George Borrow (1803-1881)
|The Zincali or an account of te gypsies of Spain (Part I)|
GITANOS, or Egyptians, is the name by which the Gypsies have been most generally known in Spain, in the ancient as well as in the modern period, but various other names have been and still are applied to them; for example, New Castilians, Germans, and Flemings; the first of which titles probably originated after the name of Gitano had begun to be considered a term of reproach and infamy. They may have thus designated themselves from an unwillingness to utter, when speaking of themselves, the detested expression 'Gitano,' a word which seldom escapes their mouths; or it may have been applied to them first by the Spaniards, in their mutual dealings and communication, as a term less calculated to wound their feelings and to beget a spirit of animosity than the other; but, however it might have originated, New Castilian, in course of time, became a term of little less infamy than Gitano; for, by the law of Philip the Fourth, both terms are forbidden to be applied to them under severe penalties.
That they were called Germans, may be accounted for, either by the supposition that their generic name of Rommany was misunderstood and mispronounced by the Spaniards amongst whom they came, or from the fact of their having passed through Germany in their way to the south, and bearing passports and letters of safety from the various German states. The title of Flemings, by which at the present day they are known in various parts of Spain, would probably never have been bestowed upon them but from the circumstance of their having been designated or believed to be Germans, - as German and Fleming are considered by the ignorant as synonymous terms.
Amongst themselves they have three words to distinguish them and their race in general: Zincalo, Romano, and Chai; of the first two of which something has been already said.
They likewise call themselves 'Cales,' by which appellation indeed they are tolerably well known by the Spaniards, and which is merely the plural termination of the compound word Zincalo, and signifies, The black men. Chai is a modification of the word Chal, which, by the Gitanos of Estremadura, is applied to Egypt, and in many parts of Spain is equivalent to 'Heaven,' and which is perhaps a modification of 'Cheros,' the word for heaven in other dialects of the Gypsy language. Thus Chai may denote, The men of Egypt, or, The sons of Heaven. It is, however, right to observe, that amongst the Gitanos, the word Chai has frequently no other signification than the simple one of 'children.'
It is impossible to state for certainty the exact year of their first appearance in Spain; but it is reasonable to presume that it was early in the fifteenth century; as in the year 1417 numerous bands entered France from the north-east of Europe, and speedily spread themselves over the greatest part of that country. Of these wanderers a French author has left the following graphic description: (16)
'On the 17th of April 1427, appeared in Paris twelve penitents of Egypt, driven from thence by the Saracens; they brought in their company one hundred and twenty persons; they took up their quarters in La Chapelle, whither the people flocked in crowds to visit them.
They had their ears pierced, from which depended a ring of silver; their hair was black and crispy, and their women were filthy to a degree, and were sorceresses who told fortunes.'
Such were the people who, after traversing France and scaling the sides of the Pyrenees, poured down in various bands upon the sunburnt plains of Spain. Wherever they had appeared they had been looked upon as a curse and a pestilence, and with much reason.
Either unwilling or unable to devote themselves to any laborious or useful occupation, they came like flights of wasps to prey upon the fruits which their more industrious fellow-beings amassed by the toil of their hands and the sweat of their foreheads; the natural result being, that wherever they arrived, their fellow-creatures banded themselves against them. Terrible laws were enacted soon after their appearance in France, calculated to put a stop to their frauds and dishonest propensities; wherever their hordes were found, they were attacked by the incensed rustics or by the armed hand of justice, and those who were not massacred on the spot, or could not escape by flight, were, without a shadow of a trial, either hanged on the next tree, or sent to serve for life in the galleys; or if females or children, either scourged or mutilated.
The consequence of this severity, which, considering the manners and spirit of the time, is scarcely to be wondered at, was the speedy disappearance of the Gypsies from the soil of France.Many returned by the way they came, to Germany, Hungary, and the woods and forests of Bohemia; but there is little doubt that by far the greater portion found a refuge in the Peninsula, a country which, though by no means so rich and fertile as the one they had quitted, nor offering so wide and ready a field for the exercise of those fraudulent arts for which their race had become so infamously notorious, was, nevertheless, in many respects, suitable and congenial to them. If there were less gold and silver in the purses of the citizens to reward the dexterous handler of the knife and scissors amidst the crowd in the market-place; if fewer sides of fatted swine graced the ample chimney of the labourer in Spain than in the neighbouring country; if fewer beeves bellowed in the plains, and fewer sheep bleated upon the hills, there were far better opportunities afforded of indulging in wild independence.
Should the halberded bands of the city be ordered out to quell, seize, or exterminate them; should the alcalde of the village cause the tocsin to be rung, gathering together the villanos for a similar purpose, the wild sierra was generally at hand, which, with its winding paths, its caves, its frowning precipices, and ragged thickets, would offer to them a secure refuge where they might laugh to scorn the rage of their baffled pursuers, and from which they might emerge either to fresh districts or to those which they had left, to repeat their ravages when opportunity served.
After crossing the Pyrenees, a very short time elapsed before the Gypsy hordes had bivouacked in the principal provinces of Spain. There can indeed be little doubt, that shortly after their arrival they made themselves perfectly acquainted with all the secrets of the land, and that there was scarcely a nook or retired corner within Spain, from which the smoke of their fires had not arisen, or where their cattle had not grazed. People, however, so acute as they have always proverbially been, would scarcely be slow in distinguishing the provinces most adapted to their manner of life, and most calculated to afford them opportunities of practising those arts to which they were mainly indebted for their subsistence; the savage hills of Biscay, of Galicia, and the Asturias, whose inhabitants were almost as poor as themselves, which possessed no superior breed of horses or mules from amongst which they might pick and purloin many a gallant beast, and having transformed by their dexterous scissors, impose him again upon his rightful master for a high price, - such provinces, where, moreover, provisions were hard to be obtained, even by pilfering hands, could scarcely be supposed to offer strong temptations to these roving visitors to settle down in, or to vex and harass by a long sojourn.
Valencia and Murcia found far more favour in their eyes; a far
more fertile soil, and wealthier inhabitants, were better calculated to entice them; there
was a prospect of plunder, and likewise a prospect of safety and refuge, should the dogs
of justice be roused against them. If there were the populous town and village in those
lands, there was likewise the lone waste, and uncultivated spot, to which they could
retire when danger threatened them. Still more suitable to them must have been La Mancha,
a land of tillage, of horses, and of mules, skirted by its brown sierra, ever eager to
afford its shelter to their dusky race. Equally suitable, Estremadura and New Castile; but
far, far more, Andalusia, with its three kingdoms, Jaen, Granada, and Seville, one of
which was still possessed by the swarthy Moor, - Andalusia, the land of the proud steed
and the stubborn mule, the land of the savage sierra and the fruitful and cultivated
plain: to Andalusia they hied, in bands of thirties and sixties; the hoofs of their asses
might be heard clattering in the passes of the stony hills; the girls might be seen
bounding in lascivious dance in the streets of many a town, and the beldames standing
beneath the eaves telling the 'buena ventura' to many a credulous female dupe; the men the
while chaffered in the fair and market-place with the labourers and chalanes, casting
significant glances on each other, or exchanging a word or two in Rommany, whilst they
placed some uncouth animal in a particular posture which served to conceal its ugliness
from the eyes of the chapman. Yes, of all provinces of Spain, Andalusia was the most
frequented by the Gitano race, and in Andalusia they most abound at the present day,
though no longer as restless independent wanderers of the fields and hills, but as
residents in villages and owns, especially in Seville.
