Warts are recognised in official medicine as a viral illness in the form of a lump skin coloured with a rough surface. They encompass exclusively the upper layer and should be differentiated from benign skin lumps such as moles or corns. Besides distorting the aesthetics of the skin, they don’t represent a serious health issue, except when they appear on the face, especially near the eyes, nose or mouth. There are those warts which appear in the genitals or rectal area and are a result of a sexually transmitted disease. No matter where they are located on the body, dermatologists in a classic procedure usually recommend their removal with a short surgical procedure. But, in that case there is a possibility that they will reoccur.
For warts among the Bosnian people it was believed from the old days that if a frog pees on someone’s hand or leg they will occur. Why was this believed is hard to discern except the fact that among Bosnian people there are other beliefs tied to animals – agents of other diseases. For example, if someone cross over a place where a cat and a dog urinated and covered it with dirt with their back legs, a person can suffer sugreb which is manifested by a sudden redness and rash on the legs, and sometimes the entire body. If someone comes into contact with spider web at an awkward part of the day they will get a rash, this time on the face or neck. Besides a rash on that place often small acne can appear. For a patient to get rid of this he is to utter: “Euzubilahi mines šejtanir radžim…” wipe his face with an old rag on the infected part of the face, throw the rag into the stove and literally run out of the house in which he can return in half an hour. This is especially effective if it’s done during the phase of a new moon, which the patient looks at before undertaking this ritual. From other beliefs it is interesting to note the fact that increased hair fall can be caused by holding a raven in your hands.
There was an opinion among the Bosnian people that warts is a transitional disease i.e. they can be transferred by close contact with a person which has them, or even that they will increase in number if they’re touched or counted. Also, it is believed that they’re inherent, if someone in the family had them, for example, father or mother, one or more children will inherit them, but always in childhood or puberty since folklore belief says that warts are usually children’s disease, while they appear rarely in adults. There are so called mole warts which are considered to be lucky for those that have them.
It is noticeable that among the Bosnian folk we can still find various methods of curing warts, some more successful than others. Among the most frequent practiced are the ones based on aggressive therapies i.e. dipping a toothpick in vinegar and poke the warts a few times. This would ensure that it is being dried up which would lead to disappearance of it. Rarely it would be cut using sterile scissors. Namely, scissors would be boiled in water, or more easily dipped in alcohol and used to cut the warts.
Other forms of treatment are milder and their usage is based on the utilization of natural ingredients and are repeated over a certain period. You take one clove of garlic, squeeze it a bit with your fingers or soften it up and is placed on the warts, covered with a patch and is left a few hours or overnight.
A miniature herb is also in usage of which the people don’t know the Latin name but call the herb “dudova trava”, since with its form it resembles the fruit of the mulberry, and usually grows on rocks or sandy soil. It is used by squeezing its juice onto the warts or the plant is initially broken up using the fingers and placed as a compress and is held for some time.
Besides this, there exists in folk medicine numerous simple rituals of healing based on the usage of magical words, which mimic i.e. allude to an individual natural occurrence which should spur the self-healing process and free him from stress. Those rituals are usually very suggestive for the person undertaking them since they’re based on certain identification with nature and its invisible forces. Actually, in those moments humans are trying to return to that primordial harmony from which it got its origin, trying to blend with it, since it is life giving and healing of itself. This is why the focus is on the power of celestial bodies, crossroads, plants, bones and so forth i.e. everything that can bring him into the desired state of mind and body.
Ancient rule from folk medicine determines the ways of curing, namely, individual rituals can be practiced exclusively by an authorized person who knows the secrets of healing, such as a stravarka, while other magic-curative actions are performed by the patient following an oral pattern.
Stravarka Hasibe from Velika Kladuša during her life used to say that she removed warts from numerous people but also animals, i.e. cow udders. For this she used a hair from a horse’s tail, which she would tie firmly around the wart uttering this oath:
I tie using magical words
and with my hand
I tighten for this wart to fall off as soon as the horse moves his leg, with god’s will. Amen.
There is a simpler version of this procedure for individual use. Namely, it is enough to tie, firmly, around the warts a string into a knot. The next day it will be evident that the wart is changing colour and is becoming darker, since air flow is interrupted, two-three days later it will go black and fall off. Of course, this is manageable with some warts which have an elongated form, but, there are others with a different form which is not suitable to this way of curing.
Muhamed Fejzi beg Kulinović in his work on Bosnian folk medicine wrote a somewhat unusual prescription for removal of warts. Namely, when a person suffering from this ailment accidentally sees two persons riding a horse together they should say:
Two persons are riding,
carrying my warts.
It was believed that after shorter time the warts would dry off and fall off.
In northwest of BiH stravarke recommend to those which have warts on their hands or other parts of the body to wait for someone in the vicinity to die to use the dead man’s hand to touch the wart. As they claim the wart will simply disappear. Similarly, if in the indent of an old gravestone, on which the name is no longer legible, you find rainwater, you should use that water to wash the warts and they will soon disappear. Wise stravarke since the old days tell from the old days that the old gravestones are the best cures for a heart in love, namely, if someone deeply and desperately grieves because of unlucky love then she needs to scrape some dust from the gravestone, mix it with water and drink, in order to forget the person that is causing the suffering. Or to ease love pain.
Individual stravarke say that warts should be lubricated frequently with the water which is left inside a casserole when you bake bread i.e. when it is taken outside of the stove. Others think that if every morning, for a month, they cover themselves with the first morning urine it will disappear.
In Velika Kladuša a person which has one or more warts is directed towards a meadow or forest to look for an animal bone. When he locates it he needs to pick it up and with the lower part of the bone, part which was on the ground, he needs to caress each wart and place the bone back to its place and leave for home without turning around. People which practiced this simple ritual claim that they were surprised when they woke up without a wart ten days later. Simply, as if they were never there.
There are several other recorded examples of curing from which the most interesting one is from the Central part of Bosnia. It was believed that it is good to steal some salt from someone’s house and use it to cover the warts, they would dry up and disappear. Salt would be then thrown into fire or water. In case the fire starts to crack the patient needs to leave the house, otherwise it was believed that the process wouldn’t help him.
Another popular ritual is staring at a new moon. Namely, a person which wants to get rid of the warts would go outside, repeat verse Ihlas, and looking at the Mlađak (new moon) he would utter the following spell three times, while using his index finger to caress the warts in the direction of earth:
New moon, by your youth,
remove these warts from me, veledalin amin.
It would be interesting, in an informative sense, at the end of this text to touch upon the magical-curative actions of other local people, in order to get a more encompassing picture of the Balkan cult of healing, which is surely, best researched by analysing easier and more common health issues, which are common to us all.
In Bulgarian magical tradition there are several formulas which help get rid of warts. In one of them it is recommended to the person which has this issue to cut of three thorns from a bush of roses and get a new soap. With the thorns he should puncture all warts, each wart three times, then the thorns are stuck into the soap. At sunset the soap is brought to the shore of a river and the soap is thrown into the river watching it go downstream, uttering three times the following:
As the soap is melting and disappearing,
so too may my warts melt and disappear.
After all of this the person would head home, but not by the same way it used to get there, taking care to not turn back.
Traditionally among Turks the warts were usually cured by asking for help from ocakli (folk doctor-shaman). Curative procedures which odžaklija undertakes could be divided into shaman/magical and those inspired by religious prayers. While in magical rituals folk doctors use various natural ingredients, in religious approach all hope is laid in the power of the prayer. In one good example of this practice, odžaklija utters three times above the warts a salavat, three times verse Fatiha, and three times prayer after which he blows towards the wart or ulcer. With gods help it was believed that the disease would be cured.