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Encampment of Gypsies with Caravans, by Van Gogh [1888] (Public Domain Image)
Encampment of Gypsies with Caravans, by Van Gogh [1888] (Public Domain Image)

Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling

by Charles Godfrey Leland


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The Gypsies, who call themselves Rom or Romany, are a nomadic culture which originated in India during the Middle Ages. They migrated widely, particularly to Europe, where they worked as farm laborers, metalworkers, scrapdealers, and horsetraders. They also made a living as entertainers, fortune tellers, and grifters. Persecuted by the Nazis, and discriminated against to this day, the Rom have a long tradition of magic and shamanism. As Leland points out, these practices have parallels with those of other traditional pagan cultures around the world.

This book discusses spells, incantations and talismans used within Rom culture, as well as the more practical magic they use in their interaction with the Gorgios--the non-Gypsies. It is this latter topic which provides some of the most interesting and instructional reading. Leland gives some generalized methods of fortune-telling which any prospective psychic would do well to study; as well as the details of the 'Great Secret', a magic trick in which all of your money disappears...

Gypsy life has a romantic appeal, and Leland, who popularized Gypsy lore in this and other books played no small part in this image-making. However, Leland makes it abudantly clear that life on the road was hard. The Rom people are to be admired for their survival skills in a hostile world, and for the longevity and persistance of their culture.

Title Page
Chapter I: The Origin of Witchcraft, Shamanism and Sorcery
Chapter II: Charms and Conjurations to Cure the Disorders of Grown People
Chapter III: Gypsy Conjurations and Exorcisms
Chapter IV: South Slavonian and other Gypsy Witch-lore
Chapter V: Charms or Conjurations to Cure or Protect Animals
Chapter VI: Of Pregnancy and Charms
Chapter VII: The Recovery of Stolen Property, Love Charms
Chapter VIII: Roumanian and Transylvanian Sorceries and Superstitions
Chapter IX: The Meetings of Witches
Chapter X: Of the Haunts, Homes and Habits of Witches in the South Slavic Lands
Chapter XI: Gypsy Witchcraft—Magical Power and Fortune-telling
Chapter XII: Fortune-Telling (continued)
Chapter XIII: Proverbs Referring to Witches, Gypsies and Fairies
Chapter XIV: A Gypsy Magic Spell—The Great Secret
Chapter XV: Gypsy Amulets
Chapter XVI: Gypsies, Toads and Toad-lore