Pomana

Pomana derives from the Romanian and denotes a cyclically recurring meal in honour of the person who died. The term is used only by Vlach-Roma groups whose Romani variants show strong Romanian characteristics. Romanian-orthodox non-Roma also celebrate a pomana. It is however a single event, which takes place six weeks after the funeral.

The pomana is part of the worship of the ancestors and has Indian-oriental influences that are anchored in all traditional Roma and Sinti groups. Influences of the respective religions have been integrated - like in the case of the pomana - into this religious practice which has been passed down for centuries and adapted to the peoples beliefs. The pomana of the Vlach-Roma structures the mourning period of one year, and separates the central phases from each other.

The intervals between the pomana are set exactly. For the Austrian Kalderaš the pomana is celebrated seven days, 40 days, six months and one year after the death of the person. There are rituals similar to a pomana also within the Arlije and the Džambas or the Turkish Sepečides. The official death ceremony (mevlût) takes place one week, 40 days, six months and one year after the death of the person like the pomana. The Arlije and the Džambas call the real death meal canlik. The term derives from the Turkish and means "belonging to the soul". In contrast to the pomana the canlik takes place only once and is not linked to a certain moment. The relatives of the dead light a candle and present the halva (a ring of pastry baked in oil). The Sepečides have no common mourning meal. On the third and the seventh day after the funeral the closest members of the family of the dead visit the dead’s relatives and friends and bring with them halva or pišides. The meal, but especially the smell of the oil, is believed to calm the spirit of the dead.

Ceremony

It is obligatory for the relatives and the friends of the dead to participate in a pomana. Different rituals in honour of the dead and to calm down his mulo also characterise the first pomana of the Kalderaš. In contrast to the other ceremonies the Austrian Kalderaš do not greet each other by shaking hands at the funeral and at a pomana, which presumably goes back to the ritual cleanliness rules relating to death. [ Žužo] At the beginning of the meal the room is incensed. They go around the table three times. The Romanian Kalderaš use the following incantation:

Te primin le mulekhê o Del e pomana kadja, aj te xan la źuvindi!
"God, this pomana shall be for this dead, eat!"

All the guests as well as all items which are necessary for the meal (tables, stools, place setting etc.) have to be counted and result in an odd number. Also in the passages for the funerals of the dead in the Indian Veda, (holy scriptures of Hinduism), the odd numbers carry much relevance. According to one rule, for example, only an odd number of pallbearers must carry the dead to the place of cremation. This indicates that there is still one place reserved for the dead. Also on the table of the pomana a place is assigned to the dead. In some cases his clothes are laid on the chair, which later on are given to persons who had a close relation with the dead and have not got much money. Some groups used to cover the ground with the clothes of the dead. In case the dead was a smoker, cigarettes are lighted. In terms of preparing the meal there are also prohibitions that are similar to the rules of the Indian Veda. For example during a pomana no meals may be prepared which require a turning movement (e.g. with a spit). The Romanian Kalderaš collect the remaining food and throw it into the river.

Belief in the mulo and the 40 day pomana

The 40 day pomana carries the most importance. The Roma believe that the death’s spirit can come back for a certain period. For the Kalderaš this period of a possible return is 40 days, for other groups (e.g. the Sinti) this period lasts one year. Only then the dead can be admitted to the community of the ancestors who mean good to the people. In certain situations it can be desired that the spirit of the dead appears and shows a special form of affection. If the negative influence of the mulo is feared there are certain rituals that fulfil a protective function.

One possibility to calm down the mulo is to place a bowl with flour and water on the windowsill and to search for traces in it the following morning. According to the Kalderaš the traces indicate how the mulo is and what are the needs of the mulo. If the conclusion is that the mulo is hungry, a lamb is slaughtered in honour of the dead in order to make the mulo favourably disposed. The Romanian Kalderaš take some soil from the grave of the dead and throw it into a well. It is believed that the spirit of the dead "suffocates" and therefore is hindered from exerting its influence.

The 40 day pomana puts a ritual end to the influence exerted by the dead’s spirit. According to the beliefs of the Romanian Kalderaš, bees symbolise the final transition of the dead from this life to the one after. If during the 40 day pomana a bee appears and again flies away, this indicates the spirit’s departure towards the Kingdom of the dead. Since the threat exerted by the mulo is considered to be over by the 40 day pomana, the further meals give relatives and friends the chance to pay their last respects and take their leave of the dead. On the first anniversary of the funeral the last meal takes place. With this last meal the mourning period is finally concluded.

Sources

Heinschink, Mozes F. (2002) Unpublished interview with Dragan Jevremović (Kalderaš). Wien.
Heinschink, Mozes F. (2002) Unpublished interview with Fatma Heinschink (Sepečides). Wien.
Phonogrammarchiv, Austrian Academy of Sciences: Heinschink Collection: KR 13E (Kalderaš [Sebes]) .

References

Cech, Petra / Fennesz-Juhasz, Christiane / Halwachs, Dieter W. / Heinschink, Mozes F. (eds.) (2001) Fern von uns im Traum ... / Te na dikhas sunende .... Märchen, Erzählungen und Lieder der Lovara, Klagenfurt.
Fennesz-Juhasz, Christiane / Halwachs, Dieter W. / Heinschink, Mozes F. (1996) Sprache und Musik der österreichischen Roma. In: GLS 46, pp. 61-110.
Ficowski, Jerzy (1992) Wieviel Trauer und Wege. Zigeuner in Polen (= Studien zur Tsiganologie und Folkloristik 7), Frankfurt.
Fonseca, Isabell (1996) Begrabt mich aufrecht. Auf den Spuren der Zigeuner, München.
Halwachs, Dieter W. (2001) Romani in Österreich. In: Halwachs, Dieter W. / Menz, Florian (eds.) Die Sprache der Roma. Perspektiven der Romani-Forschung in Österreich im interdisziplinären und internationalen Kontext, Graz, pp. 1-37.
Heinschink, Mozes F. / Hemetek, Ursula (eds.) (1994) Roma. Das unbekannte Volk. Schicksal und Kultur, Wien.
Heinschink, Mozes F. (2002) Zum Verhältnis zwischen Roma und Landlern. In: Bottesch, Martin / Grieshofer, Franz / Schabus, Wilfried (eds.) Die siebenbürgischen Landler. Eine Spurensicherung, Wien, pp. 381-408.
Mayerhofer, Claudia (1999) Dorfzigeuner. Kultur und Geschichte der Burgenland-Roma von der Ersten Republik bis zur Gegenwart, Wien.
Remmel, Franz (1993) Die Roma Rumäniens. Volk ohne Hinterland, Wien.
Schindegger, Florian (1997) Lebensweise von Zigeunern in Wien am Beispiel der Festtradition der Kalderaš. Wien.
Vossen, Rüdiger (1983) Zigeuner. Roma, Sinti, Gitanos, Gypsies zwischen Verfolgung und Romantisierung, Hamburg.
Yoors, Jan (1982) Die Zigeuner. Frankfurt.
Image Printable version
Image Ioan Cioaba on the "pomana"
Image Dragan Jevremović on the "pomana"
Image Dragan Jevremović on death rites among the Kalderaš
Image "Canlık" (Muslim commemoration of the dead) – Recitation in Arabic