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History of the Gipsies
Chapter VIII - Marriage and Divorce Ceremonies


The Gipsies in Scotland are all married at a very early age. I do not recollect ever having seen or heard of them, male or female, being unmarried, after they were twenty years old. There are few instances of bastard children among them ; indeed, they declare that their children are all born in wedlock. [ There is one word in the Gipsy language to which is attached more importance than to any other thing whatever—Locha—the corporeal chastity of woman; the loss of which she is, from childhood, taught to dread. To ensure its preservation, the mother will have occasion to the Dicle—a kind of drapery which she ties around the daughter; and which is never removed, but continually inspected, till the day of marriage; but not for fear of the "stranger" or the "white blood." A girl is generally betrothed at fourteen, and never married till two years afterward. Betrothal is invariable. But the parties are never permitted, previous to marriage, to have any intimate associations together.—Sorrow on tlie Spanish Gipsies.— Ed.]

I know, however, of one instance to the contrary; and of the Gipsy being dreadfully punished for seducing a young girl of his own tribe.

The brother of the female, who was pregnant, took upon himself the task of chastising the offender. With a knife in his hand, and at the dead hour of night, he went to the house of the seducer. The first thing he did was deliberately to sharpen his knife upon the stone posts of the door of the man's house ; and then, in a gentle manner, tap at the door, to bring out his victim. The unsuspecting man came to the door, in his shirt, to see what was wanted; but the salutation he received was the knife thrust into his body, and the stabs repeated several times. The avenger of his sister's wrongs fled for a short while; the wounded Tinkler recovered, and, to repair the injury he had done, made the girl his wife. The occurrence took place in Mid-Lothian, about twenty years ago. The name of the woman was Baillie, and her husband, Tait

I have not been able to discover any peculiarity in the manner of Gipsy courtships, except that a man, above sixty years of age, affirmed to me that it was the universal custom, among the tribe, not to give away in marriage the younger daughter before the elder. In order to have this information confirmed, I enquired of a female, herself one of eleven sisters,* if this custom really existed among her people. She was; at first, averse, evidently from fear, to answer my question directly, and even wished to conceal her descent. But, at last, seeing nothing to apprehend from speaking more freely, she said such was once the custom ; and that it had been the cause of many unhappy marriages. She said she had often heard the old people speaking about the law of not allowing the younger sister to be married before the elder. She, however, would not admit of the existence of the custom at the present day, but appeared quite well as-

The above table will give a general idea of the natural increase of the Gipsies. The reader can male what allowances he pleases, for ages at time of marriage, intervals between births, twins, deaths, or numbers of children born. By this table, the Gipsy, by marrying at twenty years of age, would, when 54 years old, have a "following" of no less than 78 souls. "There is one of the divine laws," said I to a Gipsy, "which the Gipsies obey more than any other people." "What is that!" replied he, with great gravity. "The command to ' Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish (but not subdue) the earth.' "Even five generations can be obtained from the male, and six from the female Gipsy, in a century, counting from first-quainted with it, and could have informed me fully of it, had she been disposed to speak on the subject.

The exact parallel to this custom is to be found in the Gentoo code of laws, translated by Halhed; wherein it is made criminal for "a man to marry while his elder brother remains unmarried; or when a man marries his daughter to such a person ; or where a man gives the younger sister in marriage while the elder sister remains unmarried." The learned translator of the code considers this custom of the Gentoosof the remotest antiquity, and compares it with that passage in the Book of Genesis, where Laban excuses himself to Jacob for having substituted Leah for Rachel, in these words, "It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born."

The nuptial ceremony of the Gipsies is undoubtedly of the highest antiquity, and would, probably, be one of the first marriage ceremonies observed by mankind, in the very first stages of human society. When we consider the extraordinary length of time the Gipsies have preserved their speech, as a secret among themselves, in the midst of civilized society, all over Europe, while their persons were proscribed and hunted down in every country, like beasts of the chase, we are not at all surprised at their retaining some of their ancient customs ; for these, as distinguished from their language, are of easy preservation, under any circumstances in which they may have been placed. That may much more be said of this ceremony, as there would be an occasion for its almost daily observance. It was wrapped up with their very existence—the choice of their wives, and the love of their offspring—the most important and interesting transactions of their lives; and would, on that account, be one of the longest observed, the least easily forgotten, of their ancient usages.

The nuptial rites of the Scottish Gipsies are, perhaps, unequalled in the history of marriages. At least, I have neither seen nor heard of any marriage ceremony that has the slightest resemblance to it, except the extraordinary benediction which our countryman, Mungo Park, received from the bride at the Moorish wedding in Ali's camp, at Benown ; and that of a certain custom practised by the Mandingoes, born to first-born. The reader will notice how large are the Gipsy families incidentally mentioned by our author.—En.

This custom with the Mandingoes and the Gipsies is nearly the same as that observed by the ancient Hebrews, in the days of Moses, mentioned in the Book of Deuteronomy. When we have the manners and customs of every savage tribe hitherto discovered, including even the Hottentots and Abyssinians, described, in grave publications, by adventurous travellers, I can see no reason why there should not be preserved, and exhibited for the inspection of the public, the manners and customs of a barbarous race that have lived so long at our own doors—one more interesting, in some respects, than any yet discovered; and more particularly as marriage is a very important, indeed the most important, institution among the inhabitants of any country, whether civilized or in a state of barbarism. How much would not our antiquarians now value authenticated, specimens of the language, manners, and customs of the ancient Pictish nation that once inhabited Scotland!

