Gypsies — alien and indigenous: migration of meanings

Keywords: gypsies, masks, the others, the untouchable
Language: In Latvian

A tradition of masked “Gypsy” processions in annual festivals and wedding parties is popular in Latvia, which is also reflected in oral folklore, in folk songs. In the group of “Gypsy” masks, the main characters use to be a Gypsy man and a Gypsy woman. Despite the fact that the group may also include other characters — Bear, Crane, Horse, Beggar, Devil, Death, etc. — all together are referred to as “Gypsies”. It is believed that the behaviour and actions of masked “Gypsies” have been taken from the activities of the Gypsy (Roma) ethnos after their entry into Latvia — exchanging of horses, fortune telling, stealing, and others. Both share the marginal and migrant status in society: both the masked “Gypsies” and the Gypsy people arrive, communicate and then leave. Speaking of the meaning of the Gypsy mask, the otherness is usually highlighted — the alien who came from elsewhere. However, is the view complete that Gypsies enter the world of masks after the local population confront and get acquainted with the ethnos having arrived in their territory? The article deals with the migration of meanings of the concept of Gypsies between the world of masks and nomadic tribal societies, the mythical and social, alien and indigenous.