Finally there is a Tarot that embodies the spirit of the Gypsies. The Buckland Romani Tarot is a beautiful new deck that follows the traditional form of the tarot, but incorporates Gypsy forms and symbol. Drawing on his experiences with his Romani (English Gypsy) family, Raymond Buckland has teamed with artist Lissanne Lake to produce a beautiful deck that embodies the rich traditions and deep, earthy wisdom of these passionate people. Anyone who is familiar with the cards will enjoy this refreshing new approach, and anyone new to the tarot will enjoy the ease of use and down-to-earth nature of this attractive deck.
The accompanying book presents a full set of fresh, insightful interpretations written specifically to match this deck, along with traditional meanings. It also includes a Romani-English word list, historical background on the Gypsies, guidance on caring for and using the cards, and a selection of spreads.
Many books on the tarot are so obscure and complex that they end up discouraging everyone but the advanced practitioner. In contrast, this book is written in simple language, that makes reading and studying the tarot a joy. In addition, it relays fascinating historical facts about the Gypsies. Although the exact origins of the tarot are shrouded in the mists of antiquity, we know one thing for certain-it is the Gypsies who are most directly responsible for keeping this ancient fount of wisdom from fading into obscurity. Now Raymond Buckland finally gives them the credit they are due. Discover how, in their wanderings, they have preserved the arcane wisdom of many lands and civilizations.
Let the Romani Tarot help you see the world through Gypsy eyes.
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Raymond Buckland has been actively involved in metaphysics and the occult for fifty years and has writing about it for nearly thirty.
He is the author of more than sixty books, including such best-selling titles as Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft, Gypsy Dream Dictionary, Practical Candleburning Rituals, and Witchcraft from the Inside. Ray has lectured and presented workshops across the United States, and has appeared on major television and radio shows nationally and internationally. He has also written screen plays, been a technical advisor for films, and appeared in films and videos.
Ray comes from an English Romany (Gypsy) family and presently resides, with his wife Tara, on a small farm in central Ohio. Beyond writing, Ray's other passion is homebuilt airplanes.
The Gypsy . . . has given us the key which enables us to explain all the symbolism of the ages. . . . In it, where a man of the people sees only the key to an obscure tradition, (are) discovered the mysterious links which unite God, the Universe, and Man.
―Papus Gypsies and the Tarot
Eden Gray (A Complete Guide to the Tarot, Crown, NY, 1970) says:
Legend has it that as pagan cults became the victims of Christian persecution, the Hierophants (priests of the Eleusinian Mysteries) handed down their ancestral lore to the Gypsies, who undertook to transmit it only to those deemed worthy. For who would suspect that a wandering Gypsy was the custodian of so precious a treasure? It is said that the Gypsy was also entrusted with the secrets of the Gnostics, the Montanists, and the Manichæans, as well as the Albigenses. . . .
I personally think this is on a par with the Gypsies’ own claims, at the time, of traveling under the patronage of the Pope, the Emperor of Germany, and various other rulers and influential people. They also claimed to be living out a seven-year penance imposed on them for their paganism, and of having been given permission to beg for alms―this at a time when the Church had elevated charity to a virtue. It was simply a means whereby the travelers could live well off others!
Certainly, to spread the rumor that they were the “Keepers of the Ancient Mysteries” could only enhance the Gypsies’ prestige. Yet, although I don’t believe the legend as related by Eden Gray, I do believe that in their own way they were Keepers of the Ancient Mysteries, albeit unknowingly. The Gypsies, more than anyone else, were almost certainly responsible for the early spread and popularization of the tarot as a tool of divination.
When these refugees first arrived in Europe, the people of the lands they invaded didn’t know what to make of them. The newcomers were a strange people, dark skinned and gaudily dressed. Some people suggested that perhaps the nomads were descendants of the ancient Egyptians! It certainly seemed possible, and soon the newcomers were labeled “Egyptians.” This later became shortened to “’Gyptian” and then to “’Gypsy,” the name by which they are known today. In fact, the more correct term would be “Romani,” “Romana,” or “Roma,” from their language Romanes. Indeed, the word for a male Gypsy is Rom.
