Pure vs. Impure in Roma Practice

The main pillar of Roma morality is an abstract and symbolic distinction between what is sometimes termed as “pure” or “impure”or ritually “unclean” (mahrime). PureImpure1

• For instance. the shelter programme is constantly shifting vertically in accrodance to the Roma belief that the act of everyday living and particularly ‘sleeping’ should be performed “under the sky”.(2)

• Other spatial norms include the location of the restrooms at a significant distance from the living area since they are considered physical symbols of human impurity.(3)

• In contrast to the clean, highly ordered and decorated interiors, activities such as cooking, eating, resting, washing and partying are to be usually performed at the periphery of the built space which is rarely formalized. (4)

• Many traditional Roma families in western and northern Europe prefer to live in caravans because they allow them to avoid a situation in which a sexually active woman might walk above the heads of men (simply by walking through a higher level of the same house or building). (5)

• Since non-Gypsies do not observe any of these rules, they are often considered “shameless” or “dishonourable”, and close contact with them, especially the sharing of food, is avoided.(6)

(1) ORTA, L. (2010). Mapping the invisible: Eu-Roma Gypsies. London, Black Dog Pub. (2) Ibid. (3) Ibid.

(4)MATRAS, Y. (2002). Romani a linguistic introduction. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. (5) Ibid. (6) Ibid.

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