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 Being beautiful in the Bosnian way

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KomentarNaslov komentara: Being beautiful in the Bosnian way   Being beautiful in the Bosnian way Icon_minitimeWed Apr 27, 2016 8:30 pm

The first step towards destruction of a nation is destruction of its memory. Destroy its books, culture and history and then find someone to write new books, invent a new history. Such a nation will soon start to forget what it is and what it was.

Arthur Schlesinger

Cult of recognisable Bosnian beauty

It is familiar how the Bosnian people since the ancient times paid a lot of attention to physical beauty, which is certainly an inheritance of our Illyrian forefathers, especially women from the tribe of Japod, which were reputedly the most beautiful. From then on through all the following centuries, among the Bosnian people a cult of beauty was nurtured, which was literally present in traditional life from the earliest age. Describing a process of beautification of a child, Antun Hangi writes, that this process actually reveals a classic and inborn desire of people to look good, which was certainly in one part of our history the main preoccupation of affluent people such as traders, craftsmen or noblemen, while among the majority of the poor people such a custom was not nurtured. The author writes:

As soon as ebejka washed the child and clad it, she strokes its head so that is more beautiful and formed well. As the ebejka is doing, so shall too the young mother, which needs to watch out that her child's forehead doesn't get too big. Bosnian people don't like large foreheads. A child which has a large forehead, is made fun of and is said that his forehead is big as a hangar. In order for a child's head to develop properly, it needs to be wrapped with not one, but two bandages. One goes from the forehead and is tied at the back, it is called connector, the other one goes underneath the beard and is tied at the top of the head, and it is called chin guard. These bandages are tied numerous times so much so that one feels sorry for the poor child, and once the bandages are removed we notice red markings on the head since the blood couldn't move freely in and out of the head. But they're not only striving to beautify the child and make his head of a proper shape, but all parts of the head, namely the forehead, nose, lips, eyes, ears, eyebrows and chin. Though I have to condemn this practice out of health reasons, I will mention how and why they do them. The forehead is usually covered with oil, thick milk or slime so that the child doesn't get wrinkles around the eyes. Folk, especially more common people, hold that people which have wrinkles around the eyes are troublemakers, ready to do all sorts of evil. A girl which would see large wrinkles in a boy wouldn't marry him. People love like that the nose of the child is nice looking and harmonious that's why they squeeze and thin the noses of the children since no one likes a wide nose. The eyes are usually stroked by mothers while nursing the child so that the eyes won't be murky and to turn out to be healthy clear and large since the larger the eyes, the dearer they are to the people. They tighten the ears and place them closer to the head so that they don't become large and loopy. Similarly they gather the lips of the child between the fingers so that they don't become large. They push the chin towards the throat so that it's not protruding like a saddle. The neck of the child is also stroked so that it is not too thick and that the child doesn't get goitre. They place ham-pamuk (cotton wool) on the child's chest so that the chest will get nourished and grow stronger. Similar things are done with the hand and feet of the child. They tighten them with bands like criminals so that the child looks like a little mummy. The lazy stomach is not exempt. It too needs to be tightened and furbished, so that the child is not tubby and a binge eater.

Because of what we've said above we shouldn't be surprised that among the folk there developed a specific skill of analyzing the human body, physiognomy of the face but also certain physical movements and habit, in order to bring a conclusion about the type of person we're dealing with, its strengths and weaknesses. Today, when we analyse this practice it is evident that parents used it the most when choosing a spouse for their son. Since marriage was seen as a very serious matter, which is the case with conservative societies such as Bosnia, it is reasonable that a lot of attention has been paid when choosing a new family member with the intent of securing fertility and unison which always signified certain advancement and widening of the family.

Generally, women paid attention usually to their face and complexion. White face among Bosnian women was a symbol of beauty from the old days and it is no wonder that they traditionally avoided exposure to the sun, especially during spring, in order to retain their white complexion. In Velika Kladuša it was believed that the sun was poisonous until the winter part of the year doesn't pass i.e. until the beginning of May. Still today some grandmas remember hiding their face from the sun when they were young, especially before a fair or a celebration, in order to have a white face when they appear among the people. They were aided by washing their face with whey, it is still believed that whey tightens the face and keeps it fresh and clean. Similar things are claimed about goat milk.

How widespread and deeply ingrained these ideas were in the traditional lives of the Bosnian people is perhaps best shown by numerous love basma (spell), poetic and often rhymed magical words, which were once used by women to attract love and attention of a certain man but also favour of their surroundings. Šerifa Mujagić says of love basma "they are not charms, they are harmless and serve women so that men like them more".

Analysing their content it is easy to notice congruence in stressing those characteristics and status symbols of beauty which the Bosnian people have seen as desirable in women in the past: thin waist, tall, so that she may walk proudly, white complexion and rosy cheeks and lips. We should emphasize that the mentioned proportions were not unique for the entire nation, this type was accentuated in urban areas, while in rural ones preference was given to women capable of physical labour and virility. With this some customs changed. All attributes, or most of them, were main components of love basma:

Die, burst, until you come to me

until you see me thin

tall, white and rosy!

Desire to be attractive but also accepted by others is clearly stressed in this basma:

I flew like the water,

shuddered like the forest

they look at me as if I were a Bey

they respect me as a king

around me my friends

faithful servants like I'm the king,

wherever I go I carry gold,

when I walk I throw gold,

when I speak I pour out honey,

elzalif amin!

How she wanted to appear to others, and especially her beloved man is seen in one part of this love basma:

...cute to the entire world,

dear, loving and beautiful may I be,

mostly to my NN!

Being beautiful in the Bosnian way Huizdd
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KomentarNaslov komentara: Re: Being beautiful in the Bosnian way   Being beautiful in the Bosnian way Icon_minitimeThu Apr 28, 2016 5:53 am

Desirable and undesirable girl

Under the influence of changing living conditions, some social norms changed as well, especially ones closely tied to the appearance and behaviour of women in the Bosnian society. But, some measurements despite this stayed with us to this day. In the past, for example, women with hairy feet were considered to be personification of passion and eroticism, but people never tolerated hair on women's face, especially above the lips, and such women were usually called "masculine" and sometimes witches.

The greatest desire of every Bosnian girl was to get married "on time" and she was aware that this desire greatly depended on her looks but also her behaviour. Many of them, in the past, intending to get married pretended to be different than they actually are, that they are quick and hardworking, among the folk there was the following statement: "While she is still trying to get married in her feet air and in her mouth a cramp (quiet), and when she gets married, in her feet a cramp and in her mouth air".

Of course, though people expected from the bride to know "her place inside the home", people always harboured caution towards quiet people, since the lack of social intelligence was sharply opposed with traditional Bosnian hospitality and sociability. ("Who treats others nicely, God will be nice towards them", "Tongue is man's best but also worst enemy"). But, for a girl or daughter in law it wasn't advisable to be to open and communicative, especially in giving comments, and it was always advised that it is better for a woman to drink some water and hold it in her mouth as long as she can when she wanted to say something bad, so that she doesn't talk as much. "Since she won't get a headache from staying quiet". But in rural areas a temperament and angry girl, though having a nasty temper, she was considered to be hard working and therefore desirable for marriage. ("Angry mare spin the spinner").

Everything that was called sojli in folk description about women or generally some person was a guarantee that such a woman or man was from a good family or genes. Upbringing but also behaviour of parents, especially the mother, was one of the key indicators of how the daughter will turn out. People claimed that in the past if the mother was good, that the girl will be good too. However, there are different opinions which are demonstrated by various folk sayings such as this one: "From a good mare one can get a bad foal, and from a bad mare a good foal". It is considered that from bad parents we often get good children, since in poverty and inharmonious family relationships children mature sooner and understand life more seriously than their peers which are pampered by their parents and which take care of all their needs.
When choosing a future spouse for their son, the parents paid attention to numerous physical but also character features in a girl. Of course, they didn't lose sight of knowledge about material or property condition of her family. But, what is certainly more interesting than the common search for a suitable bride is the folk understanding of the female beauty, which is best witnessed by the following rulebook:    


Among the folk it was considered that black, so called Illyrian, hair, long and nicely combed, reveals that the owner is of a commendable nature. If she has blond (yellow) hair , she is hard working but angry, just like a person, male or female, with curly hair. Temperamental persons also, according to folk belief, are born on Tuesdays. Short hair which was never desirable among women, no matter how beautiful the woman was, was considered to be not worthy of marrying a son from a better family. Such a woman was derogatorily called "masculine".


A woman with a broad forehead was considered to be intelligent, according to folk judgement, wise and from a good family.


Thin beautiful dark eyebrows represent good genes and upbringing, while connected (merged) eyebrows reveal that the girl is angry and unhappy, and she was undesirable for marriage. Sparse eyebrows are a sign that the girl is good and that she will give birth to male children, and if her eyebrows are thick that she will give birth to female children "since she had better gusto".


Black eyes are beautiful, green ugly, they’re often considered to be spellbound, blue indicate a happy and emotional nature while a girl with multicolour i.e. brown eyes indicates a fiery (temperamental) nature, being spoiled and even immorality. A scale was made based on the eye colour; the one with dark eyes is the most desirable for marriage, a girl with brown eyes falls into the middle category while the one with green eyes belongs to the last category. For a girl with green eyes it was claimed that she couldn’t have children. “Girl with black and brown eyes looks once at her boyfriend and twice in front of her, and a girl with green or multicolour eyes twice into her boyfriend and once in front of her.”


Among the Bosnian folk it was believed about the nose that Allah had the most difficulty in creating it, creating the first people and the greatest sin is to make fun of someone’s nose. Similarly, among the folk you can often hear – the size of the nose the size of pride! For a girl with a bog nose and wide nostrils, the people believed that she wasn’t intelligent enough. A woman which has a thin nose is of a mild nature while the one which has small nose is very angry.


Big mouth are ugly and undesirable, and they utter the most stupidity while a small mouth can sing nicely, they’re visually appealing and are a sign that the girl is from a good family. Thin lips reveal a woman which is picky when it comes to food, and she often has a high opinion of herself. They’re usually stubborn. Thick lips, especially in women, are considered to be ugly and it is still abusively said about such a person that it “has a mouth like a mare’s vagina!” Actually, in descriptions, people don’t use the term mouth but gob, which is a term used for an animal’s mouth, especially horse’s mouth. A girl with thick lips is reckless, people say “her gob is like slippers!” But, despite this it was believed if the girl’s lips are thick that she will be fertile i.e. happy with children, while if her lips are thin it reveals an issue in virility, tendency for miscarriage or generally unhappiness.


Once rare and small teeth in a girl were considered to be beautiful while large teeth were considered as vulgar. A girl which has a gap between her front teeth was prone to getting fat.


Small ears are a sign of luck and an indicator that the girl comes from a good family. If they’re connected and large they’re unlucky while protruding ears are a big shame for a girl.


Round small chin is sojli, while a chin with a line, divided into two is ugly and unlucky.


Round, white and rosy face is beautiful, long shape is undesirable among women “since she ages quickly” as soon as she gives birth. Holes in cheeks, so called smijavica, were considered to be a sign of outstanding beauty, this is why mothers used to press their newborn’s cheeks. Warts on the face were considered to be a sign of bad luck.


Long and thin neck is beautiful, worthy of jewellery, a short neck was not seen as beautiful.


Large chest in a woman represented a good breed (genes) and represented an ideal predisposition for her to become a good mother and childbearing woman. Small and firm chest were considered to be beautiful, limp breasts are slushy; wide breasts are sojli while connected are no good.


Thin long fingers are sojli, short fingers and fat hands are not.


A thin girl, with a high waist is sojli, and if she is fat she is lazy. If she doesn’t have an inch from the webbing to the armpit, don’t marry her, she is unlucky and not a housewife.


Large hips are present in a lazy girl “good for cargo”, and middle and round ones are a feature of a skilful and sojli girl.


Don’t take a flatfooted girl home, she is unlucky. However, we should stress that among the Bosnian people, flatfooted people are considered to be unlucky, and it is a bad omen to meet such a person. A girl tall on her feet, one with long legs, is crazy, the one with fat feet is slow, people usually say about her: “she is dragging them as if she were dragging logs” – while a woman with thin legs is as nimble as a fairy. Because of such a belief, among the Bosnian people, the following saying took root: “don’t run from a thin horned cow nor a thin legged woman!”
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KomentarNaslov komentara: Re: Being beautiful in the Bosnian way   Being beautiful in the Bosnian way Icon_minitimeMon May 02, 2016 6:03 pm

It's difficult being a Bosnian daughter-in-law

According to Mula Rašida Hadži-Pašić from Žepče for a woman to have all the necessary criteria and get the title of a desirable bachelorette, she had to have long hair, dark eyes, stout, round and rosy face, white complexion, thin spread eyebrows, wide and flat forehead, small mouth, small and dense white teeth, long neck, spread chest, medium height, thin in the waist and she mustn't be dus-taban, since she would bring bad luck. Her feet need to be small and on her palm she has to have long lines, this indicates that she is happier and of good breed. Age wise, she needs to be younger than the male by a few years.

Her behaviour needs to be decent and if she is marry, and laughs too much, people would say that she is ludasija - crazy, and if she sings too much she would be called harlakurla or eksik-tahta, that she is silly, or as the jargon of the neighbourhood would state - she has a few screws loose.

In Zavidovići a desirable bachelorette is one which is not dus-taban, since she is unlucky, that her eyebrows are not connected, because of the belief that she is angry and rough, and that she is of a wide forehead - wide mind - and small mouth.

A girl tall and thin has no evlad (birth abilities), smaller and buxom has evlad and gives birth primarily to male children. Woman of a middle built gives birth first to female and then to male children. For a girl which blinks too much, it was believed that she won't have any children. A woman which puts her right leg forward first when walking will get children sooner than the one which doesn't. Chaste girl walks quickly and looks in front of herself, and the one which walks slowly is temerut i.e. lazy. A woman looking around is vižlasta and šarijasta, she would gladly see everything and know everything, and she loves men. A woman which is in awe of everything is called by the folk blentulja i.e. stupid.

Her qualities and flaws were judged by the way she communicates, eats and her height.


Quiet and shy girl was considered to be smart (submissive), a communicative girl was called šarijasta, brbljača, lapača, laprdljavica. A thin voice is sojli, a rough one is not.


Thin, tall girl was called "škrabulja", "visulja" i.e. unattractive. All clothes look bad on such a girl. On the other hand to a small girl it was said "there is no woman there until lunch time". According to this among the folk it was said that a woman of a middle height is ideal. If she is not too tall and fat nor small and skinny it was said that she was "kalufli".


A girl which would open her mouth too wide, when eating, was considered to be a cotquean and eager and if she munches - stupid.

Being beautiful in the Bosnian way 2z7pq9j

Nedžad Salković, one of the greats of sevdah, is a classic example of an extremely good looking Bosnian male.

Being beautiful in the Bosnian way 16m6olv

Hanka Paldum, a legend of Bosnian sevdah, besides a beautiful voice, she is the "owner" of extremely good physical looks. She is the true example of those women which get more beautiful as they age.

autor: Raif Esmerović
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