Romani (Gypsy) culture and social issues.

Romani Customs and Traditions:
Important Notes

It is necessary when describing Romani customs and traditions to explain some important points that may clarify some facts presented. Most of the customs and traditions expressed in this section refer to those observed by the older European Roma groups, except where noted. 

The Romani population has been a composite one from the very beginning, with different ethnic groups brought together during their initial great migration from India. The Romani population and the Romani people came into being outside of India, though the various ethnic elements began inside India. This is supported linguistically and increasingly more on the basis of history. For the extensive amount of Persian and Byzantine Greek influence upon the Romanes language, members of the migration out of India stayed in these areas long enough for this to occur, and they no doubt brought members of those populations into the evolving Romani population. 

The fragmentation of the Romani population occurred on a major scale after their arrival into Europe in the 14th century. Once in Europe, their particular ability to adjust to outside groups continued, and in some places, the Romani element was dominant enough to assimilate outsiders. In other places, the Romani element was too small to maintain its discrete identity and it was lost, while contributing to the group into which they were absorbed. The Romani population has grown differently in different places, to the point that one group may deny the legitimacy of another group. But all groups maintain to a greater or lesser degree the barrier between who is Roma and who is not. Thus there are populations of Romani who have incorporated a substantial foreign genetic element from outside of India, but who remain in terms of their own self-perception Roma, and who speak Romanes. Despite what some groups may believe, there is no one group that can call themselves the one, "true" Roma.

Market women.

The use of the names Rom and Roma, or Rrom and Rroma, are used here instead of the words Gypsy and Gypsies. When necessary to explain a point within a cultural or historical context, sometimes Gypsy and Gypsies may be used. Some Romani groups do not call themselves Roma, such as the Romanichal, Gitanos, Kalé, Sinti, Manush, and others, but refer to other groups as Roma. Many Roma groups or nations refer to themselves as Roma, or Rom. These include the older European nations such as the Kalderasha, and others, such as the German Roma. In contrast, some Roma groups do not call themselves Roma and use "Roma" to refer to other tribes. For more information, see Self-Identification of Rroma. To add more confusion, all Roma are Gypsies, but not all Gypsies are Roma. For an explanation, see The Struggle for the Control of Identity.

Gypsies, although pejorative to Roma, is still a proper name, and as such, must always be capitalised.

Marimé, the Roma pollution code, refers both to a state of pollution as well as to the sentence of expulsion imposed for violation of purity rules or any disruptive behavior. Marimé is a core element of Roma society and culture and it pervades every part of traditional Roma life. The majority of Roma adhere to the concept of marimé and its many different names, such as moxadó, melali, mageradó, mokadi, kulaló, limaló, prastló, palecidó, pekelimé, gonimé or bolimé.

Today, the following characteristics apply to the many Roma groups and communities around the world:

    (1) Roma may be nomadic, semi-sedentary, or sedentary 

    (2) Roma speak many dialects of Romanes, and some Roma may not speak Romanes at all

    (3) Roma may live in rural or urban areas 

    (4) Some Roma groups are predominately illiterate, while other tribes stress at least a minimum of literacy in their host country's language for its community members

Integration and assimilation into gajikane society have always threatened the preservation of Roma customs and traditions. The Roma ability to adapt to new environments in order to survive has been responsible for the loss of many customs forgotten with time. Understanding these threats can prevent the further loss of a unique and ancient culture's customs and traditions.

With so many variations in culture, generalities must be used in these articles. For specific information on certain groups or nations, please refer to the Further Reading list for sources. 

Comments and contributions to the Customs and Traditions section are welcome. Please send questions, suggestions or comments to traditions@patrin.com.




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