GOLD IN CUSTOMS AND RITUALS OF THE KELDERARI ROMA1
Ural Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences
On the basis of the fieldwork data collected in the camp of the Kelderari Roma of the Wolf clan, the article analyses their attitude towards gold and their use of gold and gold objects in customs and rites. In Romany culture the notion of gold is multifunctional. Gold is an expensive metal and the main standard of wealth and prosperity. Gold objects are the main and most expensive gift. Gold is a symbol of prestige and a standard of Romany aesthetics: gold jewellery is an indispensable part of the festive dress for girls, brides and grown women. Gold is the key symbol of wealth, prosperity, good fortune, beauty and youth. A whole range of mythological ideas, customs and rites of Romany culture are connected with gold. Gold is used in calendar rites and celebrations as a symbol of wealth; gold objects are an essential part of the decoration of the New Year tree and are employed in rituals regarding the first thunderstorm. Gold is also actively used as a symbol of prosperity in other rites such as the ritual of making an amulet from a bat (liliyako) or from a fern flower. For instance, people believed that a bat flying into a house ‘came for good luck’. So, it is customary to make an amulet out of wax candles, gold, bread and the bat. This amulet is kept behind icons or in a feather bed. As a result, success attends this person: ‘things go well, money and gold come’. People use gold as a gift in family rites: christenings, weddings, the newly married couple moving out of the parental home, and funeral rites. Gold is also used in folk medicine rites.
In: Kyuchukov, Hristo; Elena Marushiakova; and Vesselin Popov (eds.). 2016. Roma: Past, present, future. ISBN 9783862887361: 134-142. (pdf e-paper).
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