Gypsy Beliefs Regarding Fortune Telling
There are a lot of misconceptions around Gypsy beliefs and fortune-telling. Someone messaged me yesterday and asked me if Tarot was a ‘closed practice’ among Gypsies. I want to take a minute to discuss this because I am getting tired of fake Gypsies spreading misconceptions about Romany Gypsy culture within the Tarot and divination communities.
In Gypsy culture, we do not have a concept of a closed spiritual practice. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have secret, arcane knowledge. This stereotype was started by gorgers (non-Gypsies). It is similar to the stereotype of the curse-happy Voodoo practitioner. These beliefs are entertaining for Hollywood, but they are inaccurate.
Divination is not a Closed Spiritual Practice
The concept of a closed spiritual practice is a gorger one. We do not mix with gorgers, so our ideas about spirituality are completely different. Our culture is closed, but not because we have valuable, secret knowledge.
In our culture, we don’t even have things like alters or prayer stations. We believe that spirits, God, etc. are everywhere – this is a very common belief among nomadic and tribal people. Most Gypsies cannot read or write, so we do not even share knowledge through spellbooks or diaries.
So, when you see these movies with Gypsy fortune-tellers attending to their alters or sharing spellbooks, this is bullshit. I believe that having a set place to pray or talk to God and the spirits is a good thing. But that is my own personal opinion, it is not one of my people’s. In fact, if I told a relative that they had to have a set place in their home for spirits they would think I was insane. They would suspect that I had been spending too much time with gorgers.
Gypsy Rules Regarding Fortune-Telling
With regard to divination, a relative may teach their child how to use a particular method, but this is not something we view as being open to some and closed to others.
For us, divination is a past-time, hobby, or talent just like playing football or an instrument. In gorger culture, people practice divination because they are special, but we practice divination only if we want to. We have virtually no rules around divination. You can start at any age and read how you want.
Gorgers have a lot of rules for reading Tarot. It is quite common for gorgers to believe that it is morally wrong to read people without their consent or to charge money for readings. After I started mixing with gorger readers online, I told my family about these beliefs. They couldn’t understand why gorgers would believe those things.
A lot of gorger’s beliefs around divination stem from Christianity. In the Bible, Simony is the sin of charging money for spiritual services. Gypsies don’t believe that taking money for psychic readings is wrong. From observing my family, I realize that Gypsies believe in the transfer of energy. In some cases, it is wrong not to charge money for readings.
If my mum buys granny milk, my granny will make her take the money for it, even if she doesn’t want to. They do this because they believe that if you’re indebted to someone, something else can be taken from you as a way to balance the energy of that debt. Debt can lead to bad luck.
Maintaining spiritual balance is a belief that is so ingrained in our culture we don’t even discuss it. We don’t view it as a spiritual belief, but as a literal fact. When we were children, we were even warned not to laugh too much because something would happen to make us cry. If we find money, we believe that it is lucky to give that money to someone else, because this way it will come back to you. Favours are always returned, in one way or the other, as this maintains balance.
If someone performs a reading for you and you do not pay, you have tipped the balance. You have gained something without payment (even if that payment is only a penny) so something else will be taken from you. Gypsies believe that taking payment for readings is not only in their best interest but also their seekers. This belief is separate from Christianity and organised religions, so it is different from what gorgers believe.
Similarly, the belief that God knows all and sees all is a trait of organised religions. Some Gypsies may also believe that this is true, but because we do not view divination as a strictly spiritual practice, we don’t view diviners as being God-like. Diviners can’t play God. We firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. You cannot reveal things in your divination that you’re not ‘meant’ to know. Diviners are not Gods who can predict anything that they want. Because you can only predict what you’re meant to see, it is not wrong to read other people without their permission – because if you weren’t meant to know, you wouldn’t be able to make predictions on the matter.
Our Spiritual Beliefs Revolve Around Cleaning
The idea that we would have closed spiritual practices is inaccurate because we need to pass our beliefs from generation to generation in order for them to survive. Plus, Gypsies just do not view divination and fortune-telling this way. Again, it is viewed as a hobby, so there is no reason to keep it as a secret.
Most of our spiritual beliefs are related to mundane matters such as staying clean. For example, we are superstitious about washing dishes in a certain order or we don’t say certain ‘dirty’ words out loud. But, again, for us, these are facts of life, facts of the universe. They are what make our world safe and the gorger world chaotic. We believe that these rules are what make us Gypsies. We do not view them as spiritual, even though they underpin Gypsy spirituality.
Gypsies must follow our cleanliness laws if they want to be accepted as part of the family. If a Gypsy was to act or think too much like a gorger, we would label them as one. We were often ostracised as children to ensure that we followed our family’s rules. If I was washing dishes and used the wrong cloth, for example, everyone would gang up on me and say stuff like, “You’re spending too much time with the gorgers, you are one now cause you can’t even use a cloth.” Acts like this are used as a way to shame the person into behaving correctly. It sounds sick but they are necessary to guarantee the continuation of our culture.
These beliefs are not unique to Gypsies living in Britain or the U.S. Romany people have the same language, culture, and beliefs whether they are living in the U.K, Romania, Brazil, or Iran. We are also all related to each other, and follow these beliefs regardless of where we live. So, we all Romany as long as 1. Ethnically and biologically, we are Romany Gypsy and 2. We follow our cultural rules.
It is Not Enough to be Ethnically Romany
Someone can be ethnically Romany Gypsy but not be considered one by other Gypsies if they are too influenced by gorgers and their culture. This has consequences on who they can befriend or even marry because families do not want their descendants to mix with outsiders.
