From an anthropological point of view, Romanies, just like most of the Europeans belong to the Europoid race. According to their physical attributes they are not a homogenous unit although Mediterranoid and Indo-afghan types prevail. They differ form the others by darker pigmentation of eyes and hair, and by brown and yellow colour of complexion (ranging from light to deep dark). The shape of head, hand and physical proportions are not so significant. Some of Romany physiological peculiarities are not obvious by sight (e.g. blood groups).

Some changes may occur after many generations on the assumption that there will be a greater percentage of mixed marriages. Romanies are the youngest Indo-Europeans!!!

Since their arrival Romanies always stressed their difference by the way they dressed.
What’s special about the clothing of Vlach Romanies are their colours and patterns. Women used to wear long dirndl colourful skirt with flounces (cocha fodrenca) and a big inside pocket (žeba, posota) where the women put there cards, money, cigarettes and many times even stolen hens. A small scarf around head (khosno, kendovo) and a big one worn over their shoulders (dikhlo) were also necessary. Lepeda or zajda was a cloth used for carrying children and shopping. Blouse is called vizitka, and gad refers to a blouse with long sleeves and cuffs. Apron (leketa) was also a necessary part of their wear.
As for jewellery, even Vlach men used to wear big earrings (čeňa), massive rings (angrušta) on many fingers, which demonstrated their wealth, and also chains (lanca) on their wrist as well as neck.
Women have always had long hair with a flower (luludi), hair-ornaments and waves on sides. Before World War II men used to have long hair as well. They also grew their beard. Having short hair was considered immoral. This is sometimes disapproved even today as well as dying one’s hair.
Men used to wear a shirt (gad) with long pleated sleeves and a collar. They were usually very colourful with various patterns. Romany vests were either black or different colour from the other parts of clothing. Pants (cholov, rajtky) were put in leather wellington boots. (These were typical especially of Lovar Romanies which were horse traders. They wore a scarf around the neck and a hat – kalapa or staďi. For murš hordinel staďi, džuvli ča khosno. (Man wears a hat, woman wears only a scarf).
Vajda used to have big silver buttons on his vest and he never walked out without wearing a precious necklace.
Indo-European fashion was popular with the majority as well. In the 70’s of the 20th century there were so called gypsy style-shops. They offered various skirts, earrings, bracelets and rings.

However, more important for romipen are their ethnic characteristics, rules and conventions, Romany laws and norms, their values and behavior: Romany traditional lifestyle and culture.
If the origin of Romanies shall be the basis of their identity, then Romany language (romaňi čhib) plays a very important role. It has not got any official written standard and it is not taught at schools. Still, people speak Romany language and they are proud of it. Although Romanies in England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, partly in Hungary do not speak Romany language anymore, other Romanies say:

Romaňi čhib jekhguleder = Romany language is the sweetest .

And also:


Ko pes ladžal vaš peskeri čhib, ladžal ped the vaš peskeri daj.

If you are ashamed of your language, you are ashamed of your mother, too
.

Doesn’t this saying deserve respect?
Romany language is a new Indian language closely related to Hindi. Romany language comprises three parts:

words from Hindi (especially words in the basic register, general words such as: a man, a head, parts of human body, God, fire, colors, numerals, etc.)

words from countries they went through (drom = way form from old Greek, forto or foros = city, kokalo or kokal = guest; grast = horse form Armenian language; many words are borrowings form Balkan adn Slovanic countries)

words form the country they settled in.
There are various Romany dialects in different parts of Europe. Still, Romanies understand each other. They say: Romaňa dumaha dodžaha pal calo svetos. = You can travel all around the world with Romany language. And in a way it seems to be true when we look back at their nomidizing.

Vlach Romanies are, however, an exception. They protect their language against the influence of their environment. It has been preserved in its original form and they do not want to be understood by the others. Also Sinti protect their language. They would never teach their language to anyone else and Sinti all around the world can speak this language.

