Frascineto - Eianina: Historical Documents
© 2001-2004 Alicia Bodily
The Italian version of this article was provided by Domenico Cortese of Lungro.
Born in Frascineto 2.26.1823 of Francesco and Vittoria Bellusci.
30 Nov. - 5 Dec.1844 from the magazine "IL CALABRESE"
I. Among the customs that shine brightest in admirable originality among the Albanian people, those that solemnize the nuptial days merit the greatest distinction. We, leaning toward reflecting them with an eye that looks into the intimate sense of the original expression of what now informs about a life[style] only from memories, feel carried away into the years when they established the first foundations of human societies. At that time we will always have to admire the simple grandeur of nature as superior to the affected sophistry of the corrupted centuries: We will point out to you that the human heart in its immense effusion puts to shame the cold selfishness of praised civilization. That much that is solemn that accompanies the Albanian wedding is a former residue of the antiquity of Albania, a residue that the dispersed children of that land reserved as an object that tied them to the abandoned homes that served them as the sacred Palladium in the foreign land. These remains of customs therefore brings back the heroic times of the people to whom smiled without time the white peaks of the Cerauni. And [this is] for sure: If song and dance are expressions of strong feelings that a spoken language in vain expresses during the infancy of populations, song and dance are the particulars that most stand out in the nuptial seasons of the Albanians, because they are days of the craziest enthusiasm.
II. As the solemnities approach, if it happens that during the day of the festivity the almost periodical ancient group of dancers (lit. dance, round) passes in front of the door of the spouses, the group gives them the wish of a beautiful and happy future, beginning the song with expressions such as these:
Now that I pass by here I carry [come to wish] fortune Because fortune is wished To our spouses. The groom has a strong branchy Back, and a hand like iron, The bride has a pomegranate On her beautiful face. The husband is a hard knob Of evergreen olive tree, The bride is the most vivid flower Of charming April.And it continues going on about the particulars of the betrothed. These songs are like the foretelling of the great day, they are the first movements of the enthusiasm in which shines the period of time consecrated to the feasts of Hymen.
IV. The day of the feast arrives. The bride, wrapped in a white scarf, with her cheeks bathed by tears which are children of the heart that goes back and forth between the tenderness of the solemn step and the bitterness of the abandonement of the home, circled about by her young friends, aunts, her mother, awaits the great moment and her household expresses only an indefinable sadness that falls like lead on the heart, because [the household] becomes widowed of a dear object. On the other hand the house of the groom is exultant with unusual joy. Rounds of shots repeated since the morning spreads around the happiness of the day. [In] The family, totally busy, one fixes the feathers in the bed, another sweeps the rooms, another decorates it with their own things, another gets busy preparing the banquet. But now the time has come [lit. "sounded"]. The young friends help the groom to put on the new clothes, and at the same time that they fix his head of hair, a choir sings thus the high and solemn song, a bold address to the comb:
Oh gentle comb, Of the betrothed Tidy up well his hair, or you will be By me broken, and on the nude floor thrown out By the insulting foot you will be smashed (1).Once the groom is dressed up and in the middle of his comrades that form a procession, he comes out of the house, with the previous blessing of his parents and the good-bye of his dear ones. But a tear comes up in his eye, because joy overcomes his heart, and the choir sings:
Look ...a water drop or tear is bathing his pupil! Neither water drop nor tear Is coming from his eyes. Of his parents is the sweet affection That gushes out from his breast(2).Thus singing the procession starts walking toward the bride's home.
V. In the midst of her dear ones, in the arms of her crying mother, crying also the bride in a secret room is busy taking care of her attire. The door of the room is closed, so that whoever comes to kidnap her won't surprise her suddenly - it's the time for her to get ready for the undertaking. But a gunshot nearby announces to her that the groom is already coming, and the choir outside urges her to come out:
Come outside, silver brooch, Here awaits you the sparrow-hawk The sparrow-hawk of the mountain. Filled with warm thoughts He is breaking forth the mighty wind, [with] The wings full of much snow He is coming to your threshold. He wants to settle down and where To settle down he doesn't yet know, But now he moves in order to see Where he must fall, and he goes. And he falls amid a cloud Of wandering partridges, And he chooses the beautiful one Of the high slopes, Of the head like a brooch [beautiful], Of the lips that shine With gentle red [minium, red oxide], Of the breast that shakes As the stalk [tree] in April.The door opens, and the bride goes out while she receives the good-byes from her parents and friends, and the female choir sings:
What have I done to you, oh my mother, who are so Cruel that from your breast you pull me away [lit. "you wake me up"], From the sweet hearth of my ancestors!And they start going toward the Temple - In front fast-footed young boys shaking in their hands fiery veils go along singing and they pound the streets as the forewarners of the celebration. They are followed by the procession of the groom, and he can be recognized by the imposing presence, by the mantle and the hat of magnificent shape that in that solemn day raise him up as a king (vasiglee), because on that day he turns into the king of the family. Behind them finally and with slow steps the bride moves with a veil on her face, so that her modesty won't suffer, having a crown on her head (the chesa) and a long trail held up by her brothers and sisters - signs that manifest her quality of queen. The street resounds with the songs of double choirs, the gunshots can be heard, which now either starting from the street or from the verandahs loaded with awaiting people, alternate each other like the echoes of a battle, while from the doors of the length of the course rain on the head of the gentle couple vegetable seeds to wish them eternal fertility and abundance - Here are the songs to the wife by the women's choir:
Oh may our sister be able to shine, Oh may she shine brightly and beautifully As the dawn when it appears, As the moon when it disappears. Oh you most clear winter moon; Oh if it pleases you, also become dark [so that] For us shines with a great brilliance This little graceful nymph of love. Oh graceful tree of sunbathed ground, If you wish, be an enemy of the shadow The shadow that this gentle [woman] makes, No, that in the world has no similitude. Split yourself oh mountain, to make a road, where today on it slowly walks this partridge. She attempts to come down and where To come down she doesn't yet know, But when she sees the doorstep Of her mother in law she moves, And she goes there. Oh you little she bird with the adorned mane, Now you come around up here to us, With beautiful silk gathered at the foot To take it to your mother in law where she is.and in every pause of the song [can be heard] two or three or four gunshots. Except for a few inversions the song of the groom is the same.
