Bosnian Illyrians - Bosniaks
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BOSNIAKS - ILLYRIANS „one and the same people with the same name and a historic continuity of 2,000 years“. To support his theory of the Illyrian ancestry of the Bosniaks, Imamović mentions that the very name Bosnia is pre-Slavic and that it was existent long before the Serb and Croat tribes moved to the Balkan. Thus, he mentions that „already in the Roman time Bosnia was called approximately Bassania“. Prof. dr. Enver Imamović in his book “Historija bosanske vojske” ("The history of the Bosnian army") describes at length the Bosnian Illyrians, their military and social system. For this text the most important part of the book is the one that describes the vast density of Illyrians in Bosnia before the advent of the Romans and the Slavs: After they had conquered the coastal tribes the Romans headed inland. At that time Bosnia was inhabited by numerous Illyrian tribes. They were considered as particularly brave and warlike by the surrounding tribes. The north-western part of Bosnia was inhabited by Japodi, east of them, between the rivers Vrbas and Bosna, were the Mezeji and in the central Podrinje there were Dindari. Desetijati inhabited central Bosnia, Dalmati western Bosnia and Ardijejci southern Herzegovina and the Adriatic coast.
osnian historian prof.dr.Enver Imamović, believes than the modernday Bosniaks do not continue the lineage of any Slavic tribe, but rather of an ancient Illyrian tribe called Posen. He gives a serious reference to support his statement and adduces the ancient Greek historian Appain of Alexandria (c. 95 – 165 C.E) who mentions an Illyrian tribe named Posen as living on the territories of modern-day Bosnia and Hercegovina. Mr.Imamović corroborates that the term Posen is nothing else but a corrupted form of the Illyrian term Bosen. Thus, mr. Imamović concludes that when talking about modern-day Bosniaks and the ancient Illyrian Posens we are talking about
Nakon što su pokorili obalna plemena Rimljani su krenuli u unutrašnjost zemlje. U to doba Bosna i Hercegovina je bila naseljena brojnim ilirskim plemenima. Ona su od okolnih plemena smatrana izuzetno hrabrim i ratobornim. Sjeverozapadnu Bosnu naseljavali su Japodi. Istočno do njih, između rijeka Vrbasa i Bosne, živjeli su Mezeji a u srednjem Podrinju Dindari. Desitijati su naseljavali srednju Bosnu, Dalmati zapadnu, a Ardijejci južnu Hercegovinu i primorje.
According to prof. dr. Enver Imamović and academician Muhamed Filipović, the Bosniak people are direct descendants of Illyrians which can be easily confirmed through various analyses especially historical but also religious. It has long been regarded that the Albanians are the only direct descendants of the Illyrians, however the things that mr. Imamović and mr. Filipović have brought forth in their historical analysis's and papers
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confirmed the findings of the Swiss institute IGENEA. Namely, the experts of the institute came to a conclusion that only 20% of the Albanians have the Illyrian gene on the other hand 40% of the Bosnians have the gene as well. When the Slavs arrived in the Balkans they performed genocide over the Illyrians, it is believed that 4 million of them were killed, and the survivors had to forcefully assimilate into the community of the Slavs. However the proud spirit of the Bosnian Illyrians has never disappeared nor did it cease to resist the Slavs.
then people would expect the worse things for that household. The name Illyrian has a root "Illur" which means a snake. Even the mythical forefather of the Illyrians was depicted in the shape of a snake. Because all of that in the mythological and religious system of the Illyrians the snake has been confirmed as an old cult animal which played a central role. In it they saw their heavenly protector but also a national symbol. The snake was considered to be the protector of the household and that belief has been retained in Bosnia throughout many centuries until today. It is interesting to mention that today among the older inhabitants a dragon is described as a huge winged serpent, and the folk myths mention mysterious dragon births and snake invading human bodies. All of the above mentioned point to a deep connection of the Bosnians of today with their Illyrian roots.
