Aug 14, 2011

Melting the fear - salivanje strahe

Stravarka Aiša from Sarajevo practices a form of ethno-medicine characteristic for Middle East  and the Balkans, a method called salivanje strahe or salivanje zrna „melting the fear“ in Bosnia. This method consists of ritual behaviour and a special text known as a „basma“ (or bosnian magic poetry), used together with the aim of healing the patient.
Another part of the technique is the melting of lead (or 'melting the fear'), which consists of the ritual melting of a small piece of lead, by means of which stravarka Aiša ' sees' the cause of the illness. This piece of lead represents the condensed illness and its cause as well. The shape the melted metal assumes is interpreted by the conjurer (stravarka). At the end of the interpretation, the conjurer gives this piece of lead to the patient and he must liberate himself from it by throwing it ritually back over his shoulder without turning back his head, while pronouncing a charm.
That ritual can be performed by man or woman, but women perform it more often, as they used to, traditionally, care about their family's health. Women who does that ritual in Bosnia is called „stravarka“ or "stravaruša", and she is usually older lady who has been passed through menopause. The illness which stravarka Aiša heals and from which the term 'melting the fear' originates are defined in the folk speech as straha or strava - a terror, a fear, a spell, or evil eyes. These are different psychic crises, neurosis, states of stress and nervousness.
Stravarka, in the process, uses a few props; metal spoon, bowl for water, 3 or 4 pieces of lead and red towel or scarf. Ritual follows the strict religious pattern and therefore Stravarka, before she starts performs abdest (muslim religious washing). Stravarka, over the lead and bowl filled with water, pronounces some individual Quranic prayers, with El-Fatiha first Quranic chapter and Ikhlas 112. chapter dominating.
When treating a frightened child, Aiša first put little pieces of led through the gun barrel and then puts them in a spoon and melt in the fire. However, when treating her adult patients she holds a larger or several small pieces of lead in her hand and rotates them 3 times clockwise round around the patients head saying: „Euzubilahi mineš šejtanir radžim bismillahir rahmanir rahim“. While the lead is melting in fire, Stravarka, over the bowl with water, quietly speaks prayers and basma (magic words) that seek the salvation of God and the health for a patient.

Between the prayers she repeats the following words:"Dear Hazart Fatima, my dear mother, tell your father Mohammed that the patient needs help day and night" - "Draga moja hazreti Fatime, draga moja majko, reci svom ocu Muhamedu pejgamberu da bude u pomoći i u danu i u noći". When she pronounces all the words and prayers due to which she normally experiences some harmless sensations like uncontrolled yawning or tearing eyes stravarka covers patient’s head with a cloth or red scarf (patient sits on a chair). Then, while holding the bowl of water in her left hand over the patient’s head she takes a right handed spoon with melted lead and quickly pours it into the water. On this occasion stravarka says; “lead to break and all evil to bounce from (name of patient) Amen!, Amen!, Amen!” - "Olovo puca i sve zlo razbija sa N Amin! Amin! Amin!"  When pronouncing the magic words she looks out into a high mountain intending, in such a way, to positively affect the recovery of a patient.

Namely, in BIH high landscapes such as mountains, are considers as symbols of happiness and good health; this is originating from the old Bosnian Sun-worshiping Cult. During this ritual, several times encounter the segments of those beliefs when stravarka 3 times moves in clockwise direction; following the path of the sun, when circling lead around the patients head or during her prayers’ chanting over the bowl of water that she, after every prayer, rotates in clockwise circle.

After she throws dissolved lead in cold water, on which occasion leads form various shapes, Stravarka Aiša commences analyses of the obtained shapes what leads her to the cause of problem/disorder. If lead forms in a shape of a needle or number of them Stravarka is convinced that the patient was a victim of an enormous shock of fright. Lead formed in a circle is a sign of a direct patient’s contact with the spiritual world of Jinns, on which occasion spirits harmed the patient.

After Stravarka Aiša performed the analyses of the obtained forms of lead, she collects all the lead by the spoon and brings it back to fire in order to re-melt it. Then, she repeats the same ritual that has already been described above, with a difference in lead being melted in water this time over the patient’s stomach not head. When stage two is completed the last time Stravarka melts lead over the patient’s feet, what is the final/ending stage of the ritual.

srce or heart

The sign of successful treatment is sought in the lead itself. Namely, so-called heart (srce) appears in the very lead  (shape of tear), what is a sign of all the evil being neutralized in the patient. The patient washes his face 3 times with the water lead was melted in 3 times, drinks a bit of it too, washes his/her hands up to his/her elbows and washes his/her legs up to his/her knees. The rest of the water is spilled under bush of rose.

Heart or tears of lead is kept for a month time under the patient’s pillow and then thrown down the river stream.

