krsna slava

krsna slava is a traditional serbian (although it seems that there are similar traditions elsewhere in the balkans) celebration of a family’s particular patron saint — and by “family” here i mean an extended, patrilineal family — a celebration by a man and his wife and their sons and their families (if they have any) plus any unmarried daughters. a wife would celebrate the slava with her husband and his family of their patron saint, not the one which she grew up with (although if a woman was the last in her line, her slava might be celebrated in the household, too). the tradition goes right back to at least the medieval period — the earliest known record of slava celebrations is from 1018 a.d. [pg. 68] — although it probably has pre-christian roots.

the krsna slava qualifies as “clannish” as far as i am concerned (even though the serbs might not — surprisingly — be the most clannish of the balkan populations — more on that some other time). the slava is a way of distinguishing one extended family from another — each family has its own patron saint and own slava day (the saint’s feast day, i think) — and there’s some evidence/suggestions that the slava tradition ties back into the days when the serbs (and other balkan populations) were organized more into clans or tribes and not just extended families.

from Serbia [pgs. 42-43]:

“There are many facets of Orthodox religious practice that are central to Serbian culture even for individuals who are not especially religious. One of the most important of these is the custom of celebrating *slava*, a practice which may also be encountered in Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Croatia, although it is most commonly associated with the Serbs. *Slava*, which might be best translated as meaning ‘praise’ or ‘glory’, is the celebration of a patron saint. Each family celebrates its own saint, who is considered to be its protector. A particular *slava* is inherited from father to son and the occasion brings families together as each household, in sharing the same *slava*, is obliged to celebrate the event together. In special cases, such as migration abroad, family members may stage the event separately but as a rule it takes place under one roof, that of the family patriarch.

“During a *slava* the family home is open to anyone who wishes to drop by. It is considered untraditional to actually invite guests outside the family, but visitors are welcomed if they come of their own free will. To be turned away from a Serbian home during a *slava* is unheard of as this would bring disgrace to the household. The Krsna *slava* ritual involves the breaking of bread and the lighting of a candle by a priest. A prayer is said over the *koljivo* — ground cooked wheat — the third of the three ingredients central to the *slava* ceremony (the Serbs have a thing about the number three). Incense is burned and everyone present is blessed with holy water before the priest blesses and cuts the bread in the sign of the cross. The bread is then rotated by the family patriarch, his godfather and the priest before everyone assembled sits down for a meal. Of the various saints’ days, the most commonly celebrated are those of St. Nicholas (Nikolijdan) on 19 December, St. George (Durdevan) on 6 May, St. John the Baptist (Jovanjdan) on 20 January and St. Archangel Michael (Arandelovdan) on 21 November.

The custom of *slava* is believed to date back to the late 9th century when the Serbs were first Christianised. It is thought that each of the Serb tribes adopted its collective saint protector around this time and this is borne out by *slava* variations according to geographical regions. Another commonly held belief, which does not necessarily contradict this, is that the custom of *slava* is a remnant from pre-Christian paganism and that *slava* was a syncretic adaptation in which the qualities of the old Serbian gods found sustenance in the personalities of the new Christian saints. Occasionally, a new *slava* is adopted when it is believed that a particular saint has facilitated deliverances from an afflication such as an illness, in response to prayer.”

interestingly, though:

“As well as individuals and families, various communities such as villages, cities, organisations, political parties, institutions and professions, can have their own *slava*. Belgrade’s *slava* is on Ascension Day, which takes place on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter each year.”

middling inbreeders/outbreeders, the serbs? more in-betweeners? dunno.

james hedman (of the nsa?! (~_^) ) commented the other day:

“The tribes of Arabia were at the time of Mohammed by and large polytheistic pagans, each tribe having its own specific deities to nature, such as oases, trees, and weather.”

quite so. from Islam: A Guide for Jews and Christians [pgs. 41-42]:

“The inhabitants of Arabia assuredly had a religious tradition before Islam, and although we are not particularly well informed about it, it appears to have been quite complex, as we would expect to discover in societies that were splintered into tribes and clans of widely varying sizes, some sedentary and some nomadic, with a number of the latter ranging seasonally over enormously broad terrains.

