Apr 16, 2013

Post-natal customs and beliefs

Even though by the size of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina it is one of the smaller countries in the world, her size is reflected in the richness of the cultural heritage which is permeated with influences of Islam and Christianity and the three nationalities living in Bosnia. Among numerous material remnants which testify to the fact that humans have been present in the area, a large part of non-material heritage has also been preserved, which is in its essence multi-layered. Bosnia is a country of active remains of ancient customs and beliefs, and their transformed and resurrected forms. Various customs and knowledge are presented in numerous events in the country and the world, and it is increasingly being implemented in the modern life. In the past across the Bosnian terrain numerous people have passed and left their trace which is visible still today in some segments of culture. There we can see the interwoven influences of various prehistoric cultures to various people like the Illyrians, whose direct descendants are the Bosnians, Greeks, Romans, Slavs and the kingdoms of the Ottoman Empire and Austro-Hungary.


Evil eyes

When the tabooed period of 40 days passes after the birth (četeresnica) the young mother can visit neighbours and relatives with the child. Where ever she appears with the child the customs are that one needs to give him an egg as a gift - a sign of strength and fertility. The customs are also that whosoever sees the child for the first time needs to give him money as a gift. The women from that household lift the child in the air in order for him to grow repeating the words "mašallah", in fear that they won't jinx the child with their eyes. But if it happens that the someone's spellbound eyes hurt the child and the child starts crying and being restless for no reason, the mother licks him from the tip of his nose to his forehead uttering: "Keleuzu bir abirfeleki mi šeri mahalaka ve mi šeri mahalaka. Gasikin, gasikin, gasikin".
Teeth growth

The one who first sees a tooth growing in the child's mouth is obliged to give him a shirt as a gift or some other clothing item and utter:"Koliko žica, toliko godinica!" (The number of threads in the clothing item, that's how many years of life the person wishes to him).
Circumcision (lat. Circumcisio)

The ritual circumcision of male children in Bosnia is called sunet or sunećenje. Circumcision was done on boys aged 40 days up to two years. In the past sunet was practiced during the warmer part of the year, usually from March to September. The ritual was done by a berber while in the past 30-40 years the procedure has been performed by a doctor. After he would do the circumcision berber would be paid in cash and given a gift. As the sunet represented a special occasion, the tradition was to prepare a festive meal and to invite the neighbours and the Imam. After the meal, before the guests leave, they would give the boy money as a gift. Money was especially considered to be lucky (berićetan) and it was used to buy dishes or livestock which was considered to be the heritage of that boy. The circumcised skin of the penis was dried up by the father would ground up and fed to the rooster "in order for the boy to be as potent as a rooster."
First haircut of the child

Bosnian people would give their child a first haircut between the ages 3 to 6, when the father is able to buy him a hat or a fez. Until that moment the child's hair would be trimmed above the eyes, on the forehead. The first ritual haircut was done in spring, when the forest turns green. A local barber (berber) is called, who receives a scarf, shirt or another item as a gift after cutting the hair. The cut off hair is wrapped in paper and is kept in a secret place in the house or it was kept until the pilgrimage to Mecca when the father or another family member could take it with him. The hair also refers to Ajvatovica, a holly place for the Muslims in BIH, or it would be placed in the mosque near a window.
First cut nails

When the mother cuts the child's nails for the first time, she wraps them up in a piece of paper and hands them to her husband or another family member to bring them into the mosque during Friday. He secretly leaves them under the rug in the mosque in the wish that his child will be a good pupil once he starts school.
Godfather and the name change

If the child is sick or slow developing in the first months of his life, then during the first seven days of the moon phase the parents take out their child early in the morning, before sunrise, on a road or an intersection. They bring scissors and a gift with them which they will give to the first person that comes their way. The passerby is asked to cut a strand of the child's hair with the scissors. The strand of hair is wrapped in a piece of paper and is later buried under a young pear or apple tree. In such a case the passerby becomes the child's haircut godfather (šišani kum). The family keeps a friendly relationship with him and invites him for the child's birthday. Besides this the ritual of name change was also practiced. A mother would take her child to a crossroad, bring two apples to which she would give names which she choose for her child. To a first passerby she would offer an apple for them to take home. The apple that would stay with the mother would determine the new name of the child.

Festive meal

The child's first steps represent an ideal opportunity for a festivity and the mother prepares gurabije (a dry cake) and maslenica and calls the neighbours over for a meal. However if the child is slow to start walking, the mother prepares the dough for maslenica, stretches it with her hands across the sofra (a table which is used to prepare the dough as well as for eating meals) and then holding the child by its hands she walks him across the maslenica. After the child leaves his footprints in the dough, the mother finishes the maslenica and bakes it in the oven. When the maslenica is baked and left to cool all of the inhabitants of a household eat it during lunch, in order to "eat" the child's fear and laziness and in such a way help him to start walking.