Where did these Gypsies actually come from? In July of 1994, following genocidal civil war, Tutsis and Hutu refugees by the million were driven out of Rwanda by invading armies and flooded into eastern Zaire. Much the same thing had happened a thousand years earlier in the northern areas of India. Successive armies of Greeks, Scythians, and Kushites had invaded that region. Then came the Huns and Mohameddans. By the tenth century the local peoples (a mixture of Jats, Nats, Dards, Sindis, and Doms) had had enough and moved out. Waves of refugees―thousands of people―moved westward, through Pakistan and Afghanistan; through Persia, Arabia, and Egypt; through Turkey, Byzantium, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. By the early fourteenth century the nomads were well established in Crete, Peloponnesus, Corfu, Serbia, and Walachia. There is record of them in Zagreb in 1378, in Bohemia in 1399, Hildesheim in 1407, Belgium and the Netherlands by 1420, and even in Paris by 1427. They were in Wales and the west of England in 1430. These dates we have from official records, where notations were made of fees paid to the Gypsies for providing entertainment at court, or for being punished for some infraction of the local laws.
As strangers in strange lands, as they journeyed the nomads had to eke out an existence as best they could. Along with making wooden and metal objects, weaving baskets, and mending pots and pans, they trained animals to dance and do tricks. They also told fortunes. This last was a big draw; everyone was interested in trying to learn of the future, just as they are today.
Not being great mathematicians, the Gypsies seldom involved themselves in astrology or numerology or the like. They specialized in palmistry, phrenology (reading the shape of the head and any special bumps or lumps on it), and cartomancy. Cartomancy―the reading of cards―quickly became a favorite, and Gypsies have remained masters of this art through to the present day.
Early tarot decks were hand-painted and therefore extremely expensive. The Gypsies would make their own, to use rather than to sell. In fifteenth-century England, King Edward IV forbade the importation of tarot cards, yet soldiers fighting in Normandy and Touraine, Anjou and Poitou smuggled back the cards from France. The decks found their way into the homes of the nobility, where they were furtively kept and used. By the time of the French Revolution, however, as Gray points out, “a new freedom swept Europe; esoteric sects and mystic lodges flourished once again.”
As people developed an interest in Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, astrology, and the like, the tarot came back into the open; the Marseilles deck was especially popular. Names well-known in the occult world today―Eliphas Levi, MacGregor Mathers, Papus (Dr. Gerard Encausse), Oswald Wirth, Arthur Edward Waite, Aleister Crowley―turned their minds to the tarot and its esoteric symbolism. Many of these individuals developed decks of their own, and by the middle of the twentieth century there were several hundred decks from which to choose. Today, the number has increased to around two thousand! Yet I doubt that there really could be too many tarot decks, for with such a variety everyone can find the deck that is just right for them.
When one learns to read the tarot, the cards become very personal. You get to feel comfortable with them; they become almost an extension of your personality. There are decks that will attract you, and there are those that will repel! Most serious readers own a number of decks. They may have a favorite, yes, but they also have others they read from time to time for a change.
If one reads from only one deck, it is easy to get drawn into giving automatic interpretations, especially when going strictly by the little instruction booklet found with most decks. These booklets offer a set interpretation for each card, and you can be drawn into the trap of giving virtually the same interpretation for a card every time it appears, no matter who you are reading for.
To avoid this oversimplification, many readers will switch decks for a while. Because many decks are based on the symbolism found in the Rider-Waite deck, switching between two very similar decks isn’t necessarily the answer. It’s far better, sometimes, to pick up something entirely different, like the Crowley Thoth deck, the Mayan (Xultún) Tarot, the Sacred Circle Tarot, Tarot of the Orishas, or even the Haindl Tarot.
With the Buckland Romani Tarot, we are offering yet another choice. This deck, I feel, offers a new approach in that it can be used in the traditional way, but it can―and I feel should―be used for more encompassing interpretations that open up a much greater range of possibilities. The scenes of Gypsy life and lore are new to many, if not most, tarot card readers. They present a refreshing new look even as they reflect a tradition that is centuries old. For so long the Gypsies have been associated with the tarot; now, at last, there is a tarot deck that is actually tied in to the Gypsies themselves. The Buckland Romani Tarot deck is an important new tool for divination, if only because it is based on Gypsy wisdom.
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