“The inhabitants of the Hajaz worshiped the way they lived: the small settled populations visited fixed shrines in oases, whereas the Bedouin carried their gods with them. The objects worshiped were principally stones, trees, and heavenly bodies, or rather, the gods thought to reside in them, or possibly — and here we begin to enter a world we do not fully understand — represented by them. Reasonably clear is that in the more recent Arabian past sacred stones were increasingly being shaped into human likenesses, rough or fine, perhaps, it has been surmised, because of the extension of Hellenistic styles into the peninsula.

“However the devotees thought of it, Arabian cultus was highly volatile, the deities often sharing characteristics, being harmonized into families, or passing now into the possession of this tribe and now of that. There is a distinctly tribal notion to the Arabs’ worship of the gods. On the basis of the South Arabian evidence, with which the more meager Arab tradition concurs, each tribe or tribal confederation had a divine patron whose cult gave the group a focus for its solidarity. In a practice that points directly to what was occurring at Mecca, each of these ‘federal deities’ was the ‘lord’ of a shrine that served as the federation’s cult center.”

i feel that the krsna slava of the serbs is just a half step away from the tribal gods of the arabs, and both of them are clearly related to household deities. all of these “clan gods” serve to both unite extended families/clans/tribes AND to distinguish them from all the other extended families/clans/tribes out there.

the best sort of “clan god” worship, imho, has got to be the veneration of the dead. have some shrines in your house to your ancestors — maybe exhume them every now and again just to say hello. how more uniting can THAT be to actually remember, on a regular basis, (former) members of your actual family/clan? it’s very direct. i like that!

i kinda/sorta recognize the family patron saint thing from my own semi-clannish background. traditionally, individuals often had “favorite” saints, and it was not uncommon for kids to adopt their parents’ favorite saints, although, afaik, there were no hard-and-fast rules about this. and there were no party days on the saints’ days (d*rn!). my mother adopted my grandfather’s (her father’s) favorite saint, and i am actually named after that saint. my gradmother’s favorite saint was st. martin de porres:


granny was always so daring! (~_^)

previously: mating patterns in medieval eastern europe

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random notes: 06/01/13

pretty much only medieval europe today…

from East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500 [pgs. 87-89, 91]:

In some parts of medieval East Central Europe animal herding was the primary means of livelihood. In Albania the inhabitants of the coastal districts evidently lost their connection with agriculture in the 6th and 7th centuries in the wake of the Slavic invasions. Adopting a pastoral life-style, they survived by tending sheep in the mountains, migrating twice annually between winter and summer pastures. These mountaineers regularly raided the plains settlements, supplementing their incomes with plunder. The Magyars had been herders on the Ukrainian steppes prior to invading Central Europe; and even in Hungary, stock raising was their principal means of support. They avoided the thick beeach and pine forests which could not be used as pasture, leaving these to Slavic, German, or Vlach peasants. Travelers of the 12th century described Hungary as one vast grazing area, interrupted only occasionally by patches of cultivated land. The Magyars spent their winters in villages set alongside riverbanks, often in shelters hollowed out of the earth. In spring they sowed their seed, then moved on to the grasslands where they lived in tents. At harvest time they returned to their villages. Their winter habitats were usually near a fortress, while summer residences were located in the vicinity of pastures.

Similarly the early Serbs lived primarily from stock raising, an occupation well suited to their hilly country. (The region known as Serbia in the 12th century faced the Adriatic and included the rough terrain of Hercegovina and Montenegro.) The chronicler William of Tyre, passing through Serbia in 1168 on his way to the Holy Land, described the local people as warlike mountaineers, rich in milk, cheese, butter, meat, honey, and wax. The Serbs that he observed lived entirely from the products of their herds, although we now know that they also practiced a moderate agriculture in the valleys. Hog raising was a primary activity in medieval Serbia just as in modern times, thanks to an abundant supply of acorns for pigs to feed upon in the thick oak forests. Hunting was also important: bears, wolves, stags, boars, rabbits, martens, and foxes were abundant. Fishing was carried on everywhere in the lakes and streams….

