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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

In performing the nuptial rites


When speaking of the marriages of the Mandingoes, at Kamalia, about 500 miles in the interior of Africa, Park says: "The new-married couple are always disturbed toward morning by the women, who assemble to inspect the nuptial sheet, (according to the manners of the ancient Hebrews, as recorded in Scripture,) and dance around it. This ceremony is thought indispensably necessary, nor is the marriage considered valid without it." _Park's Travels, page 399._

By the laws of Menu, the Hindoo could reject his bride, if he found her not a virgin.--_Sir William Jones._

[The reader will observe that the marriage ceremony of the Gipsies, though barbarous, is very figurative and emphatic, and certainly moral enough. To show that the Gipsies, as a people, have not been addicted to the most barbarous customs, in regard to marriage, I note the following very singular form of the Scottish Highlanders, which, according to Skene, continued in use _until a very late period_. "This custom was termed _hand-fasting_, and consisted in a species of contract between two chiefs, by which it was agreed that the heir of one should live with the daughter of the other, as her husband, for twelve months and a day. If, in that time, the lady became a mother, or proved to be with child, the marriage became good in law, even although no priest had performed the marriage in due form; but should there

not have occurred any appearance of issue, the contract was considered at an end, and each party was at liberty to marry, or _hand-fast, with any other_." Which fact shows that Highland chiefs, at one time, would have annulled any, or all, of the laws of God, whenever it would have served their purposes.--ED.]

The nuptial mixture is carefully bottled up, and 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 Appindull, 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.[175] 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.


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