Jun 17, 2017

Vađenje ognja

A lot of interesting examples have survived regarding Bosnian folk medicine, through ethnological documentation as well as practice of individual stravarke, about the belief of the origin of a disease and cures for it. They’re all based on a traditional belief that there are around 3000 diseases in the world of which only 1000 belong to the domain of official medicine. From that number 700 of them are curable and for the other 300 people are still searching for a cure. 2000 diseases are being cured with religious and magical methods, prayers, herbal medicine, etc.

How do you cure a disease called oganj (ingle)

The word oganj is of an Illyrian origin and signifies fire; among the Bosnian people this word was used to denote a disease which was manifested as acne on a face, usually in small children. Those acne would become small wounds over time and they would leave deep scars on the skin. Among the people, oganj was usually cured by a blacksmith which would perform a ritual called “vađenje ognja”.

In ethnological documents GZM from Sarajevo a similar case was described. A small boy of a village woman got sick, even two official doctors couldn’t help him, she then after being talked into it sought help from Avdo the blacksmith. Suspecting what type of disease it was asked her to bring him some bracket fungi (Polyporaceae), a fungi which grows on beech wood, it is also called fire fungi, a piece of green wool cloth, nine branches of blackberry, peal of rose hip, a few branches of linden and fresh butterfat. When the mother gathered all of it she brought it to Avdo, he took a hammer and a piece of “cold iron” and to his daughter he ordered to hold a piece of fire fungi close to the iron. He placed the iron on the anvil, he whispered something, and when he struck the iron a second time a few sparks flew from it and they set the fungi on fire. Everyone that was present was overjoyed and the blacksmith’s  daughter said: “It’s Oganj, oganj! The child will be cured!” Avod commanded loudly: “Quickly, give me a rag!” and as soon as Zlatka brought it he used it to wrap the head, he started blowing into it until it ignited as well. He placed it then into a metal bowl, branches of linden and peal of rose hip, nine branches of blackberry and finally the green wool cloth.

When it all burned down he gathered the remains into one heap, chopped it up and placed into a glass with the butterfat and mixed it well. He then addressed the lady whose child was sick: -“Take this glass, call an elderly woman, at dusk under an eave, she should use a chicken’s feather to rub this mixture onto your son. Let her wipe it down his face, always from top to bottom, never the other way around. Let her perform this for three nights in a row and I trust in God that he will be cured!”. They rubbed the child with the mixture for a few days as Avdo told them and allegedly after only a few days the wounds healed.

Among the Bosnian people it was believed that there are two versions of oganj, the first one is the “wooden” one and the second an “iron” one. Wooden, it was said is a more complicated ritual, but allegedly better, since it is the real oganj and wounds heal faster when it is being used.

Wooden oganj was performed on a soft wood, usually linden. A small rod was taken and was sharpened on both ends. The tips are then placed into a hard wood and the rod is then fixed. The rod is wrapped in something, usually a leather belt, then from both sides two men stand and with quick movements pull the belt towards themselves, to and fro, so that the rod, i.e. its tips move quickly and due to friction they would catch fire. It was believed if the diseased fell ill from oganj, the tips of the rod would catch fire, otherwise they wouldn’t. If they would catch fire then the coal from the rod would be taken, it would be crushed into dust and mixed with fresh butterfat. The treatment would be undertaken in a similar manner as in the first example.

But, in some areas of BiH people believed and claimed otherwise that the ritual with iron is better and more difficult to perform than the wooden one. However, people who seriously performed these rituals claimed that for the efficiency of the ritual the only relevant thing is the type of oganj that the child has. It was also claimed that the ritual was a real magical skill since if the diseased was not afflicted by oganj the fire will not be lit no matter how hard you would try.