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Personal Appearance of the Servians.—Their Moral Charac
ter.- Peculiarities of Manners.-Christmas Festivities.Easter. The Dodola.
The Servians are a remarkably tall and robust race of men ; in form and feature they bespeak strength of body and energy of mind: but one seldom sees that thorough-bred look, which, so frequently found in the poorest peasants of Italy and Greece, shows that the descendants of the most polite of the ancients, although disinherited of dominion, have not lost the corporeal attributes of nobility. But the women of Servia I think very pretty. In body they are not so well shaped as the Greek women; but their complexions are fine, the hair generally black and glossy, and
POSITION OF FEMALES IN SOCIETY.
their head-dress particularly graceful. Not being addicted to the bath, like other eastern women, they prolong their beauty beyond the average climacteric; and their houses, with rooms opening on a court-yard and small garden, are favourable to health and beauty. They are not exposed to the elements as the men; nor are they cooped up within four walls, like many eastern women, without a sufficient circulation of air.
Through all the interior of Servia, the female is reckoned an inferior being, and fit only to be the plaything of youth and the nurse of old age. This peculiarity of manners has not sprung from the four centuries of Turkish occupation, but appears to have been inherent in old Slaavic manners, and such as we read of in Russia, a very few generations ago; but as the European standard is now rapidly adopted at Belgrade, there can be little doubt that it will thence, in the course of time, spread over all Servia.
The character of the Servian closely resembles that of the Scottish Highlander. He is brave in battle, highly hospitable; delights in simple and
plaintive music and poetry, his favourite instruments being the bagpipe and fiddle: but unlike the Greek he shows little aptitude for trade; and unlike the Bulgarian, he is very lazy in agricultural operations. All this corresponds with the Scottish Celtic character; and without absolute dishonesty, a certain low cunning in the prosecution of his material interests completes the parallel.
The old customs of Servia are rapidly disappearing under the pressure of laws and European institutions. Many of these could not have existed except in a society in which might made right. One of these was the vow of eternal brotherhood and friendship between two individuals; a treaty offensive and defensive, to assist each other in the difficult passages of life. This bond is considered sacred and indissoluble. Frequently remarkable instances of it are found in the wars of Kara Georg. But now that regular guarantees for the security of life and property exist, the custom appears to have fallen into desuetude. These confederacies in the dual state,
ABDUCTION OF FEMALES.
as in Servia, or multiple, as in the clan system of Scotland and Albania, are always strongest in turbulent times and regions'.
Another of the old customs of Servia was sufficiently characteristic of its lawless state. Abduction of females was common. Sometimes a young man would collect a party of his companions, break into a village, and carry off a maiden. To prevent re-capture they generally went into the woods, where the nuptial knot was tied by a priest nolens volens. Then commenced the negotiation for a reconciliation with the parents, which was generally successful; as in many instances the female had been the secret lover of the young man, and the other villagers used to add their persuasion, in order to bring about a pacific solution. But if the relations of the girl made a legal affair of it, the young woman was asked if it was by her own will that she was taken away; and if she made the admission then a reconciliation took place: if not, those concerned in the
1 The most perfect confederacy of this description is that of the Druses, which has stood the test of eight centuries, and in its secret organization is complete beyond any thing attained by freemasonry.
abduction were fined. Kara Georg put a stop to this by proclamation, punishing the author of an abduction with death, the priest with dismissal, and the assistants with the bastinado.
The Haiducks, or outlawed robbers, who during the first quarter of the present century infested the woods of Servia, resembled the Caterans of the Highlands of Scotland, being as much rebels as robbers, and imagined that in setting authority at defiance they were not acting dishonourably, but combating for a principle of independence. They robbed only the rich Moslems, and were often generous to the poor. Thus robbery and rebellion being confounded, the term Haiduck is not considered opprobrious; and, several old Servians have confessed to me that they had been Haiducks in their youth. I am sure that the adventures of a Servian Rob Roy might form the materials of a stirring Romance. There are many Haiducks still in Bosnia, Herzegovina, and on the western Balkan; but the race in Servia is extinct, and plunder is the only object of the few robbers who now infest the woods in the west of Servia.