WHO AND WHAT ARE GYPSIES?
Well,I can say with pride and affirmanation that They are my people,I am theirs.
There is no true written History of my people,no one can really say when and where we originated,but, with certainity I can say We are here,
We have not been stamped out,many tried,many failed.
I hope you enjoy and learn a little about my people,and maybe a little about me.
WHERE DID THE GYPSIES ORIGINATE?
Romany, the gypsy language, is Indic; but it is not known when or why the gypsies left India.
Living as aliens in every country,
they reached Persia by A.D. 1000 and northwest Europe by the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Gypsies are an interesting group of wandering people
found in small scattered groups throughout the world.
They have dark hair and skin.
They called themselves ‘Roma’ and spoke a language known as Romany.
Originally, they came from a caste of Indian people and their language was related to Sanskrit.
It is believed that around 10th century they migrated to Persia where they split into two groups ;
one travelled south-west through Egypt and North Africa and the other took the northern route.
When some Gypsies went to Britain about the year 1,500 they introduced themselves as Egytians,
and the name ‘Gypsies’ came from this word.
Nowadays the word is used to describe wandering people who live in groups.
Gypsies have always been regarded with suspicion and fear.
So, many were killed in Germany during the Second World War.
The women are more important in the group than the men.
It is the Gypsy ‘Queen’ who is important and the women generally rule the family.
They tell fortunes and prepare medicines and remedies from herbs and plants.
In Britain, Gypsies often make their living by dealing in scrap metal.
Many Gypsies now live in comfortable modern caravans.
The original Romany language has now borrowed words from many other languages.
Gypsies are found all over the world, especially in Spain where they are famous for their wild ‘flamenco’ dancing and their ‘guitar playing’.
When the Gypsies first came to Europe they were treated with respect and they have always been thought to be very mystical people (mysterious).
Some Gypsies make their living by telling fortunes at fairs.
The Gypsies History
Gypsies played a major role in the development of flamenco.
Historians generally agree that they originated in the area of
Northern India and Pakistan and travelled a northern route towards the Balkans.
However, there are those who maintain that Gypsies reached Andalucia
from Egypt after sailing along the coast of Africa.
This is despite the lack of any real evidence.
The Spanish Gypsies had no Arabic words in their vocabulary.
The implication of this belief is that they may have accompanied the invading Muslims in 711AD.
Regardless of which theory you believe in,
gypsies traveled far and wide in their wanderings and made a home for
themselves in many countries including the Middle East.
Since there were no real records to prove or disprove their true origins,
Egyptian Gypsies themselves came to believe they were descended from the Pharaohs.
This is a legend to which many of their songs still refer -
as a result of which they were called Egyptians, o
r "Gypcians" in English; while, in old Spanish,
gitano was simply a way of saying "Egyptian".
Unlike the Jews and Muslims, the Gypsies did not leave Spain after the Christian reconquest of 1492.
----------------------------------- European origin
This is what Werner Cohn has to say in his book "The Gypsies" (1973), which you can download from his website
"....there would be little doubt that a very sizable portion of the Gypsies' ancestors came from among Europeans....Indeed the Gypsies are thouroughly European. Not only does a majority of their ancestors probably come from old European stock, but the group as a whole has also lived within the Euopean cultural area for many centuries."
He is in no doubt that the first gypsies came from India.
Linguistic evidence in all gypsy dialects shows Indic origin.
However, the Rom language also shows traces of of Persian, Kurdish and Armenian and Greek.
"Beyond this basic material in all the gypsy languages and dialects,
The Rom speak a language that European scholars classify within the Vlax group of gypsy dialects,
named after the Romanian province of Wallachia....
We must conclude from this that the Rom are
descendants of the people who lived in Romanian language areas for considerable periods of time."
Another interesting observation on the lack of Indian ancestory comes from the struggle for the control of identity - by Ian Hancock.
"The idea that Rroma are really local people
who have intentionally darkened their skin and who speak a deliberately concocted
secret jargon is not a new one; it goes back at least to Renaissance times."
From India to Persia
In the early 11th century,
there lived a Persian poet and chronicler named Firdawsi 935-1020 (born; Abu Ol-Qasem Mansur in Tus, Persia).
He tells a tale which is often quoted as the earliest written evidence of the gypsy origins.
While I woudn't dare to question the importance of Firdawsi's contribution to Islamic literature,
his best known work, 'Shah-nameh' (The Epic of Kings - Hero Tales of Ancient Persia),
reads like a mythological fantasy that would make a great subject for the next Disney cartoon.
Firdawsi is also known as Ferdowsi, Firdausi or Firdusi.
Keep in mind that before the 10th Century, gypsies did not exist by that name. They were known by various names including Zott, Jat, Luri, Nuri, Dom, Sinti, Domarai and Athengani.
