I created this group because our people have been tattooed for centuries since Illyrian times, but this tradition especially itensified during the Turkish occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina 1463/1878. During that time it was hard for them. Children were taken to Turkey as captives to serve in the Janissaries infantry units and Turkish Chiefs had the right to sleep with Christian women on their first wedding night. These are some of the reasons why they tattooed their children for protection. It also had decorative purpose for some of them, especially for girls. Our people tattooed their hands, fingers, chests, foreheads with crosses and other ancient ornaments in order to protect themselves from Turks and so that the children could always know that they were once Catholic if converted. They tattooed or in Croatian ” sicati” or „bocati“ their children, male and female, between ages of 3- 20, with mother’s milk (of a mother who had a one year old male child-in Kupres area), milk from the black sheep, horse milk, saliva, charcoal, grime (soot) and honey by using needles with other natural materials. The ceremony of tattooing was done by Catholic women on Catholic holidays Saint Joseph’s Day 19th March, Feast of the Annunciation on 25th March – symbolic 9 months to Christmas, on St John's Day(24.June) and in some areas on Good Friday. But many were also tattooed in the spring time before they went to the mountains with the cattle. They were mostly children and their parents wanted them to have the signs of their religion in case something happens. Either they tattooed themselves or some older women did it. In this case, they used the sheep milk and soot and tattooed with the needle.
Catholic tattooing in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a sign of our faith and it was a closer connection to God and of the sufferings of Jesus, what some women told me who were tattooed on Good Friday. But for many people that I interviewed it was a sign of belonging to Croatian Catholic population. These women were often looked down upon during communism in the former Yugoslavia, some of them were threatened and questioned, and some of them lost their jobs because of these tattoos ( some women stated this in inteviews). They stopped tattooing their children because of fear and it died out because of the communist regime which was preffering atheist attitudes and they considered it primitive. During my research since 2009 I managed to talk to more than 200 tattooed women and men and I always hear some new details and stories. Every village and municipality had it's own tattooing tradition, different symbols and ways of tattooing. The mayority stopped with the tattooing after World War II, but in some rural areas the tradition continued till 1980's. Last person that I know of and that was traditionally tattooed was a woman born in 1969 and was tattooed around 1984 by her mother. Also the youngest tattooed person was only 3 years old when he was tattooed by his grandmother.
If you ever come to Bosnia and Herzegovina, you are welcome to visit and see our tattoos. Some of them are still living today and if you want to see recent PICTURES OF TATTOED CATHOLIC WOMEN IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA visit my page Traditional Croatian Tattoo www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=289387635203&v=photos&....
Little is known about Catholic tattoos in Bosnia and Herzegovina and I have been trying to collect as many photos and stories as possible and publish them one day so that the world also knows about this tradition. If you have any questions, proposals and advices regarding this topic, don’t hesitate to contact us: Traditional Croatian Tattoo Fan Club Email address : firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Tea Turalija