Dâ'ira - circle of ghosts

In the past of Bosnia and Herzegovina there was an exorcist ritual named dâ'ira ; used for treating mentally ill persons by releasing them from ghost possession. Dâ'ira is the Arabic word, and it means circle. In this case, it is a magic circle which mullah (hodža) droves with knife around himself and a child before the ritual start.
In his book "Zapisi i Hamajlije" from 1940yr. Muhamed Garčević mentioned unusual manuscript from year 1303yr.written in Arabic language, in which the world of demons, number, places where they dwell and ways and modes of attacking human beings, is described. As a result of their attacks people get following symptoms/diseases; epilepsy, partial or complete paralysis, headache, nigh mares, hallucinations and so on…
In Bosnia, demon attack is called “ograma”. Hodja with amulets through the ritual of daira treats the patient.
Dâ'ira represents dangerous ritual that requires a vegetarian nutrition, great devotion, purity of the body and spirit, and a blue-eyed medium boy or girl, under 12 years of age. Ritual is performed in clean and isolated room. Hodja  draws circle on the floor with a knife around himself and medium, then burn frankincense, place a cup filled with black ink to what the child will gaze constantly during the ritual.

Then hodja begins with chanting prayers from the Quran’s selected citations. When the child reports seeing small figures/silhouettes of dwarfs appearing in a long line on the surface of the ink, that’s a sign of ritual on its way in right direction. The moment when a child sees the monarch of dwarfs’; usually demon that is dressed differently from other dwarfs, child will let hodja  know about that so that he could stand up and show respect to the king. When the monarch of the demons sits down, hodja sits down too. Then is the time for conversation to begin with hodja intending to convince the master of the demons to order his servants to leave the body of the victim/patient. If the ritual succeeds patient faints for a moment and wake up well and healthy. Dâ'ira is, as already mentioned, very dangerous ritual that can be performed only by spiritually strong individuals.
In some ethnological records, there are cases with no happy ending; when some mullas hodzas obsessed by the demon remaining paralyzed or mentally sick. Ethnological records say that during the ritual of daira strong winds used to blow, sometimes uprooting trees from the ground and blowing away roofs from the houses.

There are over 10 ways/techniques daira is performed, as follows; using cup of coffee, palm, mirror, water, nail, and other...

Bosnian divination with 41 grain of beans

The Bosniak women (fortune-teller) selects forty-one white grain beans, and divides them roughly into three heaps. She then takes four at a time from each heap, until only four or less remain in each. The remainder she also divides into three heaps, and again takes from each by fours. Three more heaps are thus made, so that at last there are three rows of three piles in each. What is left she divides by four, and sees whether the remainder be one, two, three or four. The varying numbers and positions of the grains of beans can be explained by an experienced fortune-teller to the intense satisfaction or to the disappointment of the one who consults him.

One of the most popular methods of fortune-telling in Bosnia and Herzegovina is certainly divination with beans. The origin of this technique comes from Turkey, where there is an equivalent method called “fasulya fali” or “kumalak”. Among the people there are stories that demised Hazrat Fatima secretly performed divination with beans, hiding it from her father Muhammad. On one occasion while Hazrat Fatima predicted the fate of her friend in the room suddenly entered Mohammed. Hazrat Fatima in shock and rush managed to hide under her dress only half of the beans, which were located in front her, therefore since then it is believed that in every divination lies half truth and half lie. It is interesting that one combination of divination is named after her name – “Hazrat Fatima fal”. It is a combination of 333, which represents happiness, marriage and the fulfillment of whish. 

In Bosnia, a person dealing with the divination in the beans is called “faladžija* or *faladžinica* (falajiya or falajinica) if it is a female person. For divination in the beans fortune teller needs the red patch on which he or she lines up 41 grains of white beans. Before she starts placing the beans on the patch she takes the beans into the right fist , places the fist close to her mouth and recites the prayer: “Rabbi yesir vela tu'asir, rabbi temmim bil-hayr” three times and then blows into her fist three times.

Then she divides the beans into three smaller piles and from each takes the four seeds making a figure of three rows with nine beans pile where each individual pile can have 1, 2, 3 or 4 seed. The left vertical line represents a female person and the right male person. The vertical line in the middle is called the house or heart. In addition, females and males lines are divided into three symbols: the head, arms, legs and the line in the middle is divided on: the cushion, fireplace and doors. The method of divination in the bean is extremely broad and requires much effort and space for an explanation, however there are several shorter versions of divination which people mostly use to get the answer to a specific question. 

