Solax

Solax means oath or vow and can be traced back to the old-Indian term śapatha (curse). The Hindi denomination for oath is saũh. Vlach groups use the term solax whereas in other Romani dialects, sovel is common. Oaths are pronounced in order to reinforce a pronounced statement, which cannot be proven. A certain bad luck is wished in case the expressed statement would reveal itself not to be true. Basically, a differentiation is made between everyday life oaths, and oaths for special occasions and questions.

Everyday life oaths are casual formulations or common idiomatic sayings that express the vividness of Romani in a playful way. They are part of the verbal narrative tradition, and like this form more or less a separate genre.

Te na dikhav kado kham thaj kado djes!
"I shall not see this day and this sun anymore!"
Te marel ma mi bax!
"My good luck shall strike me!"
Te de o Del, te merav ando birto!
"God grant that I will die in the pub!"

No great relevance is attached to everyday life oaths; not even in the case where the reinforced expressions are revealed to be untrue.

Oaths that are pronounced on special occasions or in relation with serious questions are dealt with in a different way. The belief in the effect of such oaths is extremely present within the most traditionally living Roma groups. There are groups, however, like the Muslim Sepečides who avoid oaths to the greatest possible extent because in their view, swearing an oath leads to bad luck.

The expression of oaths is especially striking between the areas of law and morality. In kris-meetings they are of a certain evidential value. The Roma imagine that sworn oaths fall back on the person who pronounced them, and as a consequence come true. In most cases these oaths refer to those persons, items and beliefs that are of most value for the respective group or represent acknowledged basic values. The closer the relationship of the person affected, the more serious the considered effect of the oath. One of the most serious oaths of the Kalderaš refers to a mourning ritual during the wake.

Te del o Del te merav bi memeljako te xoxadem tu!
"God shall care for me dying without a candle!"

Many oaths deal with rituals in relation to the mulo-belief and the worship of ancestors:

Te del o Del, te čhos mandje godolestar ando moxto!
"God grant that you would give me some of it into the grave!"
(It is referred to poppy, which is sprinkled into the grave in order to keep away the death’s spirit. There is the belief that the mulo can come back within the 40-day deadline if the mulo succeeds in counting all the poppy seeds within one night.)
Mek najaren man e sudre paja!
"Cold water shall be used to wash me!"
(note: some traditionally living Roma groups believe that only a dead body may be washed with cold water.)

Most effect is attached to oaths expressed on the life of children. For this reason they are pronounced only in exceptional cases (e.g. in front of a kris).

Te na dikhav me śavořen!
"I shall not see my children anymore!"

Many Roma groups know certain rituals in order to weaken oaths. The Kalderaš use a stone or a metal item as a sort of lightning conductor for the oath. For this reason the accused is checked whether they are carrying such an item with them. With the sepečides on the other hand it was usual to lift a foot in order to dissolve the significance of an oath.

Jek čang tí vazdesa opre i sovel na astarela.
"If a foot is lifted the oath has no effect."

Sources

Heinschink, Mozes F. (2002) Unpublished interview with Dragan Jevremović (Kalderaš). Wien.
Heinschink, Mozes F. (2002) Unpublished interview with Fatma Heinschink (Sepečides). Wien.

References

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Eder-Jordan, Beate (1993) Geboren bin ich vor Jahrtausenden. Klagenfurt.
Fennesz-Juhasz, Christiane / Halwachs, Dieter W. / Heinschink, Mozes F. (1996) Sprache und Musik der österreichischen Roma. In: GLS 46, pp. 61-110.
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Yoors, Jan (1982) Die Zigeuner. Frankfurt.
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