Folklore

Family Unity

It is said that by throwing a small handful of salt on the family cooking fire every Monday morning, you will keep the family together and help heal any rifts.

Another belief is that to roll a wagon wheel in a great circle around the outside of the vardo once a month at the New Moon will ensure family togetherness. It should be rolled clockwise.

One Gypsy woman in Norfolk assured me that the only sure way to keep the family together is to take a small clipping from every member’s hair. These are then all placed together in a large leaf, which is rolled up and tied around with one of the mother’s hairs. The package is then buried at the foot of an oak tree. The type of leaf in which the hair is wrapped was not specified, but it probably should be oak.

Togetherness can similarly be ensured by taking nail clippings from all family members and burying them at the foot of a tree – in this case a hawthorn or elm.

~Raymond Buckland

To Bring About A Reunion

Romani families, or tribes, though wandering the country most of the year, would occasionally stop at a particularly favorite campground for two or three months at a time. Frequently this campground was a favorite of other branches of the tribe, and sometimes there was a grand reunion that took place when the different groups came together there.

Many Gypsies, especially the older ones, looked forward to these reunions, to again meeting with old friends and to sharing their stories, their adventures, their tales of sorrow and joy.

Here is a spell that was sometimes worked to bring about such a gathering, particularly if it had been a hard winter and support, comfort, and advice was needed. This magick is worked by the mother of the family when cooking a meal (usually hedgehog or rabbit stew) during the waxing of the Moon.

All potatoes to be used should be cut lengthwise, rather than crosswise, and thrown into the family cookpot along with a pinch each of allspice, thyme, and mace. Onion can be used but not garlic. Carrots, turnips and similar root crops should be plentifully included. Stir the cookpot only clockwise, and when moving around it, move only clockwise. The stirring spoon must be a wooden one, and the cookpot must be iron.

On the fire over which the cookpot hangs, throw handfuls of cedar chips; and at some time during the cooking, sprinkle onto the fire three spoonfuls of salt.

Any time the pot is stirred, it must be stirred in batches of three, for example: three, six, or nine clockwise stirs at a time. During these stirrings the mother will say:

Stir the pot and bring us round;
Rom are to the atching-tan bound.
Merry we’ll meet and merry we’ll part
And merry will be the company found.

Source: Gypsy Love Magick

Horse Whispering

Horse whispering is shrouded in mystery. It is an inexplicable method employed by the Romanies to tame wild and temperamental horses.

Tradition says the secret to horse whispering was granted as a deathbed legacy from a horse charmer to his eldest son. The Romanies say that one who has received the gift of horse whispering cannot die peacefully until he or she has passed on the talent.

There are tales of horse whisperers meeting secretively in moonlight to practice their equestrian skills and to discuss hypnotic, herbal, and magical formulas.

Some believe horse charming is the application of herbs or aniseed to the horse’s nose or bridle or the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in its right ear. Whatever it is, it is a secret the Romanies guard jealously.

One spell they do share is said to make the horse fearless of commotion and also of supernatural beings. The charmer first draws a circle on the left front hoof with a piece of coal and a cross on the right front hoof. Then the charmer spits on a piece of salted bread and feeds the bread to the horse.

From The Good Spell Book
by Gillian Kemp

More About Tea Leaves

In the old days, a Romany woman would read a housewife’s tea leaves in exchange for a refreshing cuppa and a few old clothes. Sometimes a Gypsy Queen, dressed in her finest and laden with all her jewelry, would preside over a special tea-drinking party for a few favored clients. The best bone china and lace tablecloth would be brought out to impress upon the Rawnies (ladies) the importance of the occasion – and how privileged they were to be invited. No doubt the fee for the teacup-reading was suitably increased to fit the occasion.

It is not only tea leaves that can be used for this type of reading: coffee and cocoa grounds, or anything that leaves a sediment in the cup, can be used in the same way. If you prefer teabags, you can of course break open the bag before making the tea in the usual way. This should ensure that a good pattern is left in the cup, but if you do take the trouble to make a good old-fashioned pot of loose-leafed tea, you will also have the extra bonus of a truly satisfying taste.

One drawback with reading the teacups is that is is all too easy to fall into the habit of reading the cups at every tea break, which tends to belittle this method and turn it into a parlour game. But as long as it is used with respect it will give excellent results.

Most authorities state that the cup should be plain white and shallow, but I have never found that the shape of the cup was important, nor that a patterned cup adversely affected the reading. Indeed, Romanies have always disliked plain white china, preferring it to be richly decorated.

From Gypsy Magic by Patrinella Cooper

Note:

More information on Tea Leaf divination can be found here: Divination – Reading Tea Leaves

Animals and Their Omens

Cats and Dogs:

If a black cat should cross your path, expect good luck. If a dog howls for no reason, expect a death.

Crows:

Crows are shrouded in mystery, considered to be exceptionally wise and intelligent, some gypsies say that crows live to be 300 years old.  To see one crow means sorrow, and two together means joy. A crow standing in the road signifies a happy journey, while a dead crow in the road, would cause a gypsy to turn back.

