(…) As an alternative, becoming a  Sworn Virgin, or ‘burnesha” elevated a woman to the status of a man and granted her all the rights and privileges of the male population. In order to manifest the transition such a woman cut her hair, donned male clothing and sometimes even changed her name.  Male gestures and swaggers were practiced until they became second nature. Most importantly of all, she took a vow of celibacy to remain chaste for life. She became a “he”.

Sworn Virgins still exist today, but as modernization inches towards the small villages nestled in the Albanian Alps, this archaic tradition is increasingly seen as obsolete. Only a handful remain.

(jill peters)

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