Open Access

“Fortune Telling is a Curse on Your Children”: Conver Sion, Fort Une Telling, and Beliefs in Magic Among Roma Women in Estonia


Missionary work by Pentecostal Finnish Roma (Kaale)1 started among the Roma in Estonia during the 1980s. These mission activities, carried out by both Finns and local Roma, intensified over the next two decades and continue today. The article looks into a specific case of how converted (Pentecostal and Baptist) and non-converted (Russian Orthodox, Lutheran, Catholic) Roma women in Estonia conceptualise the practice of fortune telling. For this purpose, the role of fortune telling as a traditional Roma skill and occupation is discussed as a part of the conceptualisation, together with the possible efficacy of fortune telling and its relation to beliefs in magic that also shape the women’s attitudes towards it. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, the article argues that although fortune telling is considered satanic by born-again believers and is therefore abandoned, its condemnation is not straightforward in less controlled narration situations, thus posing an extra challenge for Roma women in the conversion process.