K AL DERASH A T H E G Y PS Y FORT U N E T E L L ER
By Jeni fer Wi sler
Summer 2013~First Edition by Jenifer Wisler for Visual Sequencing I Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
Table of Contents On the Road
“The Astor Sisters,”
I said in the oddest dream.
Shaken awake in the caravan, I found myself steading the hanging pots and pans that
On the road.
were hanging above the stove. Opening one side of the front window I asked Milosh if everything was all right. His posture was so straight, I knew it had startled him. I wondered if he fell asleep again on the road while the horses followed the wagon ahead of ours on their own. “Better stop and check on the wheels. It must have been a rock that was kicked up by the horses we were following,” he said then mumbled, “I never even saw them.”
Sure, like he was even awake! thought, then said, “I’ll get my shawl and an extra lamp to help you look for damage.” I shut the window to keep in what little heat was left from the smothered fire in the stove. I walked by the small bed that all three children were sleeping in and not one movement. These children could sleep through anything.
Milosh yelled to the wagon master,
Our caravan began to slow down. I could hear further leather snaps as the other men behind us brought their caravans to a stop. We had about twenty caravans and animal wagons in our wagon-train traveling show. I grabbed the large oil lamp from the cupboard, lit it and stepped out the door. Sure was windy, blew my dress up a bit. It was a little cold out and the air smelled of heavy coal smoke from the iron stoves around the wagon-train. We were lucky. It was a night that had a full moon that gave much needed light. Walking by the large boulder that had come out of the road,
I thought to myself, As the third caravan in the wagon train, I wondered how the other two wagons managed to not get damaged as well? Approaching the rear of the caravan, I saw Milosh and Besnik had already removed the wheel and were inspecting the mangled iron hub. “The inner hub has bent,” said Besnik.
Good thing that this part of the road was wide enough for the rest of the group to pass. We were on tight schedule traveling and performing on the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to the big city of New York. Our next stop is Hamsburg, Pennsylvania, but we were done for the night. Weâ€™d have to catch up to the group sometime the next day. This worried me because our money pot was running low and getting to our next show late meant not many fortunes to tell. Sunrise would come soon enough, and then the men can fix the wheel.
Milosh gathered wood to make a small fire to warm us. Besnik carried a small dark colored, ceramic jug from his caravan over to us.
He pulled out the cork with what was left of his teeth and spit it into his hand, took a large swig then handed it to Milosh.
Passing the jug, the old-timer began to tell us the story of his clan and the old country. “We called ourselves traveling Egyptians, gypsy fer short. The head of my clan toll us our roots are from Little Egypt, ‘n driven out to roam the lands fer not being Christian. Another tale he toll was that ‘n Egyptian smith had forged the nails that were used to crucify Christ.” He took another swig and continued, “But when we found a place to stay, were always driven out, ‘n blamed for everything even if it wern’t us.” I took a drink from the heavy jug, stood up and said, “Good night.” I knew that Mislosh would continue drinking with the old timer until they passed out.
Morning came shining through the side windows of the caravan and the children began to stir. Milosh was lying on the ground still holding the jug. I gave him a kick in the leg to wake him up. He awoke and said, “I must have dozed off.” I replied, “Sure, dosed off into that jug!.”
Giggles followed as I looked over at the children who were poking Besnik with stick. He was slumped over, head right in the dirt. “Is he dead, Momma?” said my son Yoska. “Stop that right now! He’s just in a deep sleep.” I said, then walked over to Milosh. “Can you please take care of Besnik?” Milosh scooted over to Besnik and said, “Brother, it’s time to wake up and get started on the day,” He said as he put his arm around the man.
I worried that we would get further behind the group. They left us about five hours ago. As the men worked, my oldest daughter Nadya brought me small containers filled with pigment and a bottle of oil. She suggested that we paint some touch ups on our sign that covered the side of the caravan.
