CESNUR - Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni diretto da Massimo Introvigne

londonThe 2008 International Conference
Twenty Years and More: Research into Minority Religions, New Religious Movements and 'the New Spirituality'

An International Conference organized by INFORM and CESNUR in association with ISORECEA at the London School of Economics, 16-20th April 2008

„Chocolate Mary “ – “Roma Christianity” as ethnic and cultural approximation of Christianity among the Roma in Slovakia

by by Tatiana Podolinská  (Institute of Ethnology SAS, Bratislava)

A paper presented at the 2008 International Conference, London, UK. Preliminary version. Please do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author.


Cieľom je štúdie je upozorniť na potrebu prehodnotenia terminológie používanej v súvislosti s „rómskou zbožnosťou“, konkrétne na historicko-kultúrne kontexty termínov“ náboženstvo“ a „kresťanstvo“. Autorka sa hlbšie venuje fenoménu súčasnej rómskej  „ľudovej“ vidieckej zbožnosti, ktorá býva majoritne definovaná ako formálne či vlažné kresťanstvo. Autorka v tejto súvislosti používa termín „rómske kresťanstvo“, pričom upozorňuje, že je osobitým spôsobom praktizované „v“ oficiálnom kresťanstve (na jeho okraji) a osobitným spôsobom „mimo“ neho či paralelne „s“ ním. Autorka pracovne definuje základné črty „rómskeho kresťanstva“, pričom ho zasadzuje do všeobecnejších typológií, ne-európskych typov kresťanstva, resp. ne-európskych typov náboženstiev (H. Whitehouse, S. Coleman). Rómske kresťanstvo potom zaraďuje k obrazovým („imagistic“) modom religiozity s kontraktačným („contractual“) typom  Božej zmluvy, na rozdiel od „majoritného kresťanstva“, ktoré vykazuje skôr črty doktrinálneho („doctrinal“) modu religiozity a kovenantného („covenantal“) typu Božej zmluvy. Nová typológia podľa autorky umožňuje „pozitívne“ (neutrálne) definovanie fenoménu „rómskeho kresťanstva“ na rozdiel od doterajšieho skôr „negatívneho“ spôsobu definovania rómskej zbožnosti v intenciách „deviácie“ a „kontaminácie“ majoritného kresťanstva. „Čokoládová Mária“ (teda Panna Mária s hnedou farbou pokožky) je v štúdii použitá ako autorská metafora pre „rómske kresťanstvo“ a autentický príklad „rómskeho prepisu/prekladu“ náboženského symbolu zároveň.

Keywords: “Roma Christianity”, “Roma religiosity”, Romany peoples in Slovakia, imagistic and covenantal types of religiosity
Kľúčové slová: “rómske kresťanstvo”, “rómska religiozita”, Rómovia na Slovensku, obrazový a kovenantný typ religiozity


As far as the Roma spiritual identity is concerned, we encounter considerable terminology chaos: shall we speak about the Roma religion, Roma religiosity, Roma confessionality, Roma devoutness or Roma spirituality? 1 This issue is closely related to the problem of Roma identity as such, in which it is possible to distinguish two basic attitudes: inner identity, that is the result of life in the community and is based on personal-family relations, and outer identity resulting from interaction and form of mediation/arbitrage with the world of majority, outer – accepted tool of self-representation in terms of suitable “offered label”. Dichotomy of outer and inner identity shows also in problematic categorisation of Roma spirituality, outer features of which are similar/identical with those of the majority but their inner substance is specific or completely different. According to the classification of outer features of spirituality, the Romany peoples in Slovakia can be considered Christians (they proclaim themselves to be ones). When classifying inner features of their spirituality, specialised literature speaks of: indigenousness, syncretism, superstitions, magic, throwbacks, conservatism, simplicity, paganism, archaism... (Note that many of them cannot be denied evaluating and questionable character). 2 I will therefore employ the term “Roma spirituality”, which I consider as non-ascriptive and neutral.
Many authors confronted with the Roma religious identity in Slovakia, as reflected in religious and social praxis, are in doubt to denote this „spiritual identity“ as „Catholic“ or „Christian“ at all.3 To eliminate this problem, other scholars dedicated themselves to the subject, refer that Romany peoples simply take over the religion of the majority population (Catholicism in the case of Slovakia) and that they are in all aspects Catholics. I do not want to dedicate myself to the question whether the Roma in Slovakia are Christian Catholics or whether they have an autochthonous religion.4 In this concern, I would like to pay special attention to a phenomenon that I refer to by the term „Roma Christianity“.

