Monday, May 5, 2014


Works Cited
Crowe, David; Demeter, N.; Lemon, Alaina, "Roma." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1999, "Gypsies." Encyclopedia of Occultism;Parapsychology. 2001, "Gypsies." Dictionary of American History. 2003, DARRELL SLIDER, DAVID M. CROWE, John Cannon, "gypsy." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009, Elizabeth Knowles, "Roma (people)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed.. 2013, "Roma." Dictionary of American History. 2003, "gypsy." World Encyclopedia. 2005, T., "Roma." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007, and "Gypsy." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. "Gypsies." HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 1996. Web. 05 May 2014.
Fraser, Angus M. The Gypsies. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1992. Print.
"Genocide of European Roma (Gypsies), 1939–1945." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 10 June 2013. Web. 05 May 2014.
""Gypsies" in the United States." "Gypsies" in the United States. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.
Kiger, Patrick J. "Romani Culture and Traditions | National Geographic Channel." National Geographic Channel. National Geographic, 2013. Web. 05 May 2014.
"Romani." BBC News. BBC, Mar. 2007. Web. 05 May 2014.
"Romani People." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 05 May 2014. Web. 05 May 2014.
"'Romani Routes' Author Strives to Change Perceptions." The Register Guard (Eugene, OR). N.p., 3 June 2012. Web. 5 May 2014.
Weyrauch, Walter O. Gypsy Law: Romani Legal Traditions and Culture. Berkeley: U of California, 2001. Print.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Romani Cultural Survival

Gypsies have a lot of history. It's getting repetitive for me to talk about how their culture survives, but I guess this is a good time to make a sort of "Public Service Announcement." Through my research, I have found that gypsies have undergone countless years of oppression, hardship, and dehumanization. The reason for this is purely egotistical and condescending, gypsies are treated as lesser people because they aren't economically and presentably favored amongst people. It's absurd that after getting ran out of their country, enslaved and expelled by the new lands they moved to, exterminated in mass quantities in gas chambers, and forced to live impoverish and often homeless lives that ANYONE would feel the need to give these people more grief. Gypsies are labeled as thieves and criminals because of their suspicious appearance, and sure it's possible that some gypsies steal to get by, but it's because they were dealt a horrible hand in their cultural life that quite frankly, I don't blame them for stealing. They have huge families to feed and support, yet in big cities like Chicago or New York you could very likely run into a gypsy family on the street begging for change. It's awful.
The website above is a way you could help support sending unfortunate Romani children who wouldn't normally receive an education. An education tends to open doors, so maybe the Romani's younger generation could turn things around for the Romani's current status.
This is another website where one can donate or even volunteer to help out with an organized gypsy community in Toronto.

Their culture has survived over the years by the gypsies constantly moving around and having such strong roots that even though it doesn't make sense to the world, it makes sense to them, and that's enough. As interesting as it would have been to interview a gypsy, I'm going to do it on my own time and not for this class assignment. I feel like though I know a fair deal about these people, that an interview would best be served in midst of their culture. What I mean by that is maybe go to a gypsy festival or something where I can interact with a person of this culture and it isn't so forced. I am genuinely interested for these people, and my heart goes out them... especially the ones struggling to make ends meat. I am going to donate a Romani cause, and if I can try to go to some sort of large Romani gathering. Class doesn't end when the semester's over, and anyone that reads this should help out if they have the capability to.

The gypsy culture has survived over the years by relentless dedication to traditions and a pursuit of a better life. Let it be a lesson that if someone with so little can live happily amongst each other that anyone can also do so. Lend a hand, help the Romani.

Romani Music

A big part of Romani culture is their music. "Gypsy Music" (which is considered a derogatory term for the Romani) has several influences due to the gypsies nomadic lifestyle. It has Indian roots, but also traced elements of Greek, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Serbian, Czech, Slavic, Romanian, German, French, and Spanish musical forms.

