Vlach Gypsies of Hungary - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. Rom religion, like Rom culture in general, is an elaborate conversation with or commentary on the religion of surrounding non-Gypsies. O Del (God) and Sunto Maria (Holy Mary) are the two main benevolent forces in the universe. Jesus appears occasionally in Rom belief but mostly as a young boy. Pilgrimages provide the most common occasions for public supplication, devotion, and prayer, some of which attract large Rom gatherings. Although formally adherents of the Catholic faith, Rom have a cosmology that is only tangentially related to Catholic doctrine (see later discussion of death).

Religious Practitioners . Drabarni (old female curers) are still found among Rom but otherwise Rom have no mystical/religious specialists. Each Rom relates to God, Mary, and the saints directly. Priests of the official church are unequivocally feared and held in contempt because Gypsies presume their public virtue conceals private vices of lechery, gluttony, and alcoholism. But they are also essential to maintain Gypsy purity since they provide a sort of moral cleansing for polluted Gypsies. To see a priest is unlucky and dealings with them tend to be mediated by Gypsy women.

Ceremonies. Baptism, request for a bride/marriage, and burial are the three major life-cycle rituals, but only the first and last are celebrated in a church. At these rites the impurities associated with natural bodily processes of birth and death are unceremoniously disposed of onto the priest in order for the Gypsies to purify themselves. The priest's and the Gypsies' interpretation of the same ritual event are thus decidedly at odds. The main ceremonial form of Gypsy life is the mulatsago, in which men gather together, eat, drink, and then sing about the trials, tribulations, and joys of being one of the Gypsy brothers. These celebrations help create an integrated image of Gypsy society.

Arts. Individual Rom have established themselves as poets, painters, and dancers of international note. Most Rom pride themselves on their singing and dancing skills. Rom tend to sing in groups, each group singing a song chosen and particularly associated with one of their members. The songs normally are mournful laments. Traditionally, certain ballads were also sung by Rom but these are now hard to record in Hungary. Several records have spread the fame of Hungarian Rom singers. Gypsy dance is known among the wider family of eastern European dance types.

Medicine. Rom have their own cures for a number of minor ailments, especially ones that afflict children. Rom greatly fear treatment in non-Gypsy hospitals, which, because of their association with childbirth and death, are thought to be polluting and therefore unhealthy places. Rom tend to have more health problems than non-Gypsies, partly because Rom often do wage labor under difficult conditions.

Death and Afterlife. At death, a gradual process of separation of the living from the deceased begins. Until burial the soul or "dream" of the deceased remains nearby, attached to the body. A continual wake is held around the body, and at times when the soul is likely to be present (between midnight and dawn), favorite songs and tales of the deceased are performed. At burial the body is, in effect, handed over to the priest and the church for safekeeping, with the soul remaining in the Gypsies' care: a nice inversion of church ideology. For at least one year the soul may return to visit the living as a mulo (dead person/ghost). Gypsies pay for masses to be sung to complete the process of separation. Feasts for the deceased ( pomana ) are held at anniversaries.


User Contributions:

1
erik attila jonas
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Oct 28, 2014 @ 10:22 pm
very refreshing being a Hungarian born gypsy living in Australia to have my cultural is everything to me
2
Eliza kampus
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Jun 5, 2017 @ 10:22 pm
My grandmother had told me stories that my great grandparents were Hungarian gypsies who came to the US. I know very little aside from that but have always wanted to reconnect with my roots.

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