It may help to get into the legendary
mood of this story if you prefix it with the traditional phrase, "Once upon a time"
The often repeated story goes something like this:
The ruler in India at around 420 AD was one King
Shangul. At the request of a Sassanide prince,
Bahram Gur V (Persian ruler 420-428), 12,000 Luri
musicians were sent off to Persia to lighten the
life of his hard-working people and charm away
their misery. He provided them with grain and agriculture so they should support themselves. This
plan was doomed to failure from the start.
The Luri used the supplies and made no attempt at
farming. Furious at the waste, the prince sent them all away and condemned them to roam and earn a living by smuggling and begging.
Another version refers to Zott rather than Luri
musicians and the storyteller was one Hamza of
Isfahan. In this version, Firdawsi repeated the
story half a century later.
The story is to a large extent legendary, but it
informs us that there were many Gypsies from India
in Persia; they were already noted as
musicians, allergic to agriculture, inclined to
nomadism and somewhat given to pilfering.
Since these are the only ancient texts to speak of the
wanderings of the Gypsies across Asia; the
rest of the story has been be filled out by
linguistic evidence with, I dare say, a generous
amount of speculation thrown in. The grammar and
vocabulary of the language of the Gypsies are
close to those of Sanskrit and to such living
languages as Kashmiri, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi
It seems to me that this Persian poet has a lot to
answer for, much like Plato being responsible for
the legend of Atlantis.
I'd like to humbly point out that Firdawsi's epic
story was never meant to be an historical
document, but rather a scholarly attempt to
compile and consolidate the inherited tales and
folk legends of his people. I'll admit I have only
read selected sections of the Epic of Kings, but I
have done many word searches of the text.
I might be getting a little old and dim witted or
something, but I'll be damned if I can find any
reference to words such as Bahram Gur, King
Shangul, Luri, Zott, musicians, India or anything
else remotely resembling elements of the gypsy
origin story quoted above.
Exactly where in the text is the reference to gypsy
origins that so many scholars happily repeat to
each other? The way I see it, an educated
researcher can construe and assume only so much
from an ancient text. Beyond reasonable qualified
limits however, we begin to suspect that
researchers are engaging the rich resources
of their imagination to fill in the gaps. Firdawsi
could be excused for doing this.
Although legends may contain a grain of truth, nobody
will ever be really sure how much of it was
dreamed up after a smoke of hashish. And I
don't mean Firdawsi.
The Hollow Earth theory If you believe the Firdawsi
story, perhaps you should try this one on for size. I'm throwing the
Hollow Earth tale into the mix to demonstrate the
gullibility of seemingly educated people.
"Certain black tribes of the east also entered Agharta
[Capital city of Hollow Earth] and continued to
live there for centuries. Later they were expulsed
from the Subterranean World and returned to live
on the surface of the earth [presumably to settle
in Northwest India], bringing with them knowledge
of the mystery of prophecy by means of
cards and reading the lines of the hand.
They were the ancestors of the gypsies."
This excerpt is taken from a work called "The Hollow
Earth" (1969) by Dr. Raymond Bernard (B.A., M.A., Ph.D.)
The bracketed comments are mine. This theme that gypsies originated from inside the Earth was
later taken up by Dr. Tuesday Lobsang Rampa in his book "Twilight"
I know what you're thinking.
How does Dr. Bernard know this?
He believed someone else because he read it somewhere of course.
He was actually quoting the Russian explorer Ferdinand Ossendowski (1876-1944), author of "Beasts, Men and Gods".
It gets better.
Ossendowski was quoting a wise old Mongol,
who in turn was relating an ancient legend told by the old people on the shore of the River Amyl,
in Siberia. Within the text of Ossendowski's
account, the legend is repeated and expanded upon
in conversations between the wise Mongol and a Llama.
Dr. Bernard also quotes from Amadeo Giannini,
who wrote the book "World beyond the poles" (1959).
We know where Ossendowski got his information (The wise Mongol),
but what about Giannini?
Well, you see, In 1926 he "had an ?epiphanous experience? during which he was taken upon an angelically-conducted tour of a land beyond the polar regions".
Makes you think doesn't it. Don't believe everything you read is all I'm saying.
As you will see from the all the Hollow Earth
references at Spiritweb,
there ARE a lot of educated people who are more than happy to perpetuate
a myth without doing their homework and without reasonable proof.
This is what I like to call 'the Firdawsi syndrome'.
Bibliography of Gypsy History
If you are interested in Gypsies,
I have included below a short bibliography of books which I have read
and found entertaining and educational.
In looking at this list,
keep in mind that some of these books are rather old.
I have given the original date of publication for these works, but most of them have been reprinted several times.