In simpler form of divination 38 grains of white beans is used a piece of bread, one coffee grain and a metal coin. Before deviation can begin a grain of bean is highlighted in red paint which will represent the person who asks the questions in the process of the divination. Then the fortune teller takes all beans into her hand and person who has come for the fortune telling raises the question she would like to have answered. After that fortune teller blows into her fist and throws the beans on the floor. With this is the first part of the divination is completed. After that the analysis of the position taken by a grain marked in red starts. If the grain fell nearer to the piece of bread it represents a symbol of happiness - the wish will be fulfilled, in love ones will marry, work will progress and etc.

On the other hand if the red bean fell nearer to the coin, that person can expect the cash gains in near future. If the bean falls close to the grain of coffee it's a bad sign, which represents trouble, tears, or at least unfortunate event. This sign also represents a negative answer to asked question.

Folk medicine

People in Bosnia and Herzegovina always believed that one’s stomach (gastritis) can get dislocated from its natural position, what further on causes health problems.
Stomach in humans can be dislocated in any of the following situations: hunger during hard work or a heavy burden; jumping or falling from a tree or some highness; nightmare or general stress, which is most common cause. It is important to say that stomach never dislocates because of nutrition/diet.

When a human’s stomach (gastritis) dislocates people in Bosnia say: "strunuo se" or suffering from stomach (gastritis).From the shifted gastritis patient feels severe pain in stomach, vomiting, decreased appetite and often being tortured by insomnia. Although the very method of treating gastritis is not that complicated and does not require particular knowledge, though there are some conditions to pursue and one of them is that the person (stravarka) have warm hands.
The people of Bosnia believe that there are nine forms of “struna” that differs in color. Blue string (plava struna) is considered to be the easiest form of the disease that is easily treated. Red string (crvena struna) caused by the stress, worrying, emotional problems;  its manifested by weight loss, pallor and nausea.
Black string (crna struna); women often suffer after childbirth, and men from carrying heavy burden; it is manifested by sudden weight gain, abdominal distension, pain in the stomach and intestines.

Stravarka pays full attention to diagnosis to which direction stomach (gastritis) dislocated, as, according to their believes, stomach can move/dislocate all the way up to the spine or legs. This is why the most important part of their treatments is massage.
In order to find out whether the patient really suffers from that disease Stravarka touches patient’s skin located between thumb and forefinger. If, during such a diagnosis attempt she senses a small ball underneath her fingers/palms it is seen as a definite sign of the stomach (gastritis) disorder. Then, she starts massaging the patient up his/her arm all the way up to his/her shoulder until she “locates” stomach and bring it back to its place.
There are several more methods of bringing gastritis back to its place using massage; stravarka puts a cup (in up-side-down position) onto a patient’s belly and massages patient from the hips to the navel. While she practices this routine she constantly chants the following magic words: “Come Hazrat Fatima take your feather and remove from this patient all his/her pain, and return his/her gastritis in place!” Then she, using a scarf or bigger piece of cloth, wraps up a cup around patient’s stomach and leaves the patient to lie down in that position for half an hour or until the patient get well.
After the treatment patient is recommended to follow a strict regime of diet for the next seven days; to eat only cooked food, fruits and vegetables and avoid meet, greasy meals, canned salads, fried eggs and so on… 


