Posts tagged ‘Slovakia’

April 11, 2012

Gypsies, trash and Miracles

       
                                               The Roma Flag
                                                     
                                                       The Roma Flag

When I hear the word ‘Gypsy’ vivid pictures of gaily coloured caravans, a woman shrouded in scarves fortune telling and children begging or committing petty theft spring to my mind. I have this antiquated picture of colourful and merry bands of entertainers and musicians rolling into some peaceful town. I’ve never met a Gypsy so my reality and perspective of what a gypsy is has been shaped primarily by the media, which probably means it’s distorted and exaggerated.

As a people group Gypsies refer to themselves collectively as Romany, Romanies, Romanis, Roma or Roms. The term ‘gypsy’ is considered derogatory by some members of the Roma community because of its negative and stereotypical associations but the wide use of it by the English speaking world has bought a reluctant acceptance and adoption of it by the Roma as well.

While they are known to be nomadic in nature historically Roma originate from India. Many of their cultural and social beliefs are strongly rooted in the Hindu Caste System. Roma place the utmost importance on family and often multiple generations live together. Fidelity within marriage and virginity in unmarried woman is essential. Couples marry very young often in their mid to late teens and divorce is rare. In February 2010 an observational documentary called My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding was broadcast in Britain. It was so popular it became a series. It follows the story of four gypsy brides as they prepare for their wedding day. The weddings are visual spectacles and the brides compete to have the most flamboyant of dresses. A show promotion reads ‘ancient tradition meets modern fashion as Gypsy teens embrace the sometimes garish extremes of the celebrity world.’

Why am I so interested in all things Gypsy? In 3 months time I will be travelling to Slovakia via the UK and Vienna. I will be joining a team which includes youth from Czech, members of a local Slovak church and Gypsy Christians. In cooperation with the local government we will be clearing an illegal dump and cleaning up other areas of the village. The project slogan is “I Love My City”. We believe that this initiative is an opportunity for the Roma, often seen as a curse in a community, to be seen as a blessing.

I love all things supernatural and throughout its history Roma people have had an intense relationship with the supernatural. While fortune telling is considered to be a source of livelihood, it’s not something that they practice amongst themselves. They do however strongly embrace a principle of healing (called advising). It incorporates many supernatural themes including omens, curses, charms, amulets, talismans, potions and healing rituals. Their belief is that they prevent misfortune or heal sickness. Roma women are the caretakers of all medical knowledge – traditional and scientific. A female healer who prescribes these cures or preventatives is called a drabarni or drabengi. Roma people are open to healing, miracles, prophecy and deliverance. It’s most likely to be a big part of this trip. All I can say is bring it!

I’m thrilled to be gaining access into this fascinating and mystical community even if  it’s for such a short time. I do think that someone needs to warn the people of Cachtice that I’m on the way. Tell them Catherine Warren, a ‘drabarni of Jesus’  is coming and she is about to love on them big time.

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxox

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