Aug 14, 2011

Melting the fear - salivanje strahe

Stravarka Aiša from Sarajevo practices a form of ethno-medicine characteristic for Middle East  and the Balkans, a method called salivanje strahe or salivanje zrna „melting the fear“ in Bosnia. This method consists of ritual behaviour and a special text known as a „basma“ (or bosnian magic poetry), used together with the aim of healing the patient.
Another part of the technique is the melting of lead (or 'melting the fear'), which consists of the ritual melting of a small piece of lead, by means of which stravarka Aiša ' sees' the cause of the illness. This piece of lead represents the condensed illness and its cause as well. The shape the melted metal assumes is interpreted by the conjurer (stravarka). At the end of the interpretation, the conjurer gives this piece of lead to the patient and he must liberate himself from it by throwing it ritually back over his shoulder without turning back his head, while pronouncing a charm.
That ritual can be performed by man or woman, but women perform it more often, as they used to, traditionally, care about their family's health. Women who does that ritual in Bosnia is called „stravarka“ or "stravaruša", and she is usually older lady who has been passed through menopause. The illness which stravarka Aiša heals and from which the term 'melting the fear' originates are defined in the folk speech as straha or strava - a terror, a fear, a spell, or evil eyes. These are different psychic crises, neurosis, states of stress and nervousness.
Stravarka, in the process, uses a few props; metal spoon, bowl for water, 3 or 4 pieces of lead and red towel or scarf. Ritual follows the strict religious pattern and therefore Stravarka, before she starts performs abdest (muslim religious washing). Stravarka, over the lead and bowl filled with water, pronounces some individual Quranic prayers, with El-Fatiha first Quranic chapter and Ikhlas 112. chapter dominating.
When treating a frightened child, Aiša first put little pieces of led through the gun barrel and then puts them in a spoon and melt in the fire. However, when treating her adult patients she holds a larger or several small pieces of lead in her hand and rotates them 3 times clockwise round around the patients head saying: „Euzubilahi mineš šejtanir radžim bismillahir rahmanir rahim“. While the lead is melting in fire, Stravarka, over the bowl with water, quietly speaks prayers and basma (magic words) that seek the salvation of God and the health for a patient.

Between the prayers she repeats the following words:"Dear Hazart Fatima, my dear mother, tell your father Mohammed that the patient needs help day and night" - "Draga moja hazreti Fatime, draga moja majko, reci svom ocu Muhamedu pejgamberu da bude u pomoći i u danu i u noći". When she pronounces all the words and prayers due to which she normally experiences some harmless sensations like uncontrolled yawning or tearing eyes stravarka covers patient’s head with a cloth or red scarf (patient sits on a chair). Then, while holding the bowl of water in her left hand over the patient’s head she takes a right handed spoon with melted lead and quickly pours it into the water. On this occasion stravarka says; “lead to break and all evil to bounce from (name of patient) Amen!, Amen!, Amen!” - "Olovo puca i sve zlo razbija sa N Amin! Amin! Amin!"  When pronouncing the magic words she looks out into a high mountain intending, in such a way, to positively affect the recovery of a patient.

Namely, in BIH high landscapes such as mountains, are considers as symbols of happiness and good health; this is originating from the old Bosnian Sun-worshiping Cult. During this ritual, several times encounter the segments of those beliefs when stravarka 3 times moves in clockwise direction; following the path of the sun, when circling lead around the patients head or during her prayers’ chanting over the bowl of water that she, after every prayer, rotates in clockwise circle.

After she throws dissolved lead in cold water, on which occasion leads form various shapes, Stravarka Aiša commences analyses of the obtained shapes what leads her to the cause of problem/disorder. If lead forms in a shape of a needle or number of them Stravarka is convinced that the patient was a victim of an enormous shock of fright. Lead formed in a circle is a sign of a direct patient’s contact with the spiritual world of Jinns, on which occasion spirits harmed the patient.

After Stravarka Aiša performed the analyses of the obtained forms of lead, she collects all the lead by the spoon and brings it back to fire in order to re-melt it. Then, she repeats the same ritual that has already been described above, with a difference in lead being melted in water this time over the patient’s stomach not head. When stage two is completed the last time Stravarka melts lead over the patient’s feet, what is the final/ending stage of the ritual.

srce or heart

The sign of successful treatment is sought in the lead itself. Namely, so-called heart (srce) appears in the very lead  (shape of tear), what is a sign of all the evil being neutralized in the patient. The patient washes his face 3 times with the water lead was melted in 3 times, drinks a bit of it too, washes his/her hands up to his/her elbows and washes his/her legs up to his/her knees. The rest of the water is spilled under bush of rose.

Heart or tears of lead is kept for a month time under the patient’s pillow and then thrown down the river stream.