One can't really say Romani music sounds a certain way because it varies in harmonic, rhythmic, melodic,  and formal structures from region to region. Since there are various dialects of the Romani languages, songs are usually sung with multiple variations of Romani dialect. Often too, the songs are performed with a dance because Romanis are commonly entertainers. 

Romani music was originally folk music. It's pretty rare now-a-days to here gypsies play or perform this type of music just because each country that adopted Romani music has altered its sound to be more pleasing to its audience. Per example, for Spain you have flamenco, yet in Romania, you have slower funeral/wedding music. It serves different purposes depending on the country of which it is being performed. 

Also something to note is that Romani music is more of an Eastern European genre. However, Western Europe has had performances by Gypsy Orchestras, and adopted music that they call "Gypsy Jazz." This particular form of music is very iconic in Romani culture, possibly some of their best work. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Romani Migrations and Diaspora

This topic, however, is perfect for the Romanis. Gypsies are constantly migrating. It started as early as the year 1000. Gypsies originated from India, and between the years 1000-1050 faced invasions and oppression from Muslims trying to settle in India. This forced the gypsies to migrate from India toward Persia and Armenia. As of 1100, Romanis were recorded settlers in the Byzantine Empire. Years went on, they continued in pursuit of different land to settle. By 1300-1400, Romanis started settling in Serbia, and around the same time settled in Wallachia where they were enslaved and perceived as aliens. By 1407, Romani had settled in Germany, and within 10 years were expelled from the country. By 1418, Romanies recorded in France. By 1422, Romanies recorded in Rome. By 1425, Romanies recorded in Spain. As you can see, they were in a short span of time really making progression dispersing among the world, which they viewed as they key to their survival. However, short years after their rapid settlement was when Anti-Romani laws started getting passed. I referred to this in my post about their neighbors, things started getting rough for the gypsies again as they migrated trying to save their people. It's a shame really. 


Currently, as mentioned in my history post, numbers vary for how many Romani are alive but it's estimated anywhere from 2 million to 12 million. They are currently  located throughout the following countries: United States, Brazil, Spain, Romania, Turkey, France, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Russia, Serbia, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Macedonia, Mexico, Sweden, Ukraine, and Portugal. That's a long list, so they were successful in accomplishing their goal of being widespread, but they really don't thrive in today's world with their lifestyle. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Romani and their Neighbors

This is a particularly hard post to make because of the nomadic lifestyle the gypsies live. I almost feel like I'm forcing this... because I've already said that gypsies are notorious for being a very hated group of people. It's a shame because they are hated because of "judging a book by its cover," but it's just the way it is. People tend to get the impression gypsies are up to no good because they are always moving from place to place and sociologically speaking when a person is of a lower status and isn't as presentable, you tend to associate them with negative traits. Like gypsies have been in so many countries, are so spread out that this topic just isn't doable. When they've gone to countries to settle, places have passed laws forbidding them to ever come back into their country. Anti-Romani laws are passed in Switzerland, Germany, France, Denmark, Brazil, Flanders, Scotland, Bohemia, and Lithuania. Hitler thought they were a lesser people, and had them killed along with the jews in the Holocaust. I can't stress enough how much they just didn't get a long with people. When they originated in India, their neighbors (Muslims) invaded and took over their land, forcing them to migrate for safety. Gypsies are there own neighbors, they are trapped in their own world and probably for their own good because people have and still probably would be cruel to them. So, in short, I feel because of the nature of the gypsies you can't really classify who there neighbors are, because it is each other.

