The concept of “Besa” (also known as the ‘cult of Besa’) is one of the most important manners of conduct for Albanians, as it is related to the cult of honor. In other words, ‘Besa’ means that when someone asks you to protect him/her, you are obliged to protect his/her life with your own life. ‘Besa” is a word of honor, a saint promise that you cannot break, otherwise, you will be rejected by society.
According to many scholars, ‘Besa’ has derived from the biblical quote “In the beginning, there was the Word”. Albanologist studies say that ‘Besa’ derives from Kanun, known as the first legal system of Albanian people, a set of 12 books that contain a series of traditional laws. Kanun was the highest authority for the people of Albania. All family and social relations were regulated based on the Kanun laws and rules.
A unique feature of this concept is that the word ‘Besa’ does not exist in other languages, except in the Albanian language. Even the Balkan languages, (Bulgarian and Rumanian), refer to it as “a word that comes from the Albanian dictionary”, or in other words, they specify it as ‘Albanism’. The so-called south slavs call it “aranaska vjera” (what Albanians believe in).
Besa is considered by Albanians as their moral testimony and a fundamental virtue inherited by ancient ancestors.
Photo credits: Flickr / Dennis Jarvis
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