Nov 8, 2016

Using measuring against fear

Fear i.e. fright can be caused by numerous factors such as a dog’s bark, lightning strike, fire, water, bad news and other factors. Often it is the culprit for numerous life difficulties and failures since it makes a person insecure and prone to withdrawal, underestimation of oneself. If for example a child gets scared during the first months of its life can often be the main reason why a child has difficulties making its first steps or walking in general.

Fright can appear anywhere or at any time, but there are specific situations when we are directly exposed to it, as in case of some danger. If a person feels drowsy during the day and suffers from insomnia at night, is irritable, prone to depression and anxiety, then it is often believed that he is a victim of a suffered shock. There are some alarming signs that fear is excessively present in a human and those are nightmares. Stravarke reveal that if a person dreams of a horse or some other animal that attacks him, is a certain sign of a great fear which continually takes over the body and mind.

It is interesting to note that in Latin America fear is called susto, which is literally translated as “loss of spirit” and according to the local curanderosa (healers), susto is a disease caused by one or more traumatic experience. Symptoms include unrest, lethargy, depression, insomnia and irritability. Each of them agree that it is a very bad state for a human’s spirit. Especially worrying fact is if the frightened person awakes tired, has heavy legs and often feels loss of fluids in the body, especially in the mouth.

Bosnian stravarke in the past used a method more often than today which annulled the effect of fear in a diseased person, the method included measuring the length of the frightened person’s body. There are a few calls such as “odsjecanje krajčice”, “urezivanje krajčice”, “mjerenje skrate” or more simply “mjerenje od straha”.

Procedure of checking if the diseased person’s body is contorted out of fear was performed in the following way in the past: the diseased person is lying on the ground or floor, face down with spread arms and legs. Stravarka takes a grain of barley and carefully breaks it into four equal parts. These miniatures pieces are placed under the palms of the diseased person and under the left and right leg. As it is evident in this example she is following an ancient magical rule to always begin and end with the right side, which is considered to be positive and divine*, i.e. the first piece is placed under the right palm, the second under the left leg, the third under the left palm and the fourth under the right leg.

When she finished the first part of the ritual the stravarka goes into measuring the length of the diseased person by measuring diagonally from the right hand using a wool thread, top of the middle finger, until the left foot, i.e. top of the thumb. During this the thread is tightened in order to get a precise length. Then the beginning of the thread which was on the top of the middle finger is placed in the left hand, also on the top of the middle finger and the one which was on the left foot is placed onto the right one – thumb. The thread is again tightened, as in the first case. If it turns out that there is even a minimal difference between the first and second measuring (measure) the stravarka brings a final conclusion – the diseased has fallen ill from great fear! But, if it is established that both measures are of the same length it is said that the diseased person suffers from another ailment.

In the third and final phase of the ritual, which is conditioned by a correct diagnosis, if the diseased is overtaken by fear and his body has contorted i.e. shrunk because of it, stravarka cuts the wool thread with scissors or a knife into nine equal parts and later she throws them at the closest intersection. After the diseased carefully raises from the ground, stravarka takes a broom and the same way she placed barley pieces she mows them towards the four sides of the world, repeating a short exorcist formula: “Run fear, a cow will sting you!”. After that she draws out four straws from the broom and also she throws one by one into the four sides of the world, following the path of the sun (clockwise), in order to influence the healing process with such a ritual gesture. While leaving the stravarka home he must strictly abide by the rules of not looking back, because of the belief that the spirit of disease can interpret the gesture as a sign of weakness and return into the body of the diseased.

*All magical forms of curing in Bosnian folk medicine are based on the fight against the forces of “left side” – evil spiritual beings, caused of disease and bad luck – and through ritual gestures and actions domination of the “right side” is intensified on which according to mythological belief angels and other clean and positive forces dwell.