Illyrians worshiped a God of sun and a goddess of moon and also kept the cult of the snake. There is a sizable amount of ethnological data about those beliefs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Snake cult In Bosnia to date the ancient Illyrian snake cult has been preserved, the cult rests on the belief that every house has its own snake. That snake is the keeper of the house. Sometimes the snake can be seen in front of the house, and sometimes it can't. Even though the snake has never been sighted in front of a house, it was still believed that it is there. Sometimes the owners of the house saw the snake and they would leave food for it in front of the house. They cared for it so that nothing bad would happen to it. If something were to happen to the snake or if it was killed,
The big mother (Terra Mater, Magna Mater, Mater Deorum) is one of the oldest and most widespread cults in the world, the origins of this cult can be traced to the old matriarchal age and the stone age. The big mother is considered as the mother of gods and people, but also of the whole universe during life. She was celebrated along the Mediterranean basin under various names such as Rea, Gea, Demetra (Greece), Izida (Egypt), Ishtar (Babylon), Astarta (Syria) and the most widespread name Kibela (Asia minor and parts of the middle east). The rudiments of the ancient history and the big mother cult of the Middle Ages remained vivid and present in the spiritual world of the modern times, also it has been accepted by the religions of today. In that sense it is important to pay attention to the Madonna, Eve or Hava and in the end to the Kaaba in Makkah in whose centre the black meteorite is still situated, which is in fact the symbol of the big mother. The cult of Marry "virgin and Madonna" is a direct descendant of the cult of the big mother, because after the disappearance of the pagan cult of the mother-god there was a need to insert a new cult into this empty magical and religious void, this new cult would need to cushion the human need for a motherly mediator between the human and the divine, a mediator who is always gentle, tolerant and open to the demands of the humans and from whom one could always seek comfort in difficult times. Therefore we shouldn't be
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surprised that the famous holiday in the name of Artemide Efesia (which contained the elements of the cult of the big mother) which was held during 15th of August is now only transcribed by the Christians into the feast of our lady of assumption.
From its beginnings the cult of the big mother, the protector of fertility, was connected to agriculture. That's why the myths and legends are connected to agriculture, and the patriarchal communities claimed that the big mother thought people how to farm. From all of the above it is easy to conclude that her cult had the primary purpose of securing two key segments for the humans - food and offspring. The big mother always manifested in two forms, she was the goddess of earth and the sky and in each form she had her unique powers. Observing the lunar cycle the humans created a calendar which followed the moon phases, they noticed that women's menstrual cycle corresponded to it, but most of all they were most impressed by the lunar phases of the appearance of the new moon (birth) and
the disappearance of the moon (death) which incited a belief that the moon is he ruler of life and death. During the 28 lunar days the sky reflected a vivid description of a human life through the lunar phases - birth, growth, maturity which enables fertility and reproduction then the loss of vitality, old age and disappearance or death. In that sense the entire nature, water and earth, represented the creative powers of the big mother which feeds humans, her children, and provides them life. In accordance with the Old Bosnian believes the Moon Goddess manifested in two forms. The first form was celestial and the second one was a tellurian. In her celestial form the Goddess had the power of magic and healing whilst in its tellurian form she was the goddess of fertility and well being. The text of the old Bosnian Love Chant alludes on her tellurian form, noticeable already in the beginning of the formula “Black Earth Mother, please help me, nor is this charm related to you neither to me, but to my dear…” When Christianity came into Bosnia and after that the Islam, the old cult of Mother Goddess was preserved, thanks to Bogumils, but with time the people forgot the meaning of most of the rituals and customs. The belief in fairies is the best preserved part of the cult of Mother Goddess, which was kept in the mind of people. It is obvious that the cult could continue to exist only by loosing its religious significance and get a mark of local legends and superstitions. As such, it did not present any threat to monotheism but could have been forwarded from generation to generation. Based upon it, even the titles of Moon Goddess and Mother Earth had been changed into Zlatna (Golden Fairy) and Gorska vila (Forest Fairy). Both of them have been mentioned in the mythology of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The title Zlatna comes from the word gold which reminds of shinning, gloss or better to say the moonlight. The Gorska vila is the same as the Forest Fairy and the late title also refers to earth.
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Legend of The Moon Goddess According to a local legend that we come across in northwestern part of Bosnia (Velika Kladuša and Cazin), a son that raised an axe to kill his own mother was instantly punished by God and his dead body was placed on the moon to remind others what will happen to them if they try to kill their own mother. Even today the people believe that they can see the man's shadow holding an axe when the moon is full. In this legend we come across key elements of the old Bosnian lunar cult in which God (in the original version a Goddess) saved the mother which suggested that the Goddess (moon) protected pregnant women and mothers, i.e. women.
BOSNIAN CULT OF THE SUN GOD While the moon symbolised a goddess, the sun symbolised a god i.e. the male principle without which life could also not be possible. According to the description of some folk beliefs and customs about the sun we can assume that he was called god Trzan, Trzance or Tir.
