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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Enumerated in the Gentoo code of laws


[180] Grellmann says, of the Hungarian Gipsies, "The greatest luxury to them is when they can procure a roast of cattle that have died of any distemper, whether it be sheep, pig, cow, or other beast, _a horse only excepted_."--ED.

It is the general opinion, founded chiefly upon the affinity of language, that this singular people migrated from Hindostan. None of the authors on the Gipsies, however, that I am aware of, have, in their researches, been able to discover, among the tribe, any customs of a religious nature, by which their religious notions and ceremonies, at the time they entered Europe, could be ascertained. Indeed, the learned and industrious Grellmann expressly states that the Gipsies did not bring any particular religion with them, from their native country, by which they could be distinguished from other people. The Gipsy sacrifice of the horse, at parting with their wives, however, appears to be a remnant of the great Hindoo religious sacrifice of the _Aswamedha_, or _Assummeed Jugg_, observed by all the four principal castes in India, enumerated in the Gentoo code of laws, translated from the Persian copy, by Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, and is proof, besides the similarity of language, that the Gipsies are from Hindostan. Before the Gentoo code of laws came into my hands, I was inclined to believe that this ceremony of sacrificing horses might be a Tartar custom, as the ancient Pagan tribes of Tartary also sacrificed horses,

on certain occasions; and my conjectures were countenanced by the Gipsy and Tartar ceremonies being somewhat similar in their details. Indeed, in Sweden and Denmark, and in some parts of Germany, the Gipsies, as I have already stated, obtained the name of Tartars. "They were not allowed the privilege of remaining unmolested in Denmark, as the code of Danish laws specifies: The Tartar Gipsies, who wander about everywhere, doing great damage to the people, by their lies, thefts, and witchcraft, shall be taken into custody by every magistrate." And it also appears, according to Grellmann, that the Gipsies sometimes called themselves Tartars. If it was observed, on the continent, that they sacrificed horses, a custom very common at one time among the Tartars, their supposed Tartar origin would appear to have had some foundation. The Tartar princes seem to have ratified and confirmed their military leagues by sacrificing horses and drinking of a running stream; and we find our Scottish Gipsies dissolving their matrimonial alliances by the solemn sacrifice of the same animal, while some Gipsies state that horses were also, at one time, sacrificed at their marriage ceremonies. At these sacrifices of the Scottish Gipsies, no Deity--no invisible agency--appears, as far as I am informed, to have been invoked by the sacrificers.

I have alluded to this custom of the Tartars, more particularly, to show that the Gipsies are not the only people who have sacrificed horses. The ancient Hindoos, as already stated, sacrificed horses. The Greeks did the same to Neptune; the ancient Scandinavians to their god, Assa-Thor, the representative of the sun; and the Persians, likewise, to the sun.[181] But I am inclined to believe that the Gipsy sacrifice of the horse is the remains of the great _Assummeed Jugg_ of the Hindoos, observed by tribes of greater antiquity than the modern nations of India, as appears by the Gentoo code of laws already referred to.

[181] It appears that the Jews, when they lapsed into the grossest idolatry, dedicated horses to the sun. "And he (Josiah) took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-melech, the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burnt the chariots of the sun with fire." II Kings, xxiii. 11.


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