Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves?
The name for my business came to me as a shard of light while approaching Nashville on a busy interstate about a year ago, returning from the mountains of North Carolina. Romany Botanicals. Hmmm....fabulous!.... I had always been a little intrigued and fascinated by the Romany people and their wisdom. Having lived on three continents, Africa, Europe and more than thirty years in America, I often struggle with where I actually belong. I came to a place of peace this year and an understanding that I belong in all places and everywhere, wherever I happen to be. I am learning how to become an indigenous person, meaning "originating or occurring naturally in a particular place."
There were questions of course about the name....what is a Romany? What does Romany mean?
1. The Indic language of the gypsies, spoken in many dialects.
2. A Gypsy
It's not a word I have heard here in the United States but where I grew up in England it is common. There were Romany people around when I was a child, though not so many now. I took this reminder as an opportunity to learn more about their origin which led me down countless new paths of exploration and discovery, of course.
Romany or Romani people, also known as Gypsies, are widely scattered across the globe. They are a group of people shrouded in myth and mystery, either described as filthy, dirty,vagabond thieves or carefree artists and romantics. Their history and origin is somewhat of an enigma. It is said that they came from the northern regions of India and others say they hailed from Egypt, hence the word Gypsy. By the 1400's they were living throughout England, France, Germany, Italy and Hungary and since the 19th century some had migrated to the Americas.
They are described as dark-skinned, traveling people with black eyes and black hair. They would set up camps on the outskirts of towns. The men worked as horse traders and metal smiths, the women told fortunes....
They had a reputation as pickpockets and thieves, never identifying themselves with a territory and having a completely Nomadic existence. Their identity is bound with the ideal of freedom expressed by having no ties to a Homeland.
The wheel shaped sixteen spoked chakra is the international Romany symbol. The origin of the Roma people has been shrouded in misinformation. Roma or Rom means "people". They never refer to themselves as Gypsies.
They are not a single group but include people from Sweden, Norway, Armenia, Austria, Kosovo, Egypt and Croatia. They have no priesthood, no holy book and no 'promised land' to return to, they endure and survive and truly live in the world. They have a need to flourish, to become full citizens in the lands they inhabit by fulfilling their creative genius. Common ideas, heritage and belonging brings this community together. They have similar occupations, peddling livestock, recycling, artisan skills of all kinds and elaborately painted and carved wagons. They are known for their colorful fabrics, clothing and jewelry They are Healers, Intuits and Herbalists, Hedge Witches and Tarot readers. The women read palms and cast charms and spells. Fortune telling is an important part of gypsy tradition. They have been ruthlessly persecuted and consequently their ancient knowledge and ways have been diluted and weakened. Their bright colors have faded....
On my path of learning about the herbs, I fell in love with a woman named Juliette de Bairacli Levy. I watched a documentary titled "Juliette of the Herbs". She was famed for her mastery of herbal lore, most of which she learned from traveling for sixty years with Gypsies throughout Europe and Israel. She lived in tune with the rhythms of nature and lived the life of a traveller in search of herbal wisdom. She was also a pioneer of holistic veterinary medicine and a mentor and teacher to world renowned herbalists, Rosemary Gladstar and Susun Weed.
Through my work I have come to understand that people who live close to the land, will know the land and the healing gifts it has to offer. The land speaks, the land is medicine. The bones of our ancestors are beneath the ground upon which we walk. Indigenous people, Shamans, Native Americans, Nomads, Romanys, they all lived trusting their intuition and passing down the ancient ways and teachings of the trees, plants, animals and the land.
For me it brings up the question of how we perceive travelers and how we see our own existence. We all have a desire for nature deep inside and we all have a desire for freedom. Could there be another way for us to live and what standards would we apply to create a full life?