Every large or small place in Bosnia and Herzegovina practiced a cult ritual dedicated to the sun. On the eastern side of a certain place there was always a holly place where people would gather to celebrate the solar deity. There they practiced the rituals dedicated to sun and also ritual games, which
imitated the trajectory of the sun, competition and general fun. Such a place was usually called Igrište (a playground) or Trzan. One would always come to the holly place barefoot and one would also travel on foot which corresponded to the ritual reverence of the holly place. What is especially characteristic for the cult of the sun is playing rounds. Rounds is a game where everyone holds hands and makes a circle which symbolises the sun, its eternal cycle but also vivacity and cheerfulness. There are data that claim that until the middle of the last century, the Bosnians went to a place called Vrbanja in central Bosnia to practice Trzan and to organise various games and festivities. We shouldn't disregard an interesting analysis of folk belief according to which the sun deity had a dualistic nature. We need to enumerate a few examples to make it a bit clearer. For starters we need to mention the belief from north-western part of Bosnia where women would cover the bowl that contained cow milk when they would carry it from one house to the other. They did it out of precaution so that the milk "doesn't see" the sun since it can harm the milk with its spellbound eyes, i.e. the cow that gives milk would lose its capability to produce milk. Milk is a classical woman's symbol of fertility and food which is a characteristic of the goddess. Is there a small part of a larger myth in this belief, a myth that speaks of the possessive nature of a god towards a goddess or is there a small dose of ancient patriarchy, it's hard to conclude. Besides that people still believe that the sun is malicious and poisonous until 6th of May passes (Hidirlez) and that's why people don't recommend being exposed to the sun for long periods. A similar taboo is connected with the earth for which it is believed that it's not good to sit on it until a certain date passes or better yet the cold part of the year. So we come to a conclusion that everything in nature is harmful to humans until May because after that the danger recedes. Hidirlez or Jurjevo is also called among the folk Mijena, which literally means change, since it symbolised a change of seasons - the end of winter and the cold part
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of the year and the arrival of summer and the fruitful part of the year. In the past the calendar in Bosnia was divided into two seasons and not four. Therefore it is easy to assume that the cult of the sun god could be celebrated only in the second part of the year which perfectly corresponds to the old pagan division of the calendar year to the light and the dark part. It is necessary to mention that 6th of May is not the original holiday of the sun god that is depicted as returning strength and fertility to nature with his warmth, but the beginning of the month of May. However because of the strong influence of Christianity, which in fact couldn't fully ban the old pagan rituals, the holiday was moved from the 1st May to the 6th and was thus transformed into the holiday of Jurja who slays a dragon. A Dragon or a snake was always the symbols of paganism for the Christian clergy and therefore the symbolic slaying of the dragon should represent the destruction of the old religion. But, this Christian myth was also taken from a much older myth from the Iranian religion and myth about god Mithras who according to legend slays a bull out of whose dead body nature sprouts, especially grain which is necessary for the human race. However, for this text it is more important that Mithras was the sun god. The continuity of sun worship according to some available data never lost its basics but was only supplemented with new beliefs which came along with the Slavs but also with the members of the Persian religion. How strong was their influence is best depicted by the shrine of Mithras in Jajce which was built in 3rd century AD. Of the other folk belief about the sun we need to mention those that can be classified as imitative magic based on the invocation and pleas for help and blessings from the sun. Today also Stravarke in Bosnia turn their hands clockwise while doing the melting of lead ritual, it is said that they are "following the sun". Also when they need to throw three embers into the bowl with water the Stravarka does it by first encircling the ember three times also in a clockwise direction. The above mentioned rule clearly shows the folk belief
about the beneficial power of the sun when it comes to healing and annulling negative influences. However this isn't only practiced during the lead ritual, every time when one wants to do a magical step which needs to have a positive outcome or some benefit like giving to the poor, turning the beans when fortunetelling, kneading bread, etc. the rule of making three circles clockwise is always adhered. In the past every wedding procession followed this holy rule which was understood as being beneficial for the wedded couple. That's why the wedding procession always went from the bride's house towards the groom's following the "sun route". With a chronological analysis it is easy to notice that Trzan lost its religious importance throughout the ages, which is understandable due to the strong influence of Islam, however it kept its sociological value. In ethnological notes which encompass a wider area (Sarajevo, Visoko, Žepče, Zenica, Kiseljak, Sutjeska) Trzan became a synonym for green pastures that are found in the centre of the village or on its outer side. Children and the young gathered on Trzan for fun and the elderly met there to discuss village jobs of common interests. Even though the original belief about Trzan (Trzni) has been suppressed during the ages its sacred importance has never been forgotten which can be perceived in a couple of examples. In the village Vardišće there is a place called Trzan in whose vicinity there are a few Stećci (Tombs) and there is a Muslim cemetery on Trzan. In another description there is mention of a Trzan in a village called Jelići which is located above the village houses but in front of the cemetery. On that particular Trzan the deceased person was usually laid there before being buried. In the village Bučići the Trzan is located on a crossroad, however such examples are rare. Although these examples could be connected with the old cult of the dead, however such an assumption would be erroneous for several reasons. From the Illyrian and the Bogomil times, the Bosnian people managed to save only a small fraction of the ancient sun cult through various beliefs and relationships with specific places. They knew that those places had sacred features which were pagan and therefore forbidden. Hence, in order to save that ancient connection they continued the tradition but specifically through get-togethers, games and competitions, and in some cases by burying the dead in holly places. In such a way they kept their relationship with the ancient cult. In the end we need to mention an interesting fact that supports the theory about Trzan as an old solar deity in Bosnia. Namely, it is known that the Illyrians didn't build temples but that they dedicated specific places in nature to their deities, for example, to the god Bindu, streams were dedicated, Vidasusu and Thani the forest, etc. The same tradition resumes during the Bogomil's ages which refused to build churches and instead they gathered in nature in order to pray and hold counsel. If weather conditions (snow or rain) didn't allow for this then they chose a house as a gathering place.