HAVING already stated to the reader at what period and by what means these wanderers introduced themselves into Spain, we shall now say something concerning their manner of life.It would appear that, for many years after their arrival in the Peninsula, their manners and habits underwent no change; they were wanderers, in the strictest sense of the word, and lived much in the same way as their brethren exist in the present day in England, Russia, and Bessarabia, with the exception perhaps of being more reckless, mischievous, and having less respect for the laws; it is true that their superiority in wickedness in these points may have been more the effect of the moral state of the country in which they were, than of any other operating cause.
Arriving in Spain with a predisposition to every species of crime and villainy, they were not likely to be improved or reclaimed by the example of the people with whom they were about to mix; nor was it probable that they would entertain much respect for laws which, from time immemorial, have principally served, not to protect the honest and useful members of society, but to enrich those entrusted with the administration of them. Thus, if they came thieves, it is not probable that they would become ashamed of the title of thief in Spain, where the officers of justice were ever willing to shield an offender on receiving the largest portion of the booty obtained. If on their arrival they held the lives of others in very low estimation, could it be expected that they would become gentle as lambs in a land where blood had its price, and the shedder was seldom executed unless he was poor and friendless, and unable to cram with ounces of yellow gold the greedy hands of the pursuers of blood, - the alguazil and escribano? therefore, if the Spanish Gypsies have been more bloody and more wolfishly eager in the pursuit of booty than those of their race in most other regions, the cause must be attributed to their residence in a country unsound in every branch of its civil polity, where right has ever been in less esteem, and wrong in less disrepute, than in any other part of the world.
However, if the moral state of Spain was not calculated to have a favourable effect on the habits and pursuits of the Gypsies, their anners were as little calculated to operate beneficially, in any oint of view, on the country where they had lately arrived.
Divided into numerous bodies, frequently formidable in point of number, their presence was an evil and a curse in whatever quarter they directed their steps. As might be expected, the labourers, who in all countries are the most honest, most useful, and meritorious class, were the principal sufferers; their mules and horses were stolen, carried away to distant fairs, and there isposed of, perhaps, to individuals destined to be deprived of them in a similar manner; whilst their flocks of sheep and goats were laid under requisition to assuage the hungry cravings of these thievish cormorants.
It was not uncommon for a large band or tribe to encamp in the vicinity of a remote village scantily peopled, and to remain there until, like a flight of locusts, they had consumed everything which the inhabitants possessed for their support; or until they were scared away by the approach of justice, or by an army of rustics assembled from the surrounding country. Then would ensue the hurried march; the women and children, mounted on lean but spirited asses, would scour along the plains fleeter than the wind; ragged and savage-looking men, wielding the scourge and goad, would scamper by their side or close behind, whilst perhaps a small party on strong horses, armed with rusty matchlocks or sabres, would bring up the rear, threatening the distant foe, and now and then saluting them with a hoarse blast from the Gypsy horn:-
'O, when I sit my courser bold,
Let us for a moment suppose some unfortunate traveller, mounted on a handsome mule or beast of some value, meeting, unarmed and alone, such a rabble rout at the close of eve, in the wildest part, for example, of La Mancha; we will suppose that he is journeying from Seville to Madrid, and that he has left at a considerable distance behind him the gloomy and horrible passes of the Sierra Morena; his bosom, which for some time past has been contracted with dreadful forebodings, is beginning to expand; his blood, which has been congealed in his veins, is beginning to circulate warmly and freely; he is fondly anticipating the still distant posada and savoury omelet. The sun is sinking rapidly behind the savage and uncouth hills in his rear; he has reached the bottom of a small valley, where runs a rivulet at which he allows his tired animal to drink; he is about to ascend the side of the hill; his eyes are turned upwards; suddenly he beholds strange and uncouth forms at the top of the ascent - the sun descending slants its rays upon red cloaks, with here and there a turbaned head, or long streaming hair. The traveller hesitates, but reflecting that he is no longer in the mountains, and that in the open road there is no danger of banditti, he advances. In a moment he is in the midst of the Gypsy group, in a moment there is a general halt; fiery eyes are turned upon him replete with an expression which only the eyes of the Roma possess, then ensues a jabber in a language or jargon which is strange to the ears of the traveller; at last an ugly urchin springs from the crupper of a halting mule, and in a lisping accent entreats charity in the name of the Virgin and the Majoro. The traveller, with a faltering hand, produces his purse, and is proceeding to loosen its strings, but he accomplishes not his purpose, for, struck violently by a huge knotted club in an unseen hand, he tumbles headlong from his mule. Next morning a naked corse, besmeared with brains and blood, is found by an arriero; and within a week a simple cross records the event, according to the custom of Spain.
'Below there in the dusky pass
To many, such a scene, as above described, will appear purely imaginary, or at least a mass of exaggeration, but many such anecdotes are related by old Spanish writers of these people; they traversed the country in gangs; they were what the Spanish law has styled Abigeos and Salteadores de Camino, cattle-stealers and highwaymen; though, in the latter character, they never rose to any considerable eminence. True it is that they would not hesitate to attack or even murder the unarmed and defenceless traveller, when they felt assured of obtaining booty with little or no risk to themselves; but they were not by constitution adapted to rival those bold and daring banditti of whom so many terrible anecdotes are related in Spain and Italy, and who have acquired their renown by the dauntless daring which they have invariably displayed in the pursuit of plunder.
Besides trafficking in horses and mules, and now and then attacking and plundering travellers upon the highway, the Gypsies of Spain appear, from a very early period, to have plied occasionally the trade of the blacksmith, and to have worked in iron, forming rude implements of domestic and agricultural use, which they disposed of, either for provisions or money, in the neighbourhood of those places where they had taken up their temporary residence. As their bands were composed of numerous individuals, there is no improbability in assuming that to every member was allotted that branch of labour in which he was most calculated to excel. The most important, and that which required the greatest share of cunning and address, was undoubtedly that of the chalan or jockey, who frequented the fairs with the beasts which he had obtained by various means, but generally by theft. Highway robbery, though occasionally committed by all jointly or severally, was probably the peculiar department of the boldest spirits of the gang; whilst wielding the hammer and tongs was abandoned to those who, though possessed of athletic forms, were perhaps, like Vulcan, lame, or from some particular cause, moral or physical, unsuited for the other two very respectable avocations. The forge was generally placed in the heart of some mountain abounding in wood; the gaunt smiths felled a tree, perhaps with the very axes which their own sturdy hands had hammered at a former period; with the wood thus procured they prepared the charcoal which their labour demanded.
