The word Gypsy refers to a member of an ethnic group called the Romani, or Romany. The Romani are descendants of people from northern India, originating there about 1,000 years ago. They are related to the Dom people, who came from the same area but separated from the Romani. The Romani or Gypsies are a nomadic people who migrated to many places around the globe, including Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Americas. The most concentrated populations of Gypsies today are in Turkey and Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe, in such places as Spain and southern France. They live and travel in recognizable wagons.
Gypsies are predominantly Roman Catholic, though some practice forms of Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism, or Islam. Gypsies believe in God, whom they call Del, and Satan, whom they refer to as beng. Traditionally, Gypsy culture is steeped in superstition, holding to belief in charms, amulets, curses, bad luck, and ghosts. Gypsies practice many rituals, and, as happens in many religions, most of their rituals are related to appeasing or warding off spirits in an attempt to control fate. The Gypsies tend to mix pagan religion with Christian thought. For example, when a Gypsy dies, his family asks forgiveness for anything bad he may have done, but this is done for fear that the dead person will come back and haunt the living. Forgiveness, according to the Bible, is something given to the living by God through Christ (1 John 1:9) and is not associated with fear. In fact, those who have received Christ’s forgiveness no longer need to fear condemnation (Romans 8:1; 1 John 4:18). The idea of the dead coming back to haunt the living for not praying for their forgiveness is not a biblical idea at all. Romani or Gypsies also believe in reincarnation, which is not in step with Christian doctrine, and they practice fortune telling, which is the same as being a medium or practicing sorcery, activities forbidden in the Bible (Leviticus 20:27; Galatians 5:20).
Gypsy or Romani women are held to very high standards of purity. Virginity is absolutely required before marriage, and the lower half of a woman’s body is considered unclean because of menstruation. Pregnant women are also considered unclean, and if a woman gives birth in her family’s home, she will render the home impure. After a woman gives birth, anything the new mother touches must be destroyed. This focus on external and ceremonial uncleanness is characteristic of many legalistic religions. The Bible teaches that, because of man’s sin, we are all unclean before God (Romans 3:10–11, 23). The remedy for our spiritual pollution is not to make rules for ourselves but to seek the Savior (Romans 7:24–25; 1 Corinthians 6:11).