Vartování

vartování: keeping vigil over a corpse.

Keeping watch over a dead member of the fameľija is still an unconditional duty of all relatives. Anyone who does not take part in the wake and the funeral without a satisfactory excuse can no longer count on the solidarity of the family.

In the past, wakes lasted three days – from the time of death to the funeral. The body, surrounded by lighted candles, lay in a separate area at home. Sometimes coins were placed on the dead person's eyelids to prevent him from opening his eyes. In another section of the room or in another room, the mourners kept vigil. While the closest relatives noisily manifested their grief over the loss of their father or mother, or possibly their son or daughter, the others chatted to help make the three or four days of vartování pass more quickly.

Among the standard ways of passing the time, the most important was telling stories about the departed person – naturally exaggerating his good qualities. Laughing was not at all against the rules when relating humorous stories. Furthermore, while keeping watch, the mourners told tales (paramisa) and, mostly, hours-long heroic stories (vitejsika paramisa). And again, there was nothing wrong with relieving them with some light-hearted humour.

In many localities, mourners played a rather lascivious game called lopatki (elsewhere called hajavišu); they bound the eyes of one of the participants and another hit him on the rear end with two fingers. He had to guess who it was. If he did not guess, he had to pay a forfeit. If he guessed right, someone else took his place. A men's diversion was card playing.

While keeping vigil, people ate and drank, but getting drunk was improper. They did not play music or sing – music accompanied the deceased only during the funeral at the graveyard.

People still keep vigil in the flat of the deceased, with the difference that the body is usually taken away by the undertakers right after the death. Candles are lit in a specially prepared place for the wake where the deceased's photograph is displayed. The wake lasts until the day of the funeral and can last longer than the original three days. It has happened more than once that relatives take their vacation for the time of the wake, or they may prefer to risk disciplinary measures at work rather than come into conflict with their close Roma community and its ancient laws that require attendance at wakes.

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Image Dragan Jevremović on death rites among the Kalderaš