Mythology of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mitologija Bosne i Hercegovine


Nafaka (provisions) kept us going

Bosniacs people are the only one in the Balkans that use the word nafaka on an everyday basis. In accordance to this it is worth analyzing culturally and linguistically this word, because of its immeasurable role in studying the traditional life of our people. At the very beginning of this short study it is necessary to note one irrefutable fact which states that the Bosniacs people in its long history were exposed to numerous misfortunes, even a real danger of extinction, but what has kept and saved them is their cheerful spirit and incorrigible optimism often summed up in this short phrase: “God will give us nafaka!”.

Nafaka is an Arabic word which reached us through the Ottomans. It is very important in Islamic teaching since it manifests Allah’s mercy and in the Turkish language it has numerous synonyms. In Bosnian nafaka is translated in a few ways: alimentation, provisions, supply or supply for life. Two more terms in everyday use which signify wellbeing and success are the Persian word baht – luck, we come across it in certain love spells, and the Arabic word bereket (berićet) – progress, prosperity. Besides these others, especially in folk speech, in use are words of similar meaning such as hair, rizk, rahatluk, etc. All of these represent fertile and positive events which present themselves as feelings of content, ecstasy and optimism. Psychological effect is manifested in the weight of the word nafaka, which compares her to the state of hoe, solace or hidden happiness. All of this is evident in statements such as: “You never know where your nafaka is waiting for you!”, “New day – new nafaka!”, etc. This is why people believe in nafaka fatalistically (“No one can take away your nafaka!”), like almost everything else that is tied to the holly and divine.

Definition of the term nafaka is a relatively wide and according to some dictionaries could be shortly describes by the following: “what is determined for a human to eat in this world”. When a diseased lives long, it is said: “he collected (or bought) his nafaka” – when someone before they die eats a lot he desires to eat what is his in this world.

According to my opinion nafaka is a term which in everyday discussions takes the place of the term luck but also human destiny i.e. life. Perhaps it would be explained simply that nafaka signifies everything that a person is destined to receive and live through as ordained by God. Among the folk we can often hear “every child carries (brings forth) their nafaka”, which was used by poor parents to protect themselves from the criticism of their surrounding because they’re poor enough even without children.

Nafaka determined by God

Identification of human birth, living and death is summed up in the collective consciousness of Bosniacs people in the term of nafaka; “He was born with such nafaka!”, “Whosever is born with good nafaka no one can harm him!", “Such is his nafaka!”, “He ran out of nafaka and died”. “Nafaka is the best hero!” – according to the belief in destiny, if someone is destined to live, i.e. he didn’t run out of nafaka, he can avoid death and become a hero. According to folk tales a man lives so long as God has prescribed nafaka to him, not a minute longer. On that day when a man uses up his nafaka he will die. According to the above we can conclude that folk wisdom doesn’t know happy and unhappy people, but classifies them exclusively with greater or lesser nafaka.

Belief in nafaka is a perfect example how long certain beliefs were deeply incorporated in the traditional lives and that they create a certain notion of an individual towards society, but also himself. Primeval desire and need of every human being is to a large extent determined by the percentage of luck in their life, since as folklore deliberation suggests, a happy man is healthy, successful and cheerful. That’s why everyone of us intimately identifies with the term nafaka. However, from the tales of older people we could easily conclude that the perception of nafaka is individual and primarily depends on the percentage of modesty, i.e. how much an individual is content.

Origin of nafaka coincides with the folk belief about human fate. Still to this day it is believed that Allah determines the destiny of every embryo in its first 40 days, which is why an ugly person marries a beautiful woman, a stupid man becomes rich, etc. Certainly, there are opposite examples but all of them are a product of smaller or greater nafaka which a person carries inside of them. I remember the discussion with the late Bilka, stravarka from Stijena (Cazin), almost a decade ago, which used to talk about herself and her work and often said that she always had nafaka, as if it came out of the earth or fell from the heaven, she used to say. Based on the above we could conclude that nafaka is weaved into the human beings, but that it also exists in everything around us due to its divine source.

To some extent nafaka can be called god’s justice. –“No one can take away your nafaka!”, older people would say when they wanted to explain fatalism, the thing which was destined to someone. For example, it happened that a father desired to leave his inheritance to the youngest child, despite the opposition of other family members. No matter the various blackmails and games that the family played in order to change the fathers mind, the house in the end was left to the youngest child.

Also, without halal (permissible) there is no nafaka. Namely, there will be no nafaka in the thing given as gift unless it is given from the heart – halal. That’s why stolen or forcefully taken things are unlucky since they don’t have god’s mercy in them.

Nafaka is a word which creates pleasure and happiness and ubiquitous way favours human senses. It caresses his eyes and ears, seduces the nose and overwhelms with pleasure the palate. If a sudden guest arrives during coffee or lunch, people would tell him: “You came with nafaka, come on in!” or "Welcome, it is your nafaka to eat (drink) this with us!”. However, terminology in this case cannot be simple in this case nor can it be summed up in such an obscure form. Namely, in folk discussions for meal the term often used, even today in rural areas, was "nimet", primarily for bread or cake, but generally for food also. Therefore it is wrong to equate the term nafaka with food, instead it should be viewed through a wider prism, in which we can hint numerous meaning of everything which this Arabic word represents.

