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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Utter some more Gipsy expressions


and upbraiding and scolding

the dumb creature, in an angry manner, for its conduct. They bring, as it were, an accusation against it, and plead for its condemnation. When this part of the trial is finished, the priest takes a large knife and thrusts it into the heart of the horse; and its blood is allowed to flow upon the ground till life is extinct. The dead animal is now stretched out upon the ground. The husband then takes his stand on one side of it, and the wife on the other; and, holding each other by the hand, repeat certain appropriate sentences in the Gipsy language. They then quit hold of each other, and walk three times round the body of the horse, contrariwise, passing and crossing each other, at certain points, as they proceed in opposite directions. At certain parts of the animal, (the _corners_ of the horse, was the Gipsy's expression,) such as the hind and fore feet, the shoulders and haunches, the head and tail, the parties halt, and face each other; and again repeat sentences, in their own speech, at each time they halt. The two last stops they make, in their circuit round the sacrifice, are at the head and tail. At the head, they again face each other, and speak; and lastly, at the tail, they again confront each other, utter some more Gipsy expressions, shake hands, and finally part, the one going north, the other south, never again to be united in this life.[184] Immediately after the separation takes place, the woman receives a token, which is made of cast-iron, about an inch and a half
square, with a mark upon it resembling the Roman character, T. After the marriage has been dissolved, and the woman dismissed from the sacrifice, the heart of the horse is taken out and roasted with fire, then sprinkled with vinegar, or brandy, and eaten by the husband and his friends then present; the female not being allowed to join in this part of the ceremony. The body of the horse, skin and everything about it, except the heart, is buried on the spot; and years after the ceremony has taken place, the husband and his friends visit the grave of the animal, to see whether it has been disturbed. At these visits, they walk round about the grave, with much grief and mourning.

[182] This Gipsy mentioned one particular instance of having seen a couple separated in this way, on a wild moor, near Huntly, about the year 1805. He particularly stated that a horse found dead would not do for a separation, but that one must be killed for the express purpose; and that "the sun must be at his height" before the horse could be properly sacrificed. From the fact of Ramsay stumbling upon the Gipsies "a little after day-break," it would seem that circumstances had compelled them to change the time, or adjourn the completion, of the sacrifice; or that the extreme wildness of the victim had prevented its being caught, and so led to the "violent swing which McDonald gave his wife at parting." And it might be that Ramsay had come upon them when McDonald and his wife were performing the last part of the ceremony, or had caused them to finish it abruptly; as the old Gipsy stated that not only are none but Gipsies allowed to be present on such occasions, but that the greatest secrecy is observed, to prevent discovery by those who are not of the tribe.


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