Kosova Cultural - Historical and Spiritual heritage

Of the religion of Dardans and other ancient inhabitants of Kosova little is known. The discovery of an Illyrian votive altar near Kacanik reveals that they celebrated their own deities even in Roman times. The relics of similar deities and cult symbols have also been discovered in Ulpiana, in the form of Thracian Horserider. A sacred tablet was found at Studenica which depicts the cult of the Danubian Riders.
Apart from these, various relics have been found dedicated to Minerva, Neptune, Fortuna, Nympha, Sylvanus and of the eastern, cults of Jupiter, Mithras, Serapis and Isis. All of this syncretic cults with monotheistic characteristics were unable to unify a society embroiled in the great social, political and spiritual crises of the 2nd and 3rd Centuries A.D. Christianity entered the scene bringing with it the moral force of its systematized teachings and its emphasis on religious and moral perfection of the person as the highest goal of life. The Cristianization of the inhabitants of Kosova - begun under Rome and Byzantium - was brought to completion under Nemanja and his successors.
At the beginning of Turkish rule, actually right up to the end of the 16th Century, Christians were free to practice their religious beliefs. This changed when the church became envolved in politics, encouraging resistance to the Turkish occupation and establishing ties with Christian countries in Europe. In the 16th Century there were great reprisals against the Christians which aimed at Islamicizing them and forging a safer Islamic rear. By the end 16th and 17th Centuries Catholics were converting en masse to Islam, driven as much by economic and other privileges to be gained as by the disorientation and demands of the church itself.
To the end of 17th Century it was still possible to speak of mutual religious tolerance and coexistence of the various faiths, but after that time differentiation began to take shape with the Moslem religious community shutting off from the Christian, and vice versa, which intensified intolerance between the faiths and later, under various influences, between the nations.
Living conditions and religious influences are reflected in the customs of the people of Kosova. Christianization uprooted old pagan beliefs, but traditions persisted during the era of the medieval Serbian state and, following the arrival of the Turks, came back in force. On their conversion to Islam, part of the population again changed their beliefs and certain traditional rituals and customs. Islam was strongly supported by the state and this was also reflected in the fate of various customs - both paganic and Christian - which ran counter to Islamic teachings. Some of the old customs were tied to changes in the lives of the people, others to changes occuring in nature, but they were all grounded in religious beliefs.
Many customs are related to the act of childbirth, to men and male progeny, as well as to a couple´s fertility. The pregnant woman, although not released from her household chores, was paid special attention. At childbirth the pregnant woman carried out a set of rituals. The institution of godfather was greatly respected and the godfather was considered a spiritual relative. Marriage was generally between members of the same religious community. Examples of mixed marriages were rare and when they did take place the family usually practiced both faiths. Marriage itself was an entire ritual from betrothal to the wedding. Bringing the bride to the groom´s home was attended by many rituals. These wedding rituals have in good part been retained to the present day, particularly in the villages. However, social and hence the old patriarchal relations in the family are changing, and similarly these are affecting wedding customs. Individual links in the once firm chain of actions have begun to crumble, disrupting the entire set of customs so that only bits and pieces remain today. They are less a symbol of belief than part of a tradition that has continued by inertia.
Diseases were once believed to be an act of fate or the consequence of sorcery, curses, or charms. So, beside herbal cures, ´treatment´ also included divining and sorcery usually performed by old women or priests. At these times the religion of the priest was not relevant. Death and burial were attended by specific rituals. Death was usually announced by the wailing of the woman for the deceased which was often accompanied by an entire string of other mourning rites until the burial. An other group of old customs is linked to changes taking place in nature. All the rites that are linked to changes in a persons life and in nature are remnants of old beliefs in the magical power of words and rituals. Grounded in idealistic conceptions of the world all these old rites - the paganic, Christian and the Moslem - run connter to the materialist view of the world, and are gradually disappearing and dying out. There are fewer and fewer old rites to be found in even the most remote parts of Kosova, and where they are encountered they are only relics that are still nurtured in the main by the older generations.