In case of the Roma in Slovakia it is very demanding to use any kind of generalisations. Since there is no complex field research of the Roma spiritual life in Slovakia with common methodology and as it represents in fact a dynamic phenomenon, the picture of   “Roma Christianity” described below is to be understood with reticence. It reflects only certain features of the spiritual life of segregated Roma who live in selected number of Roma communities having mainly rural character. I proceed, for the time being, from an isolated surface field research carried out in 2003 (in nine Roma localities5 ) that I have personally take part in and from my own researches in 2006 (in eleven Roma hamlets 6 ) and in 2007 (in two Roma localities7 ) in the Eastern Slovakia. Moreover, all data have to be put into context with contemporary „folk“ (country) faith as such, on the background of which they appear to be more or less contrastive („specifically“ gypsy).
Results of these researches show that the Roma have a rather critical attitude towards majority Christianity, which is offered to them in Slovakia:
1. Majority of the Roma understands „majority Christianity“ to be „white Christianity“. They perceive it as ethnically and culturally determined, as a religion of majority and for majority.
2. According to the Roma, „majority Christianity “ is too formal. Their distinctive critique is directed at the “traditional” forms of majority religiosity (devoutness measured by a number of church visits). Real devoutness is, in the opinion of the Roma, to be measured by the intensity of religious experience (“faith in heart“, “faith from heart“).
Phenomenon that I am going to try to describe and that I call “Roma Christianity” is, in fact, loosely expressed in Roma “traditional”  (“folk“, rural) faith or Roma „traditional“ devoutness, which functions in its own, specific way “within” the majority Christianity (on its borders) and in its own, specific way “outside” of it or parallel “with” it. To be more precise, I am going to deal with something that is by majority classified as “formal” or “tepid” Catholicism with features of „traditional folk faith“ that the Roma spontaneously practise in the hamlets in the Eastern Slovakia. Thus what I mean is a religious situation in hamlets that have not “experienced” a mission or a stronger evangelisation of one of the new or traditional Christian churches (or a situation before such a contact).
I tend to use the term “Roma Christianity” only in connection with religious identity of segregated or separated Roma in Slovakia. This term should be understand as both as popular and “ethnic” translation or cultural transcription of  “majority” Christianity, which is reflected as absolutely correct and legitimate in Roma emic (internal) context. On the contrary, majority population reflects this translation as incorrect and illegitimate, as misunderstanding or even deviation of Christianity. This statement share also official, locally dominant Church. Thus, the “Roma Christianity” seems “other” not only from the point of view of  countrymen neighbors of the Romany peoples as representatives of local popular beliefs but also from the point of view of local priests as representatives of official church.
I am following here the thesis of ongoing social constructions of “reality” and I respect the local tight of values and attitudes that label cultural contrast ethnically.8 Coming out of this locally constructed reality, perception of distinctions between the mass society and Romany peoples is often very strong (this categorization is used on “on both sides”).   I am well aware that using of the term „Roma Christianity“ is intertwined with the recently discussed category of  Roma ethnicity as such. “Local” and “academic” discourses in Slovakia involve an unusual and puzzling dialectic: the majority society tends to regard the Roma as constituting an ethnic group (‘they are different’) with distinctive cultural values, whilst academic commentators tend to assume that the Roma do not create (coherent) ethnic group and that they share values with the mass society (‘they are not different’). The approach of this study is somewhere “in between”. 9  

The “Roma Christianity” is Roma cultural approximation of Christianity more via processes of selective appropriation and reinterpretation than introducing totally different elements or features.10 In further text I will try to elucidate this process of cultural approximation on the selected 11 patterns of recent “Roma Christianity” in Slovakia, as follows:
1.„Flexible relocation“ of sacrum
2. Present character
3. Pragmatic type of contract with God
4. Immediate communication with God
5. Emic interpretation of religious norms
6. Individualism
7. Religion of a common day
8. Realism and imaginative character of religious ideas
9. Adogmatic character
10. Dream symbolism and belief on revenantism
11. Magic elements in religious praxis.11

