Linking your favorite traveling artists across the globe
It’s difficult to think of a Gypsy and not see the image of a crystal ball or tarot cards. Since their push into Persia, Gypsies/Roma has been simultaneously linked with fortunetelling. From the Eastern, holistic and magical context to their Indian ori¬gins, Gypsies or Romas, are prized for their remark¬able psychic abilities and the gift to attract good fortune or destroy a life with a curse. All are born with such gifts, but what makes their powers so innate is their relationship with nature. Their bond with the spirits of the outdoors allows their gifts to evolve naturally.
Gypsies/Roma believes that within their own there are certain ones who posses’ great power through the ability to perform magic with their special range of knowledge. Such people known in the Gaje, or white man’s world, are usually called witches, warlocks or wizards but within the Roma/Gypsy society they are known as chovihanis.
Among the chovihani there are four favorites for fortune telling (or dukkerin`): palm reading, tea leaves, the crystal, and cards. These methods are of a “practical” nature and do not take anything complex or expensive to utilize.
Surprisingly, the Roma/Gypsy usually does not consult a chovihani or anyone else for past, present or future knowledge. Nor are the chovihanis held in high esteem because of their gifts; rather it is the money brought in by their gifts that gives them a place of honor within the society.
Palm Reading: Palmistry is the most common divina¬tion method. It requires no special equipment or props of any kind, can be practiced discreetly, and has traditionally been the first method taught to children by their mothers. Palmistry is combination of both chiromancy and chirol¬ogy, or a belief that is based on the idea that certain parts of the body have an indepen¬dent spirit.
The hands can be considered a simple chart of our lives. The left hand reveals the life we are born with while the right hand is what we make of that life. In a reading, the cho¬vihani uses the lines, mounts, divisions, and type of hand to tell of a person’s past, pres¬ent, and future.
Tea Leaves: Reading the tea leaves has always been a pop¬ular divination method, espe¬cially in the 1930s and 1940s when “Gypsy Tea Rooms” sprung up quite frequently, sometimes featuring less than authentic “Gypsies.”
The questioner begins by drinking Chinese tea or any large-leafed variety with a round cup, white or very pale, with a handle. He or she will drink the tea until only a spoon¬ful or less is left in the cup. With their left hand, the tea is swirled around anticlockwise, three times in the cup and then turned upside down to drain. The cup is then turned right-side up and passed to the chovihani to read the leaves.
Crystal Ball: The image of a Gypsy, huddled over a crystal ball, is a familiar one, made popular by the movies and TV. In reality, the crystal ball is rarely used as it takes much preparation before and during the reading. It is difficult to be “on” all day to read the crystal ball. Normally if on call for the day, the chovihani will gaze at the ball but use their own intu¬ition for the reading.
However, utilizing the crys¬tal ball is an art that can be mastered with dedication and patience. For gazing, gather a crystal ball (or any reflective surface - bowl of water, mir¬ror, metal, etc.), a black cloth (to put the ball upon) a com¬fortable chair and a table. The trick here is to “gaze” into the ball and not stare. Meditate for as long as need to quiet your mind, gaze into the ball and interpret the symbolic images that appear.
Tarot Cards: The earliest known tarot deck came from India with the Gypsies introducing them to the world. Many chovi¬hanis are happy to use playing cards in place of tarot cards. Since playing cards are derived from tarot cards, it really makes no difference which one is used in the art of fortunetelling.
A deck of tarot cards consists of seventy-eight richly decorated cards marked with a number of antiquated symbols. The cards are divided into two groups: The Major Arcana, consisting of twenty-two ceremonial pictures of symbolic persons; and the Minor Arcana, fifty-eight cards that represent the four suits.
The methods to interpret the cards are various and plenti¬ful, with many books and web sites devoted to this topic alone. No matter how compli¬cated or simple the method of interpretation, tarot cards are used to gain insight into a person’s actions and how they relate to the past, present and future circumstances.
Among the Gypsies, the magi¬cal arts are almost always prac¬ticed by women. Evidence of the chovihani (female) in gypsy society far outweighs the cho¬vihano (male). The Gaje impres¬sion of a fortuneteller is also that of a woman and not a man. This view is no doubt based on the emotional, psy¬chological and spiritual makeup of women. However, in the Gypsy society more specific and tangible reasons can be found based on the sexual and social categorization of their culture.
Although the quest to place the factorial origin of the Roma/Gypsies in India is far from over, they will always have the image placed on them as the original “free spirits” of the world. The Roma/Gypsy has lived a nomadic existence for thousands of years and has lived in har¬mony with nature longer than most because, this author feels, of their Eastern origins. With a kinship to mind, body and soul that most can only dream of, the Roma/Gypsy have much to teach the Western world, if people would only listen.
Source: The Mysterious & Magical Gypsy/Roma by Allie Theiss (paper for Middle Eastern Class - 2009)