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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

And repair to their nuptial couch


[171] "I was soon tired," says Park, "and had retired into my tent. When I was sitting, almost asleep, an old woman entered with a wooden bowl in her hand, and signified that she had brought me a present from the bride. Before I could recover from the surprise which this message created, the woman discharged the contents of the bowl full in my face. Finding that it was the same sort of holy water with which, among the Hottentots, a priest is said to sprinkle a new-married couple, I began to suspect that the lady was actuated by mischief or malice; but she gave me seriously to understand that it was a nuptial benediction from the bride's own person; and which, on such occasions, is always received by the young unmarried Moors, as a mark of distinguished favour. This being the case, I wiped my face, and sent my acknowledgment to the lady."--_Park's Travels, pages 205 and 206._

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."[172]

[172] Whatever prudes and snobs may think of this chapter, I believe that the sensible and intelligent reader will agree with me in saying, that the marriage and divorce ceremonies

of the Gipsies are historical gems of the most antique and purest water.--ED.

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.[173]


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