With the release of Book Four of the Summer People, you will be introduced to a ‘tribe’ of the Romani, known as the Churi, or People of the Knife. The churi play an important part in Jake, and the Twin’s quest to free their parents from the insidious grip of the Serpent People. Trapped behind enemy lines, the trio find themselves at the mercy of the enemy, until they run across the churi, ‘guerilla-style’ or ‘freedom fighters’. The churi are a matriarchal group of warriors operating deep within the Sibilant Kingdom, struggling to throw off the Serpent Peoples yoke of oppression, fear, and slavery.
The Summer People- Book Four- An excerpt
“We range these woods seeking the adsincani, what you name the serpent people. We burn their houses, attack their caravans.”
“So, you’re like guerilla’s then,” Jake exclaimed. Chandra, Mar, and Rogue looked confused. “You stay here and attack the enemy where he lives- behind the line.”
Chandra seemed to ponder the question. “I’m not sure what this line is you speak about, but yes. We are the churi or Knife of the People. The same as my mother’s mother, and her mother before her. We fight so that we might gain our freedom.”
Jake turned to Ash and Eli. “So, does that mean they are on our side,” he asked.
“We are on no one’s side,” Mar rasped, “because no one is entirely on our side. We simply are.” Her response brought a sharp glare from Chandra.
“This is all very confusing,” Ash said. “She leaned forward. “How many are you?”
“We are many,” Chandra replied proudly. “Though we have no home, preferring leaf and bough as our roof.” She waved with her hand. “The forest is where we belong.”
“Are all the churi, like yourselves,” Eli asked. Seeing Chandra’s brow furrow, “What I mean is…”
“Do we have men in our ranks?” Chandra’s eyes grew dark. “Ever since the disowning and shame, our men have been taken to work the mines. It is always the same. As soon as they reach manhood, they are removed. They become slaves and fodder to those you name the sibilant.” As she named the serpent people, she turned and spit into the fire.
And so, we make our introductions, even though we need none. We simply are. We are the churi. We are the people of leaf and bough, shadow, and shade. We strike from the forest and hide from the noontime sun. ~ Chandra
To understand our ways, one must know our history, and to know our history, one must walk our paths and ways.
In times of old the Romani were warriors and wanderers. I ask, what is a warrior without their churi. A warrior would rather be dead than caught without their churi. Little has changed. Since the disowning and shame, the churi have taken on new meaning. With our sons and men taken, wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers have assumed the churi and its great responsibility. The knives we wield today have been passed down from mother to daughter, aunt to niece, sister to daughter. Blood speaks to blood.
In times past the churi were considered common. No longer, our blades are sacred, venerated even, inscribed with the blood-rune of each family, their history and honor.
So, why this reverence for the blade? After all, are we not outcasts, driven forth from our own people? In answer I say, look no further than the Cossacks, and their views towards the blade. Among the Cossacks, a small boy is given a blade upon birth, the knife placed beside him in the cradle. The same is done amongst the Romani. For we are churi, the chosen Knife amongst our People. We are warriors, and we stand between the cursed sibilant and history.
Throughout generations our people have been bladesmiths, makers of churia and blades. Many of our tribe have been armors to Kings, armies, and Courts. Many are the knifemakers in Klingental, Solingen, Sheffield, Albacete and Toledo, sacred Romani families whose names bring legion and fear.
As churi, we live and die by the blade, by the skill of our limbs, the quickness of our minds, the heat of our passions. Our blades and skills are a way of life, and remembrance.
How it begins…
A chavie, would be presented with her very first Churi on her naming ceremony. From that time forward she would wear her namesake around her neck, or at her hip. The churi she wields would have been made for her by an older phen or day or a puri daj, passed down as blood heirlooms, and/or remembrances. When older, around three or four, the chavie would be given a larger Churi made for her by a day, and at the age of five or six she would be taught to ker her own Churi.
As related to Ashley, daughter to the Queen of the Summer People- regarding the making of churi.
Amongst the Romani from the British Isles, the knife is often referred to as a “peg knife”. The reason for this name is rather obvious, as it was the knife that women used when “chinning the koshters”, making wooden clothespins. The churi was and is, basically, a utility knife used for just about every cutting task imaginable.
Traditionally the Churi is a recycled knife; made from older knives of the “bone” handle variety.
The most common blade style for a churi, a.k.a. “peg knife”, has always been the sheepsfoot blade.
The sheepsfoot blade is extremely versatile, and all cutting chores are done with this churi, from cutting pegs (therefore the name ‘peg knife’), to cutting an apple to skinning a shoshoi (rabbit) or a rukmengro (squirrel), to peeling potatoes, and/or defending the group or oneself against attackers. There are times when the shape of the blade may differ, but this generally only happens if the original shape of the blade from which the churi is fashioned dictates and requires it.
