7
7
It is easy to discern from the name "Bulgarian basma"
why it was regarded in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a very
powerful formula, for which it was claimed that it "travelled
throughout the entire world" and that even planet Earth is
standing on top of it. All these beliefs are actually inheritance
from all those things which Jeremiah preached and wrote
about. Similarly, the practice of healing with basma is an
integral part of folk medicine which is based on the teachings of
Bogomils, which is in a way testified by the complete lack of the

usage of the term bajalica or bajanje. This is why the term


basma itself could be translated as a Bogomil prayer or Bogomil
formula. And in the end, no less important to mention that
Bogomil priests uttered religious prayers in the healing rituals,
which completely coincides with the traditional practice of
healing formulas in BiH as well as in the terms "ui", "uiti",
which are used to utter formulas (proui basmu/utter a basma),
but also prayers (proui sure/utter a surah).

13

diseased feels weakness and dizziness, the


diagnosis is, without a doubt, poganica.

Bosnia when the belief that wounds on


human bodies, especially ones that have
blood oozing out of them, attract evil spirits
of disease and stimulate them to attack the
diseased through them.

Folk belief from all parts of BiH coincide


in the belief that poganica manifests in a
mysterious and secret way, usually as a
manifestation of spellbound eyes, evil gaze,
black magic or by a person accidentally
"stepping" on it. During one of the
enumerated extreme cases an evil spirit of
disease enters into a human and "through
blood" attacks the person, or better to say,
"travels" through the body, which is
identical to folk description of how poganica
can appear on any place on the body. That's
why, similarly, it is believed that poganica
originates from a hematoma, place where
"blood has gathered".

Nine stravarke - nine poganice


What is interesting to mention is the
pronounced dualistic of this disease
expressed through sexual infection, namely,
in the original interpretation neit is the
name of the male sex while poganica is
female, like its two other forms: Sijerma and
Metalja. However, in middle Bosnia we
come across a specifically male name for the
disease - udarac, which brings us to its
origin. From all this we get an impression of
confusion but probably we are seeing a
mixture of beliefs into two diseases i.e.
Tresavica, female demon and Neit a male
demon, because of insufficient information
about Bogomil beliefs of those generations
that lived during the time of Ottoman
occupation of Bosnia.

According to some specific symptoms,


poganica can even be characterized as an
imaginary illness, since it is demonstrated by
a weird, even phantom pain, which
suddenly and unexpectedly appears. But, in
order to remove the veil of mysticism, we
need to studiously fathom in all it
represents in folk medicine, how it is
detected and cured. According to the
symptoms which follow poganica has the
most congruence with rheumatism
(Rheumatismus) and gout (Greek, ostealgia),
since it is manifested in acute pain, usually
in the bones of the arms and legs, neck but
also the head.

Besides a few terms the specificity of


this disease is that it manifest differently
which caused a divide in the curing itself and
is therefore entailed that it doesn't belong
to the line of work of every stravarka.
Therefore one of the most important rules
suggests that the diseased needs to come
into contact with nine persons which
practice healing8, in order to satisfy the

What is interesting to mention is the


fact that poganica is sometimes used to
name diseases for which people cannot find
an obvious and visible cause. In Bosnia,
since the old days, it is claimed that one
disease, if treated on time, carries with it
another, often more dangerous, disease. A
classic example can be found, in the
traditional fear that individual wounds on
the child's body won't become inflamed and
result in two inflammations, or more often,
that a hematoma (uboj) doesn't transform
into a poganica. This archaic belief is the
product of mythological belief of pagan

According to traditional belief in BiH it is recommended


that a diseased passes through "numerous hands" i.e. a few
healers, in order to find a person which can help him.
Simultaneously, by visiting a few doctors one is aiming at
weakening the disease. A ritual in which a diseased suffering
from fear or magical influence is still practiced today, namely
the person needs to visit three stravarke while each of them
must belong to a different religion - Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox
. Though it is a paradox since Orthodox Christians and Catholic
Christians belong to Christianity, constant antagonism between
these two religious directions has brought to discursive term
that we are talking about two religions?! An even greater
paradox is the traditional Christian appropriation of Judaism,
which actually doesn't recognise Jesus and doesn't want to have
anything to do with that religion. It is interesting to mention

14

classic belief in existence of nine types9 of


poganica which is why it is said: "poganice is
of nine hands". Since the person doesn't
know which of the nine grandmas or nine
stravarke10 can successfully exorcise that
specific poganica which afflicts the person,
he must visit all of them, until he reaches
the one which has power over that specific
poganica. This means, each of them rules
over a specific kind of poganica and all the
while each of them has their specific healing
method If, even after the ninth grandma, a
person doesn't find a cure for his disease,
then it is concluded that we're not dealing
with a poganica but another type of
affliction.

into the heights of the sky,


into the red rocks!
Bosnian:
Bjei, bjei, poganice,
u morske dubine,
u nebeske irine,
u crvene stijene!

