This article refers to “a member of a traveling people….found mostly in Europe, parts of North Africa, and North America, but are believed to have originated in South Asia. Also known as Romany, Rom, traveler, nomad, rover, roamer, wanderer.” There is no intention to use any terms in a derogatory way by using the words Romani or Gypsy interchangeably.
Large. Large is one way to describe Romani Funerals. They are known for being elaborate and costly, but not to show off, but rather to demonstrate the vibrancy of life, a large send off to the afterlife and a reason to be with family.
Family. Family is one of the most important components of Gypsy life, so funerals will be attended by relatives, and lots of them. Anyone who is able to travel to the funeral is likely to be in attendance. Family members do not bathe, shave, comb, or eat during mourning. They are allowed to drink coffee and liquor.
Spirits. Gypsies believe spirits are everywhere and the dead can wreak havoc on the living unless they are warded off by spells and charms. This belief creates behaviors such as secretivity, burning of possessions and visitation of others who are ill or dying. A sick person will never be left alone, not just because it is nice to care for them, but because they want to person to be happy and not come back as a spirit to seek revenge. Family and friends will visit in order to get closure for any unsettled problems, including debts.
Mourning. Public mourning, crying, and even wailing, will accompany the funeral procession. Loved ones will typically wear white to represent purity and/or red representing vitality. The dying Gypsy typically will desire to be outdoors and candles may be lit around their bed to light the way to the afterlife. Mourners may toss coins onto or into the casket.
Dead. Gypsies are not allowed to touch the dead, so the deceased body may be prepared by an outsider, including dressing them in their best clothes. Sometimes valuables will be buried with the dead, and other times they will be given as tokens to loved ones. Everything else is burned, including home items and tents or dwellings. And although the possessions are cremated, Romani people do not believe in cremation. At times, loved ones will sell the deceased personal items instead of burning them, but only to people outside the Gypsy community, in case the dead were to return for their possessions.
Religion. Romani people as a whole do not have one specifically recognized religion, so funeral traditions may incorporate personal beliefs. They do however carry a “Rromanipe” worldview, which, according to Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption is: “The Roma live by a complex set of rules that govern things such as cleanliness, purity, respect, honor and justice. These rules are referred to as what is “Rromano.” Rromano means to behave with dignity and respect as a Roma person”.