I made my first Churi from an old knife when I was six-years-old, relying not so much on tools, rather using elbow grease, patience and some acquired skill. The Romani churi, amongst mi fohki at least, would always be made with a sheath to be hung around the neck or, also, with a sheath for carrying on the hip. However, the neck wearing of the churi was and is the most common way. I always wear one small Romani churi day and night. It only ever is taken off when I go for a swim.
The “raw” material for a churi is usually an old kitchen or table knife, generally with a bone or wooden handle, and with a spike tang.
The steel of the blade is either high-grade carbon steel or Firths Stainless. Firths Stainless was the first ever stainless steel, and the finest stainless steel forged.
The first step in making a churi, is to acquire the blade. Carbon steel is always a good choice, and unless you know this, looks gray to black- that which is called “tarnish.” Rust is not an issue either, if the rust has not destroyed the spike tang. Firths Stainless steel blades generally have the word “Firths Stainless” stamped on them. The handles of these knives are bone if they are rather old. Sometimes you may even find knives with deer antler handle.
Once you have got the knife (as cheaply as possible) you need to look at the lines of the blade. The shape determines the shape of the final blade. If it is a standard table knife, you then must decide where you wish to make the initial cut to shape the blade into a sheepsfoot, the traditional shape for a Romani Churi. For this you will have to use a hacksaw or cold chisel to accomplish. After the initial rough cut, use a fine cut mil file to achieve the final curves on the top for a proper nice sheepsfoot blade.
Next comes the handle. If you want to put on a new handle, first you must remove the old “bone” handle. If you are blessed enough to have found a churi with an antler handle, I would suggest you do not remove, but leave it. However, to remove the “bone” handle, the safest way I have found is to first scour a cut into the center of one of the flat sides of the handle with a cutting tool, then split the handle off with an old chisel.
Now that you have shaped the blade into a nice sheepsfoot shape and have taken off the old handle you can start with the new wooden handle. This must be a piece of hardwood. The best woods to use are seasoned, and can be either elm, birch, beech, yew, ash, hawthorn, blackthorn, cherry, apple, or other. Do not try using oak, it does not work. Yew wood makes a nice handle, but the easiest wood to make handles with, that I have found anyway, is beech. I use a nice sized piece of branch that has been seasoned for about six months to a year. Cut a piece of a length that will be right and then with a drill bit that is just a little smaller in diameter than is the tang you drill straight down into the center of the wood you have chosen for a handle. Now take an old – and I do stress old – saucepan fill it with water, throw in the piece of wood for the handle and boil this for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile you take your blade and, point-down, clamp it, between protective pieces of wood, into a metal vice. Also get a hammer ready. Once the handle has boiled enough you take it out of the water with tongs, and holding it with a cloth, carefully put it onto the spike by means of the hole. You then hammer the handle home and do this a straight as possible. Within literally a minute or so the wood will have cooled and shrunk back and the tag will be held firm. The only tasks to do then is to shape the handle the way you want it to be and then, put an edge on the blade using a file first, then a sharpening stone. Once you have put a razor-sharp edge onto the blade, you will have your very own traditional Romani churi.
All that is left tat this point, is to make a nice, tight-fitting sheath for your blade using an old leather belt, bag, or whatever else. Wood makes a nice scabbard as well.
 The Romani Churi, the making of which shall be described here in this little article, is the traditional churi (knife) of the Romanichals (Romane Chave). Amongst the Romani from British Isles it is often referred to as “peg knife”.
 The Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic-speaking Orthodox Christian people who became known as members of democratic, self-governing, semi-military communities, originating in the Pontic steppe, north of the Black Sea.
 Close to Basel’s famous dance of death in the Dominican monastery was another Dominican monastery in Kleinbasel named Klingental after its founder Walter von Klingen. In this secluded nunnery there used to be a copy of the famous dance.
 Solingen (German pronunciation: [ˈzoːlɪŋən] is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located on the northern edge of the region called Bergisches Land, south of the Ruhr area.
 Sheffield is a city in South Yorkshire, England.
 Albacete is a city and municipality in the Spanish autonomous community of Castilla–La Mancha, and capital of the province of Albacete
 Toledo is an ancient city set on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain. The capital of the region, it’s known for the medieval Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments in its walled old city. It was also the former home of Mannerist painter El Greco. The Moorish Bisagra Gate and the Sol Gate.
 young girl- not of age
 Make and/or forge