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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balkan endogamy

nick says: “The Balkans had the 7th cousin law, that forbid them to marry anyone closer than the 7th cousin.”

i did a little googling on that and found what i think will probably prove to be a general pattern for balkan populations: a ban on marrying in the patriline, but marrying on the mother’s side is ok and even preferred. so the seventh-cousin law that nick is referring to relates only to paternal cousins.

this is just a preliminary look at the mating patterns in the balkans, btw. i need to do a lot more research on this.

anyway, this pattern of avoiding marriage in the patrline but preferring marriage to maternal relatives seems to hold for bosnian muslims, albanians, and macedonian slavs.

regarding the macedonian slavs: “The genealogical reckoning is primarily agnatic [i.e. through the male line – h. chick]. Kinship terminology distinguishes father’s brother (stric) from the mother’s brother (ujak), as well as using a special word to indicate sister’s or daughter’s husband (zet) and a woman married to a set of brothers (jetrva). On the agnatic side, marriage is forbidden up to the ninth generation, while the matrilineal first cousins could be regarded as possible mates if it was not for the canonical prohibition.

that’s the christian church’s ban on cousin marriage. but otherwise, marriage to matrilineal relatives is ok — and macedonian slavs would’ve approved of matrilineal first cousin marriage if it wasn’t for their church.

regarding the bosnian muslims, bringa reports (pg. 146) that “there is a preference for marrying agnatic affines.” agnatic refers to the paternal line — so your father and your paternal grandfather and all your paternal aunts and uncles, etc. affines are in-laws. so there is a preference amongst bosnian muslims to marry their in-laws connected to the father’s side of the family.

the most obvious members of that group would simply be one’s maternal relatives, i.e. your father’s in-laws (see?). but agnatic affines could also include, for instance, your paternal uncle’s wife’s relatives.

i know — it all gets kinda complicated. the important thing, though, is it’s all a sort of endogamous mating.

finally, the albanians. i’m going to reproduce a long-ish passage from State Collapse and Reconstruction in the Periphery: Political Economy, Ethnicity and Development in Yugoslavia, Serbia and Kosovo. just skip it if you’re bored already, but it talks about the clannishness or tribalness (the author’s words, not mine!) of the albanians and how their mating patterns have, at least traditionally, been endogamous, including marriage to maternal relatives (this is not strange, btw, since marriage to maternal relatives seems generally to be the most popular form of close family marriage around the world) [pgs. 64-67]:

“A brief description of Albanian society is required here. Albanians are divided into two language or dialect groups, the Gheg and the Tosk, with the Tosk dominating in southern Albania and the Gheg in northern Albania and the highlands (the division is roughly at the Shkumbi river). The Albanians in Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia are Ghegs (with some exceptions in southern Macedonia). Traditional structures, tribal or clan-based, as well as village community-based forms of social organisation remained important among the Albanian population in Kosovo throughout the Yugoslav period. There are notable elements of continuity in traditional loyalty structure and customary law (including the practice of blood feud). The terms ‘tribe’ and ‘clan’ are contested, but we may instead use the Albanian terms. The Albanian term ‘fis’ refers to a large groups which claim descent from one common male ancestor. Each fis is divided into sub-branches. Marriage within the same fis (based on the male line) is considered incestuous even if the ‘actual’ relationship is, say, nine or ten generations back (which does not apply on the maternal side).[12] In Kosovo there are about thirteen fises. A smaller group which traditionally has existed within the fis is a brotherhood or ‘vellazeri’, which is similar to the Balkan form of extended family, the ‘Zadruga’, but differs from it, for example, in that there was not a common budget. A ‘mehala’ is another term for a subgroup consisting of a number of closely related houses. A house, or a ‘shpi’ could itself consist of an extended family — something still existing in Kosovo although they have declined considerably during the Yugoslav period…. It should be noted that within the same fis some members can be Muslim and other Catholic. Among the Albanians there are Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox. The Orthodox prevail in south Albania (among the Tosk), whereas Kosovo is predominantly Muslim….

