Feb 6, 2017

Hazrat Fatima in shamanism

 Hazrat Fatima, the daughter of the prophet Muhammad, besides her husband Ali Ibn Talib known among the Bosnian people as hazrat Alija, is a mystical figure and a cult character in shamanism, but also inseparable segment of folk medicine and tradition, where she is a spiritual mother and protector to all stravarke. We are lead to this conclusion by numerous examples from the practice, the most noticeable one is found in one of her names which is Fatima Ana or “Fatima Mother”, from the Turkish word anna or mother. Namely, every time a Turkish woman-shaman i.e. ocakli-kadin pours molten lead in a vessel with water she says: “This is not my hand, this is the hand of Fatima Ana!” alluding that she is only the medium or instrument through which the healing power of the prophets daughter will flow.

Similar ritual practice exists in the tradition of Bosnian stravarke. At the very beginning, before the exorcist formulas and prayers are uttered above the vessel with water, with a quiet voice the stravarka utters this formula: “My dear Hazrat Fatima, my dear mother, tell your father Muhammad...”. The meaning of this magical sentence is actually a desire for supernatural intermediation, with the goal of securing the necessary support from god in order to heal successfully: stravarka asks Hazrat Fatima, which she calls her mother, who in turn will ask Muhammad and he will ask Allah.

Lucky hand

Writing about the tradition of the Bosnian people, Antun Hangi in his chapter about folk medicine touched on the healing motif of the hand, he recorded: “Woman (stravarka), which is known for her knowledge of exorcism and rituals of lead melting, and especially if she is sevapli, of a lucky hand, is very respected since she can do a lot of things if god wills it, from annulling negative effects of evil eyes, cure the frightened, and also she can marry a girl or a boy.”

Researching shamanistic tradition of curing among the Bosnian folk, especially the ritual aspects of the cult “hand that cures” I noticed that they are familiar in numerous aspects. For example, in the exorcist formula which stravarke use to cure a diseased stomach, they say: “Come on, Hazrat Fatima, you bring your pen and with it...”. Without a doubt in this magical request, most reliably defined is the role of the prophet’s daughter who is called upon for help.

Instrument of healing is still the hand but this time it holds the most representative prop-symbol of the shamanistic cult of healing and that is a chicken’s feather, which can also be a bird’s. The motif of a feather was used by all cultures connected to worship of nature and its forces, from the Indians, Maya, Inca all up to the ancient Egyptians. Furthermore, feather like silver is dedicated to the moon, to the female deity and embodiment of the Grand Mother, whose substitute in monotheism became the virgin Mary, Hazret Fatima and sometimes Hawa or Eve.

In a formula for curing recorded in Velika Kladuša, at the very end, an interesting verse is mentioned which literally says: “as light as a feather as clear as silver...” which probably best represents the role and symbolism of the feather in the shamanistic cult of healing. It is quite evident that before the advent of monotheism; in the religion of our Illyrian forefathers, the cult of healing under the patronage of the Grand Mother was well developed, which is a logical sequence under the immediate influence of matriarchy. Women were and still are the best keepers of folk tradition, old language and customs, especially the ones dedicated to healing and magic, which is a result of an old practice of matriarchy in our region. Still today, through old traditions, shorter and longer forms of magical formulas, one can find and hear a lot of old words and phrases which are a priceless linguistic treasure.

Examples of the dominant role of the spiritual mother of healing do not end there. During the banishment of the red wind (Erizipel) stravark, while burning oakum on the body of the diseased, repeats:

Salamaikum, Hazrat Fatima!
What are you doing?
Burning, burning, to burn!
Nine, eight, seven, ....

In abbreviated form of the name i.e. Fata she is often mentioned in basma against snake bite such as:

Fata, Fata kissed gold,
in gold more gold!

At times a mother which washed the face of a spellbound child would utter:

I’m not washing dreams and worry
but evil eyes and insomnia,
with one hand I and with the other Hazrat Fatima,
mašalna inšalna!

Hidden meaning of this ritual is obviously located in the undefined statement which hand represents which mother and probably with that one wanted to confuse and scare evil with the arcane strength of the indescribable parental love and care, in front of which it must recoil.

Another interesting aspect from folk tradition in which the prophylactic role of the prophet’s daughter is emphasized, is evident in the example of borrowing a garden seed for sowing. Namely, when a housewife gives as a gift a seed from the garden she utters:

To you Hazrat Fatima gave a name and to me a seed!

She does this as a precautionary measure so that she may have yields (crop) in her garden.

Saint with three roses

Fatima is often the name of famous stravarke, it was recorded that the name was often given out of love to a daughter, who was an only child. Among the folk it is believed that women with this name often give birth to boys which is obviously alluding to Hasan and Husein, the sons of Hazrat Fatima. From the now deceased stravarka, Fatima D. I once heard that the most powerful amulets for curing are created by Imam’s named Hasan, which can be connected to the story above.

Hazrat Fatima herself in folk tradition of BiH is tied to fortune telling using bean beads, where it is claimed that she used to practice this mantic discipline. This is why before divination the Bosnian diviner gathers 41 bean beads in her hand and holding them in front of her mouth she utters in a low voice the first verse of the Qur’an, and in the end she offers the prayer to Hazrat Fatima’s soul. Allegedly, with this she blesses the bean beads and strengthens them, placing them under the direction of a higher force so that it can correctly show someone’s destiny, since as they claim: “beans are never wrong, only the one using them!”.

During the period when I visited local stravarke often with the desire to gather as much information about their work as possible, I met Alija K. now deceased, she told me about her unusual meeting with Hazrat Fatima. According to her she dreamt of her one night and she described her as “an extremely beautiful young woman, with large dark eyes and white face, which was adorned with a white scarf which had three roses tied to it”.

Allegedly, she was told in that dream that she should continue the practice of curing her mother, a wise woman which was literate during the beginning of the twentieth century in a conservative society such as Bosnia. What was especially interesting in her presentation was a love recipe for having your husband come back to you, in this formula the main protagonists are Hazrat Fatima and her husband Ali, and their connection with the holiest plant for the Bosnian people – sedefil (Ruta graveolens – rue).

Hand of Hazrat Fatima

Although the origin of the most famous amulet in Islam, the so called “Hand of Hazrat Fatima (Fatima’s hand)” , is older than Islam itself, also of Judaism and Christianity, and dates back to the ancient gods whose depictions showed them with a raised right hand, signifying divine authority and power, legends about the origin are an ideal depiction how through time of the human civilization, religion never lost its primary purpose of inspiring man and of giving his life a purpose.

According to an Arabic tradition, when Hazrat Fatima found out of her husband’s infidelity, she was so distraught and in tears that she burned her palm and fingers while mixing a hot mixture of sugar and almonds. She placed her injured hand on her chest, close to her heart and breathing deeply she said: “Dear Allah, give me strength to keep calm and peaceful, protect me and help me, I trust only you!”. As the legend continues these sincere words of an emotionally and physically hurt woman who was humiliated touched Allah that he immediately blessed her hand (berekat) and from then on the motif of her hand has become the most popular and famous amulet across the Middle and Central East and even further.

The hand of Hazrat Fatima is especially beloved among Arabian women which carry it around their necks believing that it will bring them good luck, love, fertility and keep their marriage. Men carry this amulet so that “their paths open up” i.e. so that they can achieve success and prosperity on journeys, in business, commerce, exams, ... Both sexes carry the hand of Hazrat Fatima because of its apotropaic meaning – it protects them from spellbound eyes, magic and evil spirits.