As we inexorably march towards a homogenized society, little stories like the end of the tradition of "sworn virgins" in Albania are increasingly poignant. Not necessarily the actual practice (a proto-feminist denouncing of womanhood) but the fact that these random cultural oddities are quickly dying out.
Sworn virgins are women in Albania who essentially declare themselves men (either out of necessity since there are no male heirs or for emotional reasons – like avoiding an arranged marriage.) The woman pledges never to marry or have sex, then lives the rest of her life as a man. In Albania, which is not exactly progressive, this meant the woman could eat with men, wear a watch, work and own property. One of the many things that fascinates me about this story is that the practice was accepted across religious divides. Both muslim and christian Albanians accepted the practice.
Learning about traditions and practices like this make me wistful for the anthropology classes I took in college. I love to learn about strange local customs or traditions, and I fear we are creating a world where they are slowly erased, to be replaced with McDonalds and Coca Cola.
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