Everything is in readiness; the bellows puff until the coal is excited to a furious glow; the metal, hot, pliant, and ductile, is laid on the anvil, round which stands the Cyclop group, their hammers upraised; down they descend successively, one, two, three, the sparks are scattered on every side. The sparks -
'More than a hundred lovely daughters I see produced at one time,
The anvil rings beneath the thundering stroke, hour succeeds hour, and still endures the hard sullen toil.One of the most remarkable features in the history of Gypsies is the striking similarity of their pursuits in every region of the globe to which they have penetrated; they are not merely alike in limb and in feature, in the cast and expression of the eye, in the colour of the hair, in their walk and gait, but everywhere they seem to exhibit the same tendencies, and to hunt for their bread by the same means, as if they were not of the human but rather of the animal species, and in lieu of reason were endowed with a kind of instinct which assists them to a very limited extent and no farther.
In no part of the world are they found engaged in the cultivation of the earth, or in the service of a regular master; but in all lands they are jockeys, or thieves, or cheats; and if ever they devote themselves to any toil or trade, it is assuredly in every material point one and the same. We have found them above, in the heart of a wild mountain, hammering iron, and manufacturing from it instruments either for their own use or that of the neighbouring towns and villages. They may be seen employed in a similar manner in the plains of Russia, or in the bosom of its eternal forests; and whoever inspects the site where a horde of Gypsies has encamped, in the grassy lanes beneath the hazel bushes of merry England, is generally sure to find relics of tin and other metal, avouching that they have there been exercising the arts of the tinker or smith. Perhaps nothing speaks more forcibly for the antiquity of this sect or caste than the tenacity with which they have uniformly preserved their peculiar customs since the period of their becoming generally known; for, unless their habits had become a part of their nature, which could only have been effected by a strict devotion to them through a long succession of generations, it is not to be supposed that after their arrival in civilised Europe they would have retained and cherished them precisely in the same manner in the various countries where they found an asylum.
Each band or family of the Spanish Gypsies had its Captain, or, as he was
generally designated, its Count. Don Juan de Quinones, who, in a small volume published in
1632, has written some details respecting their way of life, says:
These Counts, being elected for such qualities as promised to be useful to their troop or family, were consequently liable to be deposed if at any time their conduct was not calculated to afford satisfaction to their subjects. The office was not hereditary, and though it carried along with it partial privileges, was both toilsome and dangerous. Should the plans for plunder, which it was the duty of the Count to form, miscarry in the attempt to execute them; should individuals of the gang fall into the hand of justice, and the Count be unable to devise a method to save their lives or obtain their liberty, the blame was cast at the Count's door, and he was in considerable danger of being deprived of his insignia of authority, which consisted not so much in ornaments or in dress, as in hawks and hounds with which the Senor Count took the diversion of hunting when he thought proper. As the ground which he hunted over was not his own, he incurred some danger of coming in contact with the lord of the soil, attended, perhaps, by his armed followers. There is a tradition (rather apocryphal, it is true), that a Gitano chief, once pursuing this amusement, was encountered by a real Count, who is styled Count Pepe. An engagement ensued between the two parties, which ended in the Gypsies being worsted, and their chief left dying on the field. The slain chief leaves a son, who, at the instigation of his mother, steals the infant heir of his father's enemy, who, reared up amongst the Gypsies, becomes a chief, and, in process of time, hunting over the same ground, slays Count Pepe in the very spot where the blood of the Gypsy had been poured out. This tradition is alluded to in the following stanza:-
'I have a gallant mare in stall;
Martin Del Rio, in his TRACTATUS DE MAGIA, speaks of the Gypsies and their Counts to the following effect: 'When, in the year 1584, I was marching in Spain with the regiment, a multitude of these wretches were infesting the fields. It happened that the feast of Corpus Domini was being celebrated, and they requested to be admitted into the town, that they might dance in honour of the sacrifice, as was customary; they did so, but about midday a great tumult arose owing to the many thefts which the women committed, whereupon they fled out of the suburbs, and assembled about St. Mark's, the magnificent mansion and hospital of the knights of St. James, where the ministers of justice attempting to seize them were repulsed by force of arms; nevertheless, all of a sudden, and I know not how, everything was hushed up. At this time they had a Count, a fellow who spoke the Castilian idiom with as much purity as if he had been a native of Toledo; he was acquainted with all the ports of Spain, and all the difficult and broken ground of the provinces. He knew the exact strength of every city, and who were the principal people in each, and the exact amount of their property; there was nothing relating to the state, however secret, that he was not acquainted with; nor did he make a mystery of his knowledge, but publicly boasted of it.'From the passage quoted above, we learn that the Gitanos in the ancient times were considered as foreigners who prowled about the country; indeed, in many of the laws which at various times have been promulgated against them, they are spoken of as Egyptians, and as such commanded to leave Spain, and return to their native country; at one time they undoubtedly were foreigners in Spain, foreigners by birth, foreigners by language but at the time they are mentioned by the worthy Del Rio, they were certainly not entitled to the appellation. True it is that they spoke a language amongst themselves, unintelligible to the rest of the Spaniards, from whom they differed considerably in feature and complexion, as they still do; but if being born in a country, and being bred there, constitute a right to be considered a native of that country, they had as much claim to the appellation of Spaniards as the worthy author himself. Del Rio mentions, as a remarkable circumstance, the fact of the Gypsy Count speaking Castilian with as much purity as a native of Toledo, whereas it is by no means improbable that the individual in question was a native of that town; but the truth is, at the time we are speaking of, they were generally believed to be not only foreigners, but by means of sorcery to have acquired the power of speaking all languages with equal facility; and Del Rio, who was a believer in magic, and wrote one of the most curious and erudite treatises on the subject ever penned, had perhaps adopted that idea, which possibly originated from their speaking most of the languages and dialects of the Peninsula, which they picked up in their wanderings. That the Gypsy chief was so well acquainted with every town of Spain, and the broken and difficult ground, can cause but little surprise, when we reflect that the life which the Gypsies led was one above all others calculated to afford them that knowledge. They were continually at variance with justice; they were frequently obliged to seek shelter in the inmost recesses of the hills; and when their thievish pursuits led them to the cities, they naturally made themselves acquainted with the names of the principal individuals, in hopes of plundering them. Doubtless the chief possessed all this species of knowledge in a superior degree, as it was his courage, acuteness, and experience alone which placed him at the head of his tribe, though Del Rio from this circumstance wishes to infer that the Gitanos were spies sent by foreign foes, and with some simplicity inquires, 'Quo ant cui rei haec curiosa exploratio? nonne compescenda vagamundorum haec curiositas, etiam si solum peregrini et inculpatae vitae.'