The traditional Albanian village consisted of the (often fortified) houses (kulle) of the extended families, but had no public spaces. There were no cafes or inns, or public buildings of any kind. All matters relating to society, or social life, were discussed inside the family houses, and the house was thereby of particular importance in Albanian cultural life…. In contrast to the pattern in northwestern Europe, for example, there were no intermediary associations or public spheres between the individual, or family, and the state and hence nothing resembling what has been called ‘civil society’ in the usage of eighteenth- or nineteenth-century thinkers. Indeed there was neither the social structure nor social infrastructure or type of economy for such an analytical term as ‘civil society’ to be applied; social life was shaped by the extended family (with its house), the clan and the village, and there was no social organisation beyond the extended family apart from the clan. All legal matters were strictly regulated in customary law and applied by the clans, or mediated in meetings by the elders (kuvend)….

“The Albanians … had no aspirations to an Albanian state before the twentieth century, but were quite content with remaining inside the Ottoman state. Although there may have been a growing Albanian identity, beyond the fis, especially in the nineteenth century, there was not really any expression of Albanian nationalism. Several factors made expressions of nationhood unlikely. There were disputes between clans, and the Albanians did not share a single religion, but were divided between Islam, Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism. The lifestyles of, for example, the Tosk in the south or in the coastal trading ports and the Gheg of the highlands were quite different.

“[12] As noted by Edith Durham, the Catholic Church prohibited marriage to the sixth degree, but on the maternal side much closer relatives might enter marriage. See Durham (1909: 22); The practice of prohibiting marriage within the fis remains today.”

previously: mating patterns in medieval eastern europe and invention of the modern world

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traditional family systems in medieval and modern poland

*update below*

i had a post up a few months ago about mating patterns in medieval eastern europe which i said at the time was just a preliminary view on that whole region of the world since eastern europe is a pretty big place and i want to look at the mating/family patterns for that whole region from at least the early medieval period up until today (*whew! – hbd chick wipes brow*). here goes another post on part of the region — poland — which, again, should just be viewed as an initial peek at what’s been going on mating-wise in that part of the world over the past several hundreds of years.

szopeno left a comment on the previous post the other day saying that the zadruga, which i had mentioned in the post, is/was mostly just a southern slav thing and not a western slavic institution.

sho’nuff, according to wikipedia, a zadruga is/was:

“[A] type of rural community historically common among South Slavs….

Originally, generally formed of one family or a clan of related families, the zadruga held its property, herds and money in common, with usually the oldest (patriarch) member ruling and making decisions for the family, though at times he would delegate this right at an old age to one of his sons….

The zadruga eventually went into decline beginning in the late 19th century, as the largest started to become unmanageable and broke into smaller zadrugas or formed villages. However, the zadruga system continues to color life in the Balkans; the typically intense concern for family found among South Slavs even today is partly due to centuries of living in the zadruga system. Many modern-day villages in the Balkans have their roots in a zadruga, a large number of them carrying the name of the one that founded them.

Villages and neighbourhoods that originated from zadrugas can often be recognized by the patronymic suffixes, such as -ivci, -evci, -ovci, -inci, -ci, -ane, -ene, etc., on their names.”

so that’s the southern slavs. what about the western ones? – in particular the poles?

in The Explanation of Ideology, emmanuel todd says that the traditional family system in poland was the egalitarian nuclear family (see map here) which is also found in parts of france and spain and southern italy. the characteristics of his egalitarian nuclear family include:

– no cohabitation of married children with their parents
– equality of brothers laid down by inheritance rules
– no marriage between the children of brothers

todd’s sources for poland, however, number only four. two of them are a census and a survey both from the 1970s. while those are interesting, they don’t tell us much about the (evolutionary) history of polish family- or mating-types. the third source [in french] relates to the 1700s, again fairly “recent,” especially given that todd claims to be talking about traditional family systems dating from 1500 to 1800 — i already discovered that he had some very late data for ireland — now it looks like todd’s kinda fudged the data for poland, too. anyway…

his final source is a book entitled Poland, Its People, Its Society, Its Culture [pg. 348]:

“The Polish family is characterized by marked internal strain and attenuation of family ties which are the final product of a long process of disintegration. Before Poland’s partition in the late eighteenth century the family was given cohesion by an ideal of family solidaritary extending to a large number of relatives by blood and marriage. The ideal, which is still held by all strata of the population [this was published in 1958 – h. chick], stressed the feeling of belonging to the family group, the integration of activities of family members to obtain common objectives, the utilization of family resources for needy members, and the maintenance of continuity between the parental family and new family units. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, family ties had become so attenuated that the ideal was rarely attained except by upper-class and intelligensia families. The nuclear family of husband, wife, and children, rather than the extended family (which includes many other relatives), became the norm among all social groups.”

so the nuclear family is relatively new in poland — the first partition of poland was in 1772, so 1770s until 2010s that’s ca. twelve conservative generations (a generation equalling twenty years).

in the medieval period in poland, community families were the thing. from East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500, Volume 3 [pg. 85]:

“A common residential pattern in the villages of medieval East Central Europe was an extended family of some kind. Nuclear families were not unknown, but the larger kinship group offered greater economic security in an uncertain environment, since its members could help one another. In Poland the so-called large family typically included three generations of men with their wives and children. The entire family worked the land together under the direction of the father or grandfather, and constituted the basic unit of social life.”

i don’t know if that qualifies as a zadruga, but the poles were definitely living in communal family arrangements in the middle ages.

here’s more from alan macfarlane [pgs. 18, 24-25, 31-32]:

“The central feature of traditional East European peasantry was that ownership was not individualized. It was not the single individual who exclusively owned the productive resources, but rather the household…. Galeski writes about the Polish family farm that ‘the children are both the heirs of, and workers on, the farm. As heirs they are also co-owners.’ ‘The farm is handed down from generation to generation, while the family — the successive usufructuries — carries a responsibility to its own children (and to village opinion) for the property in its charge….’

“[O]n the whole peasant societies are geographically relatively immobile. In the context of Poland, for example, this is taken for granted, our authors only alluding to it in asides. Thomas and Znaniecki suggest that one reason for the absence of romantic love is that it is psychologically impossible because ‘in most cases … all the possible partners are known from childhood.’ Galeski refers to the ‘marked spatial stability’ of the inhabitants of villages, stating that it is ‘a characteristic of the village community that the persons living in it are connected primarily by social, but also by territorial origin. They were usually born in the village or in a neighbouring village….’ The idea that people should spend their lives in half a dozen villages, or move from village to town and then back to the village is largely absent. Most of those who live in a community pass through all the major phases of their life in one area among a group of people they know from cradle to grave. Many of those around them are neighbours, but many are also kin, for one consequence of limited geographical immobility and an association between land and family is that territories fill up with kin….

[W]e find Galeski referring to the ‘strong ties of kinship among the families which make up the community.’ This is reinforced by the frequent intra-village marriages and results in the fact that ‘there are usually only a few family names in the village community. The village consists of several interrelated large families (or clans). For this reason, a village is sometimes defined as a family neighbour group….’

“Shanin [who was writing about russian peasants – h. chick] observes that ‘the village community operates to a great extent as an autonomous society….’ This author speaks in many places of this community-based society, of the hostility to ousiders, the satisfaction of all wants within the community, and other features. The same phenomenon is noted by Galeski for Poland, where he argues that the local community acts as the central economic, ritual, cultural and social control unit: the ‘village community is a primary group. Relationships among the inhabitants are based on personal contacts.’ The result of this is that a peasant society is made up of a host of largely identical, but mutually antagonistic and bounded territorial groups…. Although it is clear that peasant societies will vary in strength of community boundaries, it appears to be generally true that such nations could be called ‘particularist’ rather than ‘universalist.‘”

so, from around 1000 to 1500, poles were mostly living in community family groups. i’m not sure what happened after 1500, but it sounds as though extended families and strong family ties lasted well up and probably into the 1800s.

what i don’t know is what the mating patterns of poles were historically. did they marry cousins? the russians did from time to time, but hey — that’s the russians. the poles became roman catholics in 966, so they ought to have followed all the church’s bans on cousin marriages. but being catholic and marrying cousins never bothered the irish much and, of course, dispensations have often been available (southern italians have very frequently married their cousins up until quite recently). from galeski we learn that, at the very least, marriage was pretty endogamous amongst polish peasants. sounds like the poles are more like the greeks than the english or the medieval rural northern italians.

macfarlane quotes galeski as saying:

“Relationships among the inhabitants are based on personal contacts.”

well, not just personal contacts but genetic relatedness. most of a polish peasant’s relationship were with immediate family, extended family, or distant family. as macfarlane said, territories pretty quickly fill up with kin.

update 04/18: i don’t have access to this dissertation, but it looks like a good deal of medieval poles paid little heed to the church’s regulations on marriage. not surprising. several other medieval (and modern!) european societies did the same (egs. the italians, the irish).

previously: mating patterns in medieval eastern europe

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