Dec 30, 2011

Bosnian healers

Among the most common problems healers are asked to remedy are chronic illness, marital difficulties, infertility, prolonged bachelorhood, and mental problems such as anxiety or depression. I knew of three people, two woman and a man, who practiced healing as described. They are usually called by their first names and the name of their village. All three lived in remote mountain villages. People came from all over central Bosnia and from Sarajevo to see them. One of the villagers' favorite stories about one of them was that during the Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo (1984) this „hodža“ had visitors from distant countries who took the trip all the way from Sarajevo to seek his help. The story was always told to establish this man's importance. However, the „real“ medresa-educated official hodžas dismissed these healers (and diviners) as „illiterate“ because they mixed Qur'anic knowledge with what the official hodžas considered to be non-Islamic folk beliefs.
The second category consists of bulas who do faith healing and divination and hodžas who write amulets. I will deal with both in turn. Female faith healers are typically middle-aged, and are bulas of the traditional rather than the medresa-educated kind. Generally, female healers use fewer written sources and concentrate on reciting Qur'anic verses, praying and divination. They are particularly sough after for salijevati strahu (to pour/cast horror) and the „praying of istihara“, traditional healing practices and divination accompanied by Bosniak prayers and teachings from the Qur'an.