To this day, Rroma have usually adopted the dominant religion of the host country without however giving it - be they Christian or Muslim an preponderant role in Rroma life.In a few words all Rroma in the world believe in God, but that this belief takes sometimes other forms than among the general population.
Officially, most of the Rroma in the Balkan and the Crimean Rroma are Muslims.There are Muslim elements in their everyday life: names, cooking, clothes and some ceremonies. All other Rroma are Christian - catholic, orthodox, some protestant (in Latvia, Estonia, Finland and the Swedish Tattare, for example). The Roma of Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania have been particularly active in Islamic mystical brotherhoods is generally understood by scholars to be the inner or mystical dimension of Islam). Muslim Roma immigrants to western Europe and America have brought these traditions with them.
However, the traditional Rroma beliefs are very much dualistic:on one hand, Del or Devel, God, the symbol of goodness, light and the protector of men - on the other hand, Beng, the Devil, the source of evil, darkness and the tempter of men. This dualistic belief may be the trace of old oriental dogmas. It is nevertheless nowadays impossible to know which religion the Rroma ancestors had in India.
Romani religion has a highly developed sense of morality, taboos, and the supernatural, though it is often denigrated by organized religions.As the Russian-Rroma writer and scientist Leksa Manuš (1942-1997) concluded the current Rromani religion and beliefs are derived of old Shivaistic concepts. Leksa Manush found a series of words giving the hint that Rroma ancestors in India were Shiva believers. Such words as rašaj (priest) or trušul (cross), used nowadays among Rroma are closely related to Shivaistic terms stemming from rishi "a Shiva priest" and trisula " Shiva's trident".
To this day, some pagan beliefs have subsisted among Rroma - either Rroma or of local origins, as a result of travelling to different countries. The belief of the strength of the words, words may bring good or bad luck. As a result, in all Rroma dialects, one can find sometimes almost cliche like formulas.
These formulas are for example used in a conversation when a Rrom speaks about something bad or terrible. It then protects him and the others from bad luck. Rroma also believe in the jakhalimos, the evil eye, and there are formulas to protect oneself. Swear words solaxa (sovela, sovlja) are believed to be powerful and curses, armaja (armanja) are believed to bring bad luck to the ones they are addressed to.
All this has nothing to do with either the official Christian or Muslim religion, although sometimes swearing and cursing are made in church or in the mosque, but always when Rroma are among themselves and no priest or imam is present.
In the last years, several other congregation have been actively proselytising Rroma. Among them one finds the Pentacostalists - among Kelderara, Lovara and Sinti in Western Europe and America as well as in Finland, the Baptists and the Jehovah Witness - for example in Bulgaria.
Furthermore, over the past half-century, Roma have become ministers and created their own churches and religious organizations.In some countries, the majority of Roma now belong to the Romani churches. This change has contributed to a better image of Roma in society.The work they perform is seen as more legitimate, and they have begun to obtain legal permits for commercial activities.
Evangelical Romani churches exist today in every country where Roma are settled. The movement is particularly strong in France and Spain; there are more than one thousand Romani churches (known as "Filadelfia") in Spain, with almost one hundred in Madrid alone. In Germany, the most numerous group is that of Polish Roma, having their main church in Mannheim. Other important and numerous Romani assemblies exist in Los Angeles, California; Houston, Texas, south America (Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mexico City).
A 2004 report on worldwide gipsy work concluded that even though there were 30 to 40 million gypsies in the world(India alone accounts for half) only 1% of the gypsies had received the Gospel.To this day, 800 to 900 000 gypsies of divers ethnically groups know Jesus-Christ, and it is estimated that there are more than 5 000 preachers and gypsy pastors.
An antic belief among Rroma - still surprisingly common nowadays - is that the dead have the freedom of travelling back and forth between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Many Rroma are extremely afraid of the dead. These "living dead" are called čoxano or čovaxano - simply ghosts. Ghosts are those dead whose soul, for one reason or another remained trapped in this world. He may have committed an inexcusable offence during his life or simply have sold his soul to the devil.
Laws about ritual cleanness and uncleanness (in Rromanes užo - biužo) play an important part in the Rroma traditions. For example a girl, from her first menstruations onwards, and till the menopause is considered as being potentially unclean and could thus also render a man unclean (mahrij).Men are not allowed to touch the women’s skirts or, in the case of younger girls, their dolls. Women, on the other hand, are not allowed to sit near the tools used for work. Should this happen, the entire work is considered to become unclean - mahrime - and has to be thrown away or be broken.
When a Rrom is considered ritually unclean, he is not allowed to eat and drink among the other Rroma, but only among his closest relatives. At feasts, he must sit, drink and eat on the side; no one is allowed to shake hands with him or even to touch him. This continues till the moment where the uncleanness - mahrimos - ceases. Other things are considered ritually unclean. For example touching a dog with one's hand, dogs and cats licking plates, eating or drinking from plates or vessels on the floor, washing together men and women's clothes, washing together upper body and lower body clothes etc. are all "unclean". Ritual uncleanness can also result from swearing - or invoking the evil eye - at utensils or tools belonging to another Rrom.
From that moment onward, the utensils and tools become unclean.
Traditions such as these are still very much alive among many different Rroma groups - more so even among the Kalderaša (where it is called pekelimos-mahrimos), among Lovara (marhimo), among Sinti (prasepen) and among Travellers in England (moxadapen). The most rigurous group in laws on cleanness and uncleanness are the Polish Rroma (mageripen) :They have an extremely complicated structure containing items which for other Rroma do not imply ritual uncleanness. For example, in fights among Rroma, it is forbidden to use a knife or any other metallic object. On the other hand, among Rroma who have settled down long ago, for example in the Carpaths and in the Balkan, this tradition is slowly loosing relevance or has even disappeared.
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