Meskhetians - Kinship

Marriage among the Meskhetians was contracted between parties considered to be blood relations, but the pool of eligible partners was supplemented with artificial (or fictive) kin, who are not related genetically. This practice pertains to a person's patrilocal group ( kirva ) , the social function of which is similar to that of one's godparents. This group might include representatives of other ethnic communities. When one family takes on the role of artificial parent of a child from another family, the two groups are considered blood relatives. One way of doing this is the adoption of children from families with many children. The fact of adoption is confirmed by a ritual, at the conclusion of which the woman adopting the child, in the presence of her husband, passes the naked infant through the opening below the hem of her undershirt, in imitation of giving birth. These traditional practices served as a kind of self-regulating compensatory mechanism, allowing the continuation of preferred (structurally) endogamous marriage, whereas the various forms of artificial kinship enabled fresh blood to enter the genetic pool. Given the restrictions of endogamy, the institution of artificial kinship provided for the viability of the society.

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