7 Gypsy Myths Lifestyles Understood ...


The numerous gypsy myths point to the issue that gypsies are a much misunderstood ethnic group. In some cultures – too many - they are looked down upon, scorned and ridiculed and shunned – including in my own country, the UK. This prejudice usually stems from us not really understanding them and that they live a different lifestyle to what most of us would consider “normal”. I’m going to try and dispel some of the gypsy myths here.

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Myth - Gypsies Possess Supernatural Powers

One of the greatest universal gypsy myths is that the people possess supernatural powers, such as fortune-telling and cursing at will. Sure, some gypsies may possess the average seemingly psychic intuition of any other human who walks the earth, but they’ve no particular aptitude for fortune-telling. And as for the dark arts, apart from cursing up a blue streak, they’ve no inclination or ability to voodoo-curse their fellows. That being said, these silly superstitions about gypsies have largely been advantageous to the gypsy community, allowing the army-less group to defend itself through the ignorant fear of their counterparts. Some have even cultivated the myths and now tell fortunes in order to earn a living.


The belief in these mystical capabilities has roots in centuries-old folklore and has been perpetuated by popular culture in books and movies, adding an air of mystery and intrigue around the gypsy lifestyle. However, it is essential to separate anecdotal tales from actual practices. The reality remains that the vast majority of gypsies lead perfectly ordinary lives without any special supernatural gifts. Furthermore, associating an entire ethnic group with supernatural powers can lead to harmful stereotypes and misunderstandings. In truth, gypsies are just as varied in belief and ability as any other cross-section of society.


Myth - Gypsies Are Foreigners and Criminals

It’s astonishing how many jump to these conclusions, when the fact of the matter is that the gypsy “invasion” is no invasion at all. Gypsies have long been part of the societies and the historical foundation of the lands of which they inhabit. In Britain, for instance, gypsies have been around for 500 years. Many gypsies believe that inherently racist legislation is often passed to smother their traditional lifestyle. Interestingly, statistically, gypsies make up a low percentage of the prison population.


The notion that gypsies are perpetual outsiders fails to grasp the deep roots they have in many countries. Much like the Romani in Britain, various gypsy communities across Europe have become woven into the national tapestries, contributing to cultural richness and diversity. The stereotype of gypsies being inherently criminal is not only offensive but factually incorrect. They are, indeed, more likely to be the victims of crime due to marginalization and prejudice. These misguided stereotypes stem from a lack of understanding and an unwillingness to accept their distinct culture and nomadic way of life.


Myth - Gypsies Are Dirty

One wholly discourteous gypsy myth is that gypsies are dirty due to their nomadic lifestyle. In all actuality, the gypsy culture enacts strict cleanliness codes which have been established across centuries of nomadic living. For instance, mahrime and mokadi are methods of washing which dictate the sorts of objects that can be washed in various bowls. Actually, gypsies believe non-Gypsies are rather unclean or live in unclean environments. Pets and animals are rarely permitted in a gypsy home, for example, because animals are believed to carry disease.


The perception of gypsies being unclean is further unfounded when considering their meticulous grooming habits. They often bathe and change clothes more frequently than is customary in Western society, especially when welcoming guests or attending gatherings. Hygiene and personal care are considered paramount, with many Roma families passing down intricate rituals for maintaining cleanliness. Additionally, the care they put into the upkeep of their caravans or homes is often overlooked. Thorough cleaning is a daily routine, and their living spaces are kept tidy and organized, reflecting a deep respect for their surroundings and community.


Myth - Gypsies All Live in Caravans

While this myth is grounded in some historical truth, only around 50% of present-day western European Gypsies live in caravans, while around 90% of the world’s gypsies live in static housing. The recognized ethnic minorities of Irish Travellers and Romani Gypsies have established distinct languages, culture, and beliefs, which includes housing developments. However, law designates gypsies as nomads, so this is one of the gypsy myths that persists.


The image of gypsies wandering in colourful caravans is a romanticized one, often perpetuated by media and folklore. In reality, the lifestyle of modern gypsies is diverse, reflecting a blend of tradition and adaptation to contemporary living. Some choose to travel seasonally for work or cultural gatherings, but many have settled into houses and apartments, integrating into local communities while keeping alive their heritage. Despite the change in their living arrangements, the bond within the community remains strong, preserving the rich tapestry of their ancestry through customs and familial connections.


Myth - Genetic Wanderlust is Inherent in Gypsy Blood

As revealed in the previous myth, the nomadic lifestyle of gypsies is not nearly as true as it’s believed to be. Rather, the persecution of the gypsy minority culture has always influenced their nomadic heritage. Another factor which pushes gypsies to wander is economic opportunities. Being as such, the culture works in highly mobile trades, which in the past often meant agriculture, while presently it takes the form of building trade as well as creating or selling transportable products. Additionally, gypsies often start work at a young age, learning traditional skills which are passed from generation to generation.


The idea that gypsies possess an intrinsic desire to constantly move from place to place is an oversimplification of their cultural realities. In truth, the patterns of migration are often a response to external pressures, such as the need to find seasonal work or to escape discrimination. Moreover, familial and community bonds are deep-rooted within gypsy culture. The strong sense of identity and heritage encourages them to maintain close relationships and traditions, which sometimes can be supported through a mobile lifestyle, but does not necessarily equate to a genetic drive for perpetual travel.


Myth - Gypsies Avoid Paying Taxes

Many gypsies are traditionally self-employed, and they pay taxes just like their non-gypsy counterparts. Gypsy culture values portable wealth, and their homes’ capital is far lower than the equity of their non-gypsy counterparts, but its value also depreciates at a much higher rate.


Myth - Gypsies do Not Contribute to the Local Economy or Culture

In recent history, gypsies died alongside their non-gypsy brethren while fighting for their countries during World War II, so to claim they contribute nothing is incredibly disingenuous and petty. Their culture has contributed and continues to contribute to the arts and sciences. Included amongst the gypsy population, musicians, artists, journalists, historians and academics have all thrived. Hopefully new research and knowledge and better general education about gypsy culture will positively affect stereotypes and the general attitudes towards gypsies and their lifestyle.

I hope you will now no-longer believe these Gypsy myths. There are a proud people, just as proud of their heritage and culture as any of us and we should understand and celebrate their differences. Agreed?

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I myself are a Romani gypsy girl living in Australia and all of these myths are just myths. Hahah.

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