In a long tradition of magic practice in Bosnia & Herzegovina, particularly the practice of love magic, we encounter various aspects of beliefs in the power of spirits, planets, herbs, as well as blood, human secretion, and so on. Alongside it all, an influence of Slavic and oriental beliefs based on animalism is evident, what tells us about the ancient connection between human beings, nature and its forces.
Only some persons used to practice magic throughout the centuries; those who were able of establishing contacts with the invisible entities. Sometimes, such communication was initiated by spiritual forces themselves and more often by human beings performing magic rituals. In Bosnia & Herzegovina, the most known ritual of establishing contact and alliance with the invisible forces is “sacrilege with the Koran”, in which man or woman denies their faith in God and accept devil as their master or partner.
Such power was often desired by women aiming to be successful in love magic practice. In order to acquire magical power and make an alliance with the world of demons (jinni), a girl involved in a dark ritual of initiation must get completely undressed/nude and step with both feet on Koran and say: “Iblis, I surrender to you my soul and I ask the following…” By such an act of sacrilege she gets in union with demons.
The benefits of such a pact for a woman are numerous; a girl (witch) has the power of invisibility, or power to revenge whoever she wants to, or to cast love spells. Various magic rituals aiming to get jinni (spirits/demons) across prove that. One of them is performed by a girl during the night; right before she gets in bed, she knocks the walls saying: “I knocked the wall and 3 jinn’s popped out…”
Traditionally, every witch performs her magic right at the sunset time, although the whole night is adequate for all magic practices, particularly a night before some important holiday when various fortune telling practices are performed too. In that way, a night before Bayram, girls get outside, take a look to the brightest star at the sky and, being very focused, repeat for nine times: “Tell me star, who loves me, tell me is it the one I love too?” Immediately after this they go directly to bed and if they happen to dream about men they love that night; it is a proof that their love is mutual.
The special attention in love magic Bosnian witches pay to a herb called milogled (asarum europaeum) for which they believe it possesses a power to stimulate erotic desires in a monotonic marriage and to fire up love in the heart of the wanted person. Milogled is picked up in the forest in ritual way at the sunset time, in a way that an herb is first encircled by a golden necklace and then pulled up from the soil, along with the root. Since this herb mainly has only two leaves, one is coated by honey and second with butter with magic words being chanted. After that one leaf is placed at one side of the entrance door of the house and second on the other side, in order to get loved person passing between them. The moment beloved person passes through the door; the leaves are to be immediately glued to each other and carried along for some period of time. If this magic is performed for the husband then the mentioned leaves are to be put in his pillow.
A great power to seduce the desired person, according to believes in Bosnia, are with the amulets made by a mullah (Islamic priest). Amulets made for this purpose are normally kept as talismans or burned in fire, beloved person is looked at through them or they are to be buried underneath the beloved person’s threshold. Sometimes, amulet is burned down and ash is to be poured in a drink or meal of a desired person. It is believed that this is very powerful magic. However, its effects often last for 40 days only after what the magic is to be repeated.
In love magic, human secretions (sperm, vaginal secretion) are often used. After sexual intercourse woman picks the sperm of her lower by a kerchief after what she wipes her vagina with it. Then she washes a kerchief in a glass of water and she puts that water in her lover’s coffee or soup with magical words being chanted.
Apart from sperm, menstrual blood is also very much in use in the whole of Bosnia. Woman gets menstrual blood fall on the sugar cube (normally 3 drops), and by chanting magic words she puts it in the coffee of the desired man. According to beliefs in Bosnia, woman have got two sorts of blood; one is menstrual blood that will make a desired man passionate and obsessed with her, and second; located in the fingers of a fist, which is used for practicing magic that will make beloved man obey her will and dominated by her.  

Bajanje - magical whisper

The word bajanje (incantation) comes from a verb in the Bosnian language and it means speak or relate. The term has its origin in the Azerbaijan language where it represents folk poetry bayati which is in fact incantation- a type of magical poetry intended for sickness, happiness, love, fertility, keeping evil at bay.
The skill of incantation or magical formulas is known from the pagan times when it was used as a replacement for today's prayers. In both instances the magical-religious speech that was expressed poetically was meant to serve as a contact between humans and the supernatural in order to procure a benefit. In the Old Testament it is written: "In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God". The same principle is found in the Qur'an where it says that the whole universe was created out of two letters "Kaf" and "Nun" which create the word "Kun" when combined, which means "Be!"
In Bosnia and Herzegovina there are two forms of magical poetry; the shorter form called basma and the longer one called bajalica (magical whisper).

Folklore claims that the whole world (Earth) is placed upon a basma and if one knew the content of that magical poem, one would then rule the whole world.
It is believed that a basma is powerful as long as a small number of people know its content (up to three) and as soon as a fourth person finds out its content, it loses its power. The structure of the basma has a so called triad- repeating the basma three or even nine times which can be justified as three times three. It is always whispered during a particular time of the day or night, on the moon light or next to water or fire.
Some Bosnian witches believe that the world stands on a basma and the black earth on a prayer Ikhlas and that's why these two elements are inseparable during the practice of curing or making spells. Before the witch utters a basma, she repeats the prayer Ihlas three or five times, because the 112. chapter in the Qur'an gives strength for uplifting the basma to a certain spiritual level.
Love basma are especially popular, and some girls still use them in Bosnia. It is believed that every basma works in the course of 7-40 days. When a woman wants to awaken love for her in a certain male, she needs to pee on nine white beans and she needs to throw them into the fire. As soon as the beans start crackling in the fire she utters the love basma. After she utters it three times she needs to take an axe and hit the threshold of the entrance door. It is believed that the male, on whom the spell is cast, must fall in love with the girl, or otherwise his body will be covered with itching and rashes. Besides that the male will suffer from high fever and a desire to see the woman that threw the spell.
Other basma that are popular are those against spell bound eyes, which are based on a ritual of extinguishing coal fire. The idea behind this ritual is that by extinguishing the fire one is symbolically extinguishing the negative effect of the spell bound eyes.   

Bajanje  aganist the evil eye:

The evil eye sits on the treshold,
his mate under the treshold.
The evil eye  has three eyes:
one eye is of water,
the second eye is of fire,
the third eye us charmed.
The water eye burst
and put out the fiery one
and took the charmed one
to the high mountains
to the broad plains.
The sea has no bridge,
nor a dog horns,
nor the palm (of the hand) hair
nor is here any spell on my -name-.