The blood of my blood: the place of widows and widowers among Spanish Gypsies
(Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale)
Paper short abstract:
Among Gypsies, social organization is founded on a dichotomy between givers and receivers. And, the conjugal relationship is conceived of as a gift of "blood". When one spouse dies, various rituals are performed so that the surviving spouse does not accompany this close partner of gift into death.
Paper long abstract:
Among the Gypsies of San Juan and Morote (southern Spain), the links between individuals and groups are conceived of as gift relationships in which givers are superior to receivers. This dialectic orders groups and individuals into hierarchical categories inherited at birth. In this way, human beings are held to be superior to animals, men to women, etc. Within each category, statuses fluctuate and are periodically readjusted by means of material or symbolic reciprocal transactions (taking place notably on the occasion of marriages). The relationship between spouses is consistent with this at once static and performative representation of social relations. During sexual intercourse, a man pours his "blood" into the body of women who becomes impregnated, such that, after several years of marriage, a women's body is deemed to have become very similar to that of her spouse; she and her husband become blood relatives. Following a person's death, his/her spouse remains in mourning for about four years. As the identity of the surviving spouse has become very similar to that of the deceased, he/she also runs the risk of being called to the world of the dead. The wearing of mourning for the death of parents or older siblings may also last four years. A comparison of the mourning practices (initiated in order to break relationships between relatives) undertaken in the case of these different consanguineous and affinal relationships will shed light on the fact that they entail similar periods of mourning.
Mourning, intimacy and the special character of the conjugal relationship