A Gauji Explores Traveler’s Tales

Originally posted on January 19, 2011 on the blog of freemanpresson

by Lilith Presson

Buckland’s Book of Gypsy Magic: Travelers’ Stories, Spells & Healings

Buckland’s Book of Gypsy Magic1 is rich with all sorts of fascinating information about the Romani people, especially the Gypsies of England, including but not limited to folk magic practices. In addition to the expected divination sections that include tarot, crystal balls, palmistry, and tea leaves, one may also read about the manner of dress and what certain parts of the attire signified as worn in different ways. Herbal lore accompanies the verbal spells and how to read omens.

As a gauji2 (non-Gypsy woman), I appreciate the honesty of the author in acknowledging the romanticism used in the writing of the book3; yet he does not often overdo this glorification to the point of becoming overly sentimental. The balance makes for enjoyable reading and believability, with perhaps the smallest grain of salt added when Buckland glosses over thievery among Gypsies4 as “innocent” and “undeserved”.

While a comprehensive study of every aspect of magic, lore, and divination would not be expected in a single tome, the lack of more complete explanations stands out in parts, especially considering how much detail is given to other areas. In the section about reading coins5, the author gives a very sketchy description and notes:

“The separation of the coins, their distances from one another, and the patterns they assume are all relevant. For the purposes of this book, however, I will just give the basic ‘heads/tails’ interpretations.”

Since Buckland explains several other forms of divination much more extensively, leaving out these “relevant” parts seems haphazard or else deliberately secretive.

Gypsy Magic has so much of interest throughout the book and encompasses so many subjects that good end matter seems highly necessary, especially since the author sometimes defines his terms and other times does not – a habit which can prove frustrating for the reader – or else he waits until later chapters to define his terms. The glossary is helpful, as is the bibliography, but the indices are not nearly as complete as they should be. Rosemary, for instance, is mentioned as an ingredient in an ear remedy6 but is not included in either index.

Overall, I found Gypsy Magic to be an informative, pleasant read with occasional points of frustration, but highly worth the recommendation to those interested in finding out more about how the Gypsies of England traditionally have seen the world.

1 Buckland, Raymond. Buckland’s Book of Gypsy Magic. San Francisco: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2010.
2 Ibid., 14.
3 Ibid., ix, x.
4 Ibid., 4-5.
5 Ibid., 126, 127.
6 Ibid., 52.

Buckland’s Book of Gypsy Magic
Travelers’ Stories, Spells, and Healings
Raymond Buckland
ISBN: 9781578634675
Book (Paperback)
Weiser Books
6 x 9
224 pages
B&W photographs & illustrations
May 1, 2010

[Complimentary review copy from Red Wheel/Weiser gratefully acknowledged.]

This entry was posted in book review, critique, cultural studies, divination, magic, paganism, Romani. Bookmark the permalink.

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