Foxes:

If a fox crosses your path, an opportunity will be given to you, if he stops and looks at you your ambitions will be fulfilled.

Horses:

A white horse was once the symbol of the Celtic goddess Epona, and thus should be greeted with respect or you may draw misfortune to yourself. But you can tell the horse your hopes and wishes and they will come true.

Magpies:

Also a member of the crow family are a sign of good luck if two are seen together. One on its own foretells a theft.

Robins and Wrens:

These are both lucky creatures, they bring good news if they fly into your home, but a dead robin or wren near your door is a bad omen. Owls To hear an owl in day time is a bad omen, like wise to hunt or kill an owl.

Rooks:

To have a property with a rookery on it, is seen as very fruitful, but if the rooks should leave then that is taken as a bad omen. In Ireland, when one was buying a property that was blessed with a rookery the deal was considered null and void if the rooks deserted the rookery within one year.

Stoats and Weasels:

To them playing together foretells happiness in the family, but if they are fighting, means squabbles and disputes in the family.

From: Vermont Deadline

Romany Weather Lore

  • A mackerel sky predicts a fine day in the morrow, as long as the clouds are high and fine.
  • A greenish tinge in the sky mean’s rain is on the way.
  • Rain before seven, fine by eleven.
  • If the sun shines through the cloud’s and has a halo, then fine weather is expected, a halo around the moon means rain within three days.
  • If the crescent moon appears to have her horns facing upwards, she is holding her water, the weather will be fine.
  • A small high cold silver moon means frost.
  • Major changes in the weather normally occur at the moons quarter.
  • If stars are small and seem to blink, there will be wind the next day.
  • If stars are large and blink there will be wind and rain.
  • A thunderstorm at night, will freshen the air for twelve hours.
  • Lightening at night without thunder, the next day will be humid.
  • A low mist in the morning, ensures a fine day.
  • Mist high on the hills brings rain.
  • If the smoke from a fire draws high and straight into the sky fine weather it will be.
  • If smoke clings to the ground, rain is on the way.
  • When fire burns bright and steady in spring or autumn expect a frost.

 

Some Gypsy Superstitions

  • It is wise to pitch a tent near a holly tree because it will give you divine protection (holy tree).
  • To see a mule shaking itself, is a sign of good luck.
  • A moth hovering around a candle flame, means a letter in the morning.
  • To see a white horse in the morning, means good luck all day.
  • If a coal or wood fire makes any kind of noise, it means a quarrel in the offing.
  • To spit on ones hand after seeing a wagtail (a small bird with a long tail), means that money is on its way.
  • If the right hand itches…money will be paid out.
  • If the left hand itches….money will be received.
  • A tickling nose is a sign of getting drunk.
  • An itching of the right eye means sadness.
  • An itching of the left eye is a sign of happiness to come.
  • Frog’s spawn thrown over the left shoulder for good luck.
  • To see a shooting star is a sign of death
  • A baby keeps its luck in the grimy lines of its hands.
  • A baby born at full moon will be lucky.
  • A baby born at midnight before the Sabbath, it will be under a curse.
  • If one of the bearers at a funeral stumbles during the procession, there will be another death.
  • Newly sprouted grass or of lightening means there will be a funeral.
  • It is lucky to meet with a woman carrying a jug full of water, but unlucky if it be empty.
  • It is unlucky to wash anything on Saturday, or to spin on Thursday.
  • There is always a treasure to be found where the first swallow is seen.
  • On Wednesday and Friday no one should use needle or scissors, bake bread, or sow flax.
  • No bargain should ever be concluded on a Friday.

Source: Vermont Deadline

For Peace At Someone’s Death

falA_owl2

For Gypsies there is far more concern for the living than for the dead. Yet the Rom believe there must always be a family vigil prior to the death of a family member. After the death there will be the funeral, which must be followed by a proper period of mourning.

English Gypsies believe that the owl is a harbinger of death. If they hear an owl hooting away in the distance, then it means someone close to them will die. If the owl is close by, with its cries loud and clear, then the person who will die is distant.

When an elderly member of the tribe is ill, and certain that he or she is going to die, work is sent out to all family members whereverthey happen to be scattered. They will immediatly return home, no matter from how far, for this is the one event that takes precedence over all others. The family members gather around the dying person’s bed, or outside around the tent or vardo.

There is always someone seated at the bedside until the death. It is a time for much socializing, with very little emotion shown regarding the dying man or woman.

Once dead, the person is caught between the world of the living and the world of the dead. He or she will stay there until buried. In order to ease the stay there, and to prepare them for the transition to the world of the dead, there is a simple ritual that is sometimes performed by the shuvani(often without the knowledge of any of the other members of the tribe).

A small fire is lit – quite separate from any cooking fire – as soon as possible after the last breath. The fire should be laid carefully so that it can be started with one light and so that it will burn for a sufficient time without having to have more fuel added. Onto the fire are thrown thyme, sage, and rosemary, in that order. The dead person’s name is chanted repeatedly as the shuvani walks backwards (widdershins, or counterclockwise) seven times around the fire, which is then left to burn itself out.

From Gypsy Love Magick
Art by Ann Falcone

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