With the Counts rested the management and direction of these remarkable
societies; it was they who determined their marches, counter-marches, advances, and
retreats; what was to be attempted or avoided; what individuals were to be admitted into
the fellowship and privileges of the Gitanos, or who were to be xcluded from their
society; they settled disputes and sat in judgment over offences. The greatest crimes,
according to the Gypsy code, were a quarrelsome disposition, and revealing the secrets of
the brotherhood. By this code the members were forbidden to eat, drink, or sleep in the
house of a Busno, which signifies any person who is not of the sect of the Gypsies, or to
marry out of that sect; they were likewise not to teach the language of Roma to any but
those who, by birth or inauguration, belonged to that sect; they were enjoined to relieve
their brethren in distress at any expense or peril; they were to use a peculiar dress,
which is frequently alluded to in the Spanish laws, but the particulars of which are not
stated; and they were to cultivate the gift of speech to the utmost possible extent, and
never to lose anything which might be obtained by a loose and deceiving tongue, to
encourage which they had many excellent proverbs, for example -
THE Gitanos not unfrequently made their appearance in considerable numbers, so as to be able to bid defiance to any force which could be assembled against them on a sudden; whole districts thus became a prey to them, and were plundered and devastated.It is said that, in the year 1618, more than eight hundred of these wretches scoured the country between Castile and Aragon, committing the most enormous crimes. The royal council despatched regular troops against them, who experienced some difficulty in dispersing them.But we now proceed to touch upon an event which forms an era in the history of the Gitanos of Spain, and which for wildness and singularity throws all other events connected with them and their race, wherever found, entirely into the shade.
THE BOOKSELLER OF LOGRONO
About the middle of the sixteenth century, there resided one Francisco Alvarez in the city of Logrono, the chief town of Rioja, a province which borders on Aragon. He was a man above the middle age, sober, reserved, and in general absorbed in thought; he lived near the great church, and obtained a livelihood by selling printed books and manuscripts in a small shop. He was a very learned man, and was continually reading in the books which he was in the habit of selling, and some of these books were in foreign tongues and characters, so foreign, indeed, that none but himself and some of his friends, the canons, could understand them; he was much visited by the clergy, who were his principal customers, and took much pleasure in listening to his discourse.
He had been a considerable traveller in his youth, and had wandered through all Spain, visiting the various provinces and the most remarkable cities. It was likewise said that he had visited Italy and Barbary. He was, however, invariably silent with respect to his travels, and whenever the subject was mentioned to him, the gloom and melancholy increased which usually clouded his features.One day, in the commencement of autumn, he was visited by a priest with whom he had long been intimate, and for whom he had always displayed a greater respect and liking than for any other acquaintance. The ecclesiastic found him even more sad than usual, and there was a haggard paleness upon his countenance which alarmed his visitor. The good priest made affectionate inquiries respecting the health of his friend, and whether anything had of late occurred to give him uneasiness; adding at the same time, that he had long suspected that some secret lay heavy upon his mind, which he now conjured him to reveal, as life was uncertain, and it was very possible that he might be quickly summoned from earth into the presence of his Maker.
The bookseller continued for some time in gloomy meditation, till at last he broke silence in these words:- 'It is true I have a secret which weighs heavy upon my mind, and which I am still loth to reveal; but I have a presentiment that my end is approaching, and that a heavy misfortune is about to fall upon this city: I will therefore unburden myself, for it were now a sin to remain silent.
'I am, as you are aware, a native of this town, which I first left when I went to acquire an education at Salamanca; I continued there until I became a licentiate, when I quitted the university and strolled through Spain, supporting myself in general by touching the guitar, according to the practice of penniless students; my adventures were numerous, and I frequently experienced great poverty. Once, whilst making my way from Toledo to Andalusia through the wild mountains, I fell in with and was made captive by a band of the people called Gitanos, or wandering Egyptians; they in general lived amongst these wilds, and plundered or murdered every person whom they met. I should probably have been assassinated by them, but my skill in music perhaps saved my life.
I continued with them a considerable time, till at last they persuaded me to
become one of them, whereupon I was inaugurated into their society with many strange and
horrid ceremonies, and having thus become a Gitano, I went with them to plunder and
assassinate upon the roads.
'My wife was an arrant Gitana, and in her all the wickedness of her race seemed to be concentrated. At last her father was killed in an affray with the troopers of the Hermandad, whereupon my wife and myself succeeded to the authority which he had formerly exercised in the tribe. We had at first loved each other, but at last the Gitano life, with its accompanying wickedness, becoming hateful to my eyes, my wife, who was not slow in perceiving my altered disposition, conceived for me the most deadly hatred; apprehending that I meditated withdrawing myself from the society, and perhaps betraying the secrets of the band, she formed a conspiracy against me, and, at one time, being opposite the Moorish coast, I was seized and bound by the other Gitanos, conveyed across the sea, and delivered as a slave into the hands of the Moors.
'I continued for a long time in slavery in various parts of Morocco and Fez, until I was at length redeemed from my state of bondage by a missionary friar who paid my ransom. With him I shortly after departed for Italy, of which he was a native. In that country I remained some years, until a longing to revisit my native land seized me, when I returned to Spain and established myself here, where I have since lived by vending books, many of which I brought from the strange lands which I visited. I kept my history, however, a profound secret, being afraid of exposing myself to the laws in force against the Gitanos, to which I should instantly become amenable, were it once known that I had at any time been a member of this detestable sect.
'My present wretchedness, of which you have demanded the cause, dates from yesterday; I had been on a short journey to the Augustine convent, which stands on the plain in the direction of Saragossa, carrying with me an Arabian book, which a learned monk was desirous of seeing. Night overtook me ere I could return. I speedily lost my way, and wandered about until I came near a dilapidated edifice with which I was acquainted; I was about to proceed in the direction of the town, when I heard voices within the ruined walls; I listened, and recognised the language of the abhorred Gitanos; I was about to fly, when a word arrested me. It was Drao, which in their tongue signifies the horrid poison with which this race are in the habit of destroying the cattle; they now said that the men of Logrono should rue the Drao which they had been casting. I heard no more, but fled. What increased my fear was, that in the words spoken, I thought I recognised the peculiar jargon of my own tribe; I repeat, that I believe some horrible misfortune is overhanging this city, and that my own days are numbered.'
The priest, having conversed with him for some time upon particular points of the history that he had related, took his leave, advising him to compose his spirits, as he saw no reason why he should indulge in such gloomy forebodings.
The very next day a sickness broke out in the town of Logrono. It was one of a peculiar kind; unlike most others, it did not arise by slow and gradual degrees, but at once appeared in full violence, in the shape of a terrific epidemic. Dizziness in the head was the first symptom: then convulsive retchings, followed by a dreadful struggle between life and death, which generally terminated in favour of the grim destroyer. The bodies, after the spirit which animated them had taken flight, were frightfully swollen, and exhibited a dark blue colour, checkered with crimson spots. Nothing was heard within the houses or the streets, but groans of agony; no remedy was at hand, and the powers of medicine were exhausted in vain upon this terrible pest; so that within a few days the greatest part of the inhabitants of Logrono had perished.