In describing the marriage ceremony of the Scottish Gipsies, it is scarcely possible to clothe the curious facts in language fit to be perused by every reader. But I must adopt the sentiment of Sir Walter Scott, as given in the Introduction, and "not be squeamish about delicacies, where knowledge is to be sifted out and acquired."

A marriage cup, or bowl, made out of solid wood, and of a capacity to contain about two Scotch pints, or about one gallon, is made use of at the ceremony. After the wedding-party is assembled, and everything prepared for the occasion, the priest takes the bowl and gives it to the bride, who passes urine into it; it is then handed, for a similar purpose, to the bridegroom. After this, the priest takes a quantity of earth from the ground, and throws it into the bowl, adding sometimes a quantity of brandy to the mixture. He then stirs the whole together, with a spoon made of a ram's horn, and sometimes with a large ram's horn itself, which he wears suspended from his neck by a string. He then presents the bowl, with its contents, first to the bride, and then to the bridegroom ; calling at the same time upon each to separate the mixture in the bowl, if they can. The young couple are then ordered to join hands over the bowl containing the earth, urine, and spirits ; when the priest, in an audible voice, and in the Gipsy language, pronounces the parties to be husband and wife ; and as none can separate the mixture in the bowl, so they, in their persons, cannot be separated till death dissolves their union.

As soon as that part of the ceremony is performed, the couple undress, and repair to their nuptial couch. After remaining there for a considerable time, some of the most confidential relatives of the married couple are admitted to the apartment, as witnesses to the virginity of the bride ; certain tokens being produced to the examining friends, at this stage of the ceremony. If all the parties concerned are satisfied, the bride receives a handsome present from the friends, as a mark of their respect for her remaining chaste till the hour of her marriage. This present is, in some instances, a box of a particular construction.

[On their return from church, the bride ia seated at one extremity of a room, with the unmarried girls by her ; the bridegroom on the right, and the father and mother, or those who perform their office, on the left. The male part of the company stand in the corners, singing, and playing on the guitar. About one o'clock, the oldest matron, accompanied by others advanced in years, conducts the bride into the bed-room, which, according to the custom of Spain, is usually a small chamber, without a window, opening into tbe general apartment. Tunc vetula, meant imd sponsce naturalibus ad-motd membranam, vulvae ori oppositam unguibus scindit el cruorem d plagd fusum linteolo excipit. The Gitanos without make a load noise with their whistles, and the girls, striking the door, aing the following couplets, or dome other like them:

"Abra vifid la puerta Snr. Joaqnin Que le voy a vifid a poner un pafiaelito Eu laB manos que tienen que Uorar Toditas laB callis."

The bride then returns from the chamber, accompanied by the matrons, and the new-married couple are placed upon a table, where the hride dances, el coram astantibus linteolum, intemerati pudoris indicium explicat; whilst the company, throwing down their presents of sweetmeats, <fcc, dance and cry, " Viva la honra."—Bright, on t/ie Spanish Gipsy marriage.]

These matters being settled on the spot, the wedded pair rise from the marriage-bed, again dress themselves in their finest apparel, and again join the wedding-party. The joy and happiness on all sides is now excessive. There is nothing to be heard or seen but fiddling and piping, dancing, feasting and drinking, which are kept up, with the utmost spirit and hilarity imaginable, for many hours together.

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Before the marriage festival begins, four matrons—relations of the contracting parties—are appointed to scrutinize the bride; in which a handkerchief, of the finest French cambric, takes a leading part. Should she prove frail, she will likely be made away with, in a way that will leave no trace behind. In carrying out some marriage festivals, a procession will take place, led by some vile-looking fellow, hearing, on the end of a long pole, the dicle and unspotted handkerchief; followed by the betrothed and their nearest friends, and a rabble of Gipsies, shouting and firing, and barking of dogs. On arriving at the church, the pole, with its triumphant colours, is stuck into the ground, with a loud huzza; while the train defile, on either aide, into the church. On returning home, the same takes place. Then follows the most ludicrous and wasteful kind of revelling, which often leaves the bridegroom a beggar for life.—Borrow, on the Spanish Gipsy marriage.—Ed.

The nuptial mixture is carefully bottled up, aud the bottle marked with the Roman character, M. In this state, it is buried in the earth, or kept in their houses or tents, and is carefully preserved, as evidence of the marriage of the parties. When it is buried in the fields, the husband and wife to whom it belongs frequently repair to the spot, and look at it, for the purpose of keeping them in remembrance of their nuptial vows. Small quantities of the compound are also given to individuals of the tribe, to be used for certain rare purposes, such, perhaps, as pieces of the bride's cake are used for dreaming-bread, among the natives of Scotland, at the present day.

What is meant by employing earth, water, spirits, and, of course, air, in this ceremony, cannot be conjectured ; unless these ingredients may have some reference to the four elements of nature—fire, air, earth, and water. That of using a ram's horn, in performing the nuptial rites, has also its meaning, could information be obtained concerning that part of the ceremony.

This marriage ceremony is observed by the Gipsies in Scotland at the present day. A man, of the name of James Robertson, and a girl, of the name of Margaret Graham, were married, at Lochgellie, exactly in the manner described. Besides the testimony of the Gipsies themselves, it is a popular tradition, wherever these people have resided in Scotland, that they were all married by mixing of earth and urine together in a wooden bowl. I know of a girl, of about sixteen years of age, having been married in the Gipsy fashion, in a kiln, at AppinduII, in Perthshire. A Gipsy informed me that he was at a wedding of a couple on a moor near Lochgellie, and that they were married in the ancient Gipsy manner described. Shortly after this, a pair were married near Stirling, after the custom of their ancestors. In this instance, a screen, made of an old blanket, was put up in the open field, to prevent the parties seeing each other, while furnishing the bowl with what was necessary to lawfully constitute their marriage. [On reading the above ceremony to an intelligent native of Fife, he said he had himself heard a Gipsy, of the name of Thomas Ogilvic, say that the Tinklers were married in the way mentioned. On one occasion, when a couple of respectable individuals were married, in the usual Scottish Presbyterian manner, at Elie, in Fife, Ogilvie, Gipsy-like, langhed at such a. wedding ceremony, as being, in his estimation, no way binding on the parties. He at the same time observed that, if they would come to him, he would marry them in the Tinkler manner, which would make it a difficult matter to separate them again.] The last-named Gipsy further stated to me, that when two young folks of the tribe agree to be married, the father of the bridegroom sleeps with the bride's mother, for three or four nights immediately previous to the celebration of the marriage.

