This is a proposal for the SICANJE 2019 project. The purpose of the project is to create a bank of primary sources on the Croatian tradition of Sicanje and Bocanje in the region of Central Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is currently a lack of credible primary sources on this tradition, and since primary sources provide first-hand insights into a subject, a lack of availability of them greatly hinders further research in the field. This project proposes to fill the gap of the lack of these sources.

SICANJE Project 2019 from Mare Maracic on Vimeo.

The practice of Croatian Catholic tattooing in central Bosnia is referred to as Sicanje, Bocanje, or Saranje. Sicanje and Bocanje both mean “to prick”. Terms which are fitting because these tattoos were and still are created through a process that involves the pricking of the skin with a needle. Saranje, the other term, means “coloring”, and this term is used because of the coloring matter used to produce the ink of the tattoo. Although this mixture does have variations from location to location, and throughout history, it is generally made with a gunpowder (or soot mixture) stirred with saliva, honey and water.

The tradition of Sicanje in the Balkans has evolved out of a long existing tradition of tattooing in the area that was then re-attributed to Christianity as religious conversions began taking place. The practice itself can be traced as far back as to the Illyrians or Thracians. We have found Greek depictions of Illyrians on vases, showing their tattoos, and this was then further confirmed by archeological findings in the necropolises of Glasnica where some short and very pointed bronze needles fixed to a handle were discovered, which were used for tattooing.

The SICANJE Project, at its immediate and core function, will create a bank of primary sources that will be available to future scholars for continued academic research of these people and this tradition. The project will be executed in two phases. Phase 1 will document this tradition through the use of photography and recorded voice interviews. Phase 2 will entail a transcribing of each interview, both in its original language and an English translation. These images and interviews will then be published on a platform that will make this information readily available to both scholars and the public for further academic research and learning. The SICANJE 2019 project looks to help preserve the culture and heritage of this tradition for future generations of scholarship, but also for future generations of Croatians to come.


About the Author:

Marija Maracic received her Masters in History specializing in Art History from Cleveland State University in 2016, where she studied the history of traditional Croatian Catholic Sicanje. During her studies she became aware of the lack of credible primary sources on the topic available to academia. This project, and the cultural preservation of the Croatian heritage is something that is particularly close to her heart. Ms. Maracic was born in Central Bosnia and her grandmothers, great grandmothers, and great great grandmothers carried this traditions of Sicanje. She is also a proud and active member of “Kraljica Katarina, KD Hrvata BiH”, a nonprofit organization whose focus is the promotion of the heritage, customs and culture of the Croatian peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina.