The Cortorari are a Roma community in Transylvania whose most valuable asset is the Tahtai, a silver cup inherited from generation to generation. Having a Tahtai is like having a nobility title. The cup is part of a marriage negotiations, used as a motive for murder, fights and curses, dictating the way the Cortorari community lives and organises itself.


There was a time long ago, when Roma moved from place to place and lived in tents. This period is influenced by the name of this particular Roma community: the Cortorari, who are

the only community in the heart of Transylvania whose wealth consists of a TAHTAI. The Tahtai is a silver cup and its value varies between 100,000 and one million euros.

Some Roma claim that in the old days, it was from these cups that their ancestors’ kings used to drink and that the kings rewarded the skilled craftsmen with a cup.

The tahtai is the equivalent of a noble title and those who inherit it also inherit the story.

It secures the existence of a community, it decides the status, the life partner and level of respect. Its value is not determined by the material of which it is made but by the number of generations it transisioned.

According to some „cortorari”, very small pieces of the old pots had been broken and buried with their owners. Thus, the mark on the current owner’s cup reminds him of his connection to his ancestors. In a world that is constantly moving and changing, for this particular community, the tahtai symbolises permanent security and stability. In marriage negotiations, the girl’s family must assess the potential groom’s cup. There is a hierarchy of quality, size and especially age. The more valuable the tahtai, the more money the bride offers. In the community’s tradition, weddings are not organised, the tahtai being a guarantee that the bride and groom will stay together. According to tradition, after the wedding, the Tahtai remains in the bride’s family until their first child is born. After the birth, it needs to be returned to the boy’s family. This magic cup instigates murder, disobedience and family conflicts, as it happened in a village in Sibiu county, where about 12 families of cortorari are established. There, a particular case occurred where the bride’s parents  refused to return the chalice. The groom’s father threatened the head of the other family with death but still failed to get the Tahtai back. Everything went on normally until the day when intention turned into action and the groom’s father stabbed the girl’s father and then surrendered to the police.

In order to disclose the tahtai’s hideout, some of the cortorari were put under pressure and threatened with the murder of their children. Not even in these conditions, did they reveal the big secret.

Elisabeta Clopotar is one of the most respected women in the community because her husband inherited an extremely valuable tahtai. “A bag of chalices can’t match ours,” she says. During the communist period when everything of value was confiscated, Elizabeth’s tahtai sat buried.

The chalice is inherited in the father side of the family and only a few corturari are proud owners. Other Roma in the community have never seen it and consider it an invention, a legend.

Most of the time, these cups are invisible. In nomadic times, because the tentmakers were not allowed to keep valuables in their tents, they left them in the homes of trusted Romanians, who kept them carefully when the deportation to Transnistria happened.

Today,many cups are still kept in the homes of Romanian peasants, establishing an emotionally link between these two ethnic groups. This fact may also suggest the permanent interconnection of Roma and Romanians on the same territory.

The silver cups were made by craftsmen in Transylvania in the 17th-18th centuries. The stemless ones are considered to belong to a higher class of Roma, while the stemmed cups reveal a less valuable class. Among the cortorari, the one who sells his cup is excluded from the community until his death and the generations that come after him have the same destiny. Whoever steals the tahtai is cursed by the Roma. This curse makes it physically impossible for the thief to live a normal life until his death.

The cup has survived all the transformations in the lives of the Roma. The ability of the holders to keep this cup with sanctity despite all hardships and obstacles is beyond compare. The wealth of the Roma cortorari is not represented by houses, palaces or gold. Their entire fortune lies in this cup and the story built around it. Tahtai has an important cultural aspect to this unique community and for it to exist, the cup must remain in the family.

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