Having endeavoured to describe the ancient nuptial ceremony of the Scottish Gipsies, I have considered it proper to give some account of an individual who acted as priest on such occasions. The name of a famous celebrator of Gipsy marriages, in Fifeshire, was Peter Robertson, well known, towards the latter end of his days, by the name of Blind Pate. Peter was a tall, lean, dark man, and wore a large cocked hat, of the olden fashion, with a long staff in his hand. By all accounts, he must have been a hundred years of age when he died. He was frequently seen at the head of from twenty to forty Gipsies, and often travelled in the midst of a crowd of women. Whenever a marriage was determined on, among the Lochgellie horde, or their immediate connexions, Peter was immediately sent for, however far distant he happened to be at the time from the parties requiring his assistance, to join them in wedlock: for he was, the oldest member of the tribe at the time, and head of the Tinklers in the district, and, as the oldest member, it was his prerogative to officiate, as priest, on such occasions. A friend, who obligingly sent me some anecdotes of this Gipsy priest, communicated to me the following facts regarding him:

"At the wedding of a favourite Brae-laird, in the shire of Kinross, Peter Robertson appeared at the head of a numerous band of Tinklers, attended by twenty-four asses. He was always chief and spokesman for the band. At the wedding of a William Low, a multerer, at Kinross, Peter, for the last time, was seen, with upwards of twenty-three asses in his retinue. He had certain immunities and privileges allowed him by his tribe. For one thing, he had the sole profits arising from the sale of keel, used in marking sheep, in the neighbouring upland districts ; and one of the asses belonging to the band was always laden with this article alone. Peter was also notorious as a physician, and administered to his favourites medicines of his own .preparation, and numbers of extraordinary cures were ascribed to his superior skill. He was possessed of a number of wise sayings, a great many of which are still current in the country. Peter Robertson was, altogether, a very shrewd and sensible man, and no acts of theft were ever laid to his charge, that I know of. He had, however, in his band, several females who told fortunes. The ceremony of marriage which he performed was the same you mentioned to me. The whole contents of the bowl were stirred about with a large ram's horn, which was suspended from a string round his neck, as a badge, I suppose, of his priestly office.

[Two ram's horns and two spoons, crossed, are sculptured on the tombstone of William Marshall, a Gipsy chief, who, according to a writer in Blackwood's Magazine, died at the age of 120 years, and whose remains are deposited in the church-yard of Kirkcudbright

A horn is the hieroglyphic of authority, power, and dignity, and is a metaphor often made use of in the Scriptures. The Jews held ram's horns in great veneration, on account, it is thought, of that animal having been caught in a bush by the horns, and used as a substitute, when Isaac was about to be sacrificed by his father; or, perhaps, on account of this animal being first used in sacrifice. So much were ram's horns esteemed by the Israelites, that their Priests and Levites used them as trumpets, particularly at the taking of Jericho. The modern Jews, when they confess their sins, in our month of September, announce the ceremony by blowing a ram's horn, the sound of which, they say, drives away the Devil.. In ancient Egypt, and other parts of Africa, Jupiter Ammon was worshipped under the figure of a ram, and to this deity one of these animals was sacrificed annually. A ram seems to have been an emblem of power in the East, from the remotest ages. It would, therefore, appear that the practice of the Gipsy priest " wearing a ram's horn, suspended from a string, around his neck," must be derived from the highest antiquity.]

He attended all the fairs and weddings for many miles round. The Braes of Kinross were his favourite haunt; so much so that, in making his settlement, and portioning his children, he allowed them all districts, in the country round about, to travel in; but he reserved the Braes of Kinross as his own pendicle, and hence our favourite toast in the shire of Kinross, 'The lasses of Blind Pate's Pendicle.' Besides the Braes of Kinross, this Gipsy, in his sweeping verbal testament, reserved the town of Dunfermline, also, to himself, 'because,' said he, 'Dunfermline was in cash, what Loch-leven was in water—it never ran dry.'" A great deal of booty was obtained by the Tinklers, at the large and long-continued fairs which were frequently held in this populous manufacturing town, in the olden times.

This Gipsy priest was uncommonly fond of a bottle of good ale. Like many other celebrators of marriages, he derived considerable emoluments from his office. A Gipsy informed me that Robertson, on these occasions, always received presents, such as a pair of candlesticks, or basins and platters, made of pewter, and such like articles. The disobedient and refractory members of his clan were chastised by him at all times, on the spot, by the blows of his cudgel, without regard to age or sex, or manner of striking. When any serious scuffle arose among his people, in which he was like to meet with resistance, he would, with vehemence, call to his particular friends, " Set my back to the wa';" and, being thus defended in the rear, he, with his cudgel, made his assailants in front smart for their rebellion. Although he could not see, his daughter would give him the word of command. She would call to him, "Strike down"—"Strike laigh" (low)—" Strike amawn" (athwart,)—"Strike haunch-ways,"—"Strike shoulder-ways," &c. In these, we see nearly all the cuts or strokes of the Hungarian sword-exercise. As I have frequently mentioned, all the Gipsies were regularly trained to a peculiar method of their own in handling the cudgel, in their battles. I am inclined to think that part of the Hungarian sword-exercise, at present practised in our cavalry, is founded upon the Gipsy manner of attack and defence, including even the direct thrust to the front, which the Gipsies perform with the cudgel.

Notwithstanding all that has been said of the licentious manners of the Scottish Gipsies, I am convinced that the slightest infidelity, on the part of their wives, would be punished with the utmost severity. I am assured that nothing can put a Gipsy into so complete a rage as to impute incontinence to his wife. In India, the Gipsy men "are extremely jealous of their wives, who are kept in strict subservance, and are in danger of corporeal punishment, or absolute dismissal, if they happen to displease them.' The Gipsies are complete Tartars in matters of this kind.

But in the best-regulated society—in the most virtuous of families—the sundering of the marriage-tie is often unavoidable, even under the most heinous of circumstances. And it is not to be expected that the Gipsies should be exempted from the lot common to humanity, under whatever circumstances it may be placed. The separation of husband and wife is, with them, a very serious and melancholy affair—an event greatly to be lamented, while the ceremony is attended with much grief and mourning, blood having to be shed, and life taken, on the occasion.

It would be a conclusion naturally to be drawn from the circumstance of the Gipsies having so singular a marriage ceremony, that they should have its concomitant in as singular a ceremony of divorce. The first recourse to which a savage would naturally resort, in giving vent to his indignation, and obtaining satisfaction for the infidelity of the female, (assuming that savages are always susceptible of such a feeling,) would be to despatch her on the spot. But the principle of expiation, in the person of a dumb creature, for offences committed against the Deity, has, from the very creation of the world, been so universal among mankind, that it would not be wondered at if it should have been applied for the atonement of offences committed against each other, and nowhere so much so as in the East—the land of figure and allegory. The practice obtains with the Gipsies in the matter of divorce, for they lay upon the head of that noble animal, the horse, the sins of their offending sister, and generally let her go free. But, it may be asked, how has this sacrifice of the horse never been mentioned in Scotland before? The same question applies equally well to their language, and marriage ceremony, yet we know "that both of these exist at the present day. The fact is, the Gipsies have hitherto been so completely despised, and held in such thorough contempt, that few ever thought of, or would venture to make enquiries of them relative to, their ancient customs and manners ; and that, when any of their ceremonies were actually observed by the people at large, they were looked upon as the mere frolics, the unmeaning and extravagant practices, of a race of beggarly thieves and vagabonds, unworthy of the slightest attention or credit. [What our author says, relative to the sacrifice of the horse, by the Gipsies, not being known to the people of Scotland at large, is equally applicable to the entire subject of the tribe. And we see here how admirably the passions—in this case, the prejudice and incredulity—of mankind are calculated to blind them to facts, perhaps to facts the most obvious and incontestible. What is stated of the Gipsies in this work, generally, should be no matter of wonder; the real wonder, if wonder there should be, is that it should not have been known to the world before. —Ed.] In whatever country the Gipsies have appeared, they have always been remarkable for an extraordinary attachment to the horse. The use which they make of this animal, in sacrifice, will sufficiently account, in one way at least, for this peculiar feature in their character. Many of the horses which have been stolen by them, since their arrival in Europe, I am convinced, have been used in parting with their wives, an important religious ceremony—or at least a custom—which they would long remember and practise. [Grellmann says, of the Hungarian Gipsies, "The greatest luxury to them is when they can procure a feast of cattle that have died of any distemper, whether it be sheep, pig, cow, or other beast, a horse only excepted."—Ed]

It is the general opinion, founded chiefly npon the affinity of language, that this singular people migrated from Hindostan. None of the authors on the Gipsies, however, that I am aware of, have, in their researches, been able to discover, among the tribe, any customs of a religious nature, by which their religious notions and ceremonies, at the time they entered Europe, could be ascertained. Indeed, the learned and industrious Grellmann expressly states that the Gipsies did not bring any particular religion with them, from their native country, by which they could be distinguished from other people. The Gipsy sacrifice of the horse, at parting with their wives, however, appears to be a remnant of the great Hindoo religious sacrifice of the Aswamedha, or Assummeed Jugg, observed by all the four principal castes in India, enumerated in the Gentoo code of laws, translated from the Persian copy, by Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, and is proof, besides the similarity of language, that the Gipsies are from Hindostan. Before the Gentoo code of laws came into my hands, I was inclined to believe that this ceremony of sacrificing horses might be a Tartar custom, as the ancient Pagan tribes of Tartaryalso sacrificed horses, on certain occasions ; and my conjectures were countenanced by the Gipsy and Tartar ceremonies being somewhat similar in their details. Indeed, in Sweden and Denmark, and in some parts of Germany, the Gipsies, as I have already stated, obtained the name of Tartars. "They were not allowed the privilege of remaining unmolested in Denmark, as the code of Danish laws specifies: The Tartar Gipsies, who wander about everywhere, doing great damage to the people, by their lies, thefts, and witchcraft, shall be taken into custody by every magistrate." And it also appears, according to Grellmann, that the Gipsies sometimes called themselves Tartars. If it was observed, on the continent, that they sacrificed horses, a custom very common at one time among the Tartars, their supposed Tartar origin would appear to have had some foundation. The Tartar princes seem to have ratified and confirmed their military leagues by sacrificing horses and drinking of a running stream ; and we find our Scottish Gipsies dissolving their matrimonial alliances by the solemn sacrifice of the same animal, while some Gipsies state that horses were also, at one time, sacrificed at their marriage ceremonies. At these sacrifices of the- Scottish Gipsies, no Deity—no invisible agency—appears, as far as I am informed, to have been invoked by the sacrificers.

I have alluded to this custom of the Tartars, more particularly, to show that the Gipsies are not the only people who have sacrificed horses. The ancient Hindoos, as already stated, sacrificed horses. The Greeks did the same to Neptune; the ancient Scandinavians to their god, Assa-Thor, the representative of the sun ; and the Persians, likewise, to the sun. [It appears that the Jews, when they lapsed into the grossest idolatry, dedicated horses to the sun. " And he (Josiah) took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by thechamherof Nathan melech, the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burnt the chariots of the sun with fire." II Kings, xxiii. 11.] But I am inclined to believe that the Gipsy sacrifice of the horse is the remains of the great Assummeed Jugg of the Hindoos, observed by tribes of greater antiquity than the modern nations of India, as appears by the Gentoo code of laws already referred to.

The sacrificing of horses is a curious as well as a leading and important fact in the history of the Gipsies, and, as far as I know, is new to the world. I shall, in establishing its existence among the Scottish Gipsies, produce my authorities with my details.

In the first place, it was, and I believe it still is, a general tradition, over almost all Scotland, that, when the Tinklers parted from their wives, the act of separation took place over the carcass of a dead horse. In respect to McDonald's ease, alluded to under the head of Linlithgowshire Gipsies, my informant, Mr. Alexander Ramsay, late an officer of the Excise, a very respectable man, who died in 1819, at the age of 74 years, stated to me that he saw McDonald and his wife separated over the body of a dead horse, on a moor, at Shieldhill, near Falkirk, either in the year 1758 or 1760, he was uncertain which. The horse was lying stretched out on the heath. The parties took hold of each other by the haud, and, commencing at the head of the dead animal, walked—the husband on one side, and the wife on the other —till they came to the tail, when, without speaking a word to each other, they parted, in opposite directions, as if proceeding on a journey. Mr. Ramsay said he never could forget the violent swing which McDonald gave his wife at parting. The time of the day was a little after day-break. My informant, at the time, was going, with others, to Shield-hill for coals, and happened to be passing over a piece of rising ground, when they came close upon the Gipsies, in a hollow, quite unexpectedly to both parties.

Another aged man of credibility, of the name of James Wilson, at North Queensferry, also informed me that it was within his own knowledge, that a Gipsy, of the name of John Lundie, divorced four wives over dead horses, in the manner described. Wilson further mentioned that, when Gipsies were once regularly separated over a dead horse, they could never again be united in wedlock ; and that, unless they were divorced in this manner, all the children which the female might have, subsequently to any other mode of separation, the husband was obliged to support. In fact, the transaction was not legal, according to the Gipsy usages, without the horse. The facts of Lundie, and another Gipsy, of the name of Drummond, having divorced many wives over dead horses, have been confirmed to me by several aged individuals who knew them personally. One intelligent gentleman, Mr. Richard Baird, informed me that, in his youth, he actually saw John Lundie separated from one of his wives over a dead horse, in the parish of Carriden, near Bo'ness. My father, who died in 1837, at the age of nearly 83 years, also stated that it was quite current, in Tweed-dale, that Mary Yorkston, wife of Matthew Baillie, the Gipsy chief, parted married couples of her tribe over dead horses.

About ten years after receiving the above information, Malcolm's Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London came into my hands; wherein I found the following quotations, from a work published in 1674, describing the different classes of impostors at that period in England: "Patricos," says this old author, "are strolling priests; every hedge is their parish, and every wandering rogue their parishioner. The service, he saith, is the marrying of couples, without the Gospels or Book of Common Prayer; the solemnity whereof is this: The parties to be married find out a dead horse, or other beast; standing, one on the one side, and the other on the other, the Patrico bids them live together till death part them; so, shaking hands, the wedding is ended." Now the parties here described seem to have been no other than Gipsies. But it also appears that the ceremony alluded to is that of dissolving a marriage, and not that of celebrating it. It is proper, however, to mention, as I have already done, that horses, at one time, were sacrificed at their marriages, as well as at their divorces.

Feeling now quite satisfied that Gipsies were, at one time, actually separated over the bodies of dead horses, and horses only, (for I could find no other animal named but horses,) I proceeded to have the fact confirmed by the direct testimony of the people themselves. And whether these horses were sacrificed expressly for such purposes, or whether the rites were performed over horses accidentally found dead, I could not discover till the year 1828. It occurred to me that the using of dead horses, in separating man and wife, was a remnant of some ancient ceremony, which induced me to persevere in my enquiries, for the purpose of ascertaining, if not the origin, at least the particulars, of so extraordinary a custom. In the year mentioned, and in the year following, I examined a Gipsy on the subject; a man of about sixty years of age, who, a few years before, had given me a specimen of his language. He said that he himself had witnessed the sacrifices and ceremonies attending the separation of husband and wife. From this man I received the following curious particulars relative to the sacrifice of horses and ceremony of divorce ; which I think may be depended on, as I was very careful in observing that his statements, taken down at four different times, agreed with each other.

When the parties can no longer live together as husband and wife, and a separation for ever is finally determined on, a horse, without blemish, and in no manner of way lame, is led forth to the spot for performing the ceremony of divorce. The hour at which the rites must be performed is, if possible, twelve o'clock at noon, "when the sun is at his height."

[This Gipsy mentioned one particular instance of having seen a couple separated in this way, on a wild moor, near Huntly, about the year 1805. He particularly stated that a horse found dead would not do for a separation, but that one must be killed for the express purpose; and that "the sun must be at his height" before the horse could be properly sacrificed. From the fact of Ramsay stumbling upon the Gipsies "a little after daybreak," it would seem that circumstances had compelled them to change the time, or adjourn the completion, of the sacrifice; or that the extreme wildneas of the victim had prevented its being caught, and so led to the "violent awing which McDonald gave his wife at parting." And it might be that Ramsay had come upon them when McDonald and his wife were performing the last part of the ceremony, or had caused them to finish it abruptly; as the old Gipsy stated that not only are none hut Gipsies allowed to be present on such occasions, but that the greatest secrecy is observed, to prevent discovery by those who are not of the tribe.]

The Gipsies present cast lots for the individual who is to sacrifice the animal, and whom they call the priest, for the time. The priest, with a long pole or staff in his hand, [It appears all the Gipsies, male as well as female, who perform ceremonies for their tribe, carry long staffs. In the Institutes of Menu, page 23, it is written: "The staff of a priest must he of such length as to reach his hair; that of a soldier to reach his forehead; and that of a merchant to reach his nose."] walks round and round the animal several times; repeating the names of all the persons in whose possession it has been, and extolling and expatiating on the rare qualities of so useful an animal. It is now let loose, and driven from their presence, to do whatever it pleases. The horse, perfect and free, is put in the room of the woman who is to be divorced; and by its different movements is the degree of her guilt ascertained. Some of the Gipsies now set off in pursuit of it, and endeavour to catch it. If it is wild and intractable, kicks, leaps dykes and ditches, scampers about, and will not allow itself to be easily taken hold of, the crimes and guilt of the woman are looked upon as numerous and heinous. If the horse is tame and docile, when it is pursued, and suffers itself to be taken without much trouble, and without exhibiting many capers, the guilt of the woman is not considered so deep and aggravated; and it is then sacrificed in her stead. But if it is extremely wild and vicious, and cannot be taken without infinite trouble, her crimes are considered exceedingly wicked and atrocious; and my informant said instances occurred in which both horse and woman were sacrificed at the same time ; the death of the horse, alone, being then considered insufficient to atone for her excessive guilt. The individuals who catch the horse bring it before the priest. They repeat to him all the faults and tricks it had committed; laying the whole of the crimes of which the woman is supposed to have been guilty to its charge ; and upbraiding and scolding the dumb creature, in an angry manner, for its conduct. They bring, as it were, an accusation against it, and plead for its condemnation. When this part of the trial is finished, the priest takes a large knife and thrusts it into the heart of the horse; and its blood is allowed to flow upon the ground till life is extinct. The dead animal is now stretched out upon the ground. The husband then takes his stand on one side of it, and the wife on the other; and, holding each other by the hand, repeat certain appropriate sentences in the Gipsy language. They then quit hold of each other, and walk three times round the body of the horse, contrariwise, passing and crossing each other, at certain points, as they proceed in opposite directions. At certain parts of the animal, (the corners of the horse, was the Gipsy's expression,) such as the hind and fore feet, the shoulders and haunches, the head and tail, the parties halt, and face each other; and again repeat sentences, in their own speech, at each time they halt. The two last stops they make, in their circuit round the sacrifice, are at the head and tail. At the head, they again face each other, and speak; and lastly, at the tail, they again confront each other, utter some more Gipsy expressions, shake hands, and finally part, the one going north, the other south, never again to be united in this life. [That I might distinctly understand the Gipsy, when he described the. manner of crossing and wheeling round the corners of the horse, a common sitting-chair was placed on its side between us, which represented the animal lying on the ground.] Immediately after the separation takes place, the woman receives a token, which is made of cast-iron, about an inch and a half square, with a mark upon it resembling the Roman character, After the marriage hag been dissolved, and the woman dismissed from the sacrifice, the heart of the horse is taken out and roasted with fire, then sprinkled with vinegar, or brandy, and eaten by the husband and his friends then present; the female not being allowed to join in this part of the ceremony. The body of the horse, skin and everything about it, except the heart, is buried on the spot; and years after the ceremony has taken place, the husband and his friends visit the grave of the animal, to see whether it has been disturbed. At these visits, they walk round about the grave, with much grief and mourning.

The husband may take another wife whenever he pleases, but the female is never permitted to marry again. [Bright, on the Spanish Gipsies, says: "Widows never marry again, dnd are distinguished by mourning-veils, and black shoes made like those of a man; no slight mortification, in a country where the females are so remarkahle for the beauty of their feet." It is most likely that divorced female Gipsies are confounded here with widows.—Ed.] The token, or rather bill of divorce, which she receives, must never be from about her person. If she loses it, or attempts to pass herself off as a woman never before married, she becomes liable to the punishment of death. In the event of her breaking this law, a council of the chiefs is held upon her conduct, and her fate is decided by a majority of the members ; and, if she is to suffer death, her sentence must be confirmed by the king, or principal leader. The culprit is then tied to a stake, with an iron chain, and there cudgelled to death. The executioners do not extinguish life at one beating, but leave the unhappy woman for a little while, and return to her, and at last complete their work by despatching her on the spot.

I have been informed of an instance of a Gipsy falling out with his wife, and, in the heat of his passion, shooting his own horse dead on the spot with his pistol, and forthwith performing the ceremony of divorce over the animal, without allowing himself a moment's time for reflection on the subject. Some of the country-people observed the transaction, and were horrified at so extraordinary a proceeding. It was considered by them as merely a mad frolic of an enraged Tinkler. It took place many years ago, in a wild, sequestered spot between Galloway and Ayrshire.

