Name: Ornamented bowl
Origin: Ossets, North
Date: 20th century
of Ethnology Russian Museum
Hospitality is one of the brightest features of the culture of the peoples of the
North Caucasus. Guest was offered the best that was in the house, the attention of the hosts was concentrated on him, he was surrounded by the cordial atmosphere. The foremost duty of the host was the providing of the safety of the guest and his belongings. To protect the guest and to help him was at the responsibility of the host even if the guest and the host at that time were enemies. In Circassia there was one very popular story telling about the knight who found his shelter in the family the member of which he had once killed. The knight in his turn could render a service to the enemy. If the guest got killed or was insulted, relatives of the host family and villagers were responsible for this and had to take revenge on the offender.
This custom goes deep into the history and following the historical facts it shouldn't be described only in "sweet" words. Hospitality is the direct consequence of the severe way of life of the mountain inhabitants when a man had to overcome difficulties connected with the climate conditions and with the constant defiance against enemies. That is why it was natural for people living in the mountains to count on relatives and neighbors. However, the guest was under the patronage of the host only during the time when he was living in his house. In the past, the hospitality was of small duration; as the proverb says: guest in a house - three days he's a guest, on the forth - he's a younger brother.
One shouldn't ask the guest where he came from and why. In the guest room guest stayed in a company of the most respected man in the family, and in this case all people present in the room had to stand. Even if the host was very busy, he had to be with the guest. Host and his familiars tried to satisfy any guest's wish and that requested from him response modesty. Guest was offered the best food and if he stayed over the night a sheep was killed even despite the fact that there was fresh meat in the house. Before his departure, guest was given hot food including, for example, pies which Ossets served with beer. Guest was expected to be modest and able to keep up the conversation.
The Adygh peoples traditionally built up special houses for the guests beyond the territory of the homestead. Sometimes around the guest house the look of the homestead was recreated. It was impolite for the guest to enter the homestead.
In the medieval
Ossetia large and influential families as well as the nobles built castles which consisted of house-fortress, farm buildings and arming towers. Tower had three floors, the top floor was left for the guests. In the modern Osset house when it is possible a special room is given to the guests. At the countryside a separate building could be designed for the guests. The guest room was always decorated with the best things. Its interior included prayer rugs, armour, musical instruments.
© Photos and text: www.eng.ethnomuseum.ru
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