Aug 19, 2017

Loyal as a dog

Unbreakable bond between a man and a dog stems from the earliest times of human civilization and represents one of the most stable relationships a man managed to establish throughout the ages with a representative of the animal world. That’s why in Bosnian traditional life an important role is given to a dog, namely of guarding the house. He is, like a cow, rightfully thought of as a member of the family to whom special attention was given.

From the period of our forefathers the Bogomil it is believed that inside of a dog can be a human soul which is why people were told to be considerate towards a dog. Otherwise the person that acted badly toward a dog could commit a great sin. In folk stories which was recorded by Antun Hangi, writing about the life and customs of Bosnian people, it was written that a tradesman drank coffee in the morning with his wife before going to town. The wife told him that she will be washing laundry the entire day, which accumulated over the past days, so she will not have time to eat lunch but she will await him with dinner. He said his goodbye and left for work. Walking towards the town the tradesman regularly passed a graveyard, and that morning he heard a mysterious voice which spoke to someone:

-“Hey my death brother can you hear me? To those words another mysterious voice spoke up – “I hear you my death brother! – “Do you know that we will be joined today by a woman and she will become our death sister?” the voice continued. –“I didn’t hear, what will happen?”, the other voice asked. – “She will heat water on a fire to wash laundry and by accident she will upturn the pot, spill hot water on herself and die from burns.”

Those words worried the tradesman since he thought that woman could be his wife, since she was getting ready to wash laundry at home. Engulfed in his worries he headed towards town but the uneasy feeling didn’t leave him the entire day. At night he closed down the shop and hurried back home. Passing by the same graveyard he was again disturbed by the same voices. –“Hey my death brother, that woman will not come and become our death sister”. – “Why is that?” the other voice asked – “Today close to her house a dog gave birth, she fed the dog and for that good deed, God prolonged her life”.

Those words calmed the tradesman but he still hurried home. Arriving home he found his wife alive and well resting on the couch. Seeing him on the door she immediately told him that dinner is still not ready she was waiting for the bread to be baked. That confused him since he saw a fresh bread on the table this morning so he asked what had happened to it. She replied that a dog gave birth behind their house and she didn’t have anything else to give the dog so she gave her that bread. Tradesman smiled at this statement realizing that the dead at the graveyard spoke about his wife, he commended her for the good deed not revealing what he had heard during the day.

Healing with a dog’s skull

A dog is a well represented animal in Bosnian folk beliefs and stories and therefore it deserves special attention from us. For a dog’s skull it was believed that it is a great accumulator and transferor of positive healing energy which is why in the past stravarke repeated magical formulas and blew into the skull and even left them in the house of the diseases so that he can use it while they’re not around. The skull would be placed on the aching place where it, allegedly, absorbed negative energy (pain) inside of itself. Once “programmed” in this manner the skull could be used for a long time.

About specific possibilities of transfer of negative energy from a human onto a dog is witnessed by a traditional custom of throwing water onto a dog, water which was used to wash the face of a child afflicted by evil eyes. Stravarka Hasnija claims that the ritual of lead melting can be done from a distance, kilometers away from the diseases, but only if at the end of the third lead melting the water from the bowl is thrown onto three dogs “since there is nothing more loyal and stronger than a dog!”. Legendary reliability of a human towards this dog is demonstrated in fortunetelling especially coffee divination where the dog is a classic symbol of loyalty and friendship. And that wonderful trait which characterizes this animal is so appreciated among the Bosnian people that it became the theme of numerous legends.

In a short story from Velika KladuĊĦa it is said that at one time a husband came home drunk and angry so he took out his anger first on the wife and then on his dog, which came running and barking nervous from what he had seen. That distracted the husband which the wife used to run to the neighbors to get help. Furious because of this he started hitting the dog who somehow ran away from him onto the nearby meadow. There the dog lay and with a sad look, gazed onto the house. During that time the wife informed the police which came 10 minutes latter to arrest the husband. While putting on his shoes he saw his wife smiling slyly because she is sending him to prison, the he saw his dog in the meadow whom he called, the dog came running immediately happy that his owner called him. –“I have hit you like my wife, but unlike her which went to the police, you forgave me, you waited for me to call you and you were immediately there”, he said stroking the dog’s head, -“now I know that there is nothing more loyal and committed than a dog!”

Like a dog and a cat

In another story which speaks about the continuous animosity of a dog and a cat, the eternal loyalty of a dog towards a human was confirmed, from the beginning of the world until its end, and it starts like this:

During judgment day everything alive will turn against humans and will accuse him in front of God for the things that he is guilty of and things not guilty of. That animosity will not last longer than 15 minutes. The first animal that will stand to accuse humans will be the cat. The one that paid the most attention and care to her. She will especially be angry at the housewife. In those moments, if it weren’t for a dog, the faith of the housewife would be bad, since the cat with its cunning would persuade everyone by her lies. Whatever the cat thins of at that moment, whether true or false, she will say, and all curses against the poor housewife she will use; that she beat her and harassed her, that she was constantly beaten in the house and that she was more hungry than full. To all those lies and accusations the dog will stand up bravely and criticize and publicly denounce her lies. Negating her accusations the dog will be restless and will constantly interrupt her lies by saying: “How can you say something like that?”, he will continue, - if I, who was always near the door looking what leftovers I’ll get am not complaining, I was always happy and content, how can you complain who was constantly at the table. You’re not just unjust but ungrateful as well! If it were only true what you’re saying!”

Things which the dog says against the cat will anger the cat mightily, since she will be depicted to god as a liar, that’s why she will come after the dog but cunningly and slyly, not giving up the act of the victim: “Oh yes, absolutely, it is as you say! You aren’t even aware of your suffering, and how you lived among humans let alone to know something of other’s problems. How it was for me you have no idea, and it’s not for you to know! You take care of yourself, don’t worry about me. Let everyone fight for the truth and justice. I’m not interested in other’s issues and lives. It is easy for you to say what you will. You haven’t suffered as I have. They threw bones for you behind the door so you can eat them, they didn’t even see me at the table!

-“Whose fault is it that they didn’t see you? the dog said in an instant, “why did you hide under the table, as a mangy goat. You should have stayed near the door no one prevented you. You wanted special status, you thought you were a lady, and your pretentiousness didn’t allow you to wait near the door. You would shame your honor and reputation, everything that you thought belonged to you!”

-“Go, go you devil! Who asked you for your opinion?” the now nervous cat replied, you are no one! You would only argue and tell lies, you aren’t interested in anything else! You’re truly bad luck, there is no reasoning or compromise with you. Not even ten gypsies could beat you in an argument let alone myself, a helpless cat!.

With that the lawsuit would end. The housewife would be saved, and the cat would quiet down and recede, since she will realize that her lies are not working and that she may have overdone her acting. But enmity between the cat and the dog will last forever. They will hate one another, as they say like a cat and a dog. They will never agree and befriend each other. Even if they did It would be only ostensibly, unstable and short lived.