Stock raising continued to be widely practiced in East Central Europe long after agriculture had become the dominant economic activity. Many animal herders were Vlachs (ancestors of the modern Romanians), who spoke a language derived from Latin. Subsisting on the products of their flocks, they lived in the mountainous regions of southern Poland, Transylvania, and the Balkan Peninsula….

“Whether a free agricultrual population — consisting neither of serfs bound to the land nor of slaves who were owned outright — existed in the early medieval period is a question not easily answered. Conditions varied widely from country to country, and even within a single regions. Nevertheless, it is clear that when the great Slavic migrations came to an end in the 6th-7th centuries and the tribesmen settled down to agriculture, serfdom was unknown. Settled areas were held in common by the clans or tribes….

Hungary in the 11th and 12th centuries was still largely a pastoral country, where members of the tribes remained free people subject only to their sovereign. The class of true peasants, as opposed to herders engaging in occasional agriculture, was for a long time relatively small. The spread of serfdom was hindered at first by the fact that so much of the land still belonged to communities of herdsmen….. [A]s agriculture gradually replaced herding, the property of the clans was broken up into private estates which were held mainly by nobles and churchmen. Gradually the free Magyar clansmen were transformed into serfs.”

who knew? previously: the flatlanders vs. the mountain people and more on albanians.

how to put a stop to a feud the early medieval way (the following event happened in the 500s a.d.) — from Family, Friends and Followers: Political and Social Bonds in Early Medieval Europe [pg. 33]:

“[K]inship ties were immensely important to the status and rank of this nobility. This may be seen, for instance, from Gregory of Tours’ report of a bitter feud between two Frankish kin-groups. In this case offence had been given when a man from one kin-group was accused of associating with prostitutes and being unfaithful to his wife, who belonged to the other kin-group. This provoked the woman’s brother to attack his brother-in-law, leading to a series of fights in which both men, and most of their supporters, were killed. The fathers of the two dead men then took up the feud. The Merovingian queen, Fredegund, brought an end to the fighting: she invited the leaders of both warring factions to a meal and, when these men and their *pueri* had become drunk, she had them all killed. There can be little doubt that the two kin-groups involved were extremely powerful because the remaining *parentes* were still strong enough to force the queen to flee.”

so, the merovingian franks were still clannish and feuding. previously: early medieval bavarians and feuds & honor killings.

here, btw, is fredegund … attempting to kill her daughter! (no idea if she was successful or not):


finally, khan krum — krum the horrible — of bulgaria after his defeat of the byzantine emperor nikephoros i being served some wine by a (very nervous looking) servant. the wine has been poured into a skull cup made from nikephoros’ cranium!:

krum the horrible

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mating patterns in medieval eastern europe

i said i would start taking a look at the mating patterns of eastern europe after christmas, so here i am! (^_^) hold on … here we go …

first of all, eastern europe is a big place, not to mention the medieval period, so consider this a premlinary view of things (which it is).

the second thing to note is that, except for the southern areas of eastern europe that were part of the byzantine empire, christianity arrived later in eastern europe than in western — for instance, the serbs converted between the seventh and ninth centuries, while the rus not until the ninth and tenth. so, whatever the pre-christian mating practices of all these slavs were — no doubt quite endogamous since we’re talking about slavic tribes here — they probably continued with those practices for several hundred years longer than western european populations did. the catholic church had put a ban on cousin marriage as early as the 400s; and the germanic franks and visigoths, for example, already had complimentary civic laws banning cousin marriages by the 500 and 600s. (not all western europeans stopped inbreeding so early. see the “Inbreeding in Europe” series down below ↓ in the left-hand column for more details.) so, eastern europeans were probably inbreeding for at least a couple of hundred years longer than (north)western europeans.

now, eve levin in Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700 describes how both pre-christian southern slavs and the rus lived in extended familiy communal groups called zadruga or obshchina in russian. these family groups were patrilinear and patrilocal and often consisted of up to four generations of an extended family living together with great-grandpa in charge. most slavs continued to live in such extended-family households post-conversion, too.

levin says that the pre-christian slavs were concerned about inbreeding within the zadruga, so it’s likely that they avoided first- and second-paternal cousin marriage. i would guess that maternal cousin marriage was the norm since that is the most common form of cousin marriage globally, but that is only a guess on my part. (see the paragraph about the south slav trebnici in the excerpts below, tho.) the christian church in the east banned first- and second-cousin marriage, which coincided well with slavic family structure, and in addition also, of course, banned both paternal and maternal cousin marriage.

in russia specifically, the canon laws regarding marriage varied over time (they did so in western europe, too). between the 1100s and 1400s, there were no specific bans on cousin marriage, only a ban on “marriage within the clan.” levin claims that during this time period, the russians did not consider mating by cousins to be incestuous, so you would think there would’ve been a good deal of cousin marriage during these centuries amongst the russians. so that’s another four hundred years or so of close mating practices by the russians as compared to western europeans. recall that during the 1000s and 1100s in western europe, the church had banned marriages up to and including sixth cousins. after 1215, it was up to and including third cousins. by the end of the 1400s in russia, marriage with persons up to fourth cousin was banned by the orthodox church.

levin also points out that the serbs seemed to, overall, have more regulations about cousin marriage than either the russians or bulgarians. the serbian church had heavy penances for even second cousin marriage, so perhaps the serbs have been outbreeding for longer than the russians.

here are some excerpts from Sex and Society in the World of the Orthodox Slavs, 900-1700. more on this part of europe anon! pages 136-144 (links added by me):

“The Slavs abhorred incest long before the introduction of Christianity. Authors condemned outsiders, usually unjustly, for their incestuous customs. The traditional definition of incest, however, seems to have been a sexual relation between members of a family living as a unit. In-laws were included, but not more distant relatives who did not share the same household, especially through the female line. Thus Slavic notions of propriety in matters of consanguinity did not coincide in all respects with the dictates of canon law….

“Orthodox canon law recognized four types of consanguinity: by blood, by marriage, by adoption, and by spiritual bond. Slavic hierarchs recognized restrictions on intermarriage and extramarital intercourse for all four causes. The Byzantine sources — the nomocanon, the syntagma, and secular codes — offered a wide variety of rules to chose from on consanguinity and affinity. For example, Byzantine canons prohibited marriage among distant cousins and families of in-laws, while civil law labeled as incestuous a narrow range of relations: between parents and children, stepparents and stepchildren, brothers and sisters, uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, and first cousins. The adoption of laws governing consanguinity roughly matched the dominant family structure….

“Among the South Slavs [bulgarians, serbs, croats, macedonians, slovenes, bosniaks & montenegrins], the extended communal family (zadruga) was established as the basic social unit. The zadruga commonly included the patriarch and his wife (who directed the other women in the household), his sons and their wives and children, and even those children’s grandchildren. The family house could contain four generations at a time, and persons as distantly related as second or third cousins. The Slavic zadruga was almost exclusively patrilinear and patrilocal. Descent was traced through the father, and inheritance of land passed primarily through the male line. Sons brought their brides into the parental household, while daughters were married out into other families.

“When the family became too numerous to live together comfortably, or a dispute arose over shares of property, the zadruga would dissolve itself into nuclear families. In time, through marriage and the birth of children, each nuclear family would again become an extended zadruga….

“The canon law’s ban on the marriage of third cousins thus coincided with the South Slavs’ conception of the family unit. Relatives in the male line to four generations would be living in the same household; marriages between them would fall under the nearly universal incest taboo. Relatives in the female line, other than the mother’s immediate family, might well be strangers. Thus South Slavic trebnici raised questions concerning marriages among bratucedi, literally ‘brother-children,’ but rarely mentioned the question of sestricni, or ‘sister-children.’ The traditions of Orthodox canon law, on the other hand, required equal observance of degrees of consanguinity in both male and female lines.

“Changes in Russian versions of canon law on incest coincided with changes in family structure. The proto-Slavic zadrga fell into disuse as a residential system in twelfth-to-fifteenth century Russia, although landholding continued to be communal. There the residential household usually consisted of a nuclear family, occasionally joined by an elderly parent or a young bride…. The rules on incest in the Code of Jaroslav reflect this familial arrangement. They prescribe fines for relations between parents and children or children’s spouses, brothers and sisters, and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. More distant relatives are not named specifically, but are subsumed under the vague category of ‘marriage within the clan.’ This categorization implies that marriage was forbidden if a familial relationship was known to exist, but the exact degree of kinship was not an issue.

