Nov 8, 2016

Fear in Bosnian folk medicine

Author: Raif Esmerović

According to definition fear is described as intense and unpleasant negative feeling which a man experiences once he sees or expects danger, whether the danger is real or imaginary. It's an inborn, genetically programmed reaction to threatening or painful stimuli. Fear is a primary emotion, just like happiness, sorrow, surprise, anger and disgust, which means that in different cultures it is expressed the same or in a similar manner, i.e. that the expression of fear is not learned. Fear is not non-functional, just like pain whose goal is to protect the body from further harm, fear with its intense discomfort and exclusion of all other things focuses the body on defence of the thing that causes fear, it places the system in a preparatory state and spurs careful monitoring of the thing which causes the danger. (Wikipedia)

Studying ethnological build from the transition of the nineteenth into the twentieth century makes it easy to conclude that people lacking medical and scientific cognition divided diseases into two types – physical and mental. The most widespread cause of disease, which is the predominant cause of death, was according to people in Bosnia the destructive effect of evil (spellbound) eyes. Right after that came fear. Because of this reason in case a disease occurred people would perform the ritual of extinguishing coal in water, against evil eyes, or lead melting ritual, because of the doubt of fear. If neither method showed successful another solution would be sought such as medicinal herbs, balms, priests prayers and amulets, etc. Often, usually at the end, one would consult a doctor, but only if he is located close to the diseased person’s home. Necessity to seek help initially from the magical-religious domain is the product of an archaic belief according to which the disease was considered as god’s will or punishment, or a result of aggression by evil spirits who would cause terrible pain and other ailments by possessing the human body.

Fear from evil spirits, god’s punishment, evil eyes or mental shock is not only a reflection of the lack of enlightenment of a time but also of its brutality. How much rooted the fear is in the collective consciousness of this people is perhaps best envisaged by a short summary of the history of Bosnia and the Bosnian people, who were since ancient, Illyrian times constantly exposed to historical turmoil, war and occupation by larger states; according to this it is easy to conclude why it was accumulated in such an extent. In the end it created a psychological impression that there is a fear from fear, which is more intense than normal.

Namely, as modern psychology claims, humans are born with only two fears – fear of hunger and noise, while all other phobias are usually acquired during childhood and we fight with them our entire life. Fear from hunger and noise are tightly connected with the survival instinct, and during the process of growing up it is supplemented with new instinctual fears whose primary function is keeping us alive. But, besides this positive existential purpose, fear also has a negative side, when it acts in complete opposition against the human, directly endangering his life.

Circle of fear begins during childhood

It is believed among the folk that the victims of fear are more children than adults, primarily because of their physical and mental vulnerability. For centuries in a conservative society, like the Bosnian one, the children are brought up with fear, i.e. certain mental torture was performed on them in order to literally program them to act according to the hypocritical standards of the patriarchal society in which one traditionally suffocated all desire to be different or individualistic.

That’s why I always say that it is a bit ironic that out of the most beautiful period in a human’s life, which childhood is, we inherit the most trauma, complexes and frustrations, especially from parents, which we than tackle all our lives. Before, as now, the greatest issue in breaking apart this vicious cycle is the shallowness and almost no desire for change. The issue of all societies is the incomprehensible desire for constant imposition with which the human being has contact from day one; they impose religion on us, behaviour patterns, dress code, communication, way of thinking, etc. Of course there should be certain life and everyday norms of behaviour and order, so that we can live next to each other, but there must also be a freedom of choice, since if we don’t have this a human is no longer a human, but a robot. I’m of the opinion that in this imposition, fear has its starting position.

Based on everything that has been written so far we come to a rational conclusion that for a better understanding of the term of fear itself and its influence on our life, but also of each individual, we need to pay more attention to studying this phenomenon in human beings, and the best starting point for such research is found in folk medicine, which unlike the official one, is much more flexible and more open minded, and in a specific way it delves into the intimacy of each individual.