This sacrifice of the horse is also observed by the Gipsies of the Russian Empire. In the year 1830, a Russian gentleman of observation and intelligence, proprietor of estates on the banks of the Don, stated to me that the Gipsies in the neighbourhood of Moscow, and on the Don, several hundred versts from the sea of Asoph, sacrificed horses, and ate part of their flesh, in the performance of some very ancient ceremony of idolatry. They sacrifice them under night, in the woods, as the practice is prohibited by the Russian Government. The police are often detecting the Gipsies in these sacrifices, and the ceremony is kept as secret as possible. My informant could not go into the particulars of the Gipsy sacrifice in Russia ; but there is little doubt that it is the same which the tribe performed in Scotland. In Russia, the Gipsies, like those in this country, have a language peculiar to themselves, which they retain as a secret among their own fraternity.

As regards the sacrificing of horses by the Gipsies of Scotland, at the present day, all that I can say is that I do not know of its taking place ; nor has it been denied to me. The only conclusion to which I can come, in regard to the question, is that it is in the highest degree probable that, like their language and ceremony of marriage, it is still practised when it can be done. In carrying out this ceremony, there is an obstacle to be overcome which does not lie in the way of that of marriage, and it is this : Where are many of the Tinklers to find a horse, over which they can obtain a divorce? The difficulty with them is as great as it is with the people of England, who must, at a frightful expense, go to no less than the House of Lords to obtain an act to separate legally from their unfaithful partners. [This difficulty has been removed by recent legislation.—Ed.] The Gipsies, besides being generally unable or unwilling to bear the expense of what will procure them a release in their own way, find it a difficult matter, in these days, to steal, carry off, and dispose of such a bulky article as a horse, in the sacrifice of which they will find a new wife. I am not aware how they get rid of this solemn and serious difficulty, beyond this, that a Gipsy, a native of Yetholm, informed me that some of his brethren in that colony knock down their asses, for the purpose of parting with their wives, at the present day.

As the code of the ancient laws of Hindostan is not in the hands of every one, I shall here transcribe from the work the account of the Gentoo Institution of the Aswamedha or the Assummeed Jugg,\ that the reader may compare it with the Gipsy sacrifice of horses; for which, owing to its length, I must crave his indulgence. It is under the chapter of evidence, and is as follows:

"An Assummeed Jugg is when a person, having commenced a Jugg, writes various articles upon a scroll of paper on a horse's neck, and dismisses the horse, sending, along with the horse, a stout and valiant person, equipped with the best necessaries and accoutrements, to accompany the horse day and night, whithersoever he shall choose to go ; and if any creature, either man, genius or dragon, should seize the horse, that man opposes such attempt, and, having gained the victory, upon a battle, again gives the horse his freedom. If any one in this world, or in heaven, or beneath the earth, would seize this horse, and the horse of himself comes to the house of the celebrator of the Jugg, upon killing that horse, he must throw the flesh of him upon the fire of the Juh, and utter the prayers of his Deity; such a Jugg is called a Jugg Assummeed, and the merit of it, as a religious work, is infinite." Page 127.

In another part of the same chapter of the Hindoo code of laws, are the following particulars relative to horses, which show the great respect in which these animals were held among the ancient natives of Hindostan. "In an affair concerning a horse: if any person gives false evidence, his guilt is as great as the guilt of murdering one hundred persons." Page 128. In the Asiatic Researches, the sacrifice of the horse is frequently noticed; and in Sir "William Jones' Institutes of Menu, chapter viii. page 202, it is said: "A false witness, in the case of a horse, kills, or incurs the guilt of killing, one hundred kinsmen." "The Aswamedlia, or sacrifice of the horse : Considerable difficulties usually attend that ceremony ; for the consecrated horse was to be set at liberty for a certain time, and followed at a distance by the owner, or his champion, who was usually one of his near kinsmen ; and if any person should attempt to stop it in its rambles, a battle must inevitably ensue; besides, as the performer of a hundred Aswamedhas became equal to the god of the firmaments." {Asiatic Researches, vol. iii., page 216.) "The inauguration of Indra, (the Indian God of the firmaments,) it appears, was performed by sacrificing a hundred horses. It is imagined that this celebration becomes a cause of obtaining great power and universal monarchy; and many of the kings in ancient India performed this sacrifice at their inauguration, similar to that of In-Jra's." "These monarchs were consecrated by these great sacrifices, with a view to become universal conquerors." {Asiatic Researches.) It appears, by the Hindoo mythology, that Indra was at one time a mere mortal, but by sacrificing a hundred horses, he became sovereign of the firmament; and that should any Indian monarch succeed in immolating a hundred horses, he would displace Indra.

The above are literal and simple facts, which took place in performing the sacrifice ; but the following is the explanation of the mystic signification contained in the ceremony.

"The Assummeed Jugg does not merely consist in the performance of that ceremony which is open to the inspection of the world, namely, in bringing a horse, and sacrificing him ; but Assummeed is to be taken in a mystic signification, as implying that the sacrificer must look upon himself to be typified in that horse, such as he shall be described; because the religious duty of the Assummeed Jugg comprehends all those other religious duties, to the performance of which all the wise and holy direct all their actions; and by which all the sincere professors of every different faith aim at perfection. The mystic signification thereof is as follows: The head of that unblemished horse is the symbol of the morning; his eyes are the sun; his breath the wind ; his wide-opening mouth is the Bisliwdiier, or that innate warmth which invigorates all the world; his body typifies one entire year; his back, paradise; his belly, the plains; his hoof, this earth; his sides, the four quarters of the heavens; the bones thereof, the intermediate spaces between the four quarters; the rest of his limbs represent all distinct matter ; the places where those limbs meet, or his joints, imply the months, and halves of the months, which are ealled Peche (or fortnights); his feet signify night and day; and night and day are of four kinds ; first, the night and day of Brihma; second, the night and day of angels; third, the night and day of the world of the spirits of deceased ancestors ; fourth, the night and day of mortals. These four kinds are typified in his four feet. The rest of his bones are the constellations of the fixed stars, which are the twenty-eight stages of the moon's eourse, ealled the lunar year; his flesh is the elouds; his food the sand; his tendons the rivers; his spleen and liver the mountains; the hair of his body the vegetables, and his long hair the trees. The fore part of his body typifies the first half of the day, and the hinder part the latter half; his yawning is the flash of the lightning, and his turning himself is the thunder of the eloud ; his urine represents the rain; and his mental reflection is his only speech.

"The golden vessels, which are prepared before the horse is let loose, are the light of the day ; and the place where these vessels are kept is a type of the ocean of the East; the silver vessels, which are prepared after the horse is let loose, are the light of the night; and the place where those vessels are kept is a type of the ocean of the West. These two sorts of vessels are always before and after the horse. The Arabian horse, which, on account of his swiftness, is called Ey, is the performer of the journeys of angels; the Tdjee, which is of the race of Persian horses, is the performer of the journeys of the Kundherps (or the good spirits); the Wazbd, whieh is of the race of the deformed Tajee horses, is the performer of the journeys of Jins (or demons); and the Ashoo, which is of the race of Turkish horses, is the performer of the journeys of mankind. This one horse which performs these several services, on account of his four different sorts of riders, obtains the four different appellations. The place where this horse remains is the great ocean, which signifies the great spirit of Perm-atma, or the universal soul, which proceeds also from that Perm-atma and is comprehended in the same Perm-atma.

" The intent of this sacrifice is, that a man should consider himself to be in the place of that horse, and look upon all these articles as typified in himself; and conceiving the Atma (or divine soul) to be an ocean, should let all thought of self be absorbed in that Atma." Page 19.

Mr. Halhed, the translator, justly observes: "This is the very acme and enthusiasm of allegory, and wonderfully displays the picturesque powers of fancy in an Asiatic genius ; yet, unnatural as the account there stands, it is seriously credited by the Hindoos of all denominations." On the other hand, he thinks there is a great resemblance between this very ancient Hindoo ceremony and the sacrifice of the scape-goat, in the Bible, described in the 21st and 22d verses of the 16th chapter of Leviticus, viz.: "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat; and shall send him away, by the hand of a fit man, into the wilderness : and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited; and he shall let go the goat into the wilderness." Page 17. In the same manner, all the iniquities of the sacrificer, in the Gentoo ceremony, are laid upon the horse, which is let loose, and attended by a stout and valiant person. The same is done in the Gipsy sacrifice, as typifying the woman to be divorced.

The resemblance between the Gipsy and the Hindoo sacrifice is cloge and striking in their general bearings. The Hindoo sacrificer is typified in the horse, and his sins are ascertained and described by the motions or movements of the animal ; for if the horse is very docile and tame, and of its own accord comes to the Hindoo celebrator of the sacrifice, his merits are then infinite, and extremely acceptable to the Deity worshipped. In the Gipsy sacrifice, if the horse is in like manner quiet, and easily caught, the woman, whom it represents, is then comparatively innocent. In India, part of the flesh of the horse was eaten: among the Gipsies, the heart is eaten. The Hindoos sacrificed their enemies, by substituting for them a buffalo, &c.: the Gipsies sacrifice their unfaithful wives, by the substitute of a horse. In the Hindoo sacrifice, particular parts of the horse allegorically represent certain parts of the earth: at certain parts of the horse, (the corners, as the Gipsies call them,) the Gipsies, in their circuit round the animal, halt, and utter particular sentences in their own language, as if these parts were of more importance, and had more influence, than the other parts. And it is probable that, in these sentences, some invisible agency was addressed and invoked by the Gipsies.

As the Aswamedha, or sacrifice of the horse, was the most important of all the religious ceremonies of every caste of Hindoos, in ancient India, so it would be the last to be forgotten by the wandering Gipsies. And as both sacrificed at twelve o'clock, noon, I am inclined to believe that both offered their sacrifice to the sun, the animating soul of universal nature. As already stated, the Gipsies, while travelling, assume new names every morning before setting out; but when noon-tide arrives, they resume their permanent English ones. This custom is practised daily, and has undoubtedly also some reference to the sun. By the account of the Gipsy already mentioned, the horse must, if possible, be killed at noon. According to Southey, in his curse of Kehamah, the sacrifice of the horse in India was performed at the same time. Colonel Tod, in his history of India, says: "The sacrifice of the horse is the most imposing, and the earliest, heathenish rite on record, and was dedicated to the sun, anciently, in India." According to the same author, the horse in India must be milk-white, with particular marks upon it. The Gipsy's horse to be sacrificed must be sound, and without blemish; but no particular colour is mentioned. According to Halhed, the horse sacrificed in India was also without blemish.

I have, perhaps, been too minute and tedious in describing these rites and ceremonies of the Gentoos; but the singular fact that our Scottish Tinklers yet—at least till very lately— retained the important fragments of the ancient mythology of the Pagan tribes of Hindostan, is offered as an apology to the curious reader for the trouble of perusing the details. I shall only add, that there appears to be nearly as great a resemblance between the sacrifices of the Gipsies and the ancient Hindoos, as there is affinity between modern Hindostanee and the language of the Gipsies in Scotland, at the present day, as will be seen in the following chapter.


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