Nov 8, 2016

When fear „ties itself“ to death

 It was once believed that a person will fall ill if an animal jumps in front of him from a bush unexpectedly or if something else surprises him in a different manner. Repercussions of such a shock have an equally detrimental effect for both the psyche and body. Through some empirical, but also magical experiences, the Bosnian people have always believed that due to huge shock the human body literally shrinks, or better yet – contorts, which is also mentioned in other cultures where such unnatural deformities were cured with the help of massages whose main purpose was to relax the body and return it to its original form.

But, the effect of shock have a much more complex effect on the human body and mind, which is according to folk wisdom best manifested by the claim that due to sudden fear certain organs in the body can move, such as the heart or the gizzard. Both organs are prone to movement during such a sudden bodily convulsion, when a person literally loses its breath, which then further aggravates the patient’s condition. Based on such a belief in folk medicine certain magical rituals of rehabilitation were created, such as lead melting and "salivanje strune", which we will discuss later on.

Due to intensive stress i.e. great fear when a person experiences a rapid loss of fluid inside the mouth, saliva, and since the old days to the frightened a glass of water was offered to them so that “they can come to their senses”. Feeling of fear is such a strong emotion which immediately saps the body’s energy –hypoglycaemia- which is why it is necessary to react quickly in order to recover it. Based on this knowledge the regular practice among Bosnian folk is that to the frightened person a glass of sugar water was offered. It is a known fact that cold water can have a beneficial effect on the person in shock if the person is sprinkled with it or washes its face with it; since the cold itself leads to a short term and effective shock, but this time a positive one.

Drawing attention is practiced in other situations, for example, with the goal of calming down a crying child, which is usually caused by fear from someone or something, which was transferred from one generation to the other from the mother onto the daughter. Namely, our grandmothers would use the tip of their finger to pass over the child’s nose when he was crying in order to get his/her attention, additionally they would produce a high pitched tone which is reminiscent of sound that a mouse makes (ccccc...), they would do this by placing their lips together and drawing air through the opening of the lips, this would produce a sound similar to the sound of the letter C, this would draw attention and stop the most intensive urge for crying – getting hysterical. This would cause the child to calm down gradually*.

According to people, fear has such a destructive influence on humans that it can even cause death. Some stravarke in Bosnia claim: “that in certain situations fear can “get tied” to the patient’s death” – i.e. a person actually dies because of it, and such people can’t be helped. During the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia, Dr. Leopold Gluck wrote about this (“Addition to the folk healing of Bosnia and Herzegovina”), where he mentions at the beginning of his study about folklore understanding of fear among the Bosnian people: “It is true that sudden mental shocks, which are usually marked by horror and fear, are the cause and the nerves get more or less disrupted by so called shock – overemphasized fear from which the nerves react aggressively in main human organs, especially the heart, when even death can occur”.

*Although the crying of a child in the first months, but also the first years of life, is not considered to be bad since it helps with the development of lungs, longer crying periods in men was not allowed because of the fear of hernia and hydrocele.