“I love the words on this sign Momma. How did you originally paint it?” she said, with excitement in her voice. “My father was the one who originally painted it. I have no artistic skills. That’s were you get your artistic abilities from. I just try to keep it up by tracing his words with fresh paint. He was an artist in the old country. He sold his landscape paintings at many different fairs and was famous for it. When he and my mother immigrated to America, he could not sell any paintings. He used his skills to create grand signs for various companies. When he met my mother, he was painting all of the advertisement bills for a traveling dance group called Les Romanos,” I replied 24 18
When we were done, I said, “Since there is a little time before lunch, I want to continue your studies of palmistry.” I had Nadya sit down next to me on the improvised bench. “No matter where you come from, poor or rich, everyone is curious about what their hands might tell. The tradition of palmistry has been handed down many generations in our family and it is an important part of your roots. When my family first came to this country it was not easy to simply read one’s fortune. To capture an audience we had to sell ourselves as exotic, alluring of the forbidden and a little dangerous. That’s why I follow the tradition my mother taught me. Palmistry is a skill that is easy to learn, but the most important part of telling ones future is a customer’s body language and noticing simple facial expressions in reaction to the words you use,” I began. “What is the first thing you tell to someone when you look at his or her palms? I asked.”
“You look at the shape and relate to the four elements: earth, air, water and fire,” she replied.
“Then what’s next?” “You take notice of warmth and texture of the skin.” I held out my hand, “Tell me what each line on my hand was called?”
“There are four lines that are read; heart, head, life and fate”
f a te l i n e life l ine
line h e art
line d a he
At that point she looked a little lost, so I reminded her what each line told. “This first line is the heart line. It tells any and all matters concerning love.” I traced my finger along the second curved line across my palm. “This is the head line. It shows your intellect or wisdom. The curved line that is close to my thumb is the life line and it’s the line of destiny. It shows character and what events that will happen in your life. The last is the fate line. It’s vertical and not everyone has this. It can be read with the life line to show the future. Make sure to emphasize the heart line for women. That tells her what love and romance will be in her life. Usually women think this is the most important part of their fortune telling. For men it’s the lifeline that foretells future wealth.”
In the distance I could hear hooves galloping, metal and leather cracking, a wagon coming closer. Yoska came running my way, gleefully yelling, “Fancy ladies coming our way!” I saw this as a chance to get the money we needed. Looking over to Nadya I gave the hand signal to get into the practiced gypsy act. My posture slumped, I shook the bells on my bracelet and called out,
“Tell you your fortune for a piece of silver,” in my best gypsy accent.
Got’em The wagon of fine young people began to slow. The wagon came to an abrupt stop as the boy pulled hard on the reins. One of the ladies was whispering in his ear. Sitting on top of a board that rested between two tree stumps, I called out to come closer. As the women walked towards me, I was surprised that these were the women from my dream. “Yes, my dears come closer, you are the Astor sisters, no?” I said to them. This surprised them, the youngest girl of the group started walking faster. Even the older sister who had a posture of protest, loosened up. I greeted them with the traditional welcome,
“I want to know my fortune,” the youngest girl yelled, then looked over to one of the other ladies for approval. “Come on please! We don’t have to be at church for another couple hours,” in a voice that was clearly irritating the other ladies. “How much?” she continued. “One piece of silver,” I told them. The youngest girl grabbed a coin purse from the older sister’s hand and riffled through, then out came a shiny piece of silver. As it was handed to me I quickly passed it to Nadya, who keeping in character, put the coin up to her mouth biting it to make sure it was in fact real before slipping it into a pouch on her sash. “Tell me dears, what are your names?” I said.
“Baxt hai sastimos tiri patragi.” 25
AVA A S T OR
The youngest quickly piped up, walking towards me, and said, “I am Ava. These are my two sisters, Katherine, Madeline and my little brother Vincent.” Eagerly she removed her white gloves, passing them off to one of her sisters, then placed her soft left hand into mine.
i rt l he a
I clasped my hand around it, then said, “In palmistry, for a woman the left hands tells your past while the right hand is the hand you are born with. This is the hand I can read for your future.” 28
l if e l
I have dealt with many spoiled women before but this one is extra spoiled, I thought to myself.
