Historical Tidbits- Romani

  • Random tidbits for my current work in progress that I wanted to save so I could refer back to them in one easy to find place.

    The Romani (also spelled Romany), or Roma, are an ethnicity of Indian origin, living mostly in Europe and the Americas.[24][25] Romani are widely known among Anglophonic people by the exonym "Gypsies" (or Gipsies).

    Romani are widely dispersed, with their largest concentrated populations in Europe—especially Central and Eastern Europe and Anatolia, Iberia, and Southern France. They originated in India and arrived in Mid-West Asia, then Europe, at least 1,000 years ago,[26] either separating from the Dom people or, at least, having a similar history;[27] the ancestors of both the Romani and the Dom left North India sometime between the sixth and eleventh century.[26]

    Since the nineteenth century, some Romani have also migrated to the Americas. There are an estimated one million Roma in the United States;[4] and 800,000 in Brazil, most of whose ancestors emigrated in the nineteenth century from eastern Europe. Brazil also includes Romani descended from people deported by the government of Portugal during the Inquisition in the colonial era.[28] In migrations since the late nineteenth century, Romani have also moved to Canada and countries in South America.[29]

    The Romani language is divided into several dialects, which add up to an estimated number of speakers larger than two million.[30] The total number of Romani people is at least twice as large (several times as large according to high estimates). Many Romani are native speakers of the language current in their country of residence, or of mixed languages combining the two; those varieties are sometimes called Para-Romani.[31]

    Society and traditional culture

    A Gipsy Family, facsimile of a woodcut in the Cosmographia of Sebastian Münster (Basle, 1552)
    The traditional Romanies place a high value on the extended family. Virginity is essential in unmarried women. Both men and women often marry young; there has been controversy in several countries over the Romani practice of child marriage. Romani law establishes that the man's family must pay a bride price to the bride's parents, but only traditional families still follow this rule.

    Once married, the woman joins the husband's family, where her main job is to tend to her husband's and her children's needs, as well as to take care of her in-laws. The power structure in the traditional Romani household has at its top the oldest man or grandfather, and men in general have more authority than women. Women gain respect and authority as they get older. Young wives begin gaining authority once they have children.

    Romani social behavior is strictly regulated by Hindu purity laws[citation needed] ("marime" or "marhime"), still respected by most Roma (and by most older generations of Sinti). This regulation affects many aspects of life, and is applied to actions, people and things: parts of the human body are considered impure: the genital organs (because they produce emissions), as well as the rest of the lower body. Clothes for the lower body, as well as the clothes of menstruating women, are washed separately. Items used for eating are also washed in a different place. Childbirth is considered impure, and must occur outside the dwelling place. The mother is considered impure for forty days after giving birth.

    Death is considered impure, and affects the whole family of the dead, who remain impure for a period of time. In contrast to the practice of cremating the dead, Romani dead must be buried.[124] Cremation and burial are both known from the time of the Rigveda, and both are widely practiced in Hinduism today (although the tendency for Hindus groups is to burn, while some communities in South India tend to bury their dead).[125] Some animals are also considered impure, for instance cats because they lick their hindquarters. Horses, in contrast, are not considered impure because they cannot.


    The ancestors of modern day Romani people were previously Hindu, but adopted Christianity or Islam depending on their respective regions they had migrated through.[128] Muslim Roma are found in Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Egypt, Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and form a very significant proportion of the Romani people.

    Deities and saints
    Blessed Ceferino Giménez Malla is considered a patron saint of the Romani people in Roman Catholicism.[129] Saint Sarah, or Kali Sara, has also been venerated as a patron saint in the same manner as the Blessed Ceferino Giménez Malla, but a transition has occurred in the 21st century, whereby Kali Sara is understood as an Indian deity brought from India by the refugee ancestors of the Roma people, thereby removing any Christian association. Mother Goddess figurines have been found in the excavations of the Indus Valley Civilisation in Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, in the Sindh - Punjab - Haryana area [Some Romani claim Punjab to be their original habitat], and Kali Mata [Mother Kali] is still worshipped in India particularly by the Hindus. Therefore, Saint Sarah is now progressively being considered as "a Romani Goddess, the Protectress of the Roma" and an "indisputable link with Mother India".[90][130]

    Ceremonies and practices
    Romanies often adopt the dominant religion of their host country in the event that a ceremony associated with a formal religious institution is necessary, such as a baptism or funeral (their particular belief systems and indigenous religion and worship remain preserved regardless of such adoption processes). The Roma continue to practice "Shaktism", a practice with origins in India, whereby a female consort is required for the worship of a god. Adherence to this practice means that for the Roma who worship a Christian God, prayer is conducted through the Virgin Mary, or her mother, Saint Anne—Shaktism continues over one thousand years after the people's separation from India.[131]

    Besides the Roma elders, who serve as spiritual leaders, priests, churches, or bibles do not exist among the Romanies—the only exception is the Pentecostal Roma.