Remarkably adaptable to changing conditions in different countries, Gypsies are vesatile and earn their living by various means. Generally, there have been two conditions that a job must meet before it will be of interest to a gypsy. The first is it must allow the gypsy free travel. The second is for it to cause as little direct contact with non-gypsy, gaje, as possible. Services that cater to occasional needs and an ever-changing clientele are well suited to the Gypsy way of life.

Most Gypsies are peddlers selling what they have bought cheaply or selling what they have made themselves. There are certain staple Gypsy occupations, such as horse-trading, metalworking, and dealing in scrap metal. In gaining a livelihood, the women play their full part. It is they who often sell their wares from door to door and who do the fortune telling.

Generally Gypsy occupations are divided by sex. Men are the artisans while women offer services, such as fortune telling and selling what the men produce. This is not always the case as there are many women who are artisans. It is the women who bring in the money, and the women who are largely responsible for handling it.


One area in which the Gypsy has traditionally excelled is that of metalwork. They have been known as metalworkers from the beginning of their history. They have made nails, arm, tools, and cooking equipment. They have been skilled at plating objects with tin, embossing and engraving jewelry . The Gypsy have been experts in all forms of metalwork, whether it be as tinsmiths, coppersmiths, silversmiths, or goldsmiths.

Gypsies have not only been master metalworkers, but they have also shown great ingenuity in devising relatively light equipment such as forges and hammers. These tools are necessary to their work and are specifically designed to be easily transported. Knife Grinding or blade sharpening, is a common occupation for many Gypsies.


Horse-trading has long been a Gypsy affinity and a way of life. The horse has always been an important economic factor in the life of the Gypsy. The skills of the Gypsy in tending and curing the illnesses of horses have served them well for centuries. Often they would trade a good horse for a less healthy one, collecting needed money for the difference. By caring for these sick horses and putting them into good condition, they are later able to sell them for a higher price than the price originally paid.

Gypsies make a specialty of attending horse fairs as they are major occasions in their lives. They are adept at pointing out advantages in their own horses, while pointing out the disadvantages of those horses they are interested in buying.

Next to the horse the animal the Gypsies have shown great interest in is the bear. Gypsies have traditionally found work as bear leaders, men/women who could train bears for entertainment purposes. It is not uncommon to see a Gypsy leading a dancing bear through the streets and collecting coins from amused passersby.


Gypsies are also noted as entertainers, especially as musicians and dancers. The instruments traditionally preferred by Gypsy musicians have been the guitar, the lute, percussion instruments such as the cymbalom and drums. The cello and violin are also favored. Other instruments are zills, hand cymbals worn on the fingers, accordion, and panpipes and flutes.

The Gypsy skill at improvisation is well known. There is another type of music that is authentically Gypsy, a highly rhythmic progression of tones in which few or no instruments are used. The dominant sound is often that of clapping hands. This stirring music and dance, performed by proud men and women stamping their feet and snapping their fingers with awesome intensity and passion, is largely associated with the Gitanos tribe.

Gypsy women are also noted for the fluid grace of their dances and the haunting sensuality of the way they move across the floor to viola and drum. Many Gypsy women are highly paid by the gaje to dance for them in taverns. This is done sometimes, but with the Gypsy men attentive at all times for any defilement at the touch of gaje hands.


The occupation for which the Gypsy has been most famous is fortune telling, the foretelling of the future.

There are three main reasons that fortune telling appeals to the Gypsy. First, it gives them an aura of mystery and magic. Since it is one means of close contact with those who are not of the Gypsy, fortune tellers are useful in learning of the social, political, and economic climate of the region they are visiting. Their clients often take them into their confidence, revealing facets of local conditions the Gypsy would otherwise be unable to judge. Finally, of course, fortune telling is a relatively simple way of earning money.

Gypsies have been known to perform many kinds of predictions. They have read tea leaves, seen visions in crystal balls and scrying bowls, analyzed the future from reading cards, and from interpreting the signifigance of numbers, or numerology. They have practised palmistry, judging a person's fate, character, and aptitudes from the shape of hands and fingers and the designs of lines in the hand.

Though the claim that their great powers of prediction come from supernatural sources, the real skill of fortune tellers lies in their remakable abilities in judging human character and in manipulating human desires. She knows that most people remember what comes true and forget what does not. She knows, too, that she is capable of adding an exotic, exciting element to the life of non-gypsy. To please their believing clients, they most often predict a favorable outcome. There will often be mysterious warnings of perils that might well be avoided by preventatives (charms, talismans) provided, of course, by the Gypsy.

The concept of fortune telling contains several elements. One element is foretelling the future. Another element relates to healing powers. The healing elements of fortune telling are called "advising".

Good luck charms, amulets, and talismans are common among Gypsies. They are carried to prevent misfortune or heal sickness. Some Gypsies carry bread in their pockets as protection against bad luck, or bibaxt, and supernatural spirits or ghosts, called mulo'.

Gypsies also practice herbalism, and alchemy, as well as rune magic and the druidic arts.


Aleuromancy - divination using flour or meal

Automatic Writing

Axinomancy - divination using axhead, usually heated red hot

Belomancy - divination by arrows

Bibliomancy - divination using a book, randomly opening to a certain page, a dictionary is good for this

Capnomancy - reading/interpreting pictures made by smoke

Catoptromancy - using a mirror, reflections

Chiromancy - Palmistry

Cleromancy - divination by dice

Coscinomancy - divination using a sieve

Crystallomancy - crystal gazing

Dactylomancy - divination by rings

Divination by pendulum

Divination by coffee grounds

Divination by playing cards

Divination by coffee grounds

Divination by Tea Leaves

Divination using wells

Geomancy - signs in the earth ie cracks, wetness, upheavals etc.

Herbal divination

Hydromancy - water divination

Kleidoscopy - Divination using keys or chance verbal exchanges


Libanomancy - divination using incense

Lychnoscopy - divination by candles

Metoscopy - divination by forehead

Omens or natural occurences

Oneiromancy - dream reading


Ouija boards

Phrenology - divination by feeling the number, shape, and size of the bumps on oneshead

Pyromancy - divination by fire

Rhabdomancy or Rahabdoscopy - divination by dowsing or rods

Runes or bones

Table tipping

The Tarot

Ooscopy - divination using eggs


The Gypsy

Family Dilinations

Racial Customs


Magic and WAr


Gypsy Law

Gypsy Language

Out of Play