“More extensive rules on incest appeared toward the end of the fifteenth century. Marriages between persons more closely related than fourth cousins were prohibited. If a union was contracted unknowingly between third cousins, it was allowed to stand only with great resistance. This alteration may be explained in part by the influx of South Slavic clerics who fled the Turkish takeover of the Balkans, bringing with them the canons and outlook of their homelands. Yet the availability of an alternative set of rules on incest does not explain its acceptance. The reemergence of the extended family in late-fifteenth-century Russia made expanded incest regulations pertinent. Land cadasters, especially from Novgorod, reveal that peasants had switched to extended family living units akin to the South Slavic zadruga….

“According to most ecclesiastical authors, consanguinity up to the eighth degree [russian calculation, which equals third cousins] precluded marriage, although some would permit a marriage between relatives in the seventh degree [second-cousins once-removed, i think], contracted unknowingly, to stand, albeit with a penance. Relationships through the male and the female lines were treated identically….

“Ignorance of kinship did not constitute grounds for complete exoneration of the offending couple. Their marriage still offended God and endangered the welfare of the community. In order to prevent incestuous unions contracted out of ignorance or deceit, priests were instructed to question prospective brides and grooms carefully, and their parents as well, in order to ascertain that marriage did not violate canon law. Observance of canons on marriage probably underlay the law in the Code of Stefan Dusan requiring all Serbs to go to their own priests to be married….

“Fewer codes of canon law and penitential questionnaries included questions about more distant relatives by blood [than parents or siblings], with the exception of first cousins. Instead, they included general prohibitions on ‘incest’ and ‘marriage within the clan’ (v rodou). The severity of the recommended penances indicate that close relatives were intended. Although Byzantine law available in Slavic translation included provisions against sexual relations with an aunt or a niece by blood or marriage, very few native codes mention these transgressions. Because the Slavic family tended to be exogamous and patrilocal, it would be unusual for an adult aunt or niece by blood to live in the same household as nephew or uncle. First cousins, however, frequently shared the same dwelling, at least as children, and their relationship was viewed as nearly as close as that between siblings or half-siblings. For that reason, analogous penances were recommended, ranging from two to sixteen years of fasting; a ten-year penance was the most common.

“Specific prohibitions on sexual intercourse between distant relatives by blood appeared only sproadically. Incest with cousins was more likely to be mentioned in Serbian penitential questions and trebnik nomokanony than in Russian or Bulgarian ones. Regulations against incest between second cousins listed a penance of nine or ten years’ exclusion from communion, which could be shortened under the rules of St. John the Penitent to one year and four months or two years of fasting. For incest between third cousins, the basic penance was eight years, but few codes included a specific provision regarding this relationship.

“Russian codes earlier than the sixteenth century tended to omit specific regulations concerning illicit intercourse or marriage between second and third cousins, although descriptions of degrees of kinship forbade intermarriage between individuals so closely related. Apparently Russians from the eleventh century to the fifteenth did not regard unions between cousins as incestuous. Even clerics who tended to be exacting in regard to the letter of the law, such as the Greek-born metropolitan Ioann II, had to make concessions to native attitudes. Ioann permitted marriage between third cousins, with a penance. The terms in which he outlawed marriage between second cousins make clear that such unions took place. The late-fourteenth-century explication of degrees of kinship in the Sofijskaja Kormcaja permitted marriages among blood relatives related in the sixth degree: a man could marry his first cousin’s granddaughter.

“Cousin marriages had a practical application: reconsolidation of ancestral lands. Because the Slave practiced partible inheritance, the ancestral lands became fragmented after a few generations. While communal ownership by the zadruga mitigated the effects of partible inheritance for a time, eventually holdings became subdivided. When a daughter-heir could be married to her male cousin, the ancestral estate could be reconstituted, at least in part….