The bookseller had not been seen since the commencement of this frightful visitation. Once, at the dead of night, a knock was heard at the door of the priest, of whom we have already spoken; the priest himself staggered to the door, and opened it, - he was the only one who remained alive in the house, and was himself slowly recovering from the malady which had destroyed all the other inmates; a wild spectral-looking figure presented itself to his eye - it was his friend Alvarez. Both went into the house, when the bookseller, glancing gloomily on the wasted features of the priest, exclaimed,
'You too, I see, amongst others, have cause to rue the Drao which the Gitanos have cast. Know,' he continued, 'that in order to accomplish a detestable plan, the fountains of Logrono have been poisoned by emissaries of the roving bands, who are now assembled in the neighbourhood. On the first appearance of the disorder, from which I happily escaped by tasting the water of a private fountain, which I possess in my own house, I instantly recognised the effects of the poison of the Gitanos, brought by their ancestors from the isles of the Indian sea; and suspecting their intentions, I disguised myself as a Gitano, and went forth in the hope of being able to act as a spy upon their actions. I have been successful, and am at present thoroughly acquainted with their designs. They intended, from the first, to sack the town, as soon as it should have been emptied of itsdefenders.
'Midday, to-morrow, is the hour in which they have determined to make the attempt. There is no time to be lost; let us, therefore, warn those of our townsmen who still survive, in order that they may make preparations for their defence.'
Whereupon the two friends proceeded to the chief magistrate, who had been but slightly affected by the disorder; he heard the tale of the bookseller with horror and astonishment, and instantly took the best measures possible for frustrating the designs of the Gitanos; all the men capable of bearing arms in Logrono were assembled, and weapons of every description put in their hands. By the advice of the bookseller all the gates of the town were shut, with the exception of the principal one; and the little band of defenders, which barely amounted to sixty men, was stationed in the great square, to which, he said, it was the intention of the Gitanos to penetrate in the first instance, and then, dividing themselves into various parties, to sack the place. The bookseller was, by general desire, constituted leader of the guardians of the town.
It was considerably past noon; the sky was overcast, and tempest clouds, fraught with lightning and thunder, were hanging black and horrid over the town of Logrono. The little troop, resting on their arms, stood awaiting the arrival of their unnatural enemies; rage fired their minds as they thought of the deaths of their fathers, their sons, and their dearest relatives, who had perished, not by the hand of God, but, like infected cattle, by the hellish arts of Egyptian sorcerers. They longed for their appearance, determined to wreak upon them a bloody revenge; not a word was uttered, and profound silence reigned around, only interrupted by the occasional muttering of the thunder-clouds. Suddenly, Alvarez, who had been intently listening, raised his hand with a significant gesture; presently, a sound was heard - a rustling like the waving of trees, or the rushing of distant water; it gradually increased, and seemed to proceed from the narrow street which led from the principal gate into the square. All eyes were turned in that direction. . .
That night there was repique or ringing of bells in the towers of Logrono, and the few priests who had escaped from the pestilence sang litanies to God and the Virgin for the salvation of the town from the hands of the heathen. The attempt of the Gitanos had been most signally defeated, and the great square and the street were strewn with their corpses. Oh! what frightful objects: there lay grim men more black than mulattos, with fury and rage in their stiffened features; wild women in extraordinary dresses, their hair, black and long as the tail of the horse, spread all dishevelled upon the ground; and gaunt and naked children grasping knives and daggers in their tiny hands. Of the patriotic troop not one appeared to have fallen; and when, after their enemies had retreated with howlings of fiendish despair, they told their numbers, only one man was missing, who was never seen again, and that man was Alvarez.
In the midst of the combat, the tempest, which had for a long time been gathering, burst over Logrono, in lightning, thunder, darkness, and vehement hail.
A man of the town asserted that the last time he had seen Alvarez, the latter was far in advance of his companions, defending himself desperately against three powerful young heathen, who seemed to be acting under the direction of a tall woman who stood nigh, covered with barbaric ornaments, and wearing on her head a rude silver crown. (18)
Such is the tale of the Bookseller of Logrono, and such is the narrative of the
attempt of the Gitanos to sack the town in the time of pestilence, which is alluded to by
many Spanish authors, but more particularly by the learned Francisco de Cordova, in his
DIDASCALIA, one of the most curious and instructive books within the circle of universal
THE Moors, after their subjugation, and previous to their expulsion from Spain, generally resided apart, principally in the suburbs of the towns, where they kept each other in countenance, being hated and despised by the Spaniards, and persecuted on all occasions. By this means they preserved, to a certain extent, the Arabic language, though the use of it was strictly forbidden, and encouraged each other in the secret exercise of the rites of the Mohammedan religion, so that, until the moment of their final expulsion, they continued Moors in almost every sense of the word. Such places were called Morerias, or quarters of the Moors.In like manner there were Gitanerias, or quarters of the Gitanos, in many of the towns of Spain; and in more than one instance particular barrios or districts are still known by this name, though the Gitanos themselves have long since disappeared. Even in the town of Oviedo, in the heart of the Asturias, a province never famous for Gitanos, there is a place called the Gitaneria, though no Gitano has been known to reside in the town within the memory of man, nor indeed been seen, save, perhaps, as a chance visitor at a fair.
The exact period when the Gitanos first formed these colonies within the towns is not known; the laws, however, which commanded them to abandon their wandering life under penalty of banishment and death, and to become stationary in towns, may have induced them first to take such a step. By the first of these laws, which was made by Ferdinand and Isabella as far back as the year 1499, they are commanded to seek out for themselves masters. This injunction they utterly disregarded. Some of them for fear of the law, or from the hope of bettering their condition, may have settled down in the towns, cities, and villages for a time, but to expect that a people, in whose bosoms was so deeply rooted the love of lawless independence, would subject themselves to the yoke of servitude, from any motive whatever, was going too far; as well might it have been expected, according to the words of the great poet of Persia, THAT THEY WOULD HAVE WASHED THEIR SKINS WHITE.
In these Gitanerias, therefore, many Gypsy families resided, but ever in the Gypsy fashion, in filth and in misery, with little of the fear of man, and nothing of the fear of God before their eyes. Here the swarthy children basked naked in the sun before the doors; here the women prepared love draughts, or told the buena ventura; and here the men plied the trade of the blacksmith, a forbidden occupation, or prepared for sale, by disguising them, animals stolen by themselves or their accomplices. In these places were harboured the strange Gitanos on their arrival, and here were discussed in the Rommany language, which, like the Arabic, was forbidden under severe penalties, plans of fraud and plunder, which were perhaps intended to be carried into effect in a distant province and a distant city.
The great body, however, of the Gypsy race in Spain continued independent wanderers of the plains and the mountains, and indeed the denizens of the Gitanerias were continually sallying forth, either for the purpose of reuniting themselves with the wandering tribes, or of strolling about from town to town, and from fair to fair. Hence the continual complaints in the Spanish laws against the Gitanos who have left their places of domicile, from doing which they were interdicted, even as they were interdicted from speaking their language and following the occupations of the blacksmith and horse-dealer, in which they still persist even at the present day.
