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  1. Basic Organization
  2. The basic unit of Romani society is the Familia (fa-MEEL-yah). It is made up of an older married couple, their unmarried sons and daughters, their married sons and their wives and children (in most Romani groups a woman joins the familia of her husband when she marries). Individual households within the familia are called Tsera (SAIR-ah), literally "tent".
  3.  
  4. Several closely related familii make up the Vitsa (VEET-sah), or "Clan." Vitsi (pl.) vary greatly in size and traditions, but one's connection to the vitsa (literally "vine" in Romanes) is the most important social tie a Rom has. Most traveling vitsi follow a circuit from town to town that may take a year or more to complete, and almost all stop traveling for the winter, whiling away the time by building and repairing vardos, making crafts to sell to the Gaje, etc.
  5.  
  6. Several vitsi in turn form the Kumpania (koom-pa-NEE-yah), or "Tribe", a loose federation of related vitsi that coexist within a region. The relationship one has to it is mostly a social and political one. The whole kumpania often winters together when times are good and during the rest of the year convenes when necessary, usually for a kris (Romani law court).
  7.  
  8. Finally, several kumpanii together compose the Natsia (nat-SEE-ah), or "Nation", which is made up of several thousand Rom who derive (supposedly) from a common ancestor.
  9.  
  10.  
  11. Beliefs and Traditions
  12.  
  13. Romaniya sets the standards and enforces the beliefs most Roma adhere to. This system of acceptable behavior and beliefs is central to Roma society. The beliefs of the Roma are varied from world to world and family to family, and ship to ship, but many beliefs are common to Roma everywhere, varying only in the degree in which they are observed or practiced. The Roma have always enforced a cultural and social separation from gajikane societies to maintain social and cultural strength. They do not want to be part of societies that would involve compromise of their basic beliefs. It is Romaniya that makes such separation possible.
  14. Religion and Superstitions
  15.  
  16. The Roma cannot be said to have a "religion" of their own. They have usually adopted the faiths of the locations in which they live. Among the Roma can be found Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and even a variety of pagan faiths. Many prefer to carry out religious rituals in their own homes or in the context of folk observances.
  17.  
  18. Though they have, for practical purposes, adopted the religions of those with whom they have come into contact, formal religion is often supplemented by faith in the supernatural, in omens and curses. This body of superstitions varies among different Roma groups, but it is to some extent a factor in the lives of all of them.
  19.  
  20. Since Roma feel that illness is an unnatural condition, called prikaza, there are many supernatural ways in which they believe disease can be prevented or cured. One method of lowering a fever has been to shake a young tree. In this way the fever is transferred from the sick person's body to the tree. Another method to bring down fever has been to drink powdered portions of certain animals, dissolved in spirits, to the accompaniment of a chant. Some beliefs include carrying a mole's foot as a cure for rheumatism, and carrying a hedgehog's foot to prevent a toothache. Any number of herbs, called drab, are used for the prevention or cure of various diseases. Herbalism may be practiced by both sexes. Some of these herbs, called sastarimaskodrabaró, actually have medicinal value in addition to their supernatural qualities.
  21. Taboos
  22.  
  23. Most of Roma society relies heavily on distinctions between behavior that is pure, vujo or wuzho, and polluted, or marimé. Marimé has a dual meaning to the Roma. It refers both to a state of pollution or defilement as well as to the sentence of expulsion imposed for violation of purity rules or any behavior disruptive to the Roma community. Pollution and rejection are thus closely associated with one another. Pollution taboos, and their names, vary from group to group and often among smaller Roma units. Nevertheless, Roma define themselves in part by their adherence to these cleanliness rituals. There may be class distinctions among some Roma, based on how strictly individuals or families maintain distinctions between purity and impurity.
  24.  
  25. The marimé concept applied to personal hygiene means "dirty" or "polluted."
  26.  
  27. Many of the traditional laws of hygiene deal with water. For example, Roma must wash only in running water. A shower would be acceptable, but a bath would not be, for the person would be sitting or lying in dirty, stagnant water. Dishes cannot be rinsed in the same sink or basin that is used for washing personal clothing. The kitchen sink is used only for washing dishes, and therefore it cannot ever be used for washing one's hands
  28.  
