MYTHOLOGIES OF the romani/gypsies

The Romani (also known as Roma) are an ethnic group living mostly in Europe, who trace their origins to medieval India. They are referred to many as Gypsies (though this moniker is historically incorrect) and have been persecuted for centuries throughout the world because of their traditional culture. Romanies place a high value on the extended family. Virginity is essential in unmarried women. Both men and women often marry young and there has been controversy in several countries over the Romani practice of child marriage. Romani law establishes that the man’s family must pay a bride price to the bride’s parents, but only traditional families still follow this rule. Once married, the woman joins the husband’s family, where her main job is to tend to her husband’s and her children’s needs, as well as to take care of her in-laws. The power structure in the traditional Romani household has at its top the oldest man or grandfather, and men in general have more authority than women. Women gain respect and authority as they get older. Young wives begin gaining authority once they have children. Many Romanies follow a strict form of Marhime, which is similar to the Hindu purity laws.

Romani Culture, Myths and Legends

Gypsy Folk Tales

Turkish-Gypsy Stories

No. 1.–The Dead Man’s Gratitude
No. 2.–Baldpate
No. 3.–The Riddle
No. 4.–Story of the Bridge

Roumanian-Gypsy Stories

No. 5.–The Vampire
No. 6.–God’s Godson
No. 7.–The Snake who became the King’s Son-in-law
No. 8.–The Bad Mother
No. 9.–The Mother’s Chastisement
No. 10.–The Three Princesses and the Unclean Spirit
No. 11.–The Two Thieves
No. 12.–The Gypsy and the Priest
No. 13.–The Watchmaker
No. 14.–The Red King and the Witch
No. 15.–The Prince and the Wizard
No. 16.–The Apples of Pregnancy

Bukowina-Gypsy Stories

No. 17.–It all comes to Light
No. 18.–The Golden Children
No. 19.–The Two Children
No. 20.–Mare’s Son
No. 21.–The Deluded Dragon
No. 22.–The Gypsy and the Dragon
No. 23.–The Seer
No. 24.–The Prince, his Comrade, and Nastasa the Fair
No. 25.–The Hen that laid Diamonds
No. 26.–The Winged Hero
No. 27.–Tropsyn
No. 28.–The Beautiful Mountain
No. 29.–Pretty-face
No. 30.–The Rich and the Poor Brother
No. 31–The Three Brothers
No. 32.–The Enchanted City
No. 33.–The Jealous Husband
No. 34.–Made over to the Devil
No. 35.–The Lying Story
No. 36.–Happy Boz’ll

Transylvanian-Gypsy Stories

No. 37.–The Creation of the Violin
No. 38.–The Three Golden Hairs of the Sun-King
No. 39.–The Dog and the Maiden
No. 40.–Death the Sweethe
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Slovak, Moravian, and Bohemian Gypsy Stories

No. 41.–The Three Girls
No. 42.–The Dragon
No. 43.–The Princess and the Forester’s Son
No. 44.–The Three Dragons

Polish-Gypsy Stories

No. 45.–Tale of a Foolish Brother and of a Wonderful Bush
No. 46.–Tale of a Girl who was sold to the Devil, and of her Brother
No. 47.–The Brigands and the Miller’s Daughter
No. 48.–Tale of a Wise Young Jew and a Golden Hen
No. 49.–The Golden Bird and the Good Hare
No. 50.–The Witch

English-Gypsy Stories

No. 51.–Bobby Rag
No. 52.–De Little Fox
No. 53.–De Little Bull-calf

Welsh-Gypsy Stories

No. 54.–Jack and his Golden Snuff-box
No. 55.–An Old King and his three Sons in England
No. 56.–The Five Trades
No. 57.–Ashypelt
No. 58.–Twopence-Halfpenny
No. 59.–The Old Smith
No. 60.–The Old Soldier
No. 61.–The Dragon
No. 62.–The Green Man of Noman’s Land
No. 63.–The Black Lady
No. 64.–The Ten Rabbits
No. 65.–The Three Wishes
No. 66.–Fairy Bride
No. 67.–Cinderella
No. 68.–Jack the Robber
No. 69.–The Fool with the Sheep
No. 70.–The Tinker and his Wife
No. 71.–Winter
No. 72.–The Black Dog of the Wild Fores
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Scottish-Tinker Stories

No. 73.–The Brown Bear of the Green Glen
No. 74.–The Tale of the Soldier
No. 75.–The Fox
No. 76.–The Magic Shirt