As time goes on, if people drift apart from their family, they can begin to relax their beliefs and their rules until they are no longer considered to be one of us. So, ethnically, they can be Gypsies but if they were not raised with our traditions we would view them as gorgers.
And if they were not raised as Gypsies they know nothing about our culture. In turn, they know nothing about our symbolism, or how we practice divination.
There are plenty of people on the internet who claim to be Gypsies and who speak for us, but we would never consider them to be one of us. They go on Instagram or TikTok and think that it is okay for them to spread beliefs about our culture because their granny (or whoever) was a Gypsy. When, in reality, they weren’t even raised in our culture so they wouldn’t know what we believe. And we know if someone is one of us just based on how they act, talk, and behave.
Trust me, There’s a Lot of Gypsy Fakes in the Fortune-Telling industry
Gypsies would never tell someone that they cannot read Tarot or crystal balls because it is ‘appropriating their culture’. Because, again, divination is just a past time and nothing to get narked over. But, we do take issue with people who claim to be Gypsies when they are not. And, trust me, it is very common for gorgers to claim to be Gypsies as a marketing ploy to sell readings. In reality, we don’t even consider a lot of ethnic Gypsies to be Gypsies if they do not follow our rules.
Our culture is closed to outsiders. Not because we have secret knowledge about divination, but because our culture is based on continuing our traditions. We believe that there is our world and the gorger world. If you’re a Gypsy you’re part of our world, but being ethnically Gypsy is not enough.
You have to follow our cultural rules which are passed from elders to children. If you break away from our norms, your children will not learn the rules. In turn, they will be cut off from the group and be considered gorgers. I’ve seen Gypsies be ex-communicated for allowing a dog to lick their hand. It may seem extreme to gorgers but this is how our culture has survived 1,000 years.
I’m 30-years-old and there are certain things I cannot do online because if my family found out they would be ashamed and they would chastise me for acting like a gorger. For example, I cannot say certain words or discuss certain subjects. Just from glancing at someone’s profile, I can tell if they were raised in our culture based on the things they say.
We wouldn’t post pictures of ourselves with a member of the opposite gender in a bedroom. Or, women wouldn’t post about hormonal changes. We wouldn’t even post pictures of certain animals on our profiles. My family once went ballistic at me for pointing out a picture of a monkey. Because I used an unlucky word, monkey, while my uncle was driving it would cause bad luck. These are things which only we know because it is how we have been raised, and we look for these things in other people to assess if they are or aren’t really Gypsies.
Gypsy Symbolism and Divination
Because our culture is different, how we interpret certain symbols are different. That is the true ‘secret’ to our divination. And because we do not mix with gorgers they are unaware of our symbolism. But, our interpretations themselves are not a secret. My family knows that I teach divination and fortune-telling online to gorgers. My family is very supportive of my career as long as:
- I am not telling gorgers they can be Gypsies.
- I am not allowing my students to market their own courses as being ‘Gypsy’ methods.
Gypsies usually do not like to talk about their culture as openly as I am here because gorgers can use this against us. I know that there are going to be Romany people reading this who think that me even posting here is shameful. Gorgers are interested in us and our divination – this draws attention to us which can open us up to criticism and cause shame. This is the real reason why we do not talk about our beliefs. It has nothing to do with hoarding arcane secrets.
We live in fear of persecution, harassment, and racism. We stay secretive as a way to keep ourselves and our family’s safe. I have friends and family who do not even want me to share pictures of them online. But, at this point, there are so many faux-Gypsies posting crap about our culture online I had to make this post before what they’re saying becomes ‘common knowledge’. It is not knowledge. They are just posting misconceptions when they cannot speak for us because they are not even a part of our culture. Never mind knowing enough to post the ‘truth’ about Gypsy fortune-telling.
My Family Have Always Been Supportive
In my real life, my partner, his family, all of my friends and family are also Romany Gypsies. However, the vast majority of my students are gorgers. A lot of my advanced students have gone on to teach divination. I’ve actually found that gorger families are less supportive of their family members teaching divination than what my family are of my career. My students have had issues with their family’s not supporting them. This is insane to me because, in my culture, fortune-telling is just a hobby and is nothing to be for or against.
While I do believe that divination is a spiritual practice, for us, everything and nothing in particular is a spiritual practice because spirit is everywhere all of the time. I might see a sign while I am walking down the street. That doesn’t mean that walking is morally right or wrong or only open to certain people, just as divination is not only open to certain people. Anyone can practice divination if they want to.
The true ‘secret’ to Gypsy fortune-telling is that we interpret signs and symbols based on how our culture views that sign or symbol. And you have to be raised on our culture to interpret a symbol through the lens of Romany Gypsy culture. However, all cultures do this. I will interpret a snake very differently from how a Palo practitioner like Ambrozine LeGare would interpret a snake because we come from completely different cultures (you should follow her if you want to know more about Afro-American spirituality, she’s a great teacher and a great person). But that is okay!
Everyone has their own culture. You should be proud of yourself and your culture. Even if you feel that your culture is plain or boring, you should take pride in it and your ancestors. You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not to be able to sell readings or have people like you.
So, beware that anyone can claim to be anything online. Take everything, even the things I am saying, with a pinch of salt, do your research and take everything at face value. (And, if you do want to learn more about Gypsy culture, I recommend that you read We Are The Romani People, it is the most accurate book regarding our culture.)
Have a great day, and happy divining,
If you’re interested in learning more from me, I have a free e-book on this website which is an introduction to fortune-telling with a card system known as Lenormand. Feel free to download it here:
P.S. I understand that a lot of Romany people do not like to use the word ‘Gypsy’ and some people consider it a slur. I’ll be 100% honest, I have to use that word otherwise gorgers will not know who I am talking about. I wish I didn’t have to, but sadly that is the way the world is.