The Romany are as diverse a people as any other cultural group, but share many things in common with each other. Their traveling lifestyles were born of necessity, early in their history earning their living from selling their talents and wares as they traveled from village to village and marketplaces between. Telling fortunes, repairing goods, sharpening tools, shoeing horses, … using many trades and many forms of exchange and barter.
Because their numbers split off into different directions; some from India, Egypt and Turkey, some continued on up through central and eastern Europe, we see in tradition and code of behavior a common theme. They were not content as land owners nor were they educated in the ways of land law. Theirs was a life of being on the move, content with it. The language of the Rom bears no relation to Romanian, although there is percentage of Rom in Romania. Their language has its roots in the east, India and related areas.
The reputation, pushed along by the ill-informed, of gypsies as miscreants and thieves, tramps and cheats, is a stereotype that has hurt the Rom and other gypsy groups and cultures around the world. Yes, like any culture, there are those who act contrary to decency and the morality of the clan. However, gypsy people are a faithful and hardworking people in general. Those who leave their bad reputations behind are usually shunned by the larger circle of relations.
Gypsy magic is a combination of pagan magic, old traditions, adherence to superstition, with a blend of saint and angel work. Like an eclectic pot of old and solid well-used methods of spiritual and mystical tradition.
Herbs are a large part of old world magic, dried or fresh when in season, the gathering was a solemn responsibility among traveling populations. They were used for cooking, healing and magic, not to mention their tradability at markets. Nothing was taken for granted.
As cultures became fixed, taking hold of land and settling in permanently, the traveling clans were looked upon as unfortunates or with disdain. (yet when needed, people would see a gypsy for a prediction, a reading, etc.) The same thing happened with travelers around the world. Travelers found themselves on the bottom of the social scale.
The wise women (Shuvani) were considered among the elders most valuable to the tribe. She was / is the healer, the wise one to whom you went with a question or problem.
Readings by way of tea leaves and cards, various bits and pieces, were common. People went to gypsies, feeling that they had a connection to the cosmos, they lived out in the open, under the stars, a connection to the earth, not to mention an age-old bouquet of successes with healing.
The Romany people are under some serious pressure in Europe and other areas, where discrimination and racism are factors they must contend with.