(Appendix VII)






-          By Albana Allushi –



The city of Gjirokastra, which is situated in the South of Albania, was covered with snow during this winter just like many other cities. Snow doesn’t stay for a long time in Gjirokastra, but in surrounding villages it doesn’t melt until June. We drove towards Zagoria, a district with many villages that stand side by side. As reporters of a News Agency, we were charged with writing about the life of the people in snow and under very cold weather conditions. We arrived on Saturday and checked into our guest house.


On Sunday morning, it was freezing, and television channels were broadcasting news about a snowfall that has “paralyzed” life in the villages. Suddenly some young villagers rushed into our guest house, shook the snow off their woolen clothing and invited us to go outside.


 “Where are we going”, I asked. To a wedding at a house next to ours, they replied and took us with them.


According to customs in these regions, the date of the wedding is fixed far in advance, and cannot be changed for any reason, including snow. There was so much snow, that it was difficult to distinguish among the crowd of wedding guests, just where the snow ended and the fustanella (the traditional white costume for men) and the bride’s wedding dress began.


We could see the bride only when rice was showered over the heads of the young couple. According to custom, the bride is showered with rice granules at the moment she first sets foot in her husband’s house. This is a pagan custom, which implies that the bride must enlarge the family by giving birth too many children.  According to pagan rite, rice granules symbolize the number of children.     


Afterwards, a child took the bride by her hand and led her to the huge gate of the house. The gate was heavy and a part of it was made of carved stone.  A woman then brought forth a vase containing honey. She soaked the bride’s fingers in the honey and told her to touch the gate. This is a pagan rite as well and symbolizes that the bride must bring sweetness and happiness into the bridegroom’s home.  This pagan ritual is practiced even today throughout the region from Lunxheria to Tepelena, Dropull and Gjirokastër.


- Will you come again after the snow melts?  Asked someone.

- Why?  We asked.

- Come for Spring Day, he said.


Celebrations on Spring Day are very similar to those organized by the Pagans on this occasion. The rite is simple. On the first day of March, all young boys and girls tie a ribbon called a “Manak” around their wrists.  The ribbon is nicely braided and is of red and white color. 


On the night of spring day, mothers put a cornel branch with newly blossomed flowers under their son’s pillows. The Cornel is a small plant, which blooms very early, but its fruits are gathered much later. The pagan rite of putting the cornel branch under each boy’s pillow shows his mother’s desire to have a strong and long-living son - just like the cornel tree.


It seems to me that we are living among Pagans, because Pagan rites and customs are spread throughout this region.

While going down toward Gjirokastra, you will find the city of Libohova, which is situated below the village of Bureto. Libohova is a small, but very old city that dates back to Paganism.


The most renowned monuments for Libohova residents are two Pagan graves. They are graves of two Pagan couples, one of which lived in Teqe and the other in Linua neighborhood.  Mr. Bajo Avdiu, a teacher of history, loves to speak about this monument so much and it seems as if he had known the couples.


The graves are laid in the Northeast to Southwest direction of the city. The position of these graves is the main evidence testifying that they date back to the era B.C. They are carved in rock and have a sarcophagi shape. The graves also have a carved stone cover of the type found only in Roman graves of B.C. period. Cult objects were also discovered inside the Pagan graves. In 1967, when the communist regime destroyed all evidence and objects considered as “cult” even these graves were damaged. Until then, Libohova people lit candles at the two graves every night.


The director of the National Historical Museum in Tirana, Mr. Moikom Zeqo is from this city. He is considered one of the most zealous researchers of the ancient history of Albanian people. Mr. Zeqo has conducted studies about these graves and has produced some arguments that the two Libohova graves are indeed, Pagan.


Libohova was a city during the Roman period and it was called Andrinopol. The city’s theatre was situated on the outskirts, in the area known today as Sofratika.


The urban area during the Pagan period extended along the grand valley including  Tepelena, the Drino River, Libohova, the lower part of Gjirokastra City, Sofratike and up to Dropull. In 2001, construction workers for the new Gjirokaster-Kakavije highway  found a grave dating back to the 3rd century B.C. This grave was studied and restored and it is known as the Monumental Grave of Jorgucat. The construction workers diverted the road so as not to destroy the historical testimony of the Pagans.


Dr. Dhimeter Kondi is the archeologist who took special care to restore the Monumental Grave. He says that the size of the Monumental Grave is 1.30 meters wide and 2 meters long. When discovered, it was covered by 16 cm thick decorated flagstone. Dr. Kondi claims that this Monumental Grave dates back to the 2nd or 3rd Century B.C.


So, people in this region are living amongst Pagans - with Pagan rites and monuments found throughout the region.