1. Roma sacred time and space - “Flexible relocation of sacrum”
For to elucidate the term “relocation of sacrum” we need to briefly characterize the theoretical concept of  “nonlimited locality/identity”,  defined for modern diaspora cultures by Edward Casey (1997:304):  “As deeply localized, nomad space always occurs as a place – in this place. But as undelimited, it is a special kind of place. It is a place that is not just here, in a pinpointed spot of space, but in a nonlimited locality.” This conception is in direct contradiction with the conception of “topophilia” formulated for diaspora identity by Gaston Bachelard almost 30 years before. He noted that the idea of self stands in close relation to the passion for place (Bachelard 1969:8). The term “topophilia”, he defined as the special sense of place, that has essential significance in the understanding of human identity, defined territorially, centered round the geographically fixed place.
The conception of “undelimited locality” developed in more recent studies dealing with the modern diaspora cultures might be very inspiring for the defining of the Roma concept of place and time,12 when dealing with sacrum or the Absolute. In order to illuminate the Roma conception of sacrum, let quote French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: “The absolute is local, precisely because place is not delimited” (Deleuze – Guattari 1987).  It is almost exact definition of how the Absolute (God) is placed – located – incorporated – or domesticated in local structure of space and time. It is one of the specific features of “popular religions and beliefs” - they need to be located in local context. So the Absolute must be locally located also in popular majority-Christianity. Nevertheless, there is a crucial difference - in majority popular Christianity the place and time is fixed or given “from above”, with almost no possibility to be relocated in different place and time. The Absolute has its fixed permanent address – the already existing temples, chapels, crosses etc. On the contrary, in “Roma Christianity”, the Absolute is local, but is opened up for undelimited system of timing and spacing, place could be displaced, due to the concrete needs. The Absolute may be located anytime and anywhere, located and relocated, it could be moved from one temporary address into another.
As a pendant term for Bachelard´s term “topophilia” the term “chronophilia” is involved for to characterize the majority Christianity as a religion with special passion for time, for sacral time. This conception challenges the conception of singular and homogenous time. There are the special times, and special events, that worth to be remembered and worshipped. These are “lifted out” from historical (or quasi historical) and “shifted into” the present time. Nevertheless, there is only symbolical connection. They became de-temporal for to become trans-temporal. The majority Christianity would be characterized as the culture of “sacral remembrance”, with special passion timing, for fixed and periodically returned (commemorated) times, what would be (with the certain exaggeration) marked by the term “sacral chronophilia”. The conception of sacral time is completely missing in “Roma Christianity”. The Absolute is worshipped anytime. The time is singular and homogenous, filed with equally evaluated events. Any point of time has a potential to be sacred, there is no time more or less suitable for communication with sacrum. Therefore, the Absolute in “Roma Christianity” is very flexible, as reflected in the term “flexible relocation of sacrum”, not in the term of spatial but also temporal flexibility.13


2. Present character
Roma Christianity” has a present-time character. It is oriented towards earthly life. Neither distant past nor distant future has got any relevant importance. Only up-to-date present time and related events matter. That is why religious sanction as well as religious reward is expected to come almost immediately (or as the case may be in near future). Another typical feature is the prevalence of the image of „Punishing God“ (Kováč-Jurík 2002:130). For every negative event in terms of a breaching of a contract (usually breaking an oath) they look for a reason in the near past (Kováč 2004b:42). Present character of the “Roma Christianity” can be manifested also by relatively vague ideas of afterlife and “non-developed” eschatology. Rich spectrum of narratives about revenants („mulo“) proves that underworld is “recorded” in a certain way but only to the extent, to which it has a present-day contact with earthly world in the lived present time.

