As readers may have noticed in previous installments, the kanun of Lek Dukagjini contains a few slightly anachronistic elements. "Blood follows the (trigger) finger" is a central adage of the Code; yet the adoption of the personal firearm must certainly date to the centuries after Lek. (One wonders what the original adage was, if there was an original adage. "Blood follows the hand"? "Blood follows the hilt"?) In the same way, coffee -- which almost certainly was not consumed in the hills of northern Albania in the fourteenth century -- played an important role in peacemaking under the unwritten law. Doug mentioned in a recent post how modern Tirana is a city of cafes. But traditional Albania was also a land of coffee consumption. Even poor Albanian households would have a coffee set, with a "metal tray with coffee cups inverted to keep them clean and a tiny pot with a long handle for making Turkish coffee" in the hearth, as Margaret Hasluck recounts in The Unwritten Law in Albania. (I should note that by "Turkish coffee", Hasluck is using the English name for that style of brewing coffee by boiling its fine grounds, and does not intend any specific ethnic or religious identification by it. Albanians of all faiths drank coffee; and the Turks do brew a fine cup. Languages are weird sometimes.) Coffee was also a marker of status. A man of standing would be offered the first cup at the table, while a man too slow to kill his enemy would find "his coffee cup was only half-filled, and before being passed to him it was passed under the host's left arm, or even his left leg, to remind him of his disgrace." As can be imagined, satisfying the demands of honor and blood under the kanun made peacemaking a difficult process. A third party was always involved, and the reconciliation was laden with symbolism. Unsurprisingly, coffee often played an important role. Hasluck provides several examples:
In Shpat the original criminal must take the initiative and go to his enemy's house, escorted for safety's sake by at least one friend. The enemy came to meet him in the open air, but did not offer him his hand, for a man reserves his hand for his friends. Then both went into the house, the coffee, the all-essential to a peace-making, was served, followed perhaps by a meal with meat. Both coffee and meal were 'like a funeral', enlivened by next to no conversation and with little cordiality of mien. A day or two later the enemy must go to the original criminal's house, and the same ceremonies were gone through. Alternate visits had to be paid for some time, until at last the original enemy declared that he had forgiven the other. A marriage very often cemented the peace-making. Occasionally the attempt to make peace broke down -- one's gorge rose at the idea of making friends with the murderer. Then the whole evil story began again, murder alternating with murder. In Kurbin peace was made by the same methods as in Lum and Krasniq. The murderer, who had the sailor collar of his jacket thrown over his head, a sign of mourning and penitence, as well as his hands tied behind his back,a sign of helplessness, remained standing near the door, while his friends sat round the hearth. The host gave coffee to them, but not to him; his forgiveness was not yet assured, and without such assurance he could not drink his coffee. The friends pleaded with the host to untie his hands; they threatened as well as pleaded saying, 'If you like, forgive him -- otherwise kill us along with him'. At length one of two things happened. The host consented to pardon the murderer, got up to throw down his collar and to untie his hands, and bade him sit down and drink coffee, saying, 'You are pardoned, friend'. More frequently, he said he could not at once pardon the man, but would give him a truce of six months, a year, or more; in sign of his mollification he probably gave him coffee, though he sent him away with his hands still tied behind his back and his collar over his head.Coffee. It's important.