For more scholarly pursuits,
you should look into the work of the Gypsy Lore Society,
which publishes its journal regularly.
I have used several of its articles in my research, and find it most beneficial.
Borrow, George Henry.
The Zincali, or an Account of the Gypsies of Spain, 1841.
This is a wonderful work, full of life and imagination.
It provides accounts of the author's personal experiences,
a plethora of anecdotes and stories,
and several very informative appendices,
dealing with the language of the Kale Gypsies of Spain.
George Borrow is a well-known source on Gypsies,
and his works are much celebrated.
Borrow, George Henry. Lavengro: The Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest, 1851.
This work is described as the classic account of gypsy life in nineteenth-century England.
Like his earlier work, it is a description of the author's experiences among Gypsies in England.
Its title comes from the Gypsy work for linguist,
which was given to the author. Borrow, George Henry.
Romano Lavo Lil: Word-Book of the Romany or English Gypsy Language, 1874.
This book deals with the language of English Gypsies,
related to the traditional Rom language,
but tainted with words and phrases from English.
It also contains many songs and poems, useful for the
performer who wishes to portray a Gypsy musician.
Fraser, Angus. The Gypsies, 1992.
This book, part of The Peoples of Europe series,
is readily available in print.
It contains a thorough history of Gypsies from ancient to modern times,
an extensive bibliography, and some wonderful illustrations.
Kenrick, Donald, and Puxon, Grattan.
Gypsies under the Swastika, 1995 (reprint of The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies, 1972).
Dealing primarily with the experiences in Nazi-occupied Europe, this book brings the presence of Gypsies into the modern age.
It also includes some introductory history of the Gypsies, going back to their origins.
Kenrick, Donald. Gypsies: From India to the Mediterranean, 1993.
This book was recommended to me by the author as a good source on Gypsy origins. Leland, Charles Godfrey.
English Gypsy Songs in Romany, 1875.
As indicated in the title,
this book is a collection of songs from the Gypsies of the British Isles,
which gives a good feel for the nature of Gypsy oral tradition.
Its author was one of the founders and the first president of the Gypsy Lore Society.
Leland, Charles Godfrey. Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune
Telling, 1891. This book is a survey of magical
practices among Gypsies throughout Europe, and how
they have tied into superstition and folk
magic in Europe for centuries. The author was a
typical believer of his time (an era of mesmerists, theosophists, and the such),
which does not excuse gullibility or bias in his work as a
folklorist, but helps explain it.
MacRitchie, David. Accounts of the Gypsies of India,
1886. This book is somewhat outdated, and
at times a bit difficult to read, but it does
provide a rather thorough history of the Gypsies,
based on knowledge of the mid to late
nineteenth century. As it is one of the few works I
have read that deals almost exclusively with the
Gypsies of India, I include it here. McLane, Merrill F.
Proud Outcasts: the Gypsies of Spain, 1987.
A recent work in the usual style of a gorgio's adventures with Gypsies,
this short book, an excellent source for Spanish Gypsy culture,
is an enjoyable work, filled with scraps of songs, poems, and sayings.
Petulengro, Gipsy. A Romany Life, 1936.
An autobiographical work,
this book describes the life of a Gypsy, from his birth and early life in
Romania, to his migration with his family to
England, and his subsequent adventures there and abroad.
Sampson, John. The Wind on the Heath: a Gypsy
Anthology, 1929. This book presents a selection of
actual Gypsy songs, many from England, as well
as references to Gypsies by such authors as Shakespeare, Milton, and Cervantes, along with all
sorts of miscellaneous entries.
Starkie, Walter. Raggle-Taggle, 1933.
A truly wonderful work, which describes the author's travels,
armed only with a fiddle and a passport, through Hungary and Romania. It deals with all sorts of
encounters, but the author's main focus is on the Gypsies of these regions.
Starkie, Walter. Don Gypsy, 1936. Once again the
author describes his travels among Gypsies, this time in southern Spain.
Starkie, Walter. In Sara's Tents, 1953. A combination of history and accounts from the author's travels, this book includes a wonderful series of drawings and photographs.
Tomasevic, Nebojsa Bato, and Djuric, Rajko. Gypsies of the World, 1988.
Without a doubt, my favourite book on Gypsies. A modern account of the authors'
travels from India, through Europe, to England,
visiting Gypsy camps and towns along the way.
The many photographs by Dragoljub Zamurovic are simply fabulous.
Trigg, Elwood B. Gypsy Demons and Divinities, 1973.
This is an excellent work that successfully deals
with a very superstitious people.
It covers legends and myths, common charms, incantations, and rituals.
This book also includes mention of deities, supernatural beings and creatures,
and a number of amusing anecdotes.
WHO AND WHAT ARE GYPSIES?