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Cult of the god Bindu 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 springtemples 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.
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 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.
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.
Cult of the moon: the holly springs were visited in the first week of the new moon,
It is clear that the Bosnian people haven't forgotten about the religious practice of their
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.
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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.
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Illyrians legend from Velika Kladuša Based upon the Greek legend Illyrius, progenitor of the Illyrians was a son of Polyphemus and Galatea and the brother of Celtus and Galas. Illyrius children, Auterius, Enchelus, Perrhaebus, Taulus, Daortho, Dissaro and Partho are the heroes of the epic poetry of Illyrian tribes. In this legend Illyrius is closely associated with a snake; she wrapped around him after being born and thus gave him all its magical powers. Modern philology aims to prove that etymologically names of Illyrians and the mentioned animal, plying the important role in the Illyrian religion, are connected. As Japods occupied the entire territory of present-day Northwestern Bosnia, and elsewhere, it is logical to assume that they preserved and passed, on each generational shift, some of the old Illyrian legends. Such is a legend form Velika Kladusa about a father with seven sons which reassemble the Greek one. That legend describes the giant snake that guards the Gods treasure. She was living in a deep den near Velika Kladusa, in a suburb called a Rudnik. At a time when Romans achieve military superiority over the Bosnian land, there was an Illyrian family – father of seven sons and one daughter. Life was modest but nice until the day when children, out of sheer wantonness and youthful exuberance placed the flatbread on the stone and hit it with a spear. Horrified with this sacrilege of wheat, a gift of the Gods that feeds people, the father tried to reason the children and prevent them of throwing the spear to the flatbread, but in vain. Suddenly something strange happened and forced the young man to stop their game – the flatbread started to bleed?! Seeing this strange omen, the father grabbed his head with his hands and wept because at that moment he realized that the Gods will punish them for blasphemy. Shortly after this event, all seven sons lost their sanity and scattered to all four corners of
the World and any track of them got lost. The father died from deep sorrow for his sons. The only one that remained in the deserted house was the daughter, drowned in grief for her late father and lost brothers, but even she was spared of Gods’ punishment, because she was the one who baked the flatbread. They turned her into a huge snake and decided that she would guard their gold and gems until the moment when young man comes, enough brave to let the snake kiss his forehead. Many centuries passed since then, the story about the snake-girl slowly became a legend, which is told in the long winter nights. Each spring, on the Hidrelez holiday, the girl would come out from the hole in her new shape repeating the same plea: “Help me! Is there any man, of any faith to let me kiss his forehead, so I would become his wife or sister?” Many knew about her said words but there was no one brave enough to liberate her from the curse and become rich. But, one spring before the arrival of Hidrelez, a poor young man decided, persuaded by an old woman from the village, to go and let the snake kiss him. – Anyway, as poor as I am, I have nothing to loose, he was encouraging himself. He arrived at down to the hole in the ground, where the snake lived for centuries and waited on her. Soon, from the darkness of the large hole appeared the snake’s huge head followed by her long body. Seeing huge snake before him, the young man got paralyzed with fear. He could not move. But the moment the snake approached him to give him a kiss the young man pushed her and run away. The young man was running thinking that snake would go after him, but something quite different happened. She just looked after him sadly and said: - Let God gives you my sadness and loneliness, and makes you die since I can not!” After that she returned back into her hole. Shortly after this event, the unfortunate young man turned seriously ill and after great pain and suffering he died.