11 September 2020
Cultural Heritage — Picking Iva Grass
Edition title: Cultural Heritage
Date of issue: 11.09.2020.
Designer: Božidar Došenović
Type of issue: occasional
Printing technique: multicolor offset
Counter sheet: 8 + 2
Paper: muffle 100g
Printing house: Blicdruk, Sarajevo
Motif: Picking Iva Grass
Catalog number: 823
Perforation: 13 3/4
Nominal value: 0.90 KM
Motif: Willow Grass
Catalog number: 822
Perforation: 13 3/4
Nominal value: 1.80 KM
Mount Ozren, also an ethnographic area, is located in the northern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the southern edge of the Pannonian Plain. It is surrounded by the rivers Spreča, Bosna and Krivaja. For centuries, it was inhabited by Serbs. From the medieval period until today, the monastery dedicated to St. Nikola, built according to tradition by the Serbian king Dragutin Nemanjić in the 13th century, was a spiritual center and the main gathering place of the Ozren population.
The population of Ozren has a special relationship with iva grass. It is believed that harvested on the day of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (September 11), has exceptional healing power. There is also a widespread saying that “the grass of the living from the dead makes the living”.
Willow grass can be found on many Ozren hills, but the population picks iva exclusively on the Gostilj hill on the day of the Cutting. The picking itself usually takes several hours, due to the steepness of the terrain, and due to the careful picking of the willow that should be found among the higher grass. After picking, when they go up to Gostilj, they spontaneously gather in many smaller groups, and have breakfast only fasting food, some do not even eat anything red out of respect for St. John because his blood was shed on that day. Many peoples can be seen in the folk costumes of Ozren, which have long since disappeared from everyday use. Traditional Ozren music is played and sung and the Ozren wheel is played. After picking and socializing, in the afternoon, Orthodox priests climb to the top of Gostilja where they consecrate the harvested willow.
Transmission today, as in the past, takes place within the family, very spontaneously and without certain forms and rules. Whenever they are sick, children and adults are given mercury tea or honey in which mercury has been crushed. The same is used preventively. Adults will often drink a glass of brandy in which the willow is soaked.
In the past, the custom of picking mercury grass on the Cutting was exclusively related to folk medicine, a practice that has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. Even today, it is the primary role, but it also symbolizes solidarity, hospitality, social integration and, by coincidence, the guardians of Ozren’s costumes, songs and games, which have almost disappeared in everyday life.
In 2018, UNESCO included the element “Picking mercury grass on Ozren” on the Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Author: Božidar Došenović, MA
Publisher: Post of Srpska a.d. Banja Luka
Professional cooperation: Museum in Doboj, Nebojsa Dragojlovic, MA, holder of the project of enrollment “Picking mercury grass on Ozren” on the UNESCO Representative List