Albanians - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Residence in Albanian clan society was strictly virilocal. Marriage arrangements were always exogamous and made by the head of the household. Children were betrothed sometimes even before birth, often in respect of an existing alliance or in order to establish friendship or peace with another clan. Religious differences between the families were no obstacle. A part of the bride-price was paid after the girl was born, the balance when she was old enough to be handed over to the bridegroom's relatives, who picked her up in a marriage procession. Girls were married between the ages of 13 and 16, boys between 15 and 18. Regionally, dowry also was given to the girl by her family, and if she was widowed and sent home, she could take with her whatever remained. Levirate was also practiced. Sometimes young widows were resold, the profit being shared between her former husband's family and her own. A wife was regarded as her husband's property, as were her children; unmarried women belonged to their fathers. If a wife failed to give birth to a son, her husband was allowed to divorce her by cutting off a piece of her dress and sending her home to her family. Such a woman was considered worthless and she had almost no chance of being married again. Church influence ended the practice of taking a woman Without marrying her until she proved her fertility. A woman's only possibility of escaping an unwanted marriage without causing bloodshed between the families involved was to promise perpetual virginity as a verdzin, which entailed the difficult task of finding a number (which varied according to region) of co-jurors from her own clan who would agree to feud if she failed to maintain her oath. A verdzin was allowed to take over male responsibilities and duties, and in some areas she dressed like a man. In the mountains there was often a shortage of women, causing a regional explosion in the amount of bride-price, which in turn led to marriage by capture in some cases. Socialism prohibited traditional customs concerning marriage and promised the free choice of partner to both sexes.

Domestic Unit. In the anthropological literature the extended household organized by fraternal principle is known by the original Serb word zadruga (see "Kin Groups and Descent").

Inheritance. Leadership positions traditionally were not inherited but achieved. One exception was the public post of a bayraktar or standard-bearer (see "Political Organization"), though even here, merit was the basis of a holder's choice of his successor from among his sons. Another exception was the position of captain ( kapedan), or head of the clan, which was transmitted hereditarily through the Gjomarkaj family of the large clan of Mirditë, who were the keepers of all knowledge about the "Kanun" or traditional law (see "Social Control"). The Kanun also regulated inheritance for the household and specified that land and other property never be divided up but always remain communal within the agnatic group, with the household head having control over its use. Land could not be bequeathed to the church by anyone without permission of the clan assembly. In the event of the deaths of their husbands or fathers, women were left to the charge of their respective agnates. In the case of the Minority of a sole male heir or of the total lack of male heirs, an elder sister could choose to become a verdzin as a classificatory male household head to care for the property and keep it together for subsequent generations.

Socialization. On the third day after birth ( poganik ) three fairies would predict a child's fortune, according to traditional belief. Although baptized after three to four weeks, the child was actually initiated into the community of the house through the ritual of the first haircut when the child was about one year old. A lack of sons or of children altogether was regarded as a misfortune. Ritual techniques and amulets protected children from the evil eye. Fathers often exchanged their young sons to raise them even more strictly, and Children were only allowed to speak when spoken to. A man had to carry weapons (a rifle or pistol) to be taken seriously. Girls were introduced to domestic work very early. The main Concerns of child care and education were developing toughness and respect for elders, especially men. Initially the socialist government faced high rates of illiteracy, which has now almost vanished. Today children normally attend a crèche from about 6 months old, before going to kindergarten and then, from the age of about 6, to school. Socialist state education stressed the symbolic "triangle of education, productive work, and physical and military training."

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Lauren Caissy
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Sep 26, 2013 @ 9:09 am
Do arrange marriages between `clans` still happen to this day between albanians?
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Jul 30, 2019 @ 11:11 am
There is a close similarity with cultures of Gilgit/Baltistan, (Northern Areas) Pakistan in the particular context of Hunza. How can I know more about Albanian alphabets pronounced through audio/video visuals?

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