Dec 22, 2011

Amulet or Hamajlija

 In Bosnia and Herzegovina there is a long tradition of wearing amulets, which are called “hamajlija” (amulet). They are shorter or longer texts from the Quran written on a piece of paper where a picture of a magic square is present (wafq) and at the end of the text the name of the owner is written. Amulets were worn for various reasons such as the protection from sickness and as a cure but mostly because they provide immunity to the wearer.

When someone wants to get an amulet they go to a hodja (mullah) who uses the system of Arabic astrology and numerology, also known as “ebjad hisab”, and turns the name of that person along with the name of his mother into their numerical equivalents and divides it by the number 12. When he receives the final number he then writes the corresponding text.
Every amulet begins with the words: “Bismilahir rahmanir rahim” and continues with some prayer, usually it is the first verse of the Quran, El-Fatiha. The constituent part of any good amulet is the magical square or wafq whose content is made up of a sequence of numbers, Allah’s names or short quotations from the Quran.

In Velika Kladuša an amulet is written for nine days before the appearance of the new moon. When the whole text is completed the paper is folded into a shape of a triangle and sown in a red fabric. Beforehand a leaf of rue (Ruta graveoles) or a piece of  yew (Taxus bacuta) or three beans of coffee are placed inside the amulet. In the past the amulet was encased in metal and sown inside of a rabbits skin.It is interesting to mention that the amulet has a fascinating effect on the wearer. If the wearer is under the influence of black magic, soon after he has started wearing the amulet around his neck a harmful sensation will befall him, for example chest pain, nightmare, etc. That is a positive sign that evil has been neutralized. Also this is the crucial moment when the amulet and the wearer have bonded.

Amulets were mostly worn by children, according to the ethnological data collected during the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the majority of Bosniak children wore an amulet sown on the top of their fez, shaped like a triangle and sown inside a red fabric, so that it can protect them from spellbound eyes o which children are most susceptible to. In such an amulet a standard prayer that was written in it was a prayer from the Quran called Ali’Imran, using an ink made out of rose water mixed with musk and saffron.

Amulets were also worn by pregnant women so that they can be protected from spellbound eyes and to prevent a possible loss of the offspring. Besides this a red sting was tied around children’s arms or a small shell was sown on their hats to annul every influence of spellbound eyes. A classical amulet was often worn in a triangular metal box which is called “Mahfaza” whose shape also had a symbolical meaning. Namely, each side of the triangle symbolized a verse from the Quran: “I am God", "There is no God but me”, “No one truly knows what I am.”  In Bosnia and Herzegovina since the old ages amulets connected to war are also known, they are called “En’am”, named after the same prayer in the Quran, these amulets were worn by soldiers going to war.

Besides written amulets in Bosnia we find various objects- amulets; a wolf’s tooth was worn by feeble and scared children, a figurine of a frog made out of silver were worn by women who wanted to be protected against gynecological issues or they wore a silver plate on which it was written “Mashalla”. Out of herbal amulets, garlic, leaf of rue or a piece of yew were used, and from the animal amulets, thorns from a hedgehog, a rabbits foot, a wing from a bat, etc. Besides the need to protect himself from evil, man also wanted to protect his animals.
For protection purposes a red fabric was tied to a tail of a cow, a wooden spoon was used for horses, or a small amulet was written and placed on the horns of the animal. Besides people and animals, material goods were also protected from evil. In the past in Bosnia and Herzegovina a lot of attention was given to the protection of the house from black magic and spellbound eyes, to keep peace and happiness inside the house. Along time ago the practice was to write Allah’s name “Ya Hafiz”, which means “God Protector”, on the house doors, especially in Sarajevo. The name was written in Arabic in golden letters on a dark background.

The amulet doesn’t only have the power to protect a human or a house from black magic, its scope of action is much larger and it can, among other things, protect its owner from negative propaganda and crooks. For that reason an owner would write the following on his house: “I said, and swore to Allah that I will do X.” After that he would take four pieces of paper and write on each one of them, one name of the four great Angels: Azrail, Jibrail, Israfil and Mikail and he would place these papers in four corners of the house.In Bosnia we encounter various beliefs about amulets, and these are the most popular ones;  it is believed that an amulet can lose its protective power if it is punctured by a sowing needle. In the same manner the amulet has no power of protection if its owner drinks or eats a spell in his drink or food, it protects man only from external influences, whether they be material or astral origin.