Apr 1, 2013

Cult of the god Bind

Ancient beliefs of the Illyrian tribes which inhabited Bosnia and Herzegovina remained present in folk beliefs, mostly connected to the cult of water healing, in which the god Bindu is clearly manifested. When one analyses the folk cult of healing and the practice of it, which is essentially pagan in nature, then it is difficult to explain how that ancient system managed to survive in Bosnia especially in the midst of a strong expansion of Christianity and later Islam?! However, the answer should be sought in the fact that Christianity, especially after the appearance of Bogomils, or Islam had enough influence to fully assimilate the Bosnian people and to fully disengage them from the ancient Illyrian religion. And that it is true is perhaps best shown by the cult of god Bindu.

As it is known god Bindu was the god of springs of the Bosnian Illyrians whose spring-temples were found all over modern Bosnia and Herzegovina and the neighbouring Croatia. One of the best preserved holly places was found in Privilice near Bihać which is located in nature, next to a spring. At that location dozens of dedicated sacrifices to Binud were excavated, as well as a chapel with numerous animal bones sacrificed in his honour.

In the ritual practice of pilgrimage towards springs one can notice the influence of three religious cults of the Bosnian Illyrians: cult of the sun, cult of the moon and cult of Bindu.

Cult of the sun: the largest number of holly and salutary springs are located on the east side of the settlement. One would visit it exclusively at dawn, before sunrise, in order to pray, wash one's face and drink water. In such a way the diseased would expect the blessing of the sun which would shine the light and warmness on the person once it rose from the east.

Cult of the moon: the holly springs were visited in the first week of the new moon, precisely on odd days i.e. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Cult of Bindu: after washing their faces and drinking water or placing it into vessels and carrying it home, the diseased would leave some money next to the streams, usually coins, food, eggs or they would hang some of their clothes on the nearby branches.

In the mentioned descriptions of rituals one can notice influences of three deities, which could point to the fact that Bindu was the son of the sun god and moon goddess and as their son he represented the perfect example of vitality and health which gives life and defeats evil, in this case over diseases. The sun that would appear in the east in the morning, according to folk belief the sun was "born", and the first seven days after the appearance of the new moon undoubtedly point to the idea of renewal of life energy, health and generally luck and prosperity. The sick would ask for blessings from the heavenly deities who again resurrected in their eternal cycles and the manifestation of their divine power was exactly the water over which Bindu had patronage and power.

Cult of the god Bind - part II

During the beginning of the 20thcentury, Emilian Lilek, a professor from Sarajevo, recorded a dozen examples of spring worshiping in Bosnia, the springs were equated with healing powers. His ethnological work has been published in the National Museum BIH under the title "Religious antiquities from Bosnia and Herzegovina" in the chapter "Water worship". Examples that professor Lilek gathered and recorded have, besides their ethnological value, a historic significance because they confirm the long practice of worshiping the cult of god Bindu, deity of the Bosnian Illyrians to whom spring were dedicated i.e. natural temples.

It is clear that the Bosnian people haven't forgotten about the religious practice of their ancestors which survived despite numerous restless decades which were characterised by the arrival of the Slavs and monotheism. In all of the descriptions one can clearly see the practice of pilgrimage towards the streams whose water was considered to have healing properties as well as the practice of leaving money as a gift, food or a piece of clothing which was a substitute for human or animal sacrifice. Behind such a ritual there existed a belief in a supernatural being, whose name was forgotten by the people, and to whom a sacrificial offering had to be made in order to get help i.e. help from disease.

The following are only some of the examples given by professor Lilek:

On the left side of the river Miljacka there is a spring Pišće-water, from which you mustn't drink until you leave some money next to the stream or a piece of one's clothing. Bosnian women visit Pišće-water before sunrise, leaving money next to the spring, and tying pieces of clothing onto the branches of the willow next to the stream.

Catholic women visit the stream above Kovačević before sunrise and leave some money there.

In Tešanj there is a stream outside the city where the Bosnian women bring their sick children, and bathe them in that water. When they head home they leave some money next to the stream, or they take off a piece of clothing from the child and leave it next to the spring.

In Travnik there is a spring called Safa's source and it is visited by Muslim's and Christian's alike, especially around May 6th, in particular those that have headaches or fever. They bathe themselves at the spring. When they head home they throw some money in the water or leave a piece of clothing there.

In Pritoka next to Bihać there is a spring which is visited by sick people in order to bathe in it. If a diseased arrives who is also a sinner, the water from the spring disappears immediately, but if a man without large sins comes the water appears in order for him to bathe in it. The spring is gifted with money, clothes, etc.

Next to Modriča there is a spring called Šičara.When someone has a fever, one visits the spring in the first week of the new moon's appearance, Wednesday or Friday, and it bathes in its waters before sunrise. One leaves some money next to the spring or hangs a piece of its clothing onto a tree next to the spring.

In Tuzla there is a spring called Istočnik, Christians visit it during Friday or Wednesday, in the first week of the new moon's appearance. They bathe at the spring and leave some money or some food.