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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The Gipsy character displays itself


The

inferior Gipsies generally attended our large country "penny-weddings", in former times, both as musicians and for the purpose of receiving the fragments of the entertainments. At the wedding in the parish of Corstorphine, to which I have alluded, under the chapter of Fife and Stirlingshire Gipsies, Charles Stewart entered into familiar conversation with individuals present; joking with them about their sweet-hearts, and love-matters generally; telling them he had noticed such a one at such a place; and observing to another that he had seen him at such a fair, and so on. He always enquired about their masters, and places of abode, with other particulars relative to their various connections and circumstances in life. Here, the Gipsy character displays itself; here, we see Stewart, while he seems a mere merry-andrew, to the heedless, merry-making people at these weddings, actually reading, with deep sagacity, their characters and dispositions; and ascertaining the places of residence, and connexions, of many of the individuals of the country through which he travelled. In this manner, by continually roaming up and down the kingdom, now as individuals in disguise, at other times in bands--not passing a house in their route--observing everything taking place in partial assemblies, at large weddings, and general gatherings of the people at fairs--scanning, with the eye of a hawk, both males and females, for the purpose of robbing them--did the Gipsies, with their great knowledge of
human character, become thoroughly acquainted with particular incidents concerning many individuals of the population. Hence proceed, in a great measure, the warlockry and fortune-telling abilities of the shrewd and sagacious Gipsies.

Or, suppose an old Gipsy female, who traverses the kingdom, has a relative a lady's maid in a family of rank, and another a musician in a band, playing to the first classes of society, in public or private assemblies, the travelling _spae-wife_ would not be without materials for carrying on her trade of fortune-telling. The observant handmaid, and the acute, penetrating fiddler would, of course, communicate to their wandering relative every incident and circumstance that came under their notice, which would, at an after and suitable period, enable the cunning fortune-teller to astonish some of the parties who had been at these meetings, when in another part of the country, remote in time, and distant in place, from the spot where the occurrences happened.

In order that they might not lessen the importance and value of their art, these Gipsies pretended they could tell no one's fortune for anything less than silver, or articles of wearing-apparel, or other things of value. Besides telling fortunes by palmistry,[150] they foretold destinies by divination of the cup, their method of doing which appears to be nearly the same as that practised among the ancient Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians, perhaps, about the time of Joseph. The Gipsy method was, and I may say is, this: The divining cup, which is made of tin, or pewter, and about three inches in diameter, was filled with water, and sometimes with spirits. Into the cup a certain quantity of a melted substance, resembling tin, was dropped from a crucible, which immediately formed itself, in the liquid, into curious figures, resembling frost-work, seen on windows in winter. The compound was then emptied into a trencher, and from the arrangements or constructions of the figures, the destiny of the enquiring individual was predicted.[151] While performing the ceremony, the Gipsies muttered, in their own language, certain incantations, totally unintelligible to the spectator. The following fact, however, will, more particularly, show the manner in which these Gipsy sorceresses imposed on the credulous.


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