Friday, June 29, 2007


Growing up in America, I had no idea they even existed. My grandparents would use them as a threat if we kids misbehaved. They said bad children were bought by traveling gypsies and whisked away in their caravans. In the movies, they told fortunes and could put curses on those who wronged them. That was just Hollywood, but as a child we were still careful not to shove just any old woman around -- in case she was a gypsy.

Before I went to Europe I thought gypsies were pure fiction, just imaginary boogymen used to scare children, like werewolves or mormons. But over there, they’re very real; call themselves Romani, and are actually a long persecuted minority. The more you know…

Who Were the Gypsies?

From the article:

A Romani woman, according to traditional mores, must not walk in front of a man who is seated. Romani women have managed to turn this fear of defilement into power. A Romani woman who is wronged can toss her skirt over a man's head (or sometimes her underwear or even just expose her genitals). Skirt tossing defiles the recipient, making him an immediate outcast. He must make peace with the skirt tosser before he can reenter the group. Defilement from skirt tossing is permanent; the only way to remove it is to pretend it never happened. The skirt tosser does just that once peace is made.

That's a creative form of punishment -- it'd make a great episode of Law & Order for sweeps week.

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