In folk medicine, in BiH, all mental illnesses were called džanbola (from the Turkish word „can/džan“ – soul), and it would come through as a result of the detrimental activity of evil spirits – Jinn. Among the most difficult ailments were considered the ones caused by direct contact with demons („naletio na džinsko kolo – he came across a circle of Jinn“, „udario ga džinski vjetar – he got struck by demonic winds“ etc.), for example when a diseased would fall victim to specific mental states such as hysteria, paranoia, schizophrenia, epilepsy, etc.
According to Bosnian Imam/healers and stravarke a man can get seriously ill from fear, black magic, namet, nagaža, ograme, zgranila, letame (so-called “džinski šamar-demonic slap” pareza facialis – Bell’s palsy) and spells. However, of all of the above, spells are considered to be the most widespread disease.
Fear from the destructive power of a spellbound gaze is deeply embedded in the collective consciousness of many cultures in the world, whether primitive or developed societies, and among the Bosnian folk it is most evidently presented in the following statement: “As soon as he looks at you, he disrupts everything, you can’t curdle cheese nor douse a fire!”. As we have mentioned spells are common among people, far more than black magic, possessions, or for example red wind. It appears always as a negative side effect when one has excessive emotions. Often, Imam/healers claim, it happens that parents cast a spell on their child, despite the great love they feel for the child, since “whatever a man does too much, it is not good nor healthy!”.
What is actually a spell and how does it work?
In his book “Power of thinking in scientific life”, William Walker states the following: “Science has confirmed the strength of spells by conditioning so-called the theory of magnetism. It is, actually, holding a strong inner desire with the help of the eyes, because of the ability of the eye not only to see but to feel as well, in this case, the final extreme ferocity of the gaze. As evidence of this, in a theatre or a place where people sit one behind the other, gaze into the back of someone’s head who is sitting in front of you. Persistently watching at the lower part of his nape wish inside of yourself, very hard, for him to turn around. Notice that the person will suddenly turn and look exactly at the place you were looking at him from. This exercise is shown as very successful among people which know each other, and less among people which are strangers. Similarly, it is more successful in women than in men, since women react better to such types of influence. The better you know a person the faster this will work.”
I am of the opinion that a spell, but also other paranormal appearances, have a direct connection with the astral body, our spiritual doppelganger who is also a link between the world of humans and spirits (1). What we call supernatural powers such as clairvoyance, telekinesis or spells are nothing more than the ability of our astral body which has the ability to penetrate into the higher spheres. Through the “third eye” i.e. as it is called in Bosnian occult practice – “star”, we are connected to the universe but also the spiritual world (see. “Illyrians – Europe’s greatest mystery”). From there we draw all our knowledge and information. But, since further explanation would take too much space and would somewhat distance us from our main topic it will suffice to say the following.
According to some technical definitions, the human body is nothing else than a collection of condensed energy, which has its own clearly determined way of acting. Every time when it comes to disruption of the normal flow of energy, primarily because of some overemphasized emotion, usually negative, our body accumulates that negative energy on some part of the body, where a disease then appears, or simply it “throws out” that excess energy in order to reset i.e. normalize. Which is somewhat identical to our physiological needs. If that expulsion of excess energy happens –visually through the eyes or orally through the mouth – at the moment when we are praising someone or when we envy someone, the energy will be automatically directed at “the target” and it will become spellbound. It is, also, an answer to the question – why do we get spellbound every time when someone lauds us or when someone openly or secretly envies us?
Hence, the power of spells is a native occurrence among all humans, it has nothing to do with specific character traits, sex, physical appearance, or national affiliation. In folk belief, there are sort of cultural animosities towards individual groups for which is then claimed that they have an evil gaze like the Roma people, but also elderly women, men without beards (ćosavi), bearded women, etc. (2). Actually, the symbol of evil amongst people was always those people which for some reason did not fit into the societal order or yet persons with lighter or more difficult physical deformities, whose appearance caused fear and prejudice, especially in rural areas.
Writing about spells, Leopold Gluck states that the belief in them is present among the entire Bosnian people, but, especially among the Bosniaks and Čifutima (the name for Bosnian Jews), which claim that one can cast a spell “without looking” with only a word, and what is worse is that you can put a spell on yourself. When you laud someone because of his characteristics, physical or mental, when you are in awe of someone because of their animate or inanimate property, whether he heard it or not, you can put a spell on him. Even when you think of yourself as hard-working, rich, you can put a spell on yourself. The above-mentioned belief completely explains why dozens of prophylactic gestures appeared among these people whose sole purpose, during conversations whether important or unimportant, was to block or annul eventual spells by knocking on wood with the index finger or spitting to one side.
(1) Best informed about the definition of the body and the soul were our forefathers the Bogomils whose doctrine about the soul, representative of heavenly energy and physical body the personification of demonic force, clearly talks of the dualistic strength which creates life. The mission of every human is to achieve a balance of good and evil inside of himself, not allowing any of the forces to prevail. When that happens, and usually when weevil prevails, various evils occur among which are the influences of the evil eye.
(2) Traditional understanding of which type of eyes can cast spells, i.e. their color, is based on a very simple template. Namely, researching the available literature for the acquisition of information that would help me in writing this modest work about folk medicine in BiH, I discovered that it primarily depends on the geographic position and genetic structure of a people. A generally accepted thesis is that the evil eyes or spellbound eyes are determined by the color of the iris which is least represented or is not present at all. Since there is a very small percentage of people with black irises among the Bosniaks, dark eyes especially combined with dark hair are considered to be evil. That’s why it is still today believed that one should beware of dark eyes “since they can easily shoot through a person, to their heart and lead to death!” On the contrary, in Turkey, as well as in the entire Middle East, spellbound eyes are blue eyes and blonde hair.