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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Commonly called the Galloway sorceress


[150] The Kamtachadales, says Dr. Grieve, in his translation of a Russian account of Kamtachatka, pretend to chiromancy, and tell a man's good or bad fortune by the lines of his hand; but the rules which they follow are kept a great secret. _Page 206._

[151] Julius Serenus, says Stackhouse, tells us, that the method among the Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians was to fill the cup with water, then throw into it thin plates of gold and silver, together with some precious stones, whereon were engraven certain characters, and, after that, the person who came to consult the oracle used certain forms of incantation, and, so calling upon the devil, were wont to receive their answer several ways: sometimes by particular sounds; sometimes by the characters which were in the cup rising upon the surface of the water, and by their arrangement forming the answer; and many times by the visible appearance of the persons themselves, about whom the oracle was consulted. Cornelius Agrippa (De Occult. Philos. LI, c. 57,) tells as, likewise, that the manner of some was to pour melted wax into the cup wherein was water; which wax would range itself in order, and so form answers, according to the questions proposed.--_Saurin's Dissertation, 38, and Heidegger's His. patriar. exercit. 20._

Fortune-telling is punishable by the 9th Geo. II, chap. 5th. In June, 1805, a woman, of the name of

Maxwell, commonly called the Galloway sorceress, was tried for this offence, by a jury, before the Stewart of Kirkcudbright, and was sentenced to imprisonment and the pillory.--_Burnet on Criminal Law, page 178._

A relative of mine had several servant-girls who would, one day, have their fortunes told. The old Gipsy took them, one at a time, into an apartment of the house, and locked the door after her. My relative, feeling a curiosity in the matter, observed their operations, and overheard their conversation, through a chink in the partition of the room. A bottle of whiskey, and a wine glass, were produced by the girl, and the sorceress filled the glass, nearly full, with the spirits. Into the liquor she dropped part of the white of a raw egg, and taking out of her pocket something like chalk, scraped part of it into the mixture. Certain figures now appeared in the glass, and, muttering some jargon, unintelligible to the girl, she held it up between her eyes and the window. "There is your sweetheart now--look at him--do you not see him?" exclaimed the Gipsy to the trembling girl; and, after telling her a number of events which were to befall her, in her journey through life, she held out the glass, and told her to "cast that in her mouth"--"Me drink that? The Lord forbid that I should drink a drap o't." "E'ens ye like, my woman; I can tak' it mysel," quoth the Gipsy, and, suiting the action to the word, "cast" the whiskey, eggs and chalk[152] down her throat, in an instant. Knowing well that the idea of swallowing the glass in which their future husbands were seen, and their own fortunes told, in so mysterious a manner, would make the girls shudder, the cunning Gipsy gave each of them, in succession, the order to drink, and, the moment they refused, threw the contents of the "divining cup" into her own mouth. In this manner did the Gipsy procure, at one time, no less than four glasses of ardent spirits, and sixpence from each of the credulous girls.


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