Jan 12, 2018

Struna or the disease of the gizzard

 In the southeastern Europe, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a recognizable cult of healing exists for ages, this cult is the basis of what we today call folk medicine. Namely, humans of this region used things that surround him and through empirical experiences they developed ways to keep their health, not drawing a distinct line between medicine and magic. Actually, it never existed since anything that could help, whether only psychologically, was welcome. Direct influence of religion brought continuous influence of folk medicine to the masses, where with minimal modifications old magical formulas were transformed in socially acceptable forms and in such a manner they survived till today.

An ironic fact is that despite the advancement of technology and medicine people turn to “primitive” forms of healing, partially due to more expensive treatments, but more likely because there is no soul in modern medicine. Human beings cannot function without a spiritual component and intimacy with nature which is deeply intertwined in his entire existence. Actually, the more destruction we impose on nature, the more of an impulse to return to nature do we create in us.

Folk healers

Traditional medicine rests on the belief that individuals which practice it, folk doctors, often possess certain supernatural capabilities or that their knowledge was inherited from predecessors – a person which was initiated into the secrets of healing by a mystic ritual.

Among people there are stories of people which became shamans overnight, usually through an intervention of a higher force in their dream. During that event the sleeper received telepathically the gift of knowledge which mustn’t be misused. According to stravarka Ćanka from Velika Kladuša one night an unknown man and woman came into her room, clad in all white, they awoke her by pulling her toe. During that unusual encounter she received the gift of healing which she utilized until her death.

There is a belief among the folk that the gift of healing can be inherited but the only one qualified to inherit it is the mizinac i.e. the youngest child.

Knowledge that stravarke, želudarice and herbalists possess is based on empirical experience and represents a mixture of herbalist and homeopathic knowledge loaded with magical and religious meaning. It is deeply tied to the cultural basis of the area in which it originated.

Though there is no precisely formulated rule the general opinion is that folk doctors achieve the best results after his fortieth year, which obviously alludes to god’s messenger Muhammad S.A.V.S. which started receiving religious proclamation during those years of his life.

Nine hands

 Each disease tied to the stomach raised suspicion that it was struna (gastroptosis) i.e. that the gizzard moved out of its place due to some internal or external stimuli. Bosniac people see the gizzard as a very sensitive organ which is evidenced by numerous warnings about struna among which the most famous ones are that one should avoid sleeping on the stomach, flip over one’s head, jump from a height on an empty stomach or lift heavy things on an empty stomach. Also, the same goes for a person which accidentally hits his foot on something hard. In each of these cases the gizzard can move 29 cm in diameter, 12 cm upward below the ribs and 17 cm downward towards the spine. Most frequent symptom which occurs is pain in the gizzard or below the ribs.

Comparing opinions of physiotherapists which treat stomach issues as well as folk doctors we can notice that in numerous segments they’re alike. The only difference is that folk healers had to rely solely on empirical knowledge of their predecessors, which was often poor, while physiotherapists today have all medical knowledge at their disposal, especially anatomy, as well as x-ray scans.

Physiotherapists think that the stomach can be raised or lowered once it moves out of its place. Raised stomach is more frequent today, both among the young and the old of both sexes, the reason is pressure in the abdominal joint which occurred due: lifting heavy things or bending (gym, difficult manual labor), often and strong coughing, strong sneezing, pregnancy and birth, vomiting, obesity, punch in the stomach, stress, weakness of the diaphragm. Symptoms are: chest pain similar to a heart attack, bleeding of the gums, bad breath, bad digestion, great appetite, burping, nausea, hiccups, vomiting, heartburn.

It is known that strong abdominal muscles keep all the organs in their place like a wide belt. When they weaken and stretch, the organs lose their footing and slowly descend. Besides pregnancy, there are other reasons, such as messy eating habits, overeating, bad digestion, irregular stool, leanness. The gizzard descends often, as the largest abdominal organ which is often widened, and with it other abdominal organs. This is considered to be a descended gizzard. Symptoms are: feeling of fullness and weight, bad and slow digestion, burping, drowsiness, shoulder pain, nervousness, insomnia, constipation, hemorrhoids. The diseased is often nervous, he is afraid to eat and loses weight. An x-ray scan shows immediately an elongated and descended gizzard. Strength of the disorder doesn’t always follow the degree of the gizzard displacement, since people endure it differently.