3. Pragmatic type of contract with God
Roma communication with God has a pragmatic or practical character. In order to offer an example, I am going to present an extract from a dialogue recorded in the field diary: “Do you believe in God?“ – “Yeah, we do, the children are still small!” (Podolinská, research 2006). Here, the faith is perceived as an item offered in exchange for God’s protection. Literally it has a character of strict business contract that is mutually binding. In case of its breaching by God, a Rom has got every right to be angry and to punish or destroy the sacred object, which was a witness of the contract.

4. Immediate communication with God
Immediacy of communication with God is manifested in “Roma Christianity” in several phenomena:
A) The Roma do not acknowledge privileged status when communicating with God. „God does not speak, let’s say only to parish priests and missionaries, shall he not speak to a simple gipsy woman as I am?! He shall!”(Podolinská 2003a:173).
B) The Roma perceive communication with God as something personal, intimate. They communicate with God by means of their situationally improvised prayers, supplications, requests, incantations, curses, oaths etc. Their prayer can also include a request for help in situations, which are not, otherwise, compatible with the “Decalogue” and can have also a marauding character (prayer intended to harm other people (Podolinská 2003a, b).

5. Emic interpretation of religious norms
With the Roma, we encounter different understanding of majority Christian standards, or more precisely with their emic interpretation. The Roma feel to be bound by Christian standards but they perceive their validity through emic code. There are valid internal (emic) standards among the Roma as well. Emic punishments are very harsh; they have a form of direct God’s punishment. For example, offence of theft towards majority is allowed, or justified by the need of providing a family. From this point of view it cannot be considered to be an offence. Theft among the Roma community is, however, perceived as an offence (“The Rom is not robbed by a Rom“, Hübschmannová 1991:37) and is evaluated in a completely different way. Similar differentiation takes place in case of an oath and respecting of fidelity (Botošová 2003:79-80, Kováč 2003:140-141, Podolinská, research 2006). It is God who is a main guarantor of observance of internal Roma standards. One old Roma proverb sums it up as follows: “You can hide before gendarmes but not before God“... (Hübschmannová 1991:7)

6. Individualism
Individual forms of devoutness (completed with family ones) significantly prevail over collective ones. These are limited to basic rituals of “rite de passage” (especially birth and death) that are related to „collectively“expressed forms of devoutness.

7. Religion of a common day
The term „religion of a common day“, that I employ here for the time being, is to indicate futility of collective systematisation and petrifaction of religious practices, fruitlessness of periodically or regularly repeated collective forms of devoutness (absence of „feasting devoutness “), which results, among other things, in uselessness of a religious specialist (apart from above mentioned cases of the”rite de passage” when it is usual to “borrow” one). Typical feature of the „religion of a common day“ is also a significantly high rate of individualism and liberalness of concrete forms of communication with the sacred.  

8.  Realism and imaginative character of religious ideas
Roma ideas about God are in majority relatively concrete (we encounter the phenomenon of anthropomorphism (Palubová 2001b:86, Palubová 2003:18, Kovács 2003). God is often represented as an old man (“...has got to be big and have big hands and eyes for he sees all the world“(Kováč 2003:134). Concrete look of Jesus and Mary usually conforms to pictures and sculptures of Jesus and Mary located in the region.

9. Adogmatic character
The Roma have mostly lax/indifferent relation to the basic theological dogmas, especially to the doctrine of Holy Trinity (Kovács 2003:60, Čureja 1995:76), resurrection and the second arrival of Christ. Another specific feature is to be found in Roma attitude to Christian sacraments (Čureja 1995:75-78).

10. Dream symbolism and belief in revenantism
As another feature of “Roma Christianity” is to be mentioned strong faith in the symbolism of dreams and real validity of dreams in this world (Palubová 2003:20-21). Belief in revenantism is extremely vivid (towards the recent forms of revenantism among the Roma in Slovakia, see for instance Hübschmannová 2005; Palubová 2001a, 2003, Kováč 2004a:107-108).

11. Magic elements in religious praxis
In comparison with majority rural environment, the Roma are more keen to believe in magic; whether contiguous one or word-magic (“maledictions“ Podolinská 2003a:165-166). We come across concrete ways of manipulation with sacred objects (burning of candles before „sacred“ images, or prayers with  harmful character Podolinská 2003a:166-167). They include also specific phenomenon of Roma oath and curse that come under into the category of word-magic. Contemporary phenomena of Roma magic cover also actions of magical protection of a newborn baby and actions of amorous magic.