Death the Sweetheart

There was once a pretty young girl with no husband, no father, no mother, no brothers, no kinsfolk; they were all dead and gone. She lived alone in a hut at the end of the village, and no one came near her, and she never went near any one. One evening a goodly wanderer came to her, opened the door, and cried, “I am a wanderer and have been far in the world. Here will I rest; I can no further go.” The maiden said, “Stay here; I will give thee a mattress to sleep on and, if thou wilt, victuals and drink too.” The goodly wanderer soon lay down and said, “Now once again I sleep; it is long since I slept last.” “How long?” asked the girl. And he answered, “Dear maid, I sleep but one week in a thousand years.” The girl laughed and said, “Thou jestest, surely? Thou art a roguish fellow.” But the wanderer was sound asleep. Early next morning he arose and said, “Thou art a pretty young girl. If thou wilt, I will tarry here a whole week longer.” She gladly agreed, for already she loved the goodly wanderer.

Gitanos

The Romani in Spain, generally known by the exonym gitanos ([xiˈtanos]) or the endonym Calé, belong to the Iberian Cale Romani subgroup, with smaller populations in Portugal (known as ciganos) and in Southern France. Their sense of identity and cohesion stems from their shared value system, expressed among the gitanos as the leyes gitanas (‘Gypsy laws’). Traditionally, they maintain their social circles strictly within their patrigroups, as interaction between patrigroups increases the risk of feuding, which may result in fatalities. The emergence of Pentecostalism has impacted this practice, as the lifestyle of Pentecostal gitanos involves frequent contact with gitanos from outside their own patrigroups during church services and meetings. Data on ethnicity are not collected in Spain, although the public pollster CIS estimated in 2007 that the number of gitanos present in Spain is probably around one million.

Roguish Romani

The stereotype of the Romani as dishonest has been so prevalent that exonyms like “gypsy” and “Zigeuner” connote it. Examples mainly include but are not limited to theft, fraud, and kidnapping of children. Older Than Steam, the stereotype goes back centuries and is especially common in older works. To a lesser extent, it is also associated with other nomadic groups such as Irish Travellers even if they’re unrelated to the Romani. For once, this stereotype actually originates from an actual facet of Romani culture, albeit a completely innocent one in actuality. Namely that they originally only considered something to be personal property for as long as it remained on one’s person. Keep in mind that this is no longer the case with actual Romani people, however. Note also that the word “gypsy”, though commonly used in a lot of media, and accepted by some Romani, is considered by others as an ethnic slur.

Real History of the Romani People and the Misnomer of Gypsies

Colloquially, and rather insultingly, known as ‘gypsies’, the history and culture of the Romani people is surrounded by stereotypes and misnomers, none more damningly pervasive than Esméralda from the Hunchback of Notre Dame . Because of such images spread by mass media’s misunderstandings of the Romani, it is often believed that the Romani people are to be feared or exiled and avoided. The Romani are often painted as thieves and tricksters, in particular because of their nomadic lifestyle and their unorthodox practices in the eyes of the Christian Church during their early migrations. However, the migratory history of the Romani, their cultural persecutions , their native traditions, and their unbreakable familial bonds are likely why they remain so interesting to outsiders today.

Poreskoro

Poreskoro

Poreskoro, “Tailed” or “Caudate”, is the ninth and final child of Ana, the ultimate Romani demon of disease produced from an unhappy and abusive relationship between Queen Ana of the Keshalyi and the King of the Loçolico. After the failed attempt at sterilization that produced Minceskro, the distraught Keshalyi fed their Queen a mixture of cat hair, powdered snake, and hair from the hound of hell. This time the result was Poreskoro. A bird with four dog heads, four cat heads, and a snake tail with a forked tongue, Poreskoro is a hermaphrodite who does not require a mate to produce offspring. Its children are bubonic plague, cholera, smallpox, and all the pestilences, epidemics, and pandemics known to humanity. Poreskoro dwells deep underground with its offspring; its appearance on the surface heralds widespread destruction and disease. It is small comfort, then, that even the King of the Loçolico had a shock upon seeing this monstrous child, and realized that his marriage was going nowhere. He and Ana divorced under two conditions – first, that the Loçolico would leave the Keshalyi alone as long as Ana was alive; second, that every Keshalyi nymph having reached the age of 999 would be given away to the Loçolico. So it came to pass that Ana lived in blessed seclusion in an isolated mountain castle, rarely leaving, and sustained by the Keshalyi. Every morning three of the nymphs visit her and give her a single drop of blood from their left hand to keep her alive. She sometimes appears in the form of a golden toad, but more often she is only heard saying the word ana, meaning “bring” or “pass”. If you hear that, then you must pick up a frog, beetle, or other small animal and toss it into a bush, otherwise Ana will crush you under a rock. As for her demonic children, they live on, and the diseases they spawn are endless.