  29. Certain Roma families have set specific and very rigid rules for the drawing of water from a river or stream. The water from the farthest point upstream, therefore the purest, is used for drinking and cooking. Working their way downstream, the water is used for washing dishes and bathing. Further down the stream water is used for washing or nourishing horses. Further down washing clothes is appropriate. In order to make certain that there will be no impurities, separate pails are always used for the different uses of water.
  30.  
  31. There are remedies or punishments for a person who has become infected, or marimé. Minor offenses, clearly unintentional ones, can be forgiven by those present at the time the offense is committed. More serious ones must be dealt with by the community and, in some cases, by the kris.
  32. Clothing
  33.  
  34. The stereotype of the Roma woman with the long, colorful skirt, the heavy earrings, and often a flower in her hair has some basis in fact. It is probable that long skirts were once thought of as protection against sexual advances. These skirts are generally of bright colors, often consisting of many layers.
  35.  
  36. Except for color, a woman does not have a varied wardrobe. Among many tribes, if a woman is married she must display that fact by keeping her head covered by a diklo, or head scarf. Women usually allow their hair to grow long. Their hair may then be braided or rolled into a bun on the back of the head. Roma women usually wear jewelry, not only for its beauty, but for its intrinsic value – they feel most secure carrying their valuables on their own persons. Traditionally, acquired wealth has been converted into jewelry or gold coins called galbi, the latter sometimes worn on clothing as adornments, or woven into the hair.
  37.  
  38. As for men, there is really no characteristic clothing. Since the head is regarded as the body's focal point, many Roma men draw attention to it by wearing large hats and wide mustaches. For festive occasions, they will wear a good suit of clothes and show a preference for bright colors. Most of them own one suit of clothes at a time and wear it until it is frayed. A brightly colored neck scarf may be worn on special occasions. Generally, however, their clothing is indistinguishable from that of the gaje among whom they live or travel.
  39. Food
  40.  
  41. Traditionally the eating habits of Roma have been conditioned by their nomadic way of life. Their diet has consisted largely of what was readily available. This included wild fruits, berries, leafy plants, mollusks, and small mammals. As the Roma have gradually come into greater contact with people of the cities, their eating habits have conformed more and more to those of the non-Roma.
  42.  
  43. A day will generally begin with very strong tea, heavily sweetened with sugar. Tea is a staple of Roma existence for many families, and many cups may be taken in the course of a day. There is usually no lunch, and dinner is served at sunset, or, since the food is generally on the stove all afternoon, whenever anyone is hungry. The basic element of this dinner is a thick, fatty vegetable soup, or stew, with any available vegetables or greens put into it. It is usually made even more hearty by the addition of potatoes, rice, or pasta. Sometimes meat is served, generally broiled or cooked on a spit. Game, such as rabbit and game fowl, are enjoyed when possible. Garlic is a very commonly used seasoning. Water and wine are the most often served beverages during the course of a meal.
  44.  
  45. Ceremonial events such as christenings, marriages, and religious festivals are occasions for community activity and sharing. Enormous quantities of food and drink are consumed during these celebrations, and the preparation is long and enthusiastic. A favorite Roma dish has traditionally been roasted hedgehog. It has a rich and succulent meat with a pork-like flavor, which is also enjoyed by some non-Roma. Ideally, this animal is flavored with garlic and placed skin and all above burning hot coals or stones. In this way, it cooks in its own juices. When the roasting is completed, the animal's prickles are shaved or picked off and the skin is peeled back. The meat is served, sometimes wrapped in aromatic leaves. Chicken and other fowl can also be cooked this way.
  46.  
  47. Marimé taboos extend to animals as well, from the edibility of certain types of meat to pet ownership. Romaniya prohibits cruelty to animals and they may only be killed for food. The Roma consider eating horse flesh a serious offense. The exclusion of horse meat has more to do with respect than to marime, the horse has been so important to the Roma's mobility and survival in the past.
  48.  