Romany language has specific sounds: čh, kh, ph and th, which are pronounced with a slight aspiration. The aspiration can even change the meaning of words:
khoro = jug, koro = blind
pherel = pump, perel = to fall
The vowel system does not comprise y. There are four soft consonants: ď, ť, ň, ľ;
11 word groups (article, substantives, adjectives, pronouns, numerals, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, particles and interjections);
2 genders (male and female);
number (singular and plural);
8 cases and one indirect case;
tenses: present, future, past imperfect and perfect;
moods: declarative, imperative, conditional present and past, voice active and passive
Diminutives are very often used:
čuňo - trochu
čuňoro - trošku,
čuňororo - trošičku.
Their songs (giľa) represent their poetry. The old ones are called phurikane giľa and the new ones are neve giľa, later called simply ”rom-pop”.
The lyrics in halgato” are more important than the music. Halgato are ancient songs for listening also called čorikane giľa (sad songs of the needy) or žalosna giľa (deplorable songs). Apart from hunger, orphanage and poverty they talked about love, responsibility to children and parents, unfaithfulness, illness, alcohol and death.
It were Romany women who sang. Even nowadays, as soon as a child starts to speak, relatives teach him how to sing Romany songs. In this way Romany children encounter Romany language even in families where they do not speak Romany anymore. Therefore singing is very important for romipen!
There is a Romany saying: E čhaj barol giľaha,o čhavo lavutaha.= Girl grows up with a song, a boy with a violin. This saying is still topical, although a violin is often substituted with a guitar.
In comparison to halgato melody is more important than lyrics in dance music (čardaša).
Romany prose is represented by fairy tales (paramisa). Long fairy tale (bare paramisa) has remained the most important one up to the present time. Sometimes they were also called vitejzika paramisa (heroic saga). Vitejzis is a hero, almost always a Rom, who fights with dragons, witches and evil kings. In the end he always wins and rescues a princess and the whole world from evil.
Good narrators were always admired. It was usually a domain of men. Great narrator (baro paramisaris) was able to tell a story to the whole settlement from the afternoon till midnight.
As for the audience, there were only adults, children were not allowed to come and listen for two reasons: they might disturb, and there were sometimes džungale paramisa told (very common even vulgar and nasty fairy tales with sexual allusions). The narrator required a perfect silence.
In fairy tales nice words (šukar lava) and nice language (šukar duma) had to be heard. That is another way how Romany language was preserved. And it is worth our admiration!

Unfortunately, these stories are often substituted by television, radio and rush. Nowadays, Romanies do not tell their stories so often anymore. Still, even the young ones can learn from these stories who is pativalo Rom (fair and honest Rom) and for some of them is becomes their ideal.
Besides that there are also charne paramisa (short fairy tales). They are similar to pherasuňi paramisa (humorous, witty novel). They usually tell a story about pal o goďaver Rom (about a clever Rom) as we have already learnt in the chapter PATIV and LADŽ. Cunning hero tricks a hypocritical vicar, stupid farmer or arrogant nobleman.

There are also stories about dilino Rom (naive Rom or rather Romany "Svejk" who plays the fool).
Almost every Rom can tell Charne paramisa. Whoever can tell a lot of these stories is called pherasuno Rom (funny and jolly Rom). There are modern short forms called frki (jokes), hadki (riddles, which usually contain knowledge of Romany values) and proverbs or wise words.


As far as spiritual culture is concerned, by Romanies it is a great complex of traditional, common religion, superstitions and magical practises. Researchers cannot agree when they say that Romanies are:

not religious people
confessors of natural and animistic power and spirits
Faithful Christians, in particular Catholics

It is, probably, a combination of both – Christianity as well as their own faith based on nature. They find Catholic church attractive especially for the stateliness of its ceremonies which appeal to Romany nature.
Three important festivals were always celebrated: Easter (Patraďi), Christmas (Kračoňa) and the God Mother or odpusk (Rusaľja).
At Easter time Romanies brought green branches and flowers to their houses. Girls also wore them. It stresses their relation to nature they have always had. Throughout the whole Easter they sang, danced, ate and drank.
At Christmas time they went to compliment to their neighbours and people believed it would bring them a good luck. However, for the Romanies it was rather a bread job, especially in the last century.
On Christmas Eve (Vilija) all Romanies sat around one table or on the floor. Romany elder had a short traditional speech wishing everybody all the best followed by a toast. After that a family started to celebrate. In the end the whole settlement danced and drank.
On feast-day (aver džives - the second day) celebrating went on until the third day (trito džives).
On New Year's Eve (phuro džives – an old day) and on New Year (Nevo berš) all kinds of superstitions were practised.
God (o Del, o Devel, o Dil) has always been a great and good Spirit and Romanies have always been kind to Him and have a family relation to Him. That is why they called Him o Deloro (our good God), baro Del (great God), sovnakuno Deloro (golden God).
As for a pastor or pop, however, they never respected them. Rom and pastor (o Rom the o rašaj) often appear in Romany fairy tales and Rom hero very often tricks him.
Even today there are still natural and animistic elements. Romanies new how to call up the rain in times of droughts. Romany children in Romania still call up the rain wearing skirts from green branches and dancing papa-ruda.