Minceskro

Minceskro

Minceskro, “the one who came up from the female genitals”, is the eighth child and fourth daughter of Ana, Queen of the Keshalyi, and the King of the Loçolico. She and her siblings are all Roma demons of disease produced from an abusive and unnatural union. By the time Lolmisho the Red Mouse was born, Ana was in a state of despair at the vile children she had mothered. She begged Melalo to sterilize her and prevent further demons from being born. The two-headed bird obliged, telling her to bury herself in a dung heap. But instead of having the desired effect, all that accomplished was allowing a dung beetle to enter her body. From that dung beetle was born Minceskro, a hairy little beetle that crawls over the body and enters the bloodstream. She is the cause of blood maladies and venereal diseases – gonorrhea, leucorrhea, syphilis… Her husband is Lolmisho, and their children are measles, smallpox, scarlet fever, and many more besides. Minceskro’s origin has led to a traditional remedy for syphilis consisting of burying the patient in manure and sprinkling them with firewater. This procedure drives out the beetle and heals the ulcers.

Lolmischo

lolmischo

Lolmischo, the “Red Mouse”, the seventh of the Children of Ana, and her fourth son. Like his siblings, he was conceived by the Keshalyi fairy Ana and her perverse husband the King of the Loçolico. In this case, Ana was suffering from a skin condition. The vile Melalo recommended that she be licked by mice, but one of them entered her belly, resulting in the conception of Lolmischo. As his name indicates, he is a red mouse or rat. Rashes, hives, itches, ulcers, blisters, and boils fall under his jurisdiction, and he can cause eczema simply by running over the skin of a sleeping person. He found a wife in his younger sister Minceskro. Their children are the demons of chickenpox, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox…

Bitoso

bitoso

Bitoso, “The Faster” or “Fasting One” (although some accounts mistakenly refer to “The Fastening One”) is one of the children of Ana, a Keshali fairy of Roma folklore who was coerced into bearing the offspring of the King of the Loçolico. As with his siblings, he is the cause of a number of diseases and ailments, although Bitoso has the dubious distinction of being the mildest and least harmful of the lot. When Schilalyi moved on to molesting her own siblings, Melalo recommended that the King eat garlic on which he had urinated. After the King visited Ana, she give birth to Bitoso, who became Schilalyi’s husband. Bitoso is a little worm with multiple heads (some accounts specifically refer to four heads) who causes headaches, stomachaches, and lack of appetite; his gnawing causes earache and toothache. He and Schilalyi’s children cause colic, cramps, tinnitus, and toothache. Bitoso himself is mercifully innocuous compared to his siblings. Bitoso’s pedigree is one that goes back centuries. The folk knowledge that worms cause toothache dates back at least to the Babylonian civilization, in the tale of the worm’s creation. After Anu created the heavens, the heavens in turn created the Earth, the Earth created the rivers, the rivers created the canals, the canals created the marsh, and the marsh created the worm, the worm came before Shamash and Ea, demanding the food allotted to it. It refused figs and pomegranates, instead choosing to live between the teeth and the jawbone, destroying the blood vessels, seizing the roots, and ruining the strength of the teeth.

Schilalyi

shilali

Schilalyi, “Cold” or “Cold One”, is the fifth of the children of Ana, and her third daughter. She and her siblings are the Roma demons of disease, and are the result of unnatural and undesired liaisons between the Keshali queen Ana and the King of the Loçolico. After Ana’s fourth child, Melalo advised his father to serve her a cooked mouse which the King had spat on, along with soup. Ana fell ill, and as she drank water, Schilalyi crawled out of her mouth. This unnatural birth earned Schilalyi particular loathing from her mother. Schilalyi in turn tormented her brothers and sisters until her husband Bitoso was born. Schilalyi’s form is that of a white mouse with many little legs and possibly multiple tails, and she is the cause of chills and cold fevers. To counter her symptoms, patients are treated with dried mouse lungs and stomachs, steeped in alcohol. White mice are regarded as agents and offspring of Schilalyi, leading to one alleged incident where a pharmacist’s lab mice were drowned in a well to ward off certain disaster.