  49. Dogs and cats are considered polluted because of their unclean living habits. Roma consider cats particularly unclean because they lick their paws after burying their feces. The critical concern, as with dogs licking themselves, is that the uncleanliness of the external world may defile the purity of the inner self if it is permitted to enter the body through the mouth. Cats are also a sign of impending death to many tribes. If a cat sets foot in a home a purification ceremony may be required. Dogs are also unclean, but to a lesser extent. Dogs are tolerated outside the house because of their value as watchdogs. Familiars are always tolerated (though cats and owls are still frowned on), as they are believed to posses the spirits of departed loved ones.
  50.  
  51. Owls are considered portents of death, just as with many non-Roma groups. In some tribes, the owl's cry is considered very bad luck, or bibaxt. For this reason, owls are avoided as food or pets.
  52. Integration and Assimilation
  53.  
  54. The Roma are suspicious and afraid of being corrupted by gajikane, or gaje for short, influences. The fear is for their children, that contact with non-Roma will lead to the disintegration of traditionally strong family and community ties. The belief is that this will result in juvenile delinquency. Many Roma also fear that public admission of being Roma in gajikane society will single them out for discrimination and persecution.
  55.  
  56. Among the Roma there are activists who see the gains made by non-Roma and want to share in these gains. They ask for the respect of the non-Roma world and for equal job opportunities. The first step must be education. However, before education is possible, gaje will have to overcome their long hostility toward and misunderstanding of the Roma, and Roma parents will have to overcome their fear of corruption by non-Roma.
  57.  
  58. Although the Roma have largely adapted to living surrounded by foreign cultures, their social organization fosters the separation of Roma from non-Roma. This separation places Roma at a great disadvantage – the Roma have tended to stay apart by choice. Many Roma are slowly integrating and participating in the mainstream of modern culture without compromising their identity.
  59.  
  60. omany Law
  61.  
  62. The Roma legal system not only protects the Roma from external and internal threats, but also serves as a code that organizes Roma society. In particular, Roma law has evolved to insulate Roma from the host society.
  63. Introduction
  64.  
  65. Roma sources consistently assert the superiority of their legal system, noting the following three elements: (1) Roma law acts as a cohesive force serving to protect Roma interests, rights, traditions, and ethnic distinctiveness; (2) Roma law is more democratic than any other law because it does not discriminate against individuals without financial or other influence; and (3) because Roma law has maintained its basic form, even though older methods of punishment have given way largely to banishment or social ostracism, it must be more nearly perfect than other laws, which appear to be undergoing constant change.
  66.  
  67. These attitudes have an impact on how the Roma approach conflicts with the gajikano legal system. Romaniya has no equivalent to the concept of conflict of laws. Roma law is self-contained and cannot incorporate rules of a foreign legal system. The gajikano legal system is equally insular so far as Romaniya is concerned. But unlike the gaje who know nothing about Romaniya, Roma are necessarily aware of gajikano law.
  68.  
  69. The Roma believe they should approach and respond to the gaje with caution, especially if the gaje profess good intentions, or claim to serve the best interest of the Roma. Roma are also cautious with gajikane notions of due process, civil rights, and neutrality of law. Furthermore, not only do the Roma consider non-Roma marimé, they also believe that Roma names and rituals lose their magical effectiveness if uttered to gaje. To the Roma, the purity of their law plays a crucial role in maintaining cultural identity and integrity.
  70.  
  71. Although the Romani people do not formally gather to pursue an objective, their need to survive as a distinct and isolated group provides them with a common purpose. Roma law ensures that the host country's legal systems and cultures minimally influence Roma life. Although Romaniya has sacred aspects that direct Roma to lead their lives properly by attaining a state of purity and preventing contamination, it does not advocate imposing its values on non-Roma. Its main purpose is to achieve a state of balance, or kintala, that pleases the spirits of the ancestors, or mulé. Conversion of the gaje would not make much sense because they and their ancestors are outside the Roma world.
  72.  
  73. Each Roma group can determine its own form of mediation. Each community is ruled by a chief, a man who is chosen for his age, experience, and wisdom. Some Roma call this chief Rom baro, meaning "Big Man." The chief of a Roma community is a man who inspires respect by his strength and intelligence, a man who by his own life sets an example for the other Roma. Often, the chief may be able to read and write to some extent. He settles minor disputes on the basis of his mature judgment, and his decisions are followed by other members of the community. However, if the matter to be settled is a serious one, such as theft, adultery, acts of physical violence, or complicated disputes between two parties (both Roma, of course), a court is convened. This court is called the kris.
