Persian religion in the tradition of the Bosnian people

Kategorija: Magazine

One of the oldest civilizations in the world Persia or today’s Iran, whose age is estimated according to archaeological locality to over 7000 years, had a very strong influence both on the Illyrians i.e. Bosnian people. Traces of that influence have their continuity and are evident in various segments from the linguistic, because of numerous Persian words in the Bosnian language, all the way up to folklore and mythology. Because of all that it is necessary to further investigate the connection of Bosnia and Iran through historical events and migration and genetic analysis in order to get a complete image of the connection between Illyrians and the Persians and if there is a possibility that the Illyrians came to the Balkans from today’s Iran?!

Temple of god Mitra in Jajce

The temple of the Indo-Iranian god of sun and light Mitra (mitreum) was found in Jajce in 1931 when a foundation for a house was dug. On the initiative of curator of the National museum in Sarajevo professor Sergejevski, it was reconstructed in 1937. The cult of invincible god of sun – Mitra was widespread across all provinces of the Roman empire, including  the province of Dalmatia in whose boundaries was a large part of today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina. Members of Mithraism sought to place their cult places in caves, but they also built small one cell temples – spelaea, and if the terrain allowed, they were wrapped in dirt. An example of such a temple – spelaea carved into the rock, is located in Jajce and represents a unique and rare example. There is no direct data on the exact time the temple of Mitra in Jajce was built. It is assumed, according to when the coins were found, types of lamps and fibula that it was built at the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th century BCE.

Ritual in the honour of Mitra

In one of my earlier texts I described connection of folk customs of lighting fire at dawn on May 6th (Jurjevo or Hidirlez) as a sign of welcome and celebrating sun, since the beginning of May according to Bosnian folk calendar the beginning of summer i.e. light part of the year. And that we are talking about the solar cult of our Illyrian forefathers is proved by another practice which was preserved by Bosnian traditional culture. We are talking about instruments so called trubaljka dedicated to god Mitra, played by men on small and large Jurjevo i.e. April 23rd and May 6th.

In the ethnological records under the name “Peculiar customs of Muslim villagers close to the place Prozor” it is described that Bosniaks in Prozor, at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, met at sunset at a location, which they would pick by themselves, and they would hold the ritual called Trubaljke. Every one of them would for that occasion carry in his hand an instrument, so called trubaljka made out of skinned bark of willow, for the ritual on the eve of small Jurjevo (April 23rd), or made out of the bark of hazel (hazelnut) if they would play on the holiday large Jurjevo (May 6th). That’s why trubaljka was an instrument without holes.

“That company was mostly made out of young men, and often times among them there were older men i.e. bearded men. From every household there needs to be at least one member, and there can be more. The participants choose one among themselves which will be the leader, and he has to have the largest instrument (trubaljka). From that place, where they met, the leader goes first and the others follow, sometimes one after the other and sometimes in a crowd. The leader blows his long instrument and then all others in one voice. It is very interesting to listen to that type of music created by numerous instruments. That sound spreads across the entire place where the ritual is being held. They are followed by a crowd of children who goad them on with their thin voice. There is no singing with the instruments as far as I managed to find out, one can only hear various sounds of their instruments and thin children’s voices. There are 80 to 100 people in the parade. The leader is always at the top of the file. They visit every Muslim yard and stay there for a few minutes blowing their horns. When they arrive in front of a house, all members of that household exit and observe their procession. They go from house to house, and if they think a witch lives in a house they visit her yard first and then continue on. When they go round the entire village, then they go back to the place from which they started, blowing the horns the entire way. Then the following ritual takes place: an entire group gathers around the leader in a circle (geometrical representation of the sun), holding their instruments in their hands, in a fighting stance. The leader swings his instrument first so hard that it splits into numerous pieces which fall around the gathered men (ritual blessing, imitating the sun’s rays). As soon as he does it, it represents a sign for the others, who laughing and shouting, hit each other with the instruments until they are completely destroyed. Then they return to their homes. The Bosniaks practiced this ritual from ancient times, in the eve of both Jurjeva, in order to neutralise all negative effects of witches, who according to folk belief, were particularly active on these two identical holidays. With that ritual one would ensure protection of humans and domestic animals until next year.”

Here the connection between Persians and Bosniaks doesn’t stop. Namely, the Slavic name for God – Bog is a name that stems from the Persian name Baga which was used for Ahura Mazda. In the same manner, the Slavic name for our planet – Zemlja, has its root in the name of the Persian goddess of earth Zam. What is more important is the tradition of respecting old deities which existed among Bosnian Muslims in parallel with Islam, i.e. it was incorporated in it. Of course, we are talking about the so called “folk Islam”, not the official one. Namely, there are written and published records in the book “Annexes for oriental philology” published in 1980, where it is mentioned that in Sarajevo before WWII there were men who directed their prayer (duas) not only to Allah but also to some non-Islamic deities. For this text the most interesting deity is Tir, Persian god of rain and fertility. Tir or Tistriya lead an army of Ahura Mazda in the battle against evil forces. Every 13th of each month was dedicated to him. Probably because of this deity the rituals for rain and fertility were upheld the longest among the Bosnian people, tradition practiced by the Illyrians and continued by the Bogomils and later Islamic Bosniaks.