“It was possible to contract an incestuous union unknowingly … because lineage was popularly traced more through the male line than through the female. Canon law had to make provisions for the accidental incestuous marriage of third cousins before the relationship was discovered. Clerics disagreed about marriages arranged out of ignorance between persons related in the seventh or eight degree [russian calculation]. Some ordered such unions dissolved, and the husband and wife undergo the penance for cousin incest (ten years); others permitted the couple to remain married, though with a penance.”

previously: whatever happened to european tribes? and big timeline of european mating patterns (as yet incomplete…)

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tribalism makes a comeback!

(had it ever really gone away?)

Rise of the Hans
By Joel Kotkin

“But most people do not really see themselves as members of a large multinational unit, global citizens, or ‘mass consumers.’ Instead the drivers of history remain the essentials: the desire to feed one’s family, support the health of the tribe, and shape the immediate community. The particularistic continues to trump the universalistic….

“The new tribalism is also increasingly evident in Europe. Just a few years ago Europhiles like French eminence grise Jacques Attali or left-wing author Jeremy Rifkin could project a utopian future European Union that would stand both as a global role model and one of the world’s great powers. Today, Rifkin’s ideal of a universalistic ‘European dream’ is collapsing — a process accelerated by the financial crisis — as the continent is torn apart by deep-seated historical and cultural rifts.

Europe today can best be seen as divided between three cultural tribes: Nordic-Germanic, Latin, and Slavonic. In the north, there is a vast region of prosperity, a zone of Nordic dynamism. Characterized by economies based on specialized exports, a still powerful Protestant ethic, and a culture that embraces authority, these countries — including Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany, and, arguably, the Baltic states — are becoming ever more aware of the cultural, fiscal, and attitudinal gulf between them and the southern countries….

“In a world dominated increasingly by Asia, northern Europe cannot be anything more than a peripheral global power, which may explain its new introversion. Instead these resilient cultures more accurately represent a revival of the old Hanseatic League, a network of opportunistic and prosperous trading states that ringed the North and Baltic seas during the 13th century. This new league increasingly battles over issues of trade and fiscal policy, often with ill-disguised contempt, with the southern European countries I call ‘the Olive Republics’: a region typified by dire straits, with rapidly aging populations, enormous budget deficits, and declining industrial might. Southern Europe now constitutes a zone of lassitude that extends from Portugal and Spain through the south of France, Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, and Bulgaria.

“The last European tribe includes the Slavic countries, centered by Russia but extending to parts of the Balkans as well, places like Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia, and Moldova that historically have looked east as well as west and are currently defined by shrinking populations and weak democratic institutions. A historic pattern of Russian domination is evident here, based in large part on a revived Slavic identity that embraces similarities in religion, culture, history, and language with countries living under Russia’s shield. In this sense the czars are back, not a great development for the rest of the world or for the fading chimera of a “common European home….'”

this is an ages old divide in europe — latins+the british isles (-the anglo-saxons, of course) versus the germans versus the slavs. going right back to, possibly, the neolithic when famers from the middle east spread out through europe, mainly taking a southern, mediterranean route (club med! who wouldn’t?), as far as i can see, through the balkans, italy, the iberian peninsula, up through france and finally hitting the british isles:

this tripartite division of europe has influenced|dictated so much in european history. i mean, look at the (broadly speaking) religious divide in europe (just look at it!):

latins+british isles=roman catholic; germans=protestant; slavs=eastern orthodox.

also, latins+british isles=piigs; germans=the thrifty, competent people who might get stuck bailing-out the e.u.; slavs=f*cked up former communist countries.

the economic|tribal divide in europe that kotkin talks about is the same one that has created the long-standing cultural divides in europe. all of it is founded in long-standing genetic divides in europe — i.e. there are different peoples in europe.

after all, where does culture come from again?

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slavic values?

what always struck me about this graphic from the world values survey site is not that the “ex-communist” european groups are “ex-communists” but that most of them are slavsrussians, ukrainians, belorussiansbosniaks, bulgarians, croatians, macedonians, montenegrins, serbs, slovenesczechs, poles, and slovakians.

for that matter, dontcha think it’s interesting that the protestant european groups are pretty much all germanic peoples?

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