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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

And circumcised among Mahommedans


justify;">As to their religious

sentiments, I am inclined to think that the greater part of the Scottish Gipsies are quite indifferent on the subject. Numbers of them certainly attend church, occasionally, when at home, in their winter quarters; but not one of them will enter its door when travelling through the country.[251] On Sundays, while resting themselves by the side of the public roads, the females employ themselves in washing and sewing their apparel, without any regard for that sacred day. It appears to me that a large proportion of them comply with our customs and forms of worship, more for the purpose of concealing their tribe and practices, than from any serious belief in the doctrines of Christianity. I recollect, however, of once conversing with an aged man who professed much apparent zeal in religious matters; and I mind well that he stoutly maintained, in opposition to Calvin's ideas on the subject of free grace, that everything depended upon our own works. "By my works in this life," said he, "I must stand, or fall, in the world to come." This very man acknowledged to me that the Gipsies were a tribe of thieves. But almost all the Gipsies, when the subject of religion is mentioned to them, affect to be very pious; speak of the goodness of God to them, with much apparent sincerity; lament the want of education; and reprobate, in strong terms, every act of immorality. This, I am sorry to say, is, in general, all hypocrisy and deception. There is not a better test, in a general way, for discovering
who are Gipsies, than the expression of "God bless you," which is constantly in the mouth of every female.[252]

[251] The ostensible reason which the Gipsy gives for not attending church, when travelling, is to prevent himself being ridiculed by the people. If he enters a place of worship, he makes the old people stare, and frightens the children. On returning from church, a child will exclaim, "Mother, mother, there was a Tinkler at the kirk, to-day."--"A what? a _Tinkler_ at the kirk? What could have possessed _him_ to go there?"

Gipsies are extremely sensitive to the feeling in question. A short time ago, one of them entered ----, in the State of ----, with a "shears to grind," having a small bell attached. Some bar-room gentry assembled around him, and saluted him with, "Oh, oh, a Gipsy in a new rig!" So keenly did he feel the insult, that he at once left the village.--ED.

[252] According to Grellmann, the Gipsies did not bring any particular religion with them from their own country, but have regulated it according to those of the countries in which they have lived. They suffer themselves to be baptized among Christians, and circumcised among Mahommedans. They are Greeks with Greeks, Catholics with Catholics, Protestants with Protestants, and as inconstant in their creed as their place of residence. They suffer their children to be several times baptised. To-day, they receive the sacrament as a Lutheran; next Sunday, as a Catholic; and, perhaps before the end of the week, in the Reformed Church. The greater part of them do not go so far as this, but live without any religion at all, and worse than heathens. So thoroughly indifferent are they in this respect, as to have given rise to the adage, "The Gipsy's church was built of bacon, and the dogs ate it." So perfectly convinced are the Turks of the insincerity of the Gipsy in matters of religion, that, although a Jew, by becoming a Mahommedan, is freed from the payment of the poll-tax, a Gipsy--at least in the neighbourhood of Constantinople--is not, even although his ancestors, for centuries, had been Mahommedans, or he himself should actually have made a pilgrimage to Mecca. His only privilege is to wear a white turban, which is denied to unbelieving Jews and Gipsies.


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