Phenomenon of „Roma Christianity“ would be related also with other non-traditional typologies dealing with religious identity as such. In this concern the typology of religious modes of Harvey Whitehouse provides very useful tools how to deal with both large- and small-scale religions.  He distinguishes two divergent modes of religiosity: doctrinal one and imagistic mode. The doctrinal mode is characterized by repetitive, heavily discursive, low-intensity religious experiences that tend to produce a hierarchically organized abstract community, the imagistic mode is characterized by low-frequency, non-discursive, intensive religious experiences that bond small communities (Whitehouse 1995, 2000). The “Roma Christianity” with its above mentioned patterns obviously belongs to the imagistic mode of religiosity, with its: non formal character, flexibility, orientation towards the present-time, immediate character of communication with God, grouping interpretation of religious norms, amorphous and egalitarian character of small community, intensive religious experience, imagism and realism of religious ideas, “invasion” of irrationality a spontaneity (miracles, dreams, magic, visions…). Absence of “feasting devoutness” may be explained by the absence of concept of “sacral time” and by the strong emphasis on present-time, that cause the absence of remembrance-rituals (commemorating the past).


Another useful typology maybe employed from the research of new-religious movements in Europe. Bromley and Busching (1988:15) draw a distinction between contractual and covenantal social relations in order to point out that many controversies over new religions in the West have involved structural conflicts between the two. This theory of different attitudes towards the construction of religious community further developed Simon Coleman (2004) for to characterize the two distinctive types of relationships with God.   Covenantal communities articulate a logic of moral involvement and long-term mutual obligation, whilst contractual ones invoke a pragmatic, short-term logic of calculative strategy and promotion of self-interest (Bromley-Busching 1988:16-18, Coleman 2004:422). This distinction is visible not only at the level of social relations and attitudes towards the building of religious communities but also in the way how the relationship with God is constructed. Following this typology, “conventional” religious groups in Europe produce more covenantal type of relationship with God, based on the afterlife salvation. Contractual kind relationships with God reminds more exchange practices and invokes more trade strategy of real “reciprocity” - it is real ad hoc commercial contract with clearly defined conditions – “something for something case”. The covenantal type of relationships with God is more prolonged promise of afterlife reward. In these terms, the “Majority Christianity” prefers the “covenantal” relationships with God, whilst the “Roma Christianity” prefers the contractual ones. Here, the pragmatic and often also “goods exchange” character of the Roma relations with God, with present obligations and concrete implications would be easily explained.


These typologies are in the context of academic discourse on Roma religiosity „non-traditional”. Nevertheless, they might provide useful tools how to approach this phenomenon. Than the traditional way of tracing Roma spirituality as conservation or even deviation of “mass religiosity” may be abandoned and the discourse tracing it as phenomenon with specific “modus operandi” convergent with other (and also non-European) modes of religiosity would be promoted.

“Chocolate Mary” as ethically and culturally privatized symbol of Virgin Mary (case study or applied annex)
The next part of contribution is devoted to the exemplifying the process of Roma cultural transcription/translation of one of the representatives of Absolute from “Christian pantheon” - Virgin Mary. I will try to elucidate how the trans-ethnical symbol of Virgin Mary is privatized via process of ethnical and cultural approximation. This approximation has mostly the features of ethnical, or more precisely “race” interpretation – the Virgin Mary is described as “Chocolate Mary”, women with “dark” color of skin. The other approximation take place at cultural or paradigmatic level – i.e. Mary is reflected to be rather Mother than Virgin (virginity is not rejected but not stressed), Mary is perceived as Mother of Jesus Christ and therefore familiar model of Holy Trinity appears (God as father, Mary as mother, Jesus as child).
First it should be mentioned, that the conception of “Chocolate Mary” as a totally privatized and ethnically interpreted Virgin Mary is not very common in Roma context. First time I met with the “Chocolate Mary” during my field research in the Roma settlement in the countryside nearby Bratislava 5 years ago, where I followed the impact of Pentecostal mission on traditional local Roma culture. Female representative of local Pentecostal assembly informed me, in a specific mix of conspiracy, confidence and humor, that Virgin Mary, could not be “white” as me (I was taken as the representative of “white majority”). Instead, she meant, Virgin Mary must be like her, with the curl dark hairs, brown eyes and dark skin. (Podolinská 2003b:24). When expressing the dark color of the skin (both of Virgin Mary as herself), she used very interesting adjective - “chocolate”. It was still dichotomous conception, kind of mutation of “black or brown and white” categorization, nevertheless, the “chocolate” that she involved in connection both with Virgin Mary as with herself, was simply irresistible.  She argued, that Virgin Mary lived in Jerusalem, and as it is very hot place (with more than 40 degrees), she simply could not be white. That was of course a kind of rationalization, for to make her idea more confidential for “white” Gaji, using supposed arguments from “white” logic.  This statement was little-bit surprising for me, not because I would not imagine the Virgin Mary as of chocolate-skin, as she supposed, but in the context of the Pentecostal missionary narratives which she, as a local pastor, should be tied up. Generally, Pentecostals in their narratives use the conception of “the people of god”, with the strong emphasis on trans-ethnic, trans-cultural, trans-economic, trans-political, trans-social discourses, which does not mediate between different ethnic groups but argues beyond all ethic ascriptions. The trans-ethnic discourse is so strong that converted Roma even touch the secular taboo of exogamous marriage (Ries 2005). Knowing that, I was privately shocked by the conception of ethnically privatized Chocolate Mary that I was told by local Pentecostal pastor. Afterwards I concentrated upon the research of pastor narratives in Roma congregation for to compare the discourse of multi-ethnic and mono-ethnic Pentecostal assemblies.14 There are some differences, also in what concerns the discourse and religious praxis of new Roma assemblies, putting more stress on ethnic than trans-ethnical discourse and certain elements of spiritual praxis that are coherent with the Roma spirituality at all (more music, more dance, Roma liturgical language, emphasis of spontaneity etc.).
Another “Chocolate Mary” I met in totally different context, in a small settlement on the edge of small Gajo village in the Eastern Slovakia, in 2006. Female, about 45 years old told me, that she has seen Mother Mary several times already: inside her house (at the wall) or outside, in the village. I was told the complete visions, and detailed image of Mother Mary. My informant, again with a certain kind of conspiracy, noted, that Virgin Mary is not looking like at the locally distributed statues and images, instead, she is dressed in gold coat and she has brown eyes, long black hairs, and brown skin. In the interior of her house there was a private altar devoted to Virgin Mary directly at the place, where she appeared. When I looked at the statue of Virgin Mary placed in the altar I found out that she is “white”. When I took leave to my informant, she asked me to return once again and to bring her another statue of Virgin Mary, with the note that “You know, how she would look like!” (Podolinská, research 2006).
The context where I met this “Chocolate Mary” was completely different from the above mentioned Pentecostal context. My Roma informant was member of local Catholic church, with very formal affiliation, in the sense of very weak “churchliness”. She never used to visit the local temple, and never discussed her visions with local priest. Nevertheless, inhabitants of Roma settlement regarded her as “holy woman” and visit her in the case of various problems (physical and mental diseases, but also in the case of thievery, in the case of taking or breaking swear etc.). In fact, this woman for the local Roma represents their religious specialist, taking the place of local Catholic priest.15 The Chocolate Mary that I was told by her, was again ethnically privatized symbol of Virgin Mary. She was taken here as a representative of Mother of Roma people, deeply located in Roma culture, having the features of Roma physiognomy, taken as real, not symbolical Mother of her children. 
Chocolate Mary as such, is the Roma attempt to locate Virgin Mary in their ethnically and culturally domesticated time and space. Her role is central in rural Roma beliefs, as reflected also in the common Roma rural concept of Holy Trinity, constituted of God, Jesus and his Mother - Mary.