  74. Divano
  75.  
  76. Each chief handles all day-to-day conflicts within his population. When conflict emerges between Roma of different families, a divano may assemble. A divano is an informal proceeding where the chiefs of the various families try to mediate a dispute. The parties themselves are not required to attend, and they are not technically bound by the chief's suggestions. The contestants sometimes do bow to peer pressure and settle the case. Blatant disregard for the chiefs' recommendations could cost them the respect of the community.
  77.  
  78. When the Roma cannot settle a controversy amicably in a divano, a kris Roma may become necessary. In former times, the kris usually mediated three kinds of cases: property losses, matters of honor, and moral or religious issues, including disregard of marimé taboos. If the matter to be settled is a serious one, such as theft, defaults in payments of debts, adultery, acts of physical violence, serious marimé violations, or complicated disputes between two parties, a court is convened. This court is the most important moral force in Roma life.
  79. Krisnitorya
  80.  
  81. The elders of the families will hold a meeting to select one or more men to act as the krisnitorya, or judges, for the kris. The plaintiff is allowed to choose the judge who will preside over his case, and the defendant has a right to veto that choice. The krisnitori, or judge, is surrounded by the members of the kris council, who act as associate judges. Generally, five or more men from both sides, usually the elders, form the council. The members of the court are the most respected and wisest men available at the time. Women are never included. Of these members, the eldest is generally chosen to preside at the hearings.
  82.  
  83. While the judges have been chosen because of their personal authority, they are expected to allow behavior that might be considered prejudicial or disruptive in gajikano trials. Participation by the audience is expected and encouraged by custom. Members of the audience, although not formally called as witnesses, may feel justified in expressing views. Whether their contribution to the proceedings is based on personal observation or opinion does not matter. Ultimately the judge weighs the value of the cumulative evidence to make rulings. Parties or witnesses will be perceived as credible if their statements have "the ring of truth." A person who can demonstrate in court that he or she has conformed to accepted communal standards may also be considered credible by the court.
  84.  
  85. The tribal chiefs are not necessarily aware of all the laws. These laws have never been written down or codified. They have been passed along for generations by word of mouth, but this fact makes the decisions nonetheless binding. The Roma interpret laws according to contemporary custom. Former interpretations of laws may be gradually revised as the needs of the community evolve. The exclusive reliance on oral transmission has led to a high degree of flexibility. Nevertheless, there is a shared feeling that the law is clearly defined. Few ever challenge this notion. This strict adherence to the law in part accounts for the continued cohesion of the Roma.
  86. Kris Romani
  87.  
  88. Calling together a kris is an event of utmost importance in Roma life. In all cases, it is the aggrieved party who must request the kris, which is the held at a neutral site. The defendants and plaintiffs must represent themselves. Advocates are forbidden. If the alleged victim is old, sick, or very young, the victim's nearest male relative brings the case to the kris. If the welfare of the community demands joint action, the entire clan may be a plaintiff.
  89.  
  90. The audience of a kris was once largely male. Women and unmarried or childless men were allowed to attend only if they were needed as witnesses. It is now acceptable to have the entire family present for support. Witnesses may speak freely about the case. The Roma believe there can be no justice without hearing the matter out to its fullest. Exaggerated claims and ornate stories referring to folk tales and mythology are common. When members of the audience think the witness is not being truthful or responsive, they may hiss or make jokes. In some delicate matters, such as adultery, the public and witnesses can be excluded.
  91.  
  92. At a kris only Romani may be spoken. Furthermore, arguments are often presented in a special oratory that differs grammatically from ordinary Romani and resembles a legal jargon. When the accused testify on their own behalf they are expected to be truthful. The kris can further insure their honesty by invoking the magic power of the dead, or mulé, with an oath. If the witnesses must swear an oath, an altar of justice consisting of icons of the family present is erected. In complex situations, the judge may ask for expert opinions from family chiefs or the elders. Nonetheless, only the judge decides guilt and punishment.
  93.  