Tçaridyi

tcaridyi

Tçaridyi, “Hot” or “Burning” is one of the children of Ana, sired unnaturally by the King of the Loçolico as a spouse for Tçulo. As one of the Roma demons of disease, she torments humanity to this day. Tçulo proved to be more troublesome than expected, persecuting even his own sister Lilyi. To distract him, Melalo told his father to conceive a wife for the little urchin. What the King used to induce Tçaridyi’s conception is unknown, but it probably involved worms of some kind. Tçaridyi herself takes the form of a little hairy worm or caterpillar. She only infests women, slithering through their arteries and veins. The long hairs on her body detach as she moves, causing fever and inflammation, especially puerperal fever. Her union with Tçulo produced women’s diseases; otherwise, Tçulo and Tçaridyi torture humans but rarely kill them.

Tçulo

tculo

Tçulo is the third child of Ana, Queen of the Keshalyi. As with his siblings before and after him, he is a vile demon of disease with no redeeming features, and originated from the machinations of the evil King of the Loçolico to impregnate his wife. Their stories are told in Roma folklore. Eventually, the King realized that he could only make love to his wife while she was asleep, and Melalo was more than happy to oblige with soporific vapors. But Melalo himself was procreating with Lilyi, bringing more diseases and ailments into the world, and the King grew jealous of his son’s brood. On the other hand, Melalo found that he could not sire powerful demons, and hoped that his mother could produce a race of evil beings strong enough to destroy humanity. Following Melalo’s advice, the King ate a stag beetle and a crayfish before visiting Ana. Tçulo was the result. Tçulo, “Thick” or “Potbellied”, is little more than a small ball full of spikes. He enters human bodies and rolls around within the intestines, causing severe abdominal pains and colic. He particularly targets pregnant women, and even his big sister Lilyi was tormented by him. It was this behavior that led to the conception of Tçaridyi, Tçulo’s own sister-wife. Both of them caused pain but rarely death, and their offspring were all women’s diseases.

Lilyi

lilyi

Lilyi is the second child of Ana, Queen of the Keshalyi. Like her siblings, she is responsible for an array of ailments that plague humanity, and she had her genesis in the abusive relationship between Ana and her repulsive husband, the King of the Loçolico. After the birth of Melalo, Ana understandably refused to have another child. But this time it was Melalo himself, desirous of a wife, who told his father to cook a fish in donkey’s milk, and administer a few drops of the liquid in Ana before taking her by force. The product of this vile union was Lilyi. Lilyi, “Viscous” or “Slimy”, is mermaid-like, part fish (some sources specify hagfish) with a human head. Nine sticky threads or barbs flow from either side of her head, and they can penetrate a human body, causing buildup of mucus. She is responsible for catarrh, coughing, dysentery, influenza, vomiting, and other diseases involving mucus and discharges. Her union with her brother Melalo produced further demons of disease, but she was herself persecuted by her younger brother Tçulo – at least until Tçulo got a sister-wife of his own.

Melalo

Melalo

According to the Roma of Eastern Europe, notably Romania and Slovakia, all the diseases and ailments of the world can be traced back to a family of creatures born from an unholy union of fairy and demon. These unloved bastard children, hated by their parents, take their spite out on humans. Long ago, the good fairies or Keshalyi lived in the high mountains, while the evil Loçolico, former humans warped and twisted by the Devil, lived underground. But when the King of the Loçolico took a fancy to Ana, Queen of the Keshalyi, their separate worlds were brought too close for comfort. After Ana turned down the ugly King of the Loçolico, the demons responded by hunting down and devouring the Keshalyi. Only Ana’s forced marriage to the King saved her people from utter annihilation. Ana found her husband so disgusting that she refused to consummate the marriage. The King finally forced himself on her following the advice of a golden toad, who told him to feed her the brains of a magpie. Ana fell into a deep sleep, and soon after conceived Melalo, their first son. Melalo, literally “filthy”, “dirty”, or “obscene”, is the oldest and most feared of Ana’s children. He is a small, dirty grey (the English translation oddly gives the color as green), unkempt bird with two heads. He has sharp claws which he uses to tear out hearts and rip bodies to shreds; with his wings, he stuns victims and makes them lose their reason. Melalo foments anger, rage, cruelty, sadism, frenzy, rape, and insanity. Those he has affected can only chatter like a magpie. Melalo would go on to influence the creation of the remainder of Ana’s brood. It was he who put his mother to sleep with his vapors, and convinced his father to sire Lilyi, his sister, wife, and eventual mother to countless women’s diseases. Melalo also guided the conception of his siblings. To counter Melalo, one must tie an amulet with his image to the afflicted part of the body. It is possible that the two-headed bird imagery that created Melalo started with the Hittites, who took it to Byzantium and eventually to Russia and Austria. Meanwhile, the expression yov hin jiamutr Melaskero (“he is Melalo’s son-in-law”) has persisted in reference to a violent, nasty person.

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