"Stsorproba" | KHEVSURETI


One of the most striking features of the traditional culture of Khevsureti is the relationship between a young couple known as stsorproba, which had been preserved up to the middle of the past century. “Stsorperi” is the Georgian for “equal” or “peer”, “two of a kind”. A young Khevsuri couple (a single man and a single woman) could lie together during the night with a sword placed between them. They could caress each other up to the waist only. Sexual intercourse between the pair was strictly forbidden. The sword between them was a symbol and, at the same time, a fatal margin, a kind of boundary which should not have been infringed upon. Anyone who ventured to try the forbidden fruit and trespassed against the local customs, was covered with shame and would have been branded with shame and disgrace to the end of his life. Such an extreme measure was taken in the case when the moral behavior of the couple raised doubts. Stsorproba was an extraordinary way of testing personal dignity, clear conscience and reputation of members of the opposite sex… The affairs regarding the rite of stsorproba, as well as the relationship of the stsoprebi (i.e. couple) were settled by a mediator or go-between, who in most cases was one of the hosts. The Khevsuris believed that such an “envoy” would find salvation after death in return for his good deed, and he, in his turn, made every effort to exercise his right. The righteous couple was held in deserved respect; their relations and friends had confidence in them and totally relied on them. A couple was strictly forbidden to marry. Anyone who breached this centuries-old rule was either damned and banished from the native village or even condemned to death by the community. The origin of the institute of stsorproba remains obscure. Although there are certain scientific hypotheses to explain this phe nomenon, it is still beyond understanding. Ethnographers, sociologists, psychologists, physicians keep on studying the essential idea of the ritual, however all their efforts are unavailing. So far we have no grounded, plausible, cogent answer to the question: What is stsorproba?… “The sublimation of partially realized erotic energy”* favored the emergence of fine Khevsur love poetry depicting the peripetias of stsorproba. A secret desire to please his stsorperi (i.e. the chosen one) incited the young man to heroic deeds that in its turn was reflected in folk poetry of high artistic value. According to one hypothesis, “the Khevsuris had initiated the ritual of stsorproba in some way to ease the lot of the hopeless lovers, who, for some reason, were forbidden from getting married and not for controlling their willpower.”** A laconic wording expressing the people’s belief – “stsorproba khtis gachenil ars” (“God is the creator of stsorproba”) points out that the fact of the matter is nothing but sincere love based on a pious, lofty and impeccable moral imperative. Stsorproba is assumed to be the basis of the uniqueness of a Khevsuri garment known as “talavari”: a major factor in raising the Khevsuri women’s needlework (knitting, embroidery) to the rank of art was an ardent desire to please their beloved… The ability to rise above the fleshly lusts, restraint of passions, patience and self-command were appreciated as the adornments not of human making suited both for stsorperi women and men. The rite of stsorproba in Khevsureti always was an inexhaustible source of the people’s spiritual training, nobility and creative inspiration. Moral health of a traditional society to a great extent depended on the worthy behavior of each of its members.

* L. Gaburi, The Old Testament and Faiths and Beliefs of Khevsuris
** Same