May 11, 2014

Podijeli sadaku, produži nafaku!

In Bosnian tradition since the old days there existed an interesting practice of sharing alms with which one wanted to gain god's blessing with this humane gesture and also summon positive energy. That traditional segment was deeply involved in Bosnian magic and serves as the ending ritual of invoking spiritual forces. According to the belief of stravarka's, otherwise one of the authorities on the field of folk medicine, showing mercy is the most effective method of accumulating positive energy which is in itself healing.

Sadaka or alms is often given to people in the form of money per system of how much an individual can give while it is distributed to animals in the form of food, especially fish and birds. The origin of such a practice is easily found in certain mythological legends among which the one on the large celestial bird is especially emphasised, the bird cursed by god, which fed only on the smoke of burnt fruit shells. That's why in the past it was seen as a good dead if people burnt fruit shells. Also, throwing bread crumbs to fish in the river stems from the mythological belief about the gigantic fish on whose back stands the bull Tur and holds earth. The basic idea of the practice is that by feeding the fish in the water one is actually feeding or giving energy to the gigantic fish and that one helps keep earth living.
Besides that the Bogomil tradition, whose beliefs are still present among the Bosnian folk, nurtured the idea of migration of the human soul from humans into animals and vice versa. In accordance with that principle the folk sensitized themselves in relation to animals, especially domestic animals, towards which any bad behaviour was seen as a large sin. Out of fear that an animal has a human soul each form of torturing was tabooed. - "An animal doesn't know how to forgive!" is one of the common sayings among the people which confirms the old rule that one should not physically torture animals.
Good deeds towards humans and animals were always welcome and desirable with God since one would redeem himself in front of the higher power, would stimulate his luck and would prolong his life and would collect points which were a guarantee that he will avoid large trouble and bad luck. A saying which can often be heard "Podijeli sadaku - produži nafaku!" or "Distribute alms - prolong good fortune" i.e. "Give alms - ensure your luck" is actually the best example of what it is used for. An interesting practice is the practice of blessing with which Bosnian women invoke God's protection: "Let God help everyone; fish in the water, worm in the ground, ant under a leaf, bird on a branch and even me". A more interesting fact is the identification of animal and human and their connection in the legend which was created in the spirit of Bogomil tradition and was recorded by Antun Hangi in the book "Life and customs of Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina".
One morning on his way to town a merchant passed by a graveyard. The next time he went pass he heard a mysterious voice: -"Ja ehli kabur" someone said. Confused and surprised the merchant stopped wondering if someone was talking to him or to someone else. But, he didn't see anyone around. Soon he heard the same voice: "Today we will have a new inhabitant here!". -"And which one?" a second voice asked. -"Today a woman will wash her clothes, she will pour hot water on herself and will die from it".
Then the merchant realised that the dead people in the grave were talking and remembered that his wife told him at breakfast that she will be washing clothes the entire day and that he should send two loafs of bread from town by a courier since she want have time to make them herself. After the voices stopped the merchant calmed down and went towards town with some dread in his heart. Arriving in the city he bought two loafs of bread and sent them to his wife by a boy. However, that day doubt and fear did not give him peace and he closed his store sooner and went home. Passing by the same graveyard he again heard the same voices:
-"Ja ehli kabur, that woman will not come to the grave!" - "And why is that?" asked another voice. -"A bitch gave birth to puppies near her house, the woman fed her. That's why Allah forgave her sins and prolonged her life!". Those words calmed the merchant and he hurried home. In front of his house he saw his wife sitting and resting.
-"Did you wash the clothes today?" he asked, and after she confirmed he asked her if she has had lunch. The woman replied that she didn't because she had a lot of work. The last answer completely confused the merchant. -"And where are the loafs of bread?". Surprised by the question the woman answered: "One loaf is in the house and the second one I gave to a bitch that gave birth to puppies near our house". Then the merchant realised that the dead were speaking about his wife. 
Giving alms in the Bosnian tradition besides its human nature hides in it various motives from wish to recovery from an illness, for happiness, god's protection, etc. Alms is often given when one is preparing for a journey in order for it to pass successfully and securely. These are only a few of many examples.

Alms towards birds and fish

Common practice of stravarke is that after a finished ritual she crushes a piece of bread into the bowl she used during the ritual, she stirs them three times clockwise and throws them outside for the birds to eat.
On Tuesday or Friday the one that doubts that he is under a negative magical influence takes an entire bread loaf, breaks it into smaller pieces in a bag and then goes to a bridge with it. Standing on the bridge he spins the bag three times clockwise around his body and in the end throws the crumbs into the river for the fish to eat. 
Alms towards the poor

If someone has a headache or has trouble sleeping, then that person takes some money, spins it three times around his head clockwise and then gives to a poor person.
If a woman can't stay pregnant for long, then during nine months she gives alms to the poor in order to gain god's grace and become a mother.

Alms for the souls of a deceased

At the spot where the deceased stayed overnight inside a house, the moment he is taken outside a bowl full of wheat is placed there overnight. Tomorrow that wheat is gifted to a poor family or person. In such a way, according to belief, one is helping the deceased find his peace quickly.