Popular Science Monthly/Volume 35/August 1889/Blood-Vengeance and Pardon in Albania

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THE Albanians are accustomed to train ganders for fighting, for which purpose they feed them with such herbs as contribute most to the development of a pugnacious disposition. When one among them thinks his goose's courage has been sufficiently developed, he sends out a herald to go through the village uttering a challenge for any townsman having a gander which he is ready to pit in a combat to bring him to the ring for a match.

Such a challenge was sounded in the village of Unter Rogiza in the later days of August of last year. It was answered by a wealthy Albanian, who at once betook himself with his goose to the place where such spectacles were exhibited. His antagonist was already in waiting, with about a hundred on-lookers. The match had gone on for about two hours, when one of the champions began to fail. His owner wanted to help him, but the proprietor of the conquering goose would not permit it. Irritated by this, the losing owner raised his gun and shot the other man down on the spot. The spectators of the tragedy were so astonished for the moment that no movement was made to arrest the murderer, and he fled to the mountain. The friends of the murdered man instituted a pursuit of him, which was kept up for several hours, the murderer running up and down the hills, and his pursuers following him closely. Finally, when he saw that he could not escape, he turned toward the village and took refuge in the house of his victim. The dead Arso was lying in the room, and his mother beside him was weeping and lamenting the death of her only son. The murderer set his gun in the corner and said: "I am in your house; give me hessá (oath of protection), for they are going to kill me." He continued repeating these words till the old mother gave him the bessá. When his pursuers came up to the house, the mother of the dead Arso stepped to the door and waved a handkerchief toward them as a sign that no one should enter. The pursuers scattered, only the father of the deceased remaining in the yard. When they had all gone away, he went into the room where the murderer of his son was sitting by the mother, with a part of her mantle thrown over his knee.

"Go out of the room," she called to him; "I have given him my oath!"

The old man, without speaking, set his gun in the corner, kissed his son's cold forehead, and went out to make preparations for the funeral. At sunset, while the people of the village were busied with the affairs of their inner households, and even Arso's relatives were engaged each in his own particular duties, the old lady took her charge by the hand and led him out upon the mountain. As soon as she had seen him at a safe distance she told him: "Now my oath is fulfilled; you must look out for yourself after this!"

The obligation of the bessá had terminated; now followed the pursuit of vengeance. The more industriously the family of the murdered man sought for retribution, the more earnestly the friends of the murderer exerted themselves to obtain pardon. This state of affairs continued through two months.

At last the whole circle of the murderer's relatives met and decided to ask the father of the murdered man to remit the blood-penalty to the murderer. For this they all rose—the women taking their infants from the cradle and carrying them along—and went in a body to Arso's father. In front of the company marched the murderer, his head veiled with a linen cloth, and the gun with which he had committed the murder hanging from his neck, muzzle down. Behind him walked two of his particular friends, and after them the rest of the family procession. As they came near the house of the avenger, they all cried out as with one voice, "Aman ! aman !" ( pardon ); and continued the petition till noon. The father of the murdered man, without seeming to notice them, consulted with the members of his family whether he should, according to the customary law of the country, shoot the murderer at once or give him pardon. It was decided to pardon him. The father advanced toward the expectant company. The murderer knelt, ready to accept life or death, while the rest of the procession renewed their petition for pardon. The old gentleman took the murderer's gun and discharged it into the air; then lifted the cloth from his head and kissed him, in token of pardon. Then he kissed the other male members of the family procession, took the murderer by the hand, led him into the house, and set him in the son's place. The affair was concluded by a three days' feast in the avenger's house.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from Das Ausland.