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
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.