Anzela Kaldaros

 

Romani Court - Sendo

From the very old days the Roma put a great importance on the Romani court, Kris. This court is one of the few traditions, which is preserved and respected by everyone.

After arriving to the Western Europe – which happened not less than a thousand years ago – the Roma tried to gain the status of immunity by the local laws. One can think they wanted this status so they could not be punished, but the leaders had more complex motives in mind. The Roma were insisting to judge their own cases because they were sure already in the old days that the strangers, who did not know much about their traditions, would not be able to judge them in a right way.

Kris or Sendo is the name of the Romani court. The members are usually older Roma men, one of whom would lead the trial. It is a meeting, where the conflict is discussed and the verdict is taken. The decision is to be followed without any objections.

Here is an example of a conflict situation.

Two Roma men met a horse-seller, who was selling horses on a very low price. One man said that he wants to buy the horses, because he was the first to find the seller, but another man objected that it was him who was the first. The argument was so heated that they almost started to fight. Then one of them suggested:

-         Let’s start a Romani court and it will solve our argument.

The judges gathered for the trial. The main judge was the wisest man in the settlement – the elder. The two men told about how they found the cheap horses and each of them claimed that he was the first. After having listened to them, the judge pronounced:

-         None of you knows who, was the first to find the horse-seller. And in order to end your argument, none of you will buy the horses.

With this the trial was over. Everyone, who goes through this trial has to respect the decision of the judges. The one to disobey would be expelled from the camp or even from the town.

Sometimes even when a husband and a wife want a divorce, they invite the court to solve this.

Many questions are to be solved in Romani court. Up to this day this court is the only solution to any argument.

The Roma avoid filing the cases to the official courts.


You can’t hide from your fate

Once upon a time there were three sisters and none of them could find a husband.

So they went to a meadow, where under a tall oak tree an old woman was sitting and telling fortunes. She told them about their fate.

- Let the eldest sister come to me, - ordered the old woman.

The eldest sister approached her and asked:

- Tell me, lady, what does my fate have for me?

- You are destined, my dear, to spend your life in a cave. Your fate is to become a wife of a cave wizard. You will be together with an evil man. He will show you his kingdom and his riches, a very rich man it is, no-one on earth has so much as he does. But you will not see the blue sky ever again, so prepare for that.

- But what about my sisters? – begged the eldest sister.

- Forget them, dear; you will never see them again.

- No way, old witch, - the romni shouted. – It will not be your way, I will not go to the cave and live with a cave wizard. I will not part with my sister and the world above.

- Well, as you wish, but the cave wizard will not forgive you this, he will punish you.  

- Let it be then. – replied the eldest sister and moved aside.

Another sister comes to the witch.

-         Tell me, lady, what is my destiny?

-         What awaits you, my dear, is to be the wife of a forest man. You will go to the forest and he is already waiting for you there. There is no power in the world to conquer the forest man. If he loves a person, he will make her happy, but if you make him angry, beware! He will keep you in the forest and only birds and animals will be your friends. But you would have to keep away from the humans.

-         What about my sisters?

-         Forget your sisters, my dear, you can’t go against your fate.

-         It will never happen, you old witch! – screamed the middle sister.

-         You shouldn’t argue with your destiny and make the forest man angry. If he hears your words, he’ll get angry and punish you.

-         Let it be then, - replied the sister and left.

The youngest sister comes to the oak tree.

-         What fate awaits me, lady? Please, tell me the truth, don’t hide anything.

-         Your fate is this: you will go to the seaside, sit on the shore and wait. The water will part and the King of the Seas will come out with his 12 sons. Your fate is to live with the King. The sea will become your home, my dear, and all the treasures of the sea will be yours. But you will never see a human again.

-         Well, lady, if it is my destiny, nothing can be done. You can’t hide from your fate. Let it happen.

For disobeying the fate, the elder sisters turned into mermaids, but the youngest sister became the Queen of the Seas.

*****

Once upon a time there was once a Rom, and he had strong faith in God. He lived according to the Bible and respected the word of God. He was not rich, had a little house and little shop, where he sold the wooden things he made. His family was little – just a wife and a daughter, and they lived all together.

The Rom prayed to God every morning and only after that left to his shop. One day, during his morning prayer he exclaimed:

-         Dear God, thank you for everything. You know how much I love you, I respect every your word and I live according to the Bible. I never asked you for anything. You know I am poor, so could you do just once that I have some money? I will soon have to give my daughter away to marry, and I can’t afford the wedding. It is the only thing I am asking about.

The God heard his words and thought:

- It is true, he is such a good man and loves me so much, and I never gave him anything for that. Next time he goes to work and will pass the bridge, he will find there a sack full of money. 

Next day the Rom woke up, prayed to God as usual and left for work. When he reached the bridge, he suddenly thought:

-         I walk this road for many years every day. This time I will try to walk it with my eyes closed.

He walked the bridge with his eyes closed and passed the sack of money by.

It happens often in life, that the people cannot see what God gives them and pass their fate with their eyes closed.

The creation of the family

The Roma girls are ready for marriage from the age of 12-15, while the boys become the grooms at 15-20. These early marriages are motivated by necessity rather than by a whim. It keeps the Roma nation, promoting the early entering into adulthood and motherhood.

While a little romni is not married, she does not have many limits and chores, but some things are controlled: she has to wear different clothes, adapt her behaviour and she is closer watched by the adults. There is no independent life, where one can meet another freely, give into the embrace of love, nor a burning Gypsy passion. All this is forbidden by strict moral norms of the Roma community.

The girl is to be married as early as possibly, to avoid letting her try it all. In the earlier day the children were engaged right after their birth by their parents, and they grew up in the settlement as a bride and a groom. Nowadays, this tradition is mostly forgotten and it is more common, that the engagement happens with the consent of the children.
 

It is commonly considered that matchmaking is a necessary stage on the way to the creation of a strong family. If the groom comes from a very good family, his parents would look for a suitable bride for him. They will collect information about the girls, who are ready for marriage.

There is a set of requirements for a potential bride. She has to be pretty, to belong to a family with a good income, to have practical skills, be active and initiative. This is especially important, as according to the traditions it is the woman who would be responsible for both providing the money and bringing up the children.

Both in the past and now if the parents ignored their son’s choice and feelings towards a girl, a couple would run away secretly and keep hiding for some days, while boy’s parents would sort the situation with the girl’s parents. If they accepted the choice, the wedding would follow.

Now bride and groom can get married in the church or in the registry.

Romani wedding is a loud and merry celebration. The relatives and guests would come to the wedding from afar with presents for the newlyweds. The tables would fit up to 300 people, men sitting separately from the women and children. The newlyweds would sit in the middle and there is a plenty of different delicious treats.

The parents of the groom give the first present. Then the bride’s dowry is collected. It usually consists of the most necessary items: duvets, pillows, sheets, clothes, cutlery, etc. Then the numerous guests proceed with the presents.
 

There is a lot of singing and dancing at the weddings. The Roma love singing and dancing, play different musical instruments. Romani wedding is a unique event, so merry, lively, passionate and uncontrollable, that the presence of a traditional toastmaster, like at the Russian wedding, here would be absurd.

Right after the wedding the usual life begins.