  94. Socially disruptive behavior may result in legal sanctions, including a sentence of marimé. In addition to strong taboos against exploiting or stealing from a fellow member of the Roma community, Roma consider crimes of violence and noncommercial association with gaje as crimes against Roma society as a whole and therefore marimé. A marimé label can be removed by the forgiveness of the offended party, the passage of time, or by another kris Romani. Readmission to Roma society following a sentence of marimé is cause for celebration.
  95.  
  96. Economic cases cover such issues as who has the right to engage in fortune telling in a specific territory. Roma believe that every Roma has the right to work. Accordingly, groups divide territory into economic units. Controversies may result when some Roma encroach on others' territory, and then a kris is called. A first-time offender may receive a warning by the kris. Repeated violations result in a sentence of marimé.
  97.  
  98. The judge declares the verdict in public to those who are present. If the accused is found innocent, there is a celebration and an oath of peace is sworn. The decision of the kris is final and binding. Even in countries such as Thethynara, where the Roma are considered by some gajikane scholars to be semi-assimilated, the verdict of an official trial is not final. A kris will still be held. Beyond its judicial function, the kris plays an important role in maintaining the customs of the Roma people.
  99.  
  100. If, at the end of a trial, the defendant is found to be innocent, there is great joy and relief in the community. A banquet may be held, and the former defendant has the right to propose the first toast. If, on the other hand, the defendant is found guilty, any number of different penalties might be invoked. These range from the largely symbolic one of having to pay all court expenses, including food and drink for the judges, to the most serious of all, permanent banishment from the community of Roma.
  101. Punishment
  102.  
  103. The kris imposes punishment according to the seriousness of the offense. The death penalty, once an acceptable option, is now virtually unknown. The Roma believe that the angry spirit of the deceased may take revenge upon the executioner. In times when the death penalty was still employed, the entire community would participate in the execution to prevent revenge by the spirit. Today, the kris relies primarily on such sanctions as fines, corporal punishment, and banishment. The responsibility to pay a kris-imposed fine, called glaba, falls collectively on the wrongdoer's lineage. Corporal punishment, rarely employed today, is typically used only in cases of infidelity.
  104.  
  105. There are no jails or executioners in a Roma community. Perhaps the most severe punishment for a Roma is marimé, or banishment, from his own community. This banishment is achieved by declaring the offender marimé, a term that means socially rejected in its legal sense. It is considered a sentence of social death. Marimé stigmatizes all wrongdoers as polluted and justifies their expulsion from the community. The offender cannot have any social contact with other members of the family. The simple pleasures of Roma life, eating together and camaraderie, are forbidden, and the guilty party is condemned to live in the world of the non-Roma. No marriages are allowed for those stigmatized as marimé, and without marriage in Roma society one's economic and social life is over. When they die, no one will bury them, and they will not have a funeral. In many cases, not only the offender, but his or her own family as well, is declared marimé. This harsh punishment is a great deterrent to crime within the Roma community. It can last for days or years. It involves permanent loss of status and respect even when the guilty party has been reinstated. Permanent marimé is rare and used only for serious crimes such as murder.
  106.  
  107. A temporary marimé sentence may be imposed for less serious crimes. If a Rom steals from another Rom, for example, the thief is publicly shamed and banished from the community until he has repaid the victim. The kris may impose a form of "community service" and require the marimé Rom to work for an indefinite time without pay in order to compensate Roma society for violating the taboo of stealing from another Roma. Temporary sentences of marimé are also imposed for offenses such as familiarity with the gaje or failure to pay a debt on time.
  108.  
  109. In all cases of marimé, enforcement depends primarily on a superstitious fear of the consequences of violating the marimé rules. The individual who violates a marimé prohibition has succumbed to powers of evil and destruction that are so frightening that even his own family shuns him for fear of contamination. Such an individual becomes tainted and can be redeemed only by making the prescribed amends.
  110.  
  111. The entire Roma community is responsible for enforcing sanctions. Roma have no police or prisons. They have no "law enforcement" in the gajikano sense. Peer pressure fueled by communal knowledge of a verdict ensures compliance. The Roma community may place a curse on the guilty party to insure that he or she accepts the chosen punishment, and it appears that this practice is still effective. Only in rare cases, when the Roma have difficulty enforcing a judgment by the kris, do they turn to the gajikano penal system. The kris may ask the gajikane authorities to arrest the defendant. At this point, the accused will usually accept the punishment and the charges will be dropped. Should the wrongdoer persist, however, he or she might be forced to endure a gajikano court trial. Vindication by a non-Roma civil court does not erase a previous conviction by the kris in the mind of the Roma.