In folk medicine of BiH people that deal with curing of such issues are called želudarice (women) and želudari or strunar (men). According to their statements a displaced gizzard (strunjeni želudac), is treated as a serious health issues with a potentially deadly epilogue. This is also evidenced by the folk belief according to which this disease manifests through nine forms, or so called “nine hands”, želudarica must be extremely skilled to detect each one and apply the corresponding method of healing. Each of the nine forms of this disease has a specific name and explanation such as: “blue struna”, “red struna”, “black struna” etc. However, it is necessary to mention that želudarice are not completely in harmony when it comes to determining names and diagnoses, therefore their opinions often match when speaking about “blue struna” since it is easiest to detect and cure. However by deduction of all of the available materials which I had at my disposal from the archive of the National museum in Sarajevo, but also individual discussions with folk healers, I managed to categorize their names well enough. Namely, what confuses most is that each struna has two names; the first way is based on a certain color and the second is a symbolic description such as body parts, according the sex, water or bread. Therefore the following names are used: krušna struna, ručna struna, muška struna, ženska struna, vodena struna, sastava, etc.

Krušna struna is cured in such a manner that the middle of the bread is taken out, a ball is made out of it in which three matches are placed, it is placed onto the bellybutton, matches are lit and covered with a glass.

Ručna struna is recognized by the diseased having “bulging veins”. It is cured by intensive hand massaging.

Muška struna is also known as “untied bellybutton (razvijeni pupak)” it is manifested by strong stomach pain, feeling of suffocation, blackness in front of the eyes. In men it can cause low sperm count.

Red struna is caused by worry, stress, anxiety, emotional issues. It is manifested by skinniness, vomiting, paleness and nausea. Gizzard in this instance is detected underneath the ribs, or is moved towards the heart, the only way to return it is by massages.

Black or difficult struna occurs when carrying load, sudden movements, inconsistent diet, during birth, sleep or some type of accident and is manifested through obesity, farts, bloating and pain, not only in the gizzard but also bowels. In black struna the gizzard moves towards the spine. In heavy struna pain between the shoulders occurs.

Ženska struna is a disease which, as the name implies, affects only women during pregnancy and child birth, but similarly it can cause temporary infertility so that a woman cannot achieve pregnancy. It is cured by massages and tying the hips with a cloth.

How to detect a displaced gizzard

 During the procedure of curing gizzard displacement according to želudarice and stravarke we can conclude that it takes place in three or four stages. The first goal is to detect the state of the diseased i.e. whether his issue is the product of a displaced gizzard. Without it there is no successful curing. It is necessary that the diseased lies on his back, his clothes is removed from the stomach, and želudarica places her middle finger into the belly button but in such a manner that her index finger and small finger are separated from it. For the first time the middle finger is placed in a horizontal position and the second time in a vertical, in order to feel the gizzard from both directions. Namely, if pulsating is felt on the bellybutton under the middle finger then the gizzard hasn’t moved. If we’re talking about struna then the pulsing is felt left or right, above or below from the bellybutton, i.e. under the index or small finger. Or no pulsing is felt. In that case it is suspected that the gizzard is “stuck” to the spine.

Similarly, examination can be done by touching the hand muscle, underneath the armpit or thumb, namely, if the pulse beats strongly in those placed then the person has issues with gizzard displacement. If a small circular mass is felt on the left hand of the diseased, between the thumb and index finger, certain želudarice categorize as a sure sign of struna. They gently massage the circular mass until it is “broken down”, which is the most important step in the healing process.

It is evident, according to folk healers, that the issue with the gizzard can appear suddenly and aggressively, followed by great pains, or slowly and quietly, through a longer period, when it is necessary to carefully analyze the symptoms and set a correct diagnosis. Rarely, the pain in the gizzard is so strong that no further checkups are necessary since it is evident. In his ethnological work “Cures and curing inhabitants of Mala Kladuša” issued in the gazzet Behar in 1992 (Zagreb, numbers 1/2) dr. Husein Džanić wrote:

When the gizzard (stomach) hurts, the person bends and contorts like handles of a strung basket, and in front of their eyes appear small light dots. When someone has frequent and strong gizzard pain we say that it has been moved, and that it can be an accident which can cause death.

In case the disease developed over a longer period of time, experienced želudarice can in large percentages, give evaluation of the diseased without any physical contact. Namely, according to empirical experience which the folk healers possess, lean persons yellow in the face as well as fat people with a pale face, which look bloated, suffer from struna. Each of them claim categorically that struna is not a disease that can be treated by official medicine and seeking cure with official doctors is a waste of time.

There is a whole slew of signs which can be used to suspect that an individual suffers from health issues which are caused by struna. Želudičar Edhem Mešinović from Fojnica mentions that the gizzard is a very important organ and if it is sick, other organs are also sick.

Struna can be obtained, he warns, if you stretch, rise suddenly, if you jump, if you lift something up, but one can get it also, as they say, of no accord, literally for no reason.

State of fear or shock due to an accident can also imply movement of the gizzard. Among Bosnian people it is believed that a person which is timid by nature, easily gets struna/gizzard displacement, such a person should keep a pebble called ustavljak in the vessel it uses for drinking water. This stone is the one which gets stuck between the branches of a tree once being tossed around. It is claimed that the most ideal tree for such an experiment is the Hawthorn tree (Crataegus) because of its mystical healing properties ascribed to it.

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