‘Gypsy’ is not a kooky tarot reader’s costume

I see a lot of people ‘dressing up as Gypsies’ for events

Or labelling themselves ‘Gypsies’ because they read tarot or practice divination, or aspiring to ‘Gypsy lifestyles’ because it’s all a bit romantic and mysterious and hip.

To be clear: ‘Dressing up as a Gypsy’ is cultural appropriation

It’s not my place to explain Romany/Gypsy ethnicity, people, culture and history. If you’re interested, there are plenty of awesome websites you can explore (try the first link in the list below.)

It is my place to call out the white tarot community to which I belong (and myself – shit, I had a friend read tarot at my ‘Victorian Circus’-themed 30th birthday party and I deliberately suggested she wear hoop earrings and a long dress because of a loose idea in my head about a certain look) on our willingness to adopt the ‘costumes’ (costumes?) of other people’s cultures. It seems to be a permanent and expected feature of divination, done without thought, and often defended as cultural ‘appreciation’.

But unless you actually are a Gypsy, you are not a Gypsy. Unless you actually are Native American, you’re not. If you’re still not sure, take a look at this and realise how massively uncool all this ‘dressing up’ is. A culture is not a style identity you can adopt for the night/season/current album tour.

If you’re a white lady who reads tarot cards, please – just be a white lady who reads tarot cards. Dress up by all means, but leave other folks’ cultures out of it.


Cultural appropriation – further reading

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6 comments

  1. Vayla Nightshade says:

    I was a gypsy,witch,bellydancer for my Halloween party this year because I love all 3! I am a Witch and bellydancer but you’re right I am not a gypsy although my older son calls me one ’cause I move so much, 5X in 10 yrs. But I never thought of it as derogatory but will definitely keep this thought in mind. It’s good to think about how we treat other cultures.

  2. Tache says:

    Thank you! More people need to get the message regarding Romani culture. As a Rom, I cant tell you how many times people have held out their hands for me to read when they discover my ethnicity. Its truly insulting. Believe me when I say that if we were magical people we would not have suffered centuries of persecution and racism. Please do not call yourselves Gypsies and wear costumes to complete your claims it does us no good. People will continue to believe its a lifestyle and not an ethnicity which further harms us by people not seeing our reality. We are a distinct minority with a language,culture,flag and DNA markings.
    Thank you to the writer, much respect to you!
    Tachephen.

  3. Tamara says:

    Higher loving conscious blessings to you my sister (red, white, black, yellow). Mai sem Rromni, I am a Rromani woman. It is not about the ego but for so many higher reasons. Out human rights movement, cultural identity and respect,educating the masses so that we too may rise from the negative stereo types. Our own present generations and elders being able to claim and yes prosper from our true heritage and passed down abilities, in authentic Rromani spiritual arts, musica, dance, etc (to me and us, all spiritual arts lol ) Our ability to have the “room” to have our authentic services still living today, be recognized clearly, so that we may grow our own higher and authentic reputation in today’s world,unprecidented for the first time in history….!! Rather then having for so many of our people, to pretend and not tell anyone they are Rroma, in order to not be grouped into either those of our own that are not honest and or those whom are not Rroma to “think” that all Rromani spiritual consultants are.

    There is literally a book I could share in my and my Rromani sisters alone in our generation , Regarding the harsh reactions not responses we have received from “attempting” to explain to our non Rromani sister belly dancers, musicians, “fortune tellers”, etc etc….no matter how kind, informed, educated, we do or are…etc…. The strangest part is, I am apart of the ‘rainbow” alternative spiritual universal communities throughout the County and the people I thought had the most respect for our culture, history and 1000 year road of mass persecution; were in actuallity…the ones who cared the least…. when it all came down to it.

    So I truly am grateful for you taking the time to educate whom I know in my heart; are evolving conscious loving beings; who just have not “got it” yet lol

    . Creator’s blessings. Te aves ty te beshes undo sastimous, raadna, zor, shukar mingien, swakofellow so trobul tu te anklel. Devlesa 🙂 xoxox

  4. MapleTreeDruid says:

    Thank you for writing this. The other night I was at a dinner party and told someone that I was a professional tarot reader, and her response was “I’m going as a tarot reader for Hallowe’en!” When she described her costume, what she meant was that she was going as a gypsy. So wrong!

  5. Thank you, it’s an interesting topic. I come from a Romani heritage myself, and have noticed the trend to dress up as and fetishise the “gypsy lifestyle”. However I do belive that many people do it not out of malice but out of a genuine desire for a connection to a culture, any culture. Those of us who fight for equality for marginalised groups have made great headway but ironically it’s came with the price of dismissing “white lady” or “white boy” culture.
    We should encourage them to embrace their heritage as much as we do PoC, learn about the Celts, the Norse or the Slavs, embrace the esoteric heritage of your own bloodline. Magic lives in all of us.

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