  112.  
  113. Marriage and Courtship
  114.  
  115. Engagements and marriages are great and joyous events for the Roma, signifying the extension and continuation of the family. For this reason, they are accompanied by great celebrations. Marriage signifies a change in position of the married couple in Roma society as full and productive members of the community. All Roma are expected to marry. The customs and rituals for engagements and marriages described here are traditional and vary for the many Roma tribes in the 'Verse.
  116. Engagement
  117.  
  118. In spite of myths of Roma immorality, most Roma follow strict rules of sexual behavior. He or she is expected to marry someone within their particular tribe and most Roma conform by marrying within their group. They prefer to maintain tribal and social purity in that way. If a Roma male marries a gaje female, his community may eventually accept her, provided that she adopts the Romany way of life. But it is a worse violation of the marimé code for a Roma female to marry a gajo, because Roma women are the guarantors for the survival of the population.
  119.  
  120. Many tribes consider the children Roma only if the father is Roma. Roma expect females to be virgins when they marry. The Roma perceive marriage as the end of a woman's innocence. Marriages for Roma are typically very young, as early as sixteen or seventeen, depending on whether they are closely scrutinized by local authorities.
  121.  
  122. The first step in contemplating marriage is the selection of the bride. In many parts of the world, this is done just as it would be done in non-Roma society. The boy does the courting, and when the young couple agree to marry they become engaged and exchange modest gifts. Parents are consulted, but the decision is made by the young people.
  123.  
  124. Bride price is still maintained in many Roma tribes, which is a payment made by the family of the groom to the family of the bride to compensate for the loss of a daughter. Bride price also typically guarantees that the bride will be treated well by her new family.
  125.  
  126. Some clans still may practice arranged marriage. The prospective bride and groom may be consulted, but their opinions are rarely considered in making a final decision. They carefully consider all the young, unmarried women in the group, evaluating their individual qualities. Because of integration into non-Roma societies, many young couples have opposed arranged engagements and marriages and have eloped.
  127.  
  128. Bride price is negotiated between the parents, particularly over the amount of the darro, or dowry. Bride price is meant to compensate for the potential earning power of the bori, or daughter-in-law, who has been taken from her family to join that of her husband.
  129.  
  130. The character of the girl's family, as well as their prestige in the community is very important. Physical appearance of a bride is not very important. The prospective brides are judged on their merits, such as health, stamina, strength, dispositions, manners, and domestic skills.
  131.  
  132. Rejection of a formal proposal is considered a disgrace. If all goes well, the father of the boy then calls on the father of the girl. It is a polite and rather serious meeting. The purpose is to obtain the formal consent of the girl's father, and to establish a price to be paid for the bride. This money is to compensate the father for the loss of his daughter, and not as the purchase of a bride.
  133.  
  134. The discussion can be a long one, centering on the estimated value of the future bride. All the future bride's desired qualities are taken into consideration. In addition, the girl's father calculates how much his daughter has cost him since birth, since he is in effect giving her away.
  135.  
  136.  
  137. Traditional Wedding
  138.  
  139. When an agreement is reached, and the bride price is accepted, the meeting ends with the father of the future bride drinking a symbolic glass of wine. This means that the boy has been formally approved as a husband for his daughter, under the agreed conditions. Following the formal agreement of terms, there is often a banquet, complete with music, singing, and dancing. The bride-to-be and her family often feign great sorrow at having to leave each other. The groom's family may complain about the high bride price they had to pay. In the end, they decide that the price is fair for a bride who will be a good wife to their son.
  140.  