“Your hands are very soft, that signifies sensitivity and refinement.” Turing her hand over to expose her palm, I explained, “We each have an element type of hands. You have air, because your palm is square. You are curious but prone to worry. If you keep your feelings inside in the future this will lead to difficulties in your close relationships. The temperature of your hands is hot, you are wild but will be successful in the future.” Ava looked over to her sisters with a gloating smile. “Now let’s look further into what your future holds,” I continued. Taking my finger I softly traced the top line in her hand. “You fall in love easily, but your heart will be broken just as fast. This will happen soon.”
“Patience, my dear,” I said. “This is only the beginning, more will be made clear as we continue,” I said in attempt to calm her down. “You will have many lovers but only one will be serious. You are very creative. You have much to be thankful for and will soon be reminded of your blessings. A woman will soon enter your life and leave you just as quickly but take something dear to you into the water.” Her hand tensed and pulled her hand away a little bit. I soothingly said, “Shush, not to worry.” While I cupped her hand, I looked straight into her eyes. The tension left her hands. “You have a long lifeline, you will grow old, but this break in the line says you will have major changes in your lifestyle. You have a fate line. Not everyone has this. You are strongly controlled by destiny. One life leaves, another will enter easing the burden of the first. It will be a great love and will be known to everyone,” I finished up.
“What does that mean?” she replied, looking down at me as if I was one of her servants. 29
Ava pulled some nearby flowers and sat on top of a taller tree stump. She was whispering to herself, I wonder if she was trying to comfort herself, by picking off the petals, saying the rhyme of,
he loves me, he loves me not.
M ADELEINE ASTOR
I looked over to the oldest sister, motioned for her to come to me. She walked cautiously towards me and said,
“Pleased to meet you. My name is Madeleine.” This young woman looked as if she had many burdens from carrying so many secrets. Unlike her sisters, she had aged, deep lines on the top of her hands that didn’t match the age of her face, but her hands were still soft. I knew that I had to be careful in telling her future. I didn’t want to further break her spirit. Her large dark hat made seeing her eyes difficult so I asked, “Please look into my eyes.” Madeleine lifted her head slowly. I could see her bright blue eyes. I usually never get this close to a customer. I always keep to the palmistry that my mother taught me, but there was something very different about this soul. I felt a connection. Her fine clothing and jewelry were so different from my style of life but her hands told me the story that she too had a hard life. These hands said that she had suffered, trying to survive. 34
She handed me her hand with the fingertips curled, it looked as if it were too painful to fully stretch them out. I straightened out her middle finger in order to see the shape of her palm. “Like I told your sister, each one of us has an elemental type of hand. Your palm is oval so you have water hands. The water element tells me that you are always looking for peace but deal with stress very well. Your heart is satisfied but you are not interested in love at all. You have a secret love that is hidden. Like your sister, you have many sorrows. You are reminded of this when you are with your family,” I said. I pointed then lightly traced my finger along the vertical line beneath her heart line and said, “You are very practical and favor structure. You are a realist. You don’t spend much time daydreaming.”
As I looked at the next line in her palm, I encountered something I have never experienced before, her life line started at the base of her thumb and went in a semi circle. I looked over to Nadya, gave a slight nod for her to pay attention.
â€œCan I see your left hand dear?â€?
e e lin ad lin t r he hea
e l in e
After slipping off her fine glove, I was able to see that her left life line was exactly the same on both hands. Not close or similar, but exact!
This concerned me. I slowly and softly said, “Your life lines on both of your hands are exact. You were born with your right hand but your life decisions show up on your left hand. This tells me that this event in your life has been foretold and has already happened. She glanced over to the young boy and then looked back to me as if she were about to panic.
Pulling her closer to me I asked, “Would you like me to tell you what this means by whispering it to you, so your siblings don’t hear?” Tears began to fill her eyes as she nodded.
“Love came to you at a very young age. You brought life into this world but he was hidden to a family position. You see him everyday,” I said.