Because of this stravarka initially tests if


the poganica is hers, and she does this by
isolating herself from others in order to
perform a ritual with a piece of clothing
from the diseased, most often a sock, and
while forming a line using tongs11 over them
in an upward and downward fashion she
repeats one of the short exorcist formulas
such as this:

If she starts to yawn uncontrollably


during this process, or if she feels that her
blood pressure has increased, has been
struck by some lethargy or if she starts
breathing heavily, then she concludes that
poganica is hers. Usually then she says to
the diseased person or the person that
came in her stead: "By god, we're talking
about a poganica. She is mine!12" With that
she is certain that she will manage to cure
the disease. If the poganica is extremely
strong and if stravarka cannot fight it
herself, although poganica is hers, she then
advises the diseased to visit another
stravarka so she too can perform exorcism,
so that they can join forces and weaken the
disease, this will enable the first stravarka to
exorcise the disease.

Away, away, poganice,


into the depths of the sea,
that even in Bulgarian magic it was a tradition to ask for help
from a three religious priest (rabbin, Imam, Orthodox priest)
during the rituals of healing.
9

There is a belief among the folk that there are 60 types


of rheumatism.
10

According to the analogy nine demons of disease, nine


doctors (heim). In the folk tradition of Bosnia they are often
represented by nine widows which symbolise nine ancient
priests of the Grand Mother. But, the emphasis is not on the
gender but exclusively on the meaning of the number 9 which
is certainly demonstrated by the example from Romanian
magical tradition, (which is similar to Bosnian one in many
elements) in which there exists a belief that a person suffering
from a strong influence of black magic must visit nine priests
which need to read prayers to the person.

This supernatural connection that


stravarka can mechanically achieve over an
item is interesting, primarily through the
clothes of the diseased, which in this case
exchanges the presence of the diseased,
using a metal item (tongs) which she moves

11

Maice (tongs) are a very important prop of every


stravarka and they are a substitute for a magical cane which
was carried by Didovi, Bogomil priests. They were used to take
embers from the fire and the embers were thrown into the
water with which they have a very important exorcist function.
Before placing a piece of lead onto a spoon for melting,
stravarka uses it to circle around the tongs three times. To a
scared child "through tongs" is give a glass of water which
contains lead.

12

In this narrative we see another ancient rule according


to which it is believed that every folk healer (stravarka or
grandma), has power over certain demons of disease. That
monopoly is gained according to the claims of stravarka Safije
Alagi, for example curing fear, right of priority. Namely, that
stravarka which performs a ritual of lead melting to the child for
the first time, she always be more successful in healing that
person than any other stravarka.

15

up and down whispering rhythmically a


magical formula. Every time she passes the
tongs down a piece of clothing she touches
a cabbage leaf and as soon as she touches
the clothes again with the tongs she will be
struck by uncontrolled yawning. A similar
demonstration of a mediums engagement
followed by certain mechanical moves is
evident in the ritual of melting lead.
Rhythmic movement of the body of
stravarka left-right, while at the same time
she covers her forehead (with her left hand),
i.e. her "star" by which she is protecting
herself from attacks by evil spirits or energy,
she is actually practicing ancient elements of
Bosnian shamanism, preserved only in
fragments. Repeating rhymed magical
verses she slowly brings her consciousness
into a hypnotic state similar to a trance,
whereby drowsiness occurs followed by
frequent yawning and sometimes by
appearance of tears.

Exorcist rituals
Before starting any type of engagement
stravarka wants to get an answer to the
question how long the disease was present.
If the diseased answers that it has been
present for a longer time she will conclude
that the poganica is outdated and that it will
be more difficult to cure14. For the practice
of healing most stravarke choose leaves of
danewort (Sumbuccus ebulus), probably
because in Bosnian mythology it is claimed
that it is one of the oldest plants in the
world and is as such dedicated to the Grand
Mother, protector of all those who perform
healing with magical formulas and herbs15.
Besides danewort, black nightshade
(Solanum nigrum L) is also used, whose folk
name itself (the one that helps) reveals its
magical healing ability. If stravarka cannot
acquire these herbs, she will then use
cabbage leaves. In any case during the
healing process nine leaves of these plants
are always used.

One of the main characteristics of folk


medicine was always its practicality, the
tendency to always use those items which
are easily accessible and are usually located
in the vicinity of the person that performs
healing. Magical ritual of calming down Tur
through touching of the black snail, usage of
metal items, usually a knife, tongs, scissors,
dog's skull, stem of nettle, cabbage leaves,
etc. are the main features of ritual practice
closely tied to nature and its elements,
especially water and fire, on which the
entire cult of healing is based on. Holding
the tongs in her hand, i.e. a metal item, the
stravarka is chasing away evil spirits which
according to traditional beliefs in Bosnia and
Herzegovina, are extremely afraid of any
metal and they run hysterically from it. Evil
spirits have a special aversion towards
tongs13 which are used to touch fire and
take out coal lumps.

With the leaves of the chosen plant


stravarka performs the following: keeps
when children are not nursing their mothers bosom regularly,
because of the excess milk the breasts can become inflamed
and then nursing is not recommended, since the milk gets sour
because of inflammation i.e. it can contain inflammatory cells,
so the women practiced nursing over tongs believing that their
stomachs won't get upset. Similarly, it could well be that maice
because of the metal they could have been used for cooling
breasts, which were painful, hard and tense, and by placing
metal on them they became relaxed. According to folk belief
their sound chased evil spirits away from home. It is necessary
to differentiate maa from maice. Maa is a big metal spoon,
while maice are actually a metal pincers. See picture.
14
According to the belief from Velika Kladua, every
disease which is cured with magic is out dated if six months pass
since it first appeared.
15
Among the Bosnian stravarke the Grand Mother has
been replaced by Hazrat Fatimah, sometimes even Hazrat Hava
(Eve) which is regarded as the spiritual mother of those that use
magic for healing purposes. This is why a stravarka will utter a
familiar formula before commencing her work: "My dear Hazrat
Fatimah, my dear mother.".

13

Maice are also present in numerous folk beliefs and


rituals in BiH. Once women in boarder parts in Cazin worked so
hard in the field that they didn't manage to breast feed their
children and the milk in their bosom became "fried". Namely,

16

them in a bouquet, and using all of them she


pulls them down her leg, from the hip to the
foot. During this process she repeats a
prayer from the Qur'an or a magical
formula, and usually both. It is considered
that the most ideal result is achieved by
combining prayers Ihlas and exorcist
formulas. If the patient is not present then
the stravarka performs a blessing of the
leaves of the chosen plant by repeating the
formula, with this she transfers a part of her
healing powers, and she gives them to the
person which visited her to deliver them to
the diseased. Leaves processed in this
manner are placed on the diseased place all
together at the same time or three times,
three leaves. In the first instance the
compress of leaves stays on the body for 24
hours and in the second case for 36 hours. It
is fastened to the body from evening until
morning, from morning until evening, and
the third time, with the last three leaves,
from evening until morning. The leaves are
exchanged each time and new leaves are
placed in their stead.

the secret of successful healing is based on


the ability of the stravarka to fully focus on
the work, which brings her concentration to
the max, and creates suitable conditions for
the transfer of consciousness into another
reality, in the state of trance. Physical
reactions such as deep breathing, yawning,
appearance of tears, headaches, feeling of
anxiety and restlessness, are manifestations
of this unusual state16. In that state her
power achieves culmination and then the
stravarka is capable of imposing her will
over the evil spirit.
While in such a transcendental state a
very important role in healing is played by
metal items (knife, scissors, needles)
through which the power of stravarka is
channelled. If the diseased feels metastatic
pain, from the hip to the feet, then the
stravarka moves maice over those body
parts, always in the direction of the toes17.
As soon as she reaches the patients toes
with the prop, she never makes a return
move of the prop along the body, instead
she moves it away from the body and starts
moving it along the leg from the starting
position - from above towards the toes.
Maice are, without a doubt a magical tool
with which the stravarka performs
manipulation over the disease demon,
chasing it always towards the feet, so that
poganica can exit the body of the diseased
from under the fingernails on the toes. A
sure sign that the demon of disease is
exiting the body, is the one when it starts
knocking, crawling under the nails. But, if
the diseased feels pain which most
resembles a pricking pain, then the disease
can return. The exorcist ritual is considered

In magical healing it is very important to


follow precise rules which are based on the
symbolic and mystic meaning, therefore the
cabbage leaf needs to be turned upside
down so that the steam stands on top and
the tip of the leaf downward, "since it
shouldn't grow" because of the allusion that
in a similar manner the pain will go down
from the diseased place down to the toes.
Similarly, healing is always consist of three
sances in which one uses nine leaves of
plants (3x9 = 27), which corresponds to the
day in the months cycle, i.e. Grand Mother.
Though at first glance one can get an
impression that the process of
neutralisation of the disease demon
depends solely on the exorcist formula and
the props which are present, in essence they
don't have any real power without the
engagement of the person performing the
ritual. According to the accounts of
individual stravarke from Zenica and Travnik

16
An informant which participated in one of the exorcist
sances, later claimed that she would never perform such
rituals and bare such torture. Stravarke themselves admit that
exorcism damages and bothers them, both physically and
mentally.
17
Because of the belief that poganica runs from the
human body beneath the nails on the toes, one would always
bring a sock of the diseased if he is personally not capable of
arriving.