The Virgin Mary, as very traditional and conservative symbol of Catholicism in Slovakia, was chosen here to illustrate the process of Roma cultural approximation of “majority Christianity”. The difference between the “Roma” and “majority” Christianity may differ from hamlet to hamlet and certainly will differ from one Roma subgroup to another.  The distinction between “majority Christianity” and “Roma Christianity” might also differ, depending on local context, and the extent of Roma integration to majority society, which is often connected with acceptation of majority values. This contribution attempted to search for more general conditions for such a distinction employing the “non-traditional typologies”. “Majority Christianity” is than more convergent with doctrinal and covenantal types of religiosity, whilst “Roma Christianity” is more imagistic and contractual type of religiosity. However “different” they are, from the certain point of view the “Roma Christianity” and “Majority Christianity” in Slovakia are in the same position: they both are approximations and translations of Christian ideas and religious praxis into ones own cultural and ethnic context.

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Research material:
In the study, the not yet published material from field work research is quoted in the form: “Podolinská, research 2006”. This research covers 11 Roma hamlets in the Eastern Slovakia.  


The contribution was supported by 6FP EU – REVACERN („Religion and Values: Central and Eastern European Research Network“, c. no: 028899) and by VEGA grant 2/5103/25 („Od folklórneho textu k folklórnemu kontextu. Žánrové, medzižánrové, kultúrnohistorické a antropologické aspekty výskumu folklóru“).

01 For example, the „Nis- School“ in Serbia has proclaimed the topic as a main focus, preferring the term „Roma religious culture“ (Dordevic 2003).

02   As noted by Ries 2005.

03 The most recent and quite critical anthropological literature dealing with the Roma spirituality in Slovakia is aware to denote it with any concern to Christianity at all (Jakoubek 2004:179-181).

04 Dealing with any religious identity we should have in mind that the term “religion” is a discursive form. We should be aware, that concepts of „religion“ and „Christianity“, which are commonly employed in social sciences, are not neutral but culturally and historically determined or even directly socially constructed.

05 It was the research entitled „Religiosity of Romany peoples in Slovakia“  under the tutorial of Milan Kováč and Arne B. Mann in following communities: Čakajovce, Lukáčovce, Madunice, Rankovce, Bôrka, Lomnička, Bystrany, Letanovce, Spišské Tomášovce, Poštárka, Zborov, Žlkovce, Telgárt, Plavecký Štvrtok. (English report was published in Kováč-Mann 2003.)

06 Jarovnice, Svinia, Hermanovce, Abranovce, Žehňa, Uzovské Pekľany, Rokycany, Terňa, Vyšný Slivník-Furmanec, Raslavice, Muršov.

07 Žehra and Bystrany.

08 Barth 1969.

09 For very interesting discussion concerning the Roma ethnicity, social constructing and its political and legal impacts, see Clark 2005.

10 Elena Marushiakova and Vesselin Popov state in this concern: „It would be more adequate to look for a specific selective adaptation of general ideas or different elements belonging to the religion of the surrounding population, and their integration into the system of their own principle world perception. This process is quite diverse and may assume different forms but its very essence is present by the specificity of the Gypsies as an ethnic community... “ (Marushiakova-Popov 1999).

11 For historical context of „Roma Christianity“ and wider description of the recent forms of „Roma Christianity“ with plenty field work quotations see Podolinská 2007a, b.

12 Here very interesting article of Antohi Sorin on „ethnic ontology“, would be mentioned, even if he is speaking more about the ethnic strategy in this concern (Sorin 2002).

13 For the detailed explanation see Podolinská 2007a.

14 In this connection some authors (Acton 1979, Gay y Blasco 2002) and others) have argued that Pentecostalism may function as an integrative social force, but it can be used by Roma groups to reformulate their active demarcation from majority population using the ethic marker. This argument goes up from the social praxis of many Pentecostals congregation, when the ethic split off from the trans-ethnic congregation is observed. Johannes Ries, following the Roma Pentecostalism in Romania, relates this fact with the organizational issues that would not concern also discursive schism (Ries 2005). As far as my own material is concerned, I can confirm “organizational schism” but I find equally interesting and important the fact, that “organizational schism” always follows the ethic marker. There is no reason why new congregation would not be multi-ethnically mixed as mother congregation is.

15 (In the running of my most recent research in the East of Slovakia I met with several “religious specialists”, surprisingly, almost all of them were females.)

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