Nadya stepped back, placed her hand on her hip. I could see her judgmental stares at Madeline. I quickly gave her a look of disapproval and then set my eyes into Madeline’s gaze. “You have a wonderful and full life ahead of you. Put this event into your past. You have punished yourself enough. Don’t let your heart stay broken. You may not be interested in love right now but you will have another great love and it will be sooner than you think. To begin this healing you must leave and head west,” I continued. Before she pulled her hand away from mine, I gave her a look of comfort, like I would give my own daughter.
She pulled out a delicate lace handkerchief from under her sleeve and dabbed the falling tears on her face. She softly said, “I have a great aunt that lives in California.” “That is where you belong dear,” I said.
“Thank you,” she replied and walked back to where her other sisters where sitting.
K ATHERI NE AS TOR
The next young lady dressed in a fine white blouse walked over to me, placed her hand into mine, like the other sisters, and introduced herself. “My name is Katherine, Why was my sister crying?” she asked. “It’s not my place to say. She is suffering in sadness,” I replied.
life line fate line
h e a rt
Then without a heartbeat she abruptly said, “Who is going to be my husband?” “I cannot foretell names in my readings, but let’s begin,” I said trying to keep focused. “Your hands are very warm. Are you nervous?” I asked. With some discomfort she replied, “Very much.” “No worries, dear, you’re safe. I see that you have the elemental fire hands. Usually hot and clammy hands tend to be lazy and unstable, but I don’t think this is the case. I do see that you are energetic and always on the go with lots of variety in your life. You are fiercely individual. This stubbornness will hurt you in the future. You are selfish in love. What I mean by this is that you will only 42
give your love to one man your whole life. You are very practical in love. Some sadness will enter your life for sometime after many years of happiness. You will marry a man for love and not wealth. Though he has no wealth, he will give you many adventures. You will be famous but not in the traditional sense. You have a long life line which shows me your inner vitality. Don’t let the future take this from you. External forces will change your life may times,” I finished up.
She rudely replied, “Well, you didn’t tell me anything! I wanted to know who my husband will be!”
I had to quickly think about how to respond, as not to further her anger towards me. “Do you have a gentlemen caller in your life right now?” “I do,” she said quickly. “Is he the love of your life and is he wealthy?” “Well, no,” she said. “Then he is not your true love. Don’t fret, dear. When you meet him you will know he is the one.”
Before I could let go of Katherine’s hand,
Ava yelled over, “Let’s go, I’m bored!” Katherine sighed, let go of my hand and yelled back, “Fine!” With that the group of siblings began to leave.
When they got back on the road I called out,
â€œDza devlesa!â€? Stay with god, go with god, these siblings sure do need this, I thought as I watched them leave.
When their wagon could no longer be heard, Nadya sat down next to me and said, “That was surprising, fine ladies acting like that. They think us gypsies are shameless.” I held her hand and said, “Life is hard for everyone no matter what your stature is in life. Something I want you to understand is that you must have compassion and be gentle with your customers. It’s not our place to openly judge. You are a very loving girl and you need to show that.” “Then I’m not sure I want to perform palmistry!” she replied. Before I could respond Milosh called over,
“We’re all done, pack up everything. We need to get back on the road.”
Thinking back, I wish my mother had given me advice about making decisions too quickly about choices in life.
I wonder if I will ever tell Nadya that I was blessed with her from my true love and not the man I was forced to marry, who she calls Papa. I put my arm around Nadya and said, “Don’t make any decisions now. You might change your mind in the future. Life has many surprises.” 49
Colophon This book was written for GD3120 Visual Sequencing I, during the summer term 2013 at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Thank you Kelly Dulaney, the story wouldn’t have been possible without your inspiration. It was printed at Yellowdog Printing and Graphics. This book is copy one of four printed. The typeface used is Bodoni, regular, italic, and demibold, point size varies from 12pt to 37pt.
The entire story was written and inspired by, “The Gypsy Fortune Teller,” c1902, from the Library of Congress Digital Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-7789. Call Number: LOT 3604, http://www. loc.gov/pictures/item/2002705729/. Additional props, Titanic Newspaper and Birth Certificate are also from the Library of Congress Digital Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.
Published on Jun 17, 2014
Researching the content of my image thoroughly, I chose to focus in on the interaction between the Gypsy palmistry fortuneteller and the Vi...