17

to be successful if the poganica is not


returning upwards i.e. into the body part
from which it has been exorcised. If the pain
returns for some reason, then the patient
must change his healer.

down the patient's body uttering this


exorcist formula:
If it is in N nine udaraca - nine brothers,
let there be eight from nine,

During the entire treatment the


attention is focused towards the direction of
exorcism, from above to bellow, in the
direction of earth (Tur, Grand Mother). But,
it is not the only form of transmission, there
is also a possibility that the stravarka, if she
is skilled or perhaps asked to (paid) from a
third party, can direct the disease demon to
a specific person, in order to cause
aggression and magical attack.

from eight let there be seven,


from seven let there be six,
from six let there be five,
from five let there be four,
from four let there be three,

If the treatment is performed above a


patients piece of clothing instead of his
body, then the stravarka suggests that his
underpants be brought, so that she could
"utter" on that "substitute" during the
entire length of the leg. This rule confirms
the belief that men in a higher percentage
fall ill from poganica, compared to women.
It is possible to presume that the poganica,
female demon, attacks men more often and
neit or udarac, male demon, attacks
females more frequently.

from three let there be two,


from two let there be one,
from one let there be none!
Exit, udare, from 88 joints,
from 77 nerves,
from the head,

According to a standard procedure the


exorcist treatment lasts between 10 and 15
minutes. If after the first ritual the diseased
feels a relief i.e. that the pain has moved
further down the leg, and is no longer
returning to the old place, in the next few
days he will visit stravarka two more times
in order to repeat the treatment, despite
feeling better.

from the neck,


from the arms,
from the heart and legs!

Bosnian:

Udarac

Ako je u N devet udaraca - devet brae,


According to another description of
healing by stravarka, she uses a knife in
order to scare the demons of disease by
touching the diseased place and moving

neka bude od devet osam,


od osam sedam, od sedam est,
18

od est pet, od pet etiri,


od etiri tri, od tri dva,

Bosnian:

od jedan - nijedan!

Izai u zemaljske irine,

Izai, udare, iz 88 zglobova,

u nebeske visine,

iz 77 ivaca, iz glave, iz vrata,

u morske dubine,

iz ruku, iz srca i iz nogu!

preko sto polja, preko sto uma,


za devet brda, u pustu zemlju,

She then starts lightly hitting the patient


with the knife on the head, neck, arms and
legs following these moves with the
following words of the formula:

u neznanu meu;
gdje pas ne laje,
gdje svijea ne gori,

Exit into the earths depths,

gdje se beika ne ljulja,

into the heights of the sky,

gdje sjekira ne sjee.

into the depths of the sea,

Izai u mjesto koje nije spomenuto,

over hundred fields,

na Kavdag i u Jablan-planinu!

over hundred forests,

In the mentioned formula the exorcist is


talking to the male disease demons, which
are nine in number, calling them brothers,
with which we are explicitly returning to the
original term of the disease, i.e. neit18. And
of course the realization that not only
women were included in the healing of this
disease but also men, though in a smaller
number. Though according to some folk
tales, like the one about the Shaitan, melon,
woman and man, women are considered to
be more skilled in verbal communication
with the supernatural world, men are
perceived as stronger in withstanding more

behind nine hills,


into a desolate land,
in an unknown landmark;
where the dog doesn't bark,
where the candle doesn't burn,
where the cradle is not rocking,
where the axe is not cutting.

18
Another folk name for poganica is very interesting and it
is - bogavica, which undoubtedly stems from the name Bogomil.

Exit into a place which is not mentioned,


on Kavdag and onto Jablan-mountain!
19

difficult engagements, especially in


exorcism. It is possible that for this reason
this disease is named after male and female
names, so that both sexes can cure it
successfully, chasing it away with magical
formulas. We should add to that that neit
as a hermaphrodite reveals its extremely
large strength and power of transformation
but also hiding, since literally, according to
folk descriptions it travels or runs through
the body, therefore the only method to cure
it is by using exorcism19.

from four let there be three,


from three let there be two,
from two let there be one,
from one let there be none!