VI. After the sacred ceremony takes place in the style of the Oriental church, the two processions sent to the house of the groom go back from the temple, in the same order in which they went to the Temple at first. The same songs are repeated, the shots continue, the throwing of vegetable seeds from the windows on the streets upon which the processions walk. -When they have come near the house set up to receive them, the bride, obstructed by hers [her family and friends] refuses to continue the journey. In vain the husband turns back shouting in a loud voice to leave the friend already conquered, and unmovable her entourage provokes him to the last effort. At this point, the groom, tired of showing patience, puts his kingly apparel in the hands of his companions, and swiftly with impetus, as if to get a prey, throws himself toward the bride, takes her away from the mob that encircled her, and triumphant amid repeated blows leads her into the bridal chamber. The common mother having come up to the threshold that is covered with flowers, receives there the beloved children, ties them together with a noble ribbon and thus, bringing them to her bosom, she embraces them. Reader, put your attention on this picture, and you will see reflected the entire life of the nomadic peoples during the first steps of human conjunction. The bride, sitting at this point on a comfortable chair and still showing modesty under the veil, is greeted by the new members [members of the new family] - when after a certain time the women of the train, holding hands in the form of a cross, and forming a noble interlacing, put her on top, moving with poised movement, sing to her in this manner, some moral lessons - (the canchiegl):
Gentle bride, if virtue is dear to you, Let go of your old sweet custom: Here you will learn some new things. Fix the feathers of your Lord's bed, and now, may the feathers be a triple span of fragrant roses.After which they return the bride to her chair, they undo the interlacing into a ridda changing the themes of the songs and the following verses are heard:
There on that black mountain Smoke seems to be rising, It is no longer a black Smoke that goes up high, It's the proud young man In the flower of his age.They take the bride up again, and they redo the interlacing, continuing the admonitions like this:
Gentle bride, if virtue is dear to you, Fix the feathers of your new mother's bed With nine bundles of prickly thorns. At home make your desires thieve-like, Gulp down bread by the ovenfull, wine by the barrel. (3)Being interlaced in this way, they bring the bride again, and again they let go of the interlacing into a ridda that exclaims:
There on that mountain a plain spread out and immense opens up, And three doves to the plain Come down to dance, So beautiful that it is in vain To [try to] find more beauty.They take the bride up again on the interlacing for the third time, they finish admonishing her, and then dissolved in a ridda also for the third time and with the bride herself they go around the village singing in the middle of the highest enthusiasm the victories of Skanderbeg.
VII. The time of the banquet arrives - The spouses make themselves comfortable rejoining one another, while the guests make a crown around them. The happiness that weighs upon the room is beyond any descripition. Among the sound of the cups and of the knives mixed with the now frequent gunshots, sometimes from one band and sometimes from the other can be heard songs that solemnize the banquet: and these songs are also remains of the ancient rapsodies of our people, because they remember the meals and the foods of their ancient Heroes and of Skanderbeg particularly - As in all events of the lives of the Albanians also dispersed in far away regions and after four centuries that went under the destructive hand of time, the dear memories of a great fallen age remains indelebly impressed! Toward the end of the banquet, where the spouses are, a wedding cake is presented to them, and they must tear it taking equal portions, simbolizing with this great act their future life in common and meal in common. After this the banquet continues with dancing, and the solemnity of the day is over. The banquets take place again the next two days, after which in the evening the ridda takes the bride around the village - At the same time Sundays and near feasts come, and she is lead from house to house to visit her relatives where the customary wedding gifts are presented to her, among which there should never lack grain or vegetables, a jug, and a hen. Men of nature and men of art, are gold cameos and adornments perhaps more valuable than bread, water, and the simplicity of a few natural foods?
1)This is how the Poet Regaldi translates the song at the time he attended the Albanian wedding.
2)The same Regaldi.
3)All about this last song is already ironical. Between the mother in law and the daughter in law peace and benevolence are rare. Therefore the bride receives the insinuation not to be in the number of such. The counsel given includes that she be frugal, moderate and economical.