Romanies also used to heal and exorcise evil (benga, bengora). A night before Easter Sunday they put herbs, dried snake or lizard everybody in the settlement had to touch with two fingers into a wooden vessel. Then they wrapped it in a white or red band and the oldest man carried it from house to house. Everybody spit on it , bosorka exorcised it and then they let it flow on a river. This ritual should exorcise all diseases. On the contrary, those who find and open the vessel was to be taken ill.

However, there was always a cure: the most common and the most powerful in their occultism was paňi sapuno (water from snake), rainwater which ran down the body of dad viper.

There were the following kinds of superstitions:
-
adopted from the environment they lived in
-
taken over and transformed
-
original Romany superstitions
Bosorka was respected among their own family members as well as among her wider family. Even gagio (non-Romany) women came to ask for a help. There is a traditional well-known folksong ”Cikánečko malúčka, přičaruj mi synečka...” (Little Romany woman get me a beloved with you magic and conjuring.
Naturally, bosorkas paid more attention to Romany girls and women. They believed that when pregnant they must get whichever food they happen to want, otherwise they might lose their child. She would miscarry her child. However, there is another superstition: if she takes off her ring, spits on it and touches her belly it might be of a help.
She was not allowed to wear any jewellery (mirikle) when pregnant, otherwise umbilical cord might strangle the child.
If the pregnant mother sees fire she must not touch her belly, otherwise the fire would strike the child’s face!
Right after the birth the child had to get indralvori on its hand – beads, a string or a red band. In this way the child was protected against all evil and could have a peaceful sleep. Young Romany men used to wear a leather band, watch strap or beads on their left wrist even as they became adults. Otherwise they would not fall a sleep, they would have a bad luck, they could even be cursed!
Bosorkas used various tools for their magic and conjuring: small puppets, bengora – devils made from wax or parts of bones possibly wrapped in a strip of hair. Especially Non-Romanies were quite afraid of them.
Palmistry (chiromancy) and cartomancy was the domain of Romany women. Vlach Romany women master these skills for ages. The origins of these skills come from tarot – kinds of cards of unknown origin. It must have been the Romanies who brought over Indian elements and combined them with Egyptian initiation symbology.
Next to these skills Romany women used psychology, improvisation and they were good guessers, too.
Romipen has always followed the traditions of their ancestors, especially in the key moments of their lives: christening, weddings and funerals. Romanies believed that following these traditions will protect them against all evils and will assure health and happiness.
They knew before the birth of the child if it is going to be a girl or a boy. When the belly was round it was going to be a girl, when it was kind of beaked it was going to be a boy.
Until recently they gave birth at their homes. They bathed the child, swaddled it and then went and showed it to the father. They put spiky things such as scissors, needles or a comb under the swaddling clothes in order to protect the child against an evil witch (striga) who might pass under her ugly child.
After the christening evil spirits could not hurt the child anymore.
Romanies did not pay a great attention to wedding ceremony in the past. As we have already learnt in the chapter MULTIGENERATIONAL FAMILY, there were engagements (mangavipen) organised for the young couple. The family of the young boy visited the family of the young girl and they showed their mutual hospitality. The young people promised to love each other, the leader of the settlement (čhibalo) bound their wrists together and poured wine into the palms of their hands. He drank from her palms ,she drank from his palms, then they kissed each other and became husband and wife.
There was a great mourning whenever someone died. Romanies covered or put down a mirror in the house of the dead person. In the coffin they put his/her best clothes and favourite things such as pipes, cigarettes, a violin or a guitar, earrings, rings and a prayer book.

Everyone from the settlement came to say farewell to the dead. They put a hand on the dead body and asked him/her for forgiveness. They guarded his/her grave – (vartisagos) – women during the day, men during the night. They believed his soul was still present. In the day of the funeral they took out the coffin, they hit it off the threshold three times, the soul of the dead went away for good.
Today Romany traditions are preserved rather in Romany settlements, however, even in a more civilised environments Romanies did not give up romipen completely. Even in housing estates Romanies bind red strings on the wrists of their children and they also guard their dead.