Summoning nafaka

Generally, though considered to be divine gift of mercy, i.e. something that mortals have no effect on, strong desire for it among the people gave birth to various ritual actions that summon nafaka. Desire for nobility dominates in them since a generous act attracts good which is what the saying from Kladuša confirms: “Give alms, continue nafaka!”. Similarly, grandmothers and grandfathers which bless the young would often say: “May Allah give you gani nafaku!” or “May god give you unimaginable nafaka!”, people claim that it is better than “the seen one” since it s greater and more plentiful.

In Cazin and Velika Kladuša the prevailing belief was that nafaka could be summoned, namely, when one would buy cattle or something else it was a custom to buy it in the name of the family member for which it was believed to have the most nafaka, in order to allude that with such a purchase the thing would be nafakali i.e. advanced and happy. Similarly, when buying a stove the first fire will be lit by the family member which was thought of as having the most nafaka in life, in order for the home and family to be prosperous and protected against evil.

In this part of Bosnia a ritual with trahana (tarahana – Persian stew) was known which was used to summon i.e. stimulate nafaka. If someone is unhappy, business isn’t doing well or is prone to bad luck, during young Friday he would make trahana but in such a matter to let it overflow on fire (stove). While the boiling white water is overflowing from the vessel the person would repeat three times:

Bismilahir rahmanir rahim.

As this tarhana is overflowing

on all sides,

so too may my nafaka overflow and cover me,

with god’s will an my prayer.


Bismilahir rahmanir rahim.

Kako ova trahana izvirala i kipila

na sve strane,

tako moja nafaka izvirila i mene obasipala,

sa božijim emerom a mojim sepom.

After cooking tarhana in this manner and cooling it, it would be consumed for three days. Some informants recommend eating the stew in small batches for seven days. In such a manner, it was believed, nafaka would be summoned.

In this context we shouldn’t forget to mention halva – sweet that takes an honourable place among Bosnian people. It is traditionally made (roasted) on the eve of Ramadan, Laylat al-Qadr and Eid, since its smell cleanses the entire house and attracts nafaka and wellbeing.

To be of a lucky hand

Tying food and nafaka is not rare in folklore of our people and is especially evident in marital customs, part where the bride arrives before the grooms house, where she is showered in candy and money. At the threshold of the house she is welcomed by a poor woman, she takes her shoes off, and the bride gives her a gift. A little later she is welcomed by the mother-in-law with the Qur’an and cake with two jugs of water in hand. She places the cake under her left and Qur’an under her right armpit, two jugs each in one hand. Bride reaches the hearth, Qur’an is given to the women, cake and water is placed on the hearth. It is believed, that the bride brings nafaka into the house with this ritual gesture. Also, it was a custom for the bride and the groom to “break” the cakes, and if for example a larger piece of the cake stays in the grooms hand it was believed that he will have greater nafaka, and vice versa.

In Velika Kladuš in the past there was a custom of a bride spreading her handkerchief on the threshold of the house and kissing it, before entering the grooms house. She enters the house with her right foot and someone takes off her shoes, since some money would be hidden in her shoes as a gift for the person that takes off her shoes, she then goes towards the hearth. She kneels there, she divides the embers using tongs, throws her handkerchief into the fire to burn – for nafaka.

For certain jobs it is very important to be gifted with nafaka. Namely, for a stravarka widely known for successful lead melting or for an Imam which writes effective talismans and amulets, people say that they have “nafakali (lucky) hand”. While melting lead, there are a lot of small pieces at the bottom of the vessel, the stravarka will comment: “it is nafakali!”, i.e. the diseased will get better.

Before starting the divination process the diviner asks for the money from the client in order to encircle the cards or beads three times around it and place the money in her pocket, explaining that the process if used for nafaka. Similarly, if nine groups of four beads appear during the divination process, so called hadžirli hatma, the diviner will utter contently: “Your beads have fallen on a great nafaka, cover it with a red cloth!”.

In the end we should mention the following belief according to which it is not good to give names to children of deceased family members since “whoever died he has no nafaka left”. Autor: Raif Esmerović

Mythology of Bosnia and Herzegovina
<< 12/2017 >>

Bosnian mythology is not Slavic but Illyrian!
When we're talking about Bosnian mythology it is important to clarify instantly the following - Bosnian people are speaking a Slavic language, but this doesn't mean that they are Slavic people, since according to that logic the Mexicans would be Spaniards, Brazilians would be Portuguese and for example the Algerians or Moroccans would be French.

Thesis about the southern Slavs, which is based exclusively on the Slavic language is as it's historically known, a merit of the European colonial forces, primarily Great Britain and Austro-Hungary, which disintegrated Balkan people in order to manipulate them better, they enforced numerous historically catastrophic thesis, primarily about the affiliation to the Slavs!? To demolish this absurd theory it suffices to take a look at the physiognomy of a Russian, which are of a lighter hair colour and skin as a people, shorter, i.e. they're similar to the Germanic people, comparing such a person with for example an Albanian, Montenegrin or for example a Dalmatian, which are of a darker hair, eyes, usually tall, one could then notice an incredible difference in physiognomy, which is crucial in classifying to which nation does a person belong to. We won't even notice genetic research which proved that there is a dominant Illyrian gene present when compared to all others.

But, one of the strategical interests was stimulating nationalism, in order to place this strategically important part of Europe under their sphere of influence, using the primitivism which was traditionally rooted among the Balkan people. In order to more clearly explain what I'm talking about let us remember this historical fact which states: how is it possible that the people of the Balkans, which existed between two great civilizations, Greece and Rome, never managed to achieve a cultural or civilization advancement?! Everything that was created in the previous centuries in this area is a result of all other people besides the Balkan ones, starting from the Romans, Greeks, Germans, Ottomans, Austro-Hungarians. whether we like it or not, the answer is simple - primitivism was always a dominant trait of this part of Europe. History has shown as well as proved that the people which can be manipulated the easiest are primitive ones.

A less known fact among the public is that the Austrian monarchy secretly distinguished Vuk Karadžić, who quickly made some type of dictionary of Serbian language according to instructions of the Monarchy in 1818; the dictionary has no scientific validity, since it is not a result of linguistic research, instead it was created on a geographically small area. The intention was to create foundations of nationalism on whose enthusiasm a surface for conflict will be created between the small nations all with the goal of easier western manipulation over them. In contrast, in Bosnia since 1631 a Bosnian-Turkish dictionary was created by Muhamed Hevai Uskufi, but the dictionary was never a cause for hegemony of Bosnians over other peoples, since the dictionary wasn't created by someone's order but out of love for Bosnia and its people.

This manipulation of Europe over primitive Balkan people was so evident and at the beginning of the twenties of the previous century when the western representatives came at the same time to Belgrade and Zagreb agitating Serbs against the Croats. Namely, western representative would say to the war criminal Slobodan Milošević that he has the right to preserve Yugoslavia from disintegration and in Zagreb that Croatia has the right to independence since it was decided by a folk referendum. In such an abject way they pushed, again playing according to the verified recipe of nationalism, peoples of former Yugoslavia into war, which culminated with genocide in Bosnia.

This is why it is important that we finally become aware of ourselves, our origin, rich history and that we finally stop caring what our enemies write and say about us, we need to value and respect our identity and Illyrian forefathers who are our inseparable part.

Kada govorimo o bosanskoj mitologiji bitno je razjasniti sljedeće - Bošnjaci govore slavenski jezik ali to ne znači da su i slavenski narod, jer po tom pravilu bi onda Meksikanci bili Španjolci, Brazilci bi bili Portugalci a, recimo, Marokanci - Francuzi. Vjerovatno se zbog toga bosanska mitologija dovodi u vezu sa slavenskom ali to je još jedna zabluda. Teza da su pojedina bosanska mitološka bića zapravo slavenska temelji se na narodnim vjerovanjem u vampira (lampir), vještice, vile ili Moru. Odmah na početku treba istaći neospornu činjenicu koja glasi - vjerovanje u vampire je izvorno rumunjsko, nema veze sa Slavenima, mada to vjerovanje srećemo i kod Grka, Turaka, Cigana (mulo) itd. Isto je i sa vilama, vješticama, zmajevima ili Morom (Sukubus). To su izvorno vjerovanja mnogih europskih naroda. U bosanskoj mitogiji nema nikakvog spomena ničem slavenskom, posebno božanstvima, niti su oni kod Bošnjaka poznati. To je danas bar lako provjeriti u Zemaljskom Muzeju u Sarajevu, gdje je pohranjen najveći dio etnološkog materijala BiH. Sve je evidentnije, nakon početnih istraživanja, da bosanska mitologija ima svoje izvorište u ilirskim vjerovanjima a posebno kućnoj zmiji, zaštitniku doma i familije, kultu zdravlja boga Binda, bogu Turu, i pojedinim detaljima o Tani i Vidasusu. Tu su i animistička vjerovanja o žabi, zviždenjaku/salamanderu, izvoru i drvetu kao totemima čovjeka. Naravno, ove se činjenice nikako ne dopadaju hegemonistički nastrojenim sistemima ali to je u suštini njihov a ne bošnjački problem. Naš jedini aktualni problem je nepoznavanje vlastite povijesti, koja je izuzetno duga, i naše bogate kulturne tradicije. Zbog toga trebamo istraživati svoju baštinu i biti ponosni što smo potomci slavni Ilira, hrabrog naroda čije nosimo gene i na kraju dijelimo sa svojom albanskom braćom.


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