Romani Birds

As mentioned before, gypsies are very spiritual people. They have quite a few beliefs about what certain birds mean to them, and I thought that would be suiting to the assignment being their superstitions are superfluous to who they are. Crows are covered in mystery and are considered to be exceptionally wise and intelligent. Some gypsies say that crows can live to be 300 years old. To see one crow  by itself means sorrow, and two together means joy. A crow standing in the road signifies a happy journey, while a dead crow in the road, would signal a gypsy to turn back. To have a property with a rookery (colony of birds) on it, is seen as very fruitful, but if the rooks should leave then that is taken as a bad omen. In Ireland, when one was buying a property that was blessed with a rookery the deal was considered null and void if the rooks deserted the rookery within one year (fun fact). Magpies, also a member of the crow family, are a sign of good luck if two are seen as a pair. One on its own means a theft will occur. Robins and wrens are both lucky creatures, they bring good news if they fly into your home. A dead robin or wren near your door is a bad omen. To hear an owl in daytime is a bad omen, as is to hunt or kill an owl.


I also found a bird that is called "The Gypsy Bird." It's actual name is a Pied Wagtail. It got the name "The  Gypsy Bird," through it's nomadic nature. It is a widespread British bird which usually retreats from the North of Scotland in Winter. It may also be found from Iceland, Northern Norway and Novaya Zemlya in the Southern Hemisphere to the North Mediterranean Coast and North-West Africa. The habitat of the Pied Wagtail is located in various open terrains (including fields, farmyards, parks and meadows). However, it does display a distinct preference to areas in terms of water. In Winter, large communal roosts gather in the trees or buildings of city centers and even on industrial rooftops. The name "pied" comes from the bird's black-and-white coloration and "wagtail" from the "wagging" of its tail.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Romani Cosmos

Gypsies have a wide variety of beliefs that definitely distinguished them among other groups. They are notorious for having some crazy superstitions that are unique to their culture. I'm going to provide a list below, you be the judge.

  • Do not cry, thy tears will sear the heart of the dead (after the death of a loved one) 
  • Let the dead rest in peace, do not use their names or eat their favorite food. 
  • Tended to pitch their tent near a holly tree because they believed it would give them divine protection (holy tree) 
  • To see a mule shaking itself, is a sign of good luck 
  • A moth hovering around a candle flame, means a letter in the morning 
  • To see a white horse in the morning, means good luck all day 
  • If a coal or wood fire makes any kind of noise, it means a quarrel in the offing 
  • To spit on ones hand after seeing a wagtail, means that money is on its way 
  • If the right hand will be paid out 
  • If the left hand will be received 
  • A tickling nose is a sign of getting drunk 
  • An itching of the right eye means sadness 
  • An itching of the left eye is a sign of happiness to come 
  • At the new moon, spit on a little stone, then throw it in the air, if it comes down wet...there will be much sickness...if dry, good luck to come 
  • Frogs spawn thrown over the left shoulder for good luck 
  • If one of the bearers at a funeral stumbles there will be another death 
  • A baby keeps its luck in the grimy lines of its hands 
  • A baby born at full moon will be lucky 
  • A baby born at midnight before the sabbath, it will be under a curse 
  • To see a shooting star is a sign of death

Read more about Gypsy beliefs at: 

It doesn't end there though. Gypsies are notably spiritual, and have a lot of ideals that they abide by. Per example, they believe marrying young is good because it gives families a long time to expand. They believe a lot of things are "impurities," which in turn makes them stay away from such things. One example is cats, they are impure because they lick themselves and gypsies see this as some sort of weird, sexual thing. They believe in eating with their hands because evidentially food tastes better from the hands rather than silverware. They cook using cauldrons and use traditional styles because tradition is of high importance to them. If they see certain things in their dreams, they are destined to have bad luck. It's just so much different from standard value and belief systems that it's a little uncanny. They have "bride prices," which means that essentially the boy's parents make an offer to the girl's parents to buy their daughter into the family (conjoin families). They believe music enriches the soul, so all gypsies are raised to sing, dance, and perform. They are ascribed to a simple way of life, not much in terms of money but lots in terms of culture. In respect to the world, they understand that the world will not understand, and accept it. They refuse to abandon to ancient traditions, and are very accepting of others that they come in contact with. Some say gypsies can't be trusted, but they not a volatile group which is shocking due to all the violence faced upon them (the Holocaust). They view the world with their superstitions and just enjoy their culture whether anyone else does or not.