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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

179 In whatever country the Gipsies have appeared


[177] Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, vol, x.

[178] Mr. Borrow bears very positive testimony to the _personal_ virtue of Gipsy females. I have heard natives of Hungary speak lightly of them in that respect; but I conclude that they alluded to exceptions to the general rule among the race.--ED.

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.[179] 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.[180]

[179] 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.


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