Mulo

mulo m.: dead, ghost of the dead.

Belief in the mulo is shared by members of all Roma society. A mulo can appear to settle accounts with someone, because s/he is missing something in the next world, because s/he disapproves of the behaviour of her/his survivors, but also to warn a dear survivor of a threat of danger. Usually, though, a mulo strikes fear (mukel dar), occasionally tries to strangle someone (tasavel), gives people bruises (kaľarel) and can cause an illness (nasvaľarel), but never kills anyone.

To communicate with mule you have to follow specific, detailed rules so that they will not reveal themselves and bother the living - and finally, so that they themselves will not suffer for having to appear.

Mule can appear either in human form or as animals: as dogs, cats, birds or butterflies. It is possible to distinguish them from living beings because they walk sideways (phirel seraha) and you cannot see their faces. They can even return to this world unnoticed. Their immaterial presence can be recognised in various ways. For example, you can sprinkle ashes in front of the threshhold; if you notice human or animal (dog, cat, bird) prints, they are a sign that a mulo has arrived. Or you can leave a full glass of water on the table overnight; if some of the water is gone in the morning, that means a mulo came and drank it.

Great respect is shown to the soul of a dead relative through a series of various rituals. At Christmas, for example, if a relative died that year, room is left for him at the table and food is put on a plate for him as if he were alive. Other souls of dead relatives are left bobaľki (poppy seed pastry) in a corner of the room, or outside on a window sill. [Pomana]

Nowadays, on various occasions, people bring alcohol and food to the grave of a dead relative. They put lighted cigarettes on the grave and they talk to the deceased, etc.

Belief in mule functions as a social regulator. People try not to harm or wrong others out of fear that the offended people will come and haunt them when they die. If they are haunted, the guilty must make amends to the mulo. (For example, people must return borrowed objects of the deceased to his/her descendants; food must be put on the windowsill for the mulo, etc.

Peacemaking between the dying and their relatives and friends, attending a three-day wake (vartišagos-vartování), objects placed into the casket, burial rites – all serve to give the deceased peace in the next world so that s/he need not appear as a mulo.

Image Printable version
Image Ioan Cioaba on death rites and the belief in "mule" among the Kalderaš in Sibiu
Image Mulo story (excerpt)
Image Pouring water after the deceased