  141. Frequently, a few days after the agreement has been made, a ceremony called a pliashka, or plotchka, is held. This event is attended by both friends and relatives of the couple. The symbol of this joyous celebration is a bottle of wine or brandy wrapped in a brightly colored silk handkerchief, brought to the ceremony by the young man's father. A necklace of gold coins is traditionally attached to the bottle. The groom-to-be's father takes the necklace of coins and puts it around the future bride's neck, and warmly embraces his future daughter-in-law, or bori. The necklace makes it clear to all that the girl is now engaged and not available as a bride to any other man. The groom-to-be's father drinks from the bottle and passes it around to the guests. When the bottle is emptied, it is refilled with wine or brandy for use at the wedding celebration.
  142.  
  143. The wedding itself, called the abiav, is largely a symbolic act, with no religious significance. Though Roma conform to local laws and customs in the countries in which they marry, the non-Roma religious or civil ceremonies are formalities for them. The mere fact that two people have agreed to live together and share their lives together constitutes marriage, and no formal ritual is required. This does not mean that they do not take marriage seriously. They simply do not believe in the importance of a formal wedding ceremony under the jurisdiction of a church or a state. Ordinary civil and religious marriages are becoming more frequent, if only to round off a traditional ceremony.
  144.  
  145. There is a traditional but simple wedding ceremony performed the Roma. The young couple sit down, surrounded by relatives and friends. A small amount of salt and bread is then placed on the knees of the bride. The groom takes some of the bread, puts salt on it, and eats it. The bride does the same. The union of salt and bread symbolizes a harmonious future together for the groom and bride.
  146.  
  147. The informal, joyous festivities celebrating the marriage can go on for several days. A huge feast is served on these happy occasions. There is sometimes an open fire over which whole boar, sides of beef, game, chicken, or goose are roasted. If it is available, hedgehog may be served, although this traditional dish has fallen from favor in recent times. There might be huge platters of fried potatoes and boiled cabbage stuffed with rice and chopped meat, with herbs and garlic. Drink, too, is served as generously. Musicians play traditional rhythmic tunes and there are songs and dances.
  148.  
  149. Wedding gifts almost always consist of money. Some families may save much of their money to present as gifts at weddings. These money gifts will help the new couple start their new lives together somewhat financially secure.
  150.  
  151. When the celebration has ended, it is time for the groom to take his bride to his home. The bride's family kisses the girl and they weep as they unbraid her hair, a symbol for her new marital status. Her new mother-in-law helps the bride knot her diklo, or head scarf, a sign that she is a married woman. She is never seen again without this diklo in public.
  152.  
  153. Marriages among Roma are serious commitments, and there are strict obligations on both sides. If a girl is found guilty of adultery, she must be taken back by her parents, who, in addition, must return the bride price to the husband's father. Infidelity in marriage historically has had serious consequences for the wife, including corporal punishment or a sentence of marimé. If the girl's father feels she has been mistreated by her husband or her in-laws, he has the right to take her away. In many cases, these complaints are heard before the kris before a final settlement is made.
  154.  
  155. mportant Romany Terms
  156.  
  157. Basht (or baxt, bak) -- "Good Luck." Luck, good and bad, is a very important thing to the Roma (Gypsies). Many items, such as talismans, and situations are considered basht. Someone or something lucky is called bakalo, and similarly, someone happy is baktalo.
  158.  
  159. Gaje (GAH-zhe or gah-ZHAY depending on dialect) (or Geyro, Giorgio) (sing. masc. Gajo, sing. fem. Gaji) -- All non-Gypsies, and any person not of Romani heritage. Gypsies are by necessity very insular people, and the Gaje are viewed with suspicion and caution. This is due to centuries of persecution at their hands. To quote the excellent Patrin website: "Since their entry into Europe, the Roma have been outlawed, enslaved, hunted, tortured and murdered." Gaje are viewed as foolish and honorless, and thus it is considered all right to trick, swindle and steal from them when it is necessary -- though these things are only done when they are necessary for survival, not out of habit or to be malicious. It is considered very bad luck to associate with Gaje except in any way except for business.
  160.  