The Gitanerias at evening fall were frequently resorted to by individuals widely differing in station from the inmates of these places - we allude to the young and dissolute nobility and hidalgos of Spain. This was generally the time of mirth and festival, and the Gitanos, male and female, danced and sang in the Gypsy fashion beneath the smile of the moon. The Gypsy women and girls were the principal attractions to these visitors; wild and singular as these females are in their appearance, there can be no doubt, for the fact has been frequently proved, that they are capable of exciting passion of the most ardent description, particularly in the bosoms of those who are not of their race, which passion of course becomes the more violent when the almost utter impossibility of gratifying it is known. No females in the world can be more licentious in word and gesture, in dance and in song, than the Gitanas; but there they stop: and so of old, if their titled visitors presumed to seek for more, an unsheathed dagger or gleaming knife speedily repulsed those who expected that the gem most dear amongst the sect of the Roma was within the reach of a Busno.
Such visitors, however, were always encouraged to a certain point, and by this and various other means the Gitanos acquired connections which frequently stood them in good stead in the hour of need. What availed it to the honest labourers of the neighbourhood, or the citizens of the town, to make complaints to the corregidor concerning the thefts and frauds committed by the Gitanos, when perhaps the sons of that very corregidor frequented the nightly dances at the Gitaneria, and were deeply enamoured with some of the dark-eyed singing-girls? What availed making complaints, when perhaps a Gypsy sibyl, the mother of those very girls, had free admission to the house of the corregidor at all times and seasons, and spaed the good fortune to his daughters, promising them counts and dukes, and Andalusian knights in marriage, or prepared philtres for his lady by which she was always to reign supreme in the affections of her husband? And, above all, what availed it to the plundered party to complain that his mule or horse had been stolen, when the Gitano robber, perhaps the husband of the sibyl and the father of the black-eyed Gitanillas, was at that moment actually in treaty with my lord the corregidor himself for supplying him with some splendid thick-maned, long-tailed steed at a small price, to be obtained, as the reader may well suppose, by an infraction of the laws? The favour and protection which the Gitanos experienced from people of high rank is alluded to in the Spanish laws, and can only be accounted for by the motives above detailed.
The Gitanerias were soon considered as public nuisances, on which account the
Gitanos were forbidden to live together in particular parts of the town, to hold meetings,
and even to intermarry with each other; yet it does not appear that the Gitanerias were
ever suppressed by the arm of the law, as many still exist where these singular beings
'marry and are given in marriage,' and meet together to discuss their affairs, which, in
their opinion, never flourish unless those of their fellow-creatures suffer. So much for
the Gitanerias, or Gypsy colonies in the towns of Spain.
'LOS Gitanos son muy malos! - the Gypsies are very bad people,' said the Spaniards of old times. They are cheats; they are highwaymen; they practise sorcery; and, lest the catalogue of their offences should be incomplete, a formal charge of cannibalism was brought against them. Cheats they have always been, and highwaymen, and if not sorcerers, they have always done their best to merit that appellation, by arrogating to themselves supernatural powers; but that they were addicted to cannibalism is a matter not so easily proved.
Their principal accuser was Don Juan de Quinones, who, in the work from which we have already had occasion to quote, gives several anecdotes illustrative of their cannibal propensities. Most of these anecdotes, however, are so highly absurd, that none but the very credulous could ever have vouchsafed them the slightest credit. This author is particularly fond of speaking of a certain juez, or judge, called Don Martin Fajardo, who seems to have been an arrant Gypsy-hunter, and was probably a member of the ancient family of the Fajardos, which still flourishes in Estremadura, and with individuals of which we are acquainted. So it came to pass that this personage was, in the year 1629, at Jaraicejo, in Estremadura, or, as it is written in the little book in question, Zaraizejo, in the capacity of judge; a zealous one he undoubtedly was.
A very strange place is this same Jaraicejo, a small ruinous town or village, situated on a rising ground, with a very wild country all about it. The road from Badajoz to Madrid passes through it; and about two leagues distant, in the direction of Madrid, is the famous mountain pass of Mirabete, from the top of which you enjoy a most picturesque view across the Tagus, which flows below, as far as the huge mountains of Plasencia, the tops of which are generally covered with snow.
So this Don Martin Fajardo, judge, being at Jaraicejo, laid his claw upon four Gitanos, and having nothing, as it appears, to accuse them of, except being Gitanos, put them to the torture, and made them accuse themselves, which they did; for, on the first appeal which was made to the rack, they confessed that they had murdered a female Gypsy in the forest of Las Gamas, and had there eaten her. . . .
I am myself well acquainted with this same forest of Las Gamas, which lies between Jaraicejo and Trujillo; it abounds with chestnut and cork trees, and is a place very well suited either for the purpose of murder or cannibalism. It will be as well to observe that I visited it in company with a band of Gitanos, who bivouacked there, and cooked their supper, which however did not consist of human flesh, but of a puchera, the ingredients of which were beef, bacon, garbanzos, and berdolaga, or field-pease and purslain, - therefore I myself can bear testimony that there is such a forest as Las Gamas, and that it is frequented occasionally by Gypsies, by which two points are established by far the most important to the history in question, or so at least it would be thought in Spain, for being sure of the forest and the Gypsies, few would be incredulous enough to doubt the facts of the murder and cannibalism. . . .
On being put to the rack a second time, the Gitanos confessed that they had
likewise murdered and eaten a female pilgrim in the forest aforesaid; and on being
tortured yet again, that they had served in the same manner, and in the same forest, a
friar of the order of San Francisco, whereupon they were released from the rack and
executed. This is one of the anecdotes of Quinones.
Quinones, in continuation, states in his book that he learned (he does not say from whom, but probably from Fajardo) that there was a shepherd of the city of Gaudix, who once lost his way in the wild sierra of Gadol: night came on, and the wind blew cold: he wandered about until he descried a light in the distance, towards which he bent his way, supposing it to be a fire kindled by shepherds: on arriving at the spot, however, he found a whole tribe of Gypsies, who were roasting the half of a man, the other half being hung on a cork-tree: the Gypsies welcomed him very heartily, and requested him to be seated at the fire and to sup with them; but he presently heard them whisper to each other, 'this is a fine fat fellow,' from which he suspected that they were meditating a design upon his body: whereupon, feeling himself sleepy, he made as if he were seeking a spot where to lie, and suddenly darted headlong down the mountain-side, and escaped from their hands without breaking his neck.
These anecdotes scarcely deserve comment; first we have the statement of Fajardo, the fool or knave who tortures wretches, and then puts them to death for the crimes with which they have taxed themselves whilst undergoing the agony of the rack, probably with the hope of obtaining a moment's respite; last comes the tale of the shepherd, who is invited by Gypsies on a mountain at night to partake of a supper of human flesh, and who runs away from them on hearing them talk of the fatness of his own body, as if cannibal robbers detected in their orgies by a single interloper would have afforded him a chance of escaping. Such tales cannot be true. (19)
Cases of cannibalism are said to have occurred in Hungary amongst the Gypsies;
indeed, the whole race, in that country, has been accused of cannibalism, to which we have
alluded whilst speaking of the Chingany: it is very probable, however, that they were
quite innocent of this odious practice, and that the accusation had its origin in popular
prejudice, or in the fact of their foul feeding, and their seldom rejecting carrion or
offal of any description.