Bosnian:
U Sijerme devetero djece,
od devetero - osmero,

Sijerma

od osmero - sedmero,

When one is curing poganica in the


neck, shoulders or hand, then it is called
exorcism of Sijerma. Praying in Bosnian and
not Arabic, the stravarka uses a knife blade
turned downward, she moves it from the
shoulders to the fingers using the following
formula against it, whose significance in
counting backwards is to achieve an effect
of distancing and weakening the power of
the demon:

od sedmero - estero,
od estero - petero,
od petero - etvoro,
od etvoro -troje,
od troje - dvoje,

Sijerma has nine children,

od dvoje - jedno,

let there be eight from nine,

od jedno - nijedno!

from eight let there be seven,

She repeats the procedure three times.


The patient visits stravarka three days in
total for the treatment. If his hand goes
numb after one of the sances, which
means that the poganica has left the body.

from seven let there be six,


from six let there be five,
from five let there be four,
19
Among the Bosnian folk it was once believed that neit
can be summoned in an unusual way. Namely, if a comb from
the house would be loaned to the neighbour or someone else
who doesn't live in that house, it could happen that neit comes
into the house with the comb. In this belief an idea is
pronounced in which neit lives in the human hair and through
it, it can cross over onto other people.

20

until tears appear, since it is believed that all


impurities will exit through the tears
(metalja). While doing this, this exorcist
formula is repeated:
Here comes a hen with nine chicks,
with yellow feet.
They jump on metalja,
they seize her with their claws.
It was dawn - they say.
maa

maice

Afternoon - let it be, they say.


Dusk - she is gone.
When in the grove - three girls combing,
combing black wool,
combing white wool,
combing red wool,
from my eyes metalja
and clots they remove!

Metalja
Cataract but also other eye related
diseases (Conjunctivitis) were called
poganica i.e. her special name metalja. It is
believed that it returns the way it came. In
the healing ritual a prop is moved three
times over the eye - garlic or small worm
which are found in cow dung (manure),
three times during three days. With clean
hands one cleans a clove of garlic, and with
the sharper part of the clove one moves it
over the cataract from the left to the right,
and from the right to the left. If we are
talking about another disease, the clove is
used near the inside boarders of the eyelid

Bosnian:
Otud ide koko sa devetero pilia,
utijeh nogu.
Skoie na metalju,
svu je razgrabie,
na noktima i na nogama.
Sabah - kau bila je.
21

Podne - kau neka je.


Iindija - nema je.
Kad u gaju tri cure vlae,
mrku vunu vlae,
bijelu vunu vlae,
crvenu vunu vlae,
sa mojijeh oiju metalju i krvavicu
svlae!

Stravarka can cure metalja in other


ways such as using red silk and a mirror.
With these props she carefully touches
metalja and "removes it" making the above
described movements20.

20
Another representative segment of Bosnian shamanism
is discovered in the use of individual parts of the animal which
constitute a specific prop, as well as an animal totem of the
stravarka. Dog's skull, according to folk belief, can exchange its
presence with which it is pretended that the stravarka is
capable of transferring a part of her power into the skull and
later act through it as a medium. In the past numerous Bosnian
homes owned one or more dog skulls "for healing" and this is
why they were stored inside houses. It was unquestionably
believed that they possess secretly accumulated power of
healing once the stravarka has uttered exorcist formulas, from
her magical pool, a few times. The skull was usually used by
being placed on the diseased place or it was moved down the
body, imitating rhythmical moves which the stravarka makes.

NOTE
A frequent eye disease (herpes corneae) is well known
among the folk. It comes to the cornea in the form of white
bubbles, which decompose quickly in herpes ulcers, and if not
treated frequently, they form into a white speckle (leukoma) or
even causes inflammation of the entire eye (panophtilmitis).
Since the same bubbles appear without any cause, people
denote them as poganica, since they believe as a mysterious
evil force. GZM (Sarajevo, 1900, p.p. 143)

an old wound or black magic (which is more probable, they say)


therefore magical healing is undertaken" - "Prikrunici" GZM !!
(Sarajevo, 1890, p.p. 317).

According to the writings of Ivan Zovko "poganica or


sijerma is hard to define. Since the diagnosis for sudden
appearance of puncture like pain, which can reappear, is usually
identified with gout (Arthritis deformans). That's why an initial
step is to cure it as a cold. If the pain doesn't subside from such
a therapy, it is considered that it is poganica, which is caused by

22