  161. Mahrime (MAH-ree-may) (also Mokadi (mo-KAH-dee)) -- "Unclean and impure in a spiritual way." Ritual cleanliness is of great importance to the Rom, and certain things, creatures and people are believed to be tainted. These include certain animals -- especially cats, rats, foxes (called mokadi jook, "dirty dog"), and to an extent dogs (which are never supposed to enter a vardo or be allowed to lick one's face). Also tainted are blood (especially menstrual blood), water a dog has drank from or a woman has stepped over, and a variety of other items and situations. Some people are also considered mahrime, especially Gaje (and any Rom with a lot of Gaje heritage), Pikies (Gypsies expelled from Romani society forever for their crimes) and Hedgecrawlers (Travelers without Romani blood like the Irish Tinkers). Mulo (ghosts) and faeries are also most mahrime. All these things may sound like mere superstitions, but they have kept the Rom healthier than other peoples throughout history, especially during the Black Plague. The code that regulates what is and is not mahrime is called Romipen, literally "Gypsyness".
  162.  
  163. Phral (FROLL) -- Literally "brother" in some dialects of Romanes, it means a full-blooded Gypsy, a True Rom -- a very good thing to be. Used as both an adjective and a noun.
  164.  
  165. Prikaza (pree-KOZ-ah) -- "Bad Luck." Prikaza is the result of coming into contact with mahrime things, creatures or people -- it follows any who are tainted (there are, of course, ways to undo it). Actions that cause prikaza include bringing a dog into a vardo, touching or even coming into contact with a cat, becoming too close to the Gaje and most of all mentioning any and all bodily fluids and functions -- a strict taboo. The color red in its primary, basic shade is also very prikaza -- this shade of red dye almost never appears in Gypsy clothing, and you will never see a vardo painted that color.
  166.  
  167. Rom -- A person of Gypsy heritage and 2) specifically married Gypsy man (a married Gypsy woman is a romni). Names for a Rom in other languages include Cigan (French & Russian), Cigany (Hungarian), Zigeuner (German) and Zingaresca (Italian).
  168.  
  169. Roma, the (ro-MAH) -- The name that most Gypsies use for themselves as a race and people. Roma only refer to themselves as Gypsies when around the Gaje. The name "Gypsy" stems from a swindle pulled by some of the first Rom in Western Europe in the 1400's -- a Rom Baro (chieftain), knowing his people would otherwise be persecuted in Europe for being very different, obtained free passage for his people across Europe by claiming that they were the deposed rulers of Little Egypt, driven from their country by heathens and forced to travel endlessly in penance. It worked for several decades before the Gaje finally caught on, and in English the abbreviation 'Gyptian, or Gypsy, stuck. The Rom originally came from northern India (leaving around the 10th century), and have since developed a unique wandering lifestyle and culture while traveling the world.
  170.  
  171. Romanes (RO-mah-ness or RAH-mah-ness) -- The language of the Roma (related closely to Sanskrit). Romanes has a huge amount of dialects because the Roma have been scattered across the world and often adopt Gaje words into the language.
  172.  
  173. Romani (RO-mah-nee or RAH-mah-nee) (also Romany) -- An adjective for anything related to the Rom (ex. Romani carpentry). Sometimes used as synonomous with Romanes or occasionally as a plural form of Rom -- Romanies.
  174.  
  175. Rom Baro (ROM BAH-ro) (also Bulibasha (boo-lee-BOSH-ah)) -- Literally "big man," the Rom Baro is the leader of a vitsa (clan) or kumpania (tribe, made up of several clans). Though they often call themselves kings around the Gaje, the position of Rom Baro is an elected one. He is usually chosen by a council of Phuri (Elders) for a combination of cleverness, experience and wisdom. He is advised by the Phuri Dae (FOO-ree DIE-ee), or Wise Woman, who is a matron, spiritual advisor and accountant (collecting all the money earned and doling it out when needed). The Rom Baro makes the big decisions after being advised by her and the other Phuri and also serves as a representative when dealing with both the Gaje and Roma of other clans.
  176.  
  177. Vardo (VAHR-doe) (or vurdon) -- The brightly painted and elaborately carved wagon, or ship around which Romani life traditionally centers. They serve as both transportation and home. Pulled by one or two horses depending on size, they vary greatly in form and style from place to place.
  178.  
  179. Wuzho (WOO-zhoh) -- "Pure and untainted," the opposite of mahrime. Certain creatures are revered as wuzho, including hedgehogs, horses and all scavengers (who are honored for recycling that which has died), as well as some people, including most Roma.
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