Upon this matter we can state nothing on our own knowledge.After the above anecdotes, it will perhaps not be amiss to devote a few lines to the subject of Gypsy food and diet. I believe that it has been asserted that the Romas, in all parts of the world, are perfectly indifferent as to what they eat, provided only that they can appease their hunger; and that they have no objection to partake of the carcasses of animals which have died a natural death, and have been left to putrefy by the roadside; moreover, that they use for food all kinds of reptiles and vermin which they can lay their hands upon.
In this there is a vast deal of exaggeration, but at the same time it must be confessed that, in some instances, the habits of the Gypsies in regard to food would seem, at the first glance, to favour the supposition. This observation chiefly holds good with respect to those of the Gypsy race who still continue in a wandering state, and who, doubtless, retain more of the ways and customs of their forefathers than those who have adopted a stationary life. There can be no doubt that the wanderers amongst the Gypsy race are occasionally seen to feast upon carcasses of cattle which have been abandoned to the birds of the air, yet it would be wrong, from this fact, to conclude that the Gypsies were habitual devourers of carrion. Carrion it is true they may occasionally devour, from want of better food, but many of these carcasses are not in reality the carrion which they appear, but are the bodies of animals which the Gypsies have themselves killed by casting drao, in hope that the flesh may eventually be abandoned to them. It is utterly useless to write about the habits of the Gypsies, especially of the wandering tribes, unless you have lived long and intimately with them; and unhappily, up to the present time, all the books which have been published concerning them have been written by those who have introduced themselves into their society for a few hours, and from what they have seen or heard consider themselves competent to give the world an idea of the manners and customs of the mysterious Rommany: thus, because they have been known to beg the carcass of a hog which they themselves have poisoned, it has been asserted that they prefer carrion which has perished of sickness to the meat of the shambles; and because they have been seen to make a ragout of boror (SNAILS), and to roast a hotchiwitchu or hedgehog, it has been supposed that reptiles of every description form a part of their cuisine. It is high time to undeceive the Gentiles on these points. Know, then, O Gentile, whether thou be from the land of the Gorgios (20) or the Busne (21), that the very Gypsies who consider a ragout of snails a delicious dish will not touch an eel, because it bears resemblance to a SNAKE; and that those who will feast on a roasted hedgehog could be induced by no money to taste a squirrel, a delicious and wholesome species of game, living on the purest and most nutritious food which the fields and forests can supply. I myself, while living among the Roms of England, have been regarded almost in the light of a cannibal for cooking the latter animal and preferring it to hotchiwitchu barbecued, or ragout of boror. 'You are but half Rommany, brother,' they would say, 'and you feed gorgiko-nes (LIKE A GENTILE), even as you talk. Tchachipen (IN TRUTH), if we did not know you to be of the Mecralliskoe rat (ROYAL BLOOD) of Pharaoh, we should be justified in driving you forth as a juggel-mush (DOG MAN), one more fitted to keep company with wild beasts and Gorgios than gentle Rommanys.'
No person can read the present volume without perceiving, at a glance, that the Romas are in most points an anomalous people; in their morality there is much of anomaly, and certainly not less in their cuisine.
'Los Gitanos son muy malos; llevan ninos hurtados a Berberia. The Gypsies are very bad people; they steal children and carry them to Barbary, where they sell them to the Moors' - so said the Spaniards in old times. There can be little doubt that even before the fall of the kingdom of Granada, which occurred in the year 1492, the Gitanos had intercourse with the Moors of Spain. Andalusia, which has ever been the province where the Gitano race has most abounded since its arrival, was, until the edict of Philip the Third, which banished more than a million of Moriscos from Spain, principally peopled by Moors, who differed from the Spaniards both in language and religion. By living even as wanderers amongst these people, the Gitanos naturally became acquainted with their tongue, and with many of their customs, which of course much facilitated any connection which they might subsequently form with the Barbaresques. Between the Moors of Barbary and the Spaniards a deadly and continued war raged for centuries, both before and after the expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain. The Gitanos, who cared probably as little for one nation as the other, and who have no sympathy and affection beyond the pale of their own sect, doubtless sided with either as their interest dictated, officiating as spies for both parties and betraying both.
It is likely enough that they frequently passed over to Barbary with stolen children of both sexes, whom they sold to the Moors, who traffic in slaves, whether white or black, even at the present day; and perhaps this kidnapping trade gave occasion to other relations. As they were perfectly acquainted, from their wandering life, with the shores of the Spanish Mediterranean, they must have been of considerable assistance to the Barbary pirates in their marauding trips to the Spanish coasts, both as guides and advisers; and as it was a far easier matter, and afforded a better prospect of gain, to plunder the Spaniards than the Moors, a people almost as wild as themselves, they were, on that account, and that only, more Moors than Christians, and ever willing to assist the former in their forays on the latter.
Quinones observes: 'The Moors, with whom they hold correspondence, let them go and come without any let or obstacle: an instance of this was seen in the year 1627, when two galleys from Spain were carrying assistance to Marmora, which was then besieged by the Moors. These galleys struck on a shoal, when the Moors seized all the people on board, making captives of the Christians and setting at liberty all the Moors, who were chained to the oar; as for the Gypsy galley-slaves whom they found amongst these last, they did not make them slaves, but received them as people friendly to them, and at their devotion; which matter was public and notorious.'
Of the Moors and the Gitanos we shall have occasion to say something in the following chapter.
THERE is no portion of the world so little known as Africa in general; and perhaps of all Africa there is no corner with which Europeans are so little acquainted as Barbary, which nevertheless is only separated from the continent of Europe by a narrow strait of four leagues across.China itself has, for upwards of a century, ceased to be a land of mystery to the civilised portion of the world; the enterprising children of Loyola having wandered about it in every direction making converts to their doctrine and discipline, whilst the Russians possess better maps of its vast regions than of their own country, and lately, owing to the persevering labour and searching eye of my friend Hyacinth, Archimandrite of Saint John Nefsky, are acquainted with the number of its military force to a man, and also with the names and places of residence of its civil servants. Yet who possesses a map of Fez and Morocco, or would venture to form a conjecture as to how many fiery horsemen Abderrahman, the mulatto emperor, could lead to the field, were his sandy dominions threatened by the Nazarene? Yet Fez is scarcely two hundred leagues distant from Madrid, whilst Maraks, the other great city of the Moors, and which also has given its name to an empire, is scarcely farther removed from Paris, the capital of civilisation: in a word, we scarcely know anything of Barbary, the scanty information which we possess being confined to a few towns on the sea-coast; the zeal of the Jesuit himself being insufficient to induce him to confront the perils of the interior, in the hopeless endeavour of making one single proselyte from amongst the wildest fanatics of the creed of the Prophet Camel-driver.
