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Bogomil demon of disease

One of the grand authorities of Bogomil religion is a priest called Jeremiah (Jeremija), for which many historians presumed that he could have been the famed Bogomil preiest, founder of Bogomilsm. But, what is certain is that Jeremiah was indeed a Bogomil, and this was confirmed to us by Atanasij, a Jerusalem monk. Without a doubt, we are talking about a very interesting historical person, an extraordinary mind and the biggest religious authority in this part of Europe and we could easily call him the Balkan Zarathustra. Jeremiah is credited with authorship over a number of popular, but forbidden works, but today it is obvious that many of those books had other Bogomil authors.

In Russia all those books were called by a collective name "Bulgarian basma (spell)" and they were extremely popular among the folk, which can also be discerned from the inscriptions of the Belarus translation by Iohannes Damascenus from the 16th century, in which the translator complains: "We haven't even translated the tenth honourable book of our teachers, because of the laziness and neglect of our nobility; and additionally the so called teachers of our century are entertained by Bulgarian basma, Bulgarian magical formulas, or better to say, old wives foolery, they read these things and laud them".

That the Bogomil religion left a deep trace in Bosnian tradition is evident from numerous examples, and some can be found through this analysis. By investigating available data about Jeremiah and his books I discovered another Bogomil belief in Bosnia about the demons of disease. Namely, the Bulgarian folk believed in a type of dangerous witches, or better to say, female demons which attack humans in various ways. They were called Tresavice. According to the writing of Jeremiah they were daughters of Irud and they were seven in number. Among the Russians, which latter took this belief, those demons were 12 in total.

In the Russian version of Jeremiah's exorcist formula (basma) this text is mentioned: "There is a stone pillar in the red sea (in the original basma: Mount Sinai), apostle Sisinij sits on the pillar and observes how the sea has been agitated and how it rises up to the sky and twelve long haired women are coming out of it (in the original: seven). Those women said: We are Tresavice, daughters of the king Irod". Holly Sisinij asked them: "cursed devils, why did you come here?" They replied: "We came to torture the human kind; whomever interests us we will follow and torture him: who oversleeps the morning prayer, doesn't pray to God, doesn't respect holidays and eats and drinks early in the morning, he is our favourite! Holly Sisinij prayed to god: God, God! Save the human race from these damned devils. Christ sent him two angels, Sihail and Anos and four evangelists. They started beating the Tresavice with four iron rods, causing them three thousand wounds a day." In the rest of the basma the tortured demons revealed their names and ways in which they torture people: Treseja, Ognjeja, Ledeja, Gnjeteja, Ginuša, Gluheja, Lomeja, Puhnjeja, Žuteja, Krkuša, Gledeja and Neveja.

But, in contrast to Russian, Bosnian folk medicine mentions a total of seven female demons: Mraza, Tvora, Otrovnica, Činilica, Krvopilica, Strava and Mora, of which, each in their own way tortures a man. However, only a few exorcist formulas were kept about a few demons such as the ones against Mora or Strava, while for others, for now, I didn't manage to find any valid data.

Nežit or poganica

Nežit is also another type of dangerous demon of disease against which the Bogomil priest Jeremiah revealed exorcist formulas through which he emphasizes the dualistic battle of good and evil, with the goal of releasing the human body i.e. healing. One of those formulas reads:

Nežit went from the dry sea, while Jesus went from the sky, they met and Jesus told him: "where are you going, Nežit? Nežit replied: "Sir, I'm going into a human's head, to drink his brain, brake his jaw, bite his teeth, bend his neck and deafen his ears, blind his eyes, stuff his nose, spill his blood. Jesus told him: "go back, Nežit, into a desolate valley and desert, find a deer head and move into it, etc."

After the basma has been uttered one would continue with the religious prayers until all the negative effects of this demon has disappeared. As we can see from the above text of the basma, the meeting between Jesus and Nežit is described, where the demon reveals ways in which he will torture humans, while Jesus discourages him and tells him to inhabit a deer's head, etc. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in all places where Bogumils lived, the belief in Nežit has been preserved, over time Nežit was beginning to be called poganica, we will discuss this later.

Nežit or Poganica - demon disease

According to etymology the name nežit and poganica have an interesting origin. Nežit is a term which comes from the term "neither alive nor dead", because of the state the person is in which is afflicted by this disease, while poganica comes from the term pogan(sordid) or unclean, or even pagan, i.e. we could look for the origin of poganica in the demons function from the ancient times, which the demon actually represents, namely an evil spirit which in some ancient time in the religious history of our region, represented one of the numerous dieties. Undeniably the belief in nežit was present in each territory where at some period during the middle ages Bogomils lived or even if their religion was present in that area. Therefore, for example, in Herzegovina and a part of Dalmatia, it was believed that this disease appears mostly through unexpected pain in human limbs, while there is no visible wound. If the diseased feels weakness and dizziness, the diagnosis is, without a doubt, poganica.

Folk belief from all parts of BiH coincide in the belief that poganica manifests in a mysterious and secret way, usually as a manifestation of spellbound eyes, evil gaze, black magic or by a person accidentally "stepping" on it. During one of the enumerated extreme cases an evil spirit of disease enters into a human and "through blood" attacks the person, or better to say, "travels" through the body, which is identical to folk description of how poganica can appear on any place on the body. That's why, similarly, it is believed that poganica originates from a hematoma, place where "blood has gathered".

According to some specific symptoms, poganica can even be characterized as an imaginary illness, since it is demonstrated by a weird, even phantom pain, which suddenly and unexpectedly appears. But, in order to remove the veil of mysticism, we need to studiously fathom in all it represents in folk medicine, how it is detected and cured. According to the symptoms which follow poganica has the most congruence with rheumatism (Rheumatismus) and gout (Greek, ostealgia), since it is manifested in acute pain, usually in the bones of the arms and legs, neck but also the head.

What is interesting to mention is the fact that poganica is sometimes used to name diseases for which people cannot find an obvious and visible cause. In Bosnia, since the old days, it is claimed that one disease, if treated on time, carries with it another, often more dangerous, disease. A classic example can be found, in the traditional fear that individual wounds on the child's body won't become inflamed and result in two inflammations, or more often, that a hematoma (uboj) doesn't transform into a poganica. This archaic belief is the product of mythological belief of pagan Bosnia when the belief that wounds on human bodies, especially ones that have blood oozing out of them, attract evil spirits of disease and stimulate them to attack the diseased through them.

Mythology of Bosnia and Herzegovina
28/11/2015 05:48