Fotograf Magazine

Emir Šehanović

Photography and Bosnian Witchcraft

The culture of the Balkan region, and Bosnia-Herzegovina in particular, has been formed by its unique history and a web of authentic traditions. The art which springs from this environment – including photography – rigorously pays homage to these ancestral roots, although this may not always be obvious at first. Localities such as Tuzla (Bosnia), the birthplace of Emir Šehanović (b. 1981), in fact are among the cradles of European civilization. The cosmogenic notions of the ancient denizens of the region, embodied by deities representing the elements, as well as the structured polytheism of the Illyrians who arrived in the area after them, which combined a cult of agriculture and fertility with the matriarchal features of care and protection, all naturally fused with Graeco-Roman and Celtic religious notions. Subsequently, from the early Middle Ages, there spread across the territory of what is today Bosnia and Herzegovina the activities of the Gnostic sect of the Bogomils, which transformed into what became known within Christianity as the “Bosnian heresy”, whose adherents would later, after the expansion of the Ottoman empire, mostly convert to Islam. Thus the specific line of Bosnian Islam, as well as the rituals of the contemporary Orthodox Church, display echoes of pagan rites. Another specific trait of local color in Bosnia which has been passed down through the female line of succession for centuries is traditional medicine and faith healing, represented by rituals for the protection against evil spells, counteracting evil curses, telling the future, or communication with spirits, which often borders on the magic or the occult. In the 20th century, the influences of Central-European spiritualism also spread across the Balkans (first after the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary, and then after the First World War with the emergence of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia); for instance through the activities of the spiritualist society New Sun, based in Osijek, which at the turn of the 20th century conducted lectures on reincarnation, telepathy, telekinesis, communication with astral beings, and the like.

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