Are wanderers of the Gypsy race to be found in Barbary? This is a question which I have frequently asked myself. Several respectable authors have, I believe, asserted the fact, amongst whom Adelung, who, speaking of the Gypsies, says: 'Four hundred years have passed away since they departed from their native land. During this time, they have spread themselves through the whole of Western Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa.' (22) But it is one thing to make an assertion, and another to produce the grounds for making it. I believe it would require a far greater stock of information than has hitherto been possessed by any one who has written on the subject of the Gypsies, to justify him in asserting positively that after traversing the west of Europe, they spread themselves over Northern Africa, though true it is that to those who take a superficial view of the matter, nothing appears easier and more natural than to come to such a conclusion.
Tarifa, they will say, the most western part of Spain, is opposite to Tangier, in Africa, a narrow sea only running between, less wide than many rivers. Bands, therefore, of these wanderers, of course, on reaching Tarifa, passed over into Africa, even as thousands crossed the channel from France to England. They have at all times shown themselves extravagantly fond of a roving life. What land is better adapted for such a life than Africa and its wilds? What land, therefore, more likely to entice them?
All this is very plausible. It was easy enough for the Gitanos to pass over to Tangier and Tetuan from the Spanish towns of Tarifa and Algeziras. In the last chapter I have stated my belief of the fact, and that moreover they formed certain connections with the Moors of the coast, to whom it is likely that they occasionally sold children stolen in Spain; yet such connection would by no means have opened them a passage into the interior of Barbary, which is inhabited by wild and fierce people, in comparison with whom the Moors of the coast, bad as they always have been, are gentle and civilised.
To penetrate into Africa, the Gitanos would have been compelled to pass through the tribes who speak the Shilha language, and who are the descendants of the ancient Numidians. These tribes are the most untamable and warlike of mankind, and at the same time the most suspicious, and those who entertain the greatest aversion to foreigners. They are dreaded by the Moors themselves, and have always remained, to a certain degree, independent of the emperors of Morocco. They are the most terrible of robbers and murderers, and entertain far more reluctance to spill water than the blood of their fellow-creatures: the Bedouins, also, of the Arabian race, are warlike, suspicious, and cruel; and would not have failed instantly to attack bands of foreign wanderers, wherever they found them, and in all probability would have exterminated them. Now the Gitanos, such as they arrived in Barbary, could not have defended themselves against such enemies, had they even arrived in large divisions, instead of bands of twenties and thirties, as is their custom to travel. They are not by nature nor by habit a warlike race, and would have quailed before the Africans, who, unlike most other people, engage in wars from what appears to be an innate love of the cruel and bloody scenes attendant on war.
It may be said, that if the Gitanos were able to make their way from the north of India, from Multan, for example, the province which the learned consider to be the original dwelling-place of the race, to such an immense distance as the western part of Spain, passing necessarily through many wild lands and tribes, why might they not have penetrated into the heart of Barbary, and wherefore may not their descendants be still there, following the same kind of life as the European Gypsies, that is, wandering about from place to place, and maintaining themselves by deceit and robbery?
But those who are acquainted but slightly with the condition of Barbary are aware that it would be less difficult and dangerous for a company of foreigners to proceed from Spain to Multan, than from the nearest seaport in Barbary to Fez, an insignificant distance.
True it is, that, from their intercourse with the Moors of Spain, the Gypsies
might have become acquainted with the Arabic language, and might even have adopted the
Moorish dress, ere entering Barbary; and, moreover, might have professed belief in the
religion of Mahomet; still they would have been known as foreigners, and, on that account,
would have been assuredly attacked by the people of the interior, had they gone amongst
them, who, according to the usual practice, would either have massacred them or made them
slaves; and as slaves, they would have been separated. The mulatto hue of their
countenances would probably have insured them the latter fate, as all blacks and mulattos
in the dominions of the Moor are properly slaves, and can be bought and sold, unless by
some means or other they become free, in which event their colour is no obstacle to their
elevation to the highest employments and dignities, to their becoming pashas of cities and
provinces, or even to their ascending the throne. Several emperors of Morocco have been
There is in Barbary more than one sect of wanderers, which, to the cursory observer, might easily appear, and perhaps have appeared, in the right of legitimate Gypsies. For example, there are the Beni Aros. The proper home of these people is in certain high mountains in the neighbourhood of Tetuan, but they are to be found roving about the whole kingdom of Fez. Perhaps it would be impossible to find, in the whole of Northern Africa, a more detestable caste. They are beggars by profession, but are exceedingly addicted to robbery and murder; they are notorious drunkards, and are infamous, even in Barbary, for their unnatural lusts. They are, for the most part, well made and of comely features. I have occasionally spoken with them; they are Moors, and speak no language but the Arabic.
Then there is the sect of Sidi Hamed au Muza, a very roving people, companies of whom are generally to be found in all the principal towns of Barbary. The men are expert vaulters and tumblers, and perform wonderful feats of address with swords and daggers, to the sound of wild music, which the women, seated on the ground, produce from uncouth instruments; by these means they obtain a livelihood. Their dress is picturesque, scarlet vest and white drawers. In many respects they not a little resemble the Gypsies; but they are not an evil people, and are looked upon with much respect by the Moors, who call them Santons. Their patron saint is Hamed au Muza, and from him they derive their name. Their country is on the confines of the Sahara, or great desert, and their language is the Shilhah, or a dialect thereof. They speak but little Arabic. When I saw them for the first time, I believed them to be of the Gypsy caste, but was soon undeceived. A more wandering race does not exist than the children of Sidi Hamed au Muza. They have even visited France, and exhibited their dexterity and agility at Paris and Marseilles.
I will now say a few words concerning another sect which exists in Barbary, and will here premise, that if those who compose it are not Gypsies, such people are not to be found in North Africa, and the assertion, hitherto believed, that they abound there, is devoid of foundation. I allude to certain men and women, generally termed by the Moors 'Those of the Dar-bushi-fal,' which word is equivalent to prophesying or fortune-telling. They are great wanderers, but have also their fixed dwellings or villages, and such a place is called 'Char Seharra,' or witch-hamlet. Their manner of life, in every respect, resembles that of the Gypsies of other countries; they are wanderers during the greatest part of the year, and subsist principally by pilfering and fortune-telling. They deal much in mules and donkeys, and it is believed, in Barbary, that they can change the colour of any animal by means of sorcery, and so disguise him as to sell him to his very proprietor, without fear of his being recognised. This latter trait is quite characteristic of the Gypsy race, by whom the same thing is practised in most parts of the world. But the Moors assert, that the children of the Dar-bushi-fal can not only change the colour of a horse or a mule, but likewise of a human being, in one night, transforming a white into a black, after which they sell him for a slave; on which account the superstitious Moors regard them with the utmost dread, and in general prefer passing the night in the open fields to sleeping in their hamlets. They are said to possess a particular language, which is neither Shilhah nor Arabic, and which none but themselves understand; from all which circumstances I am led to believe, that the children of the Dar-bushi-fal are legitimate Gypsies, descendants of those who passed over to Barbary from Spain. Nevertheless, as it has never been my fortune to meet or to converse with any of this caste, though they are tolerably numerous in Barbary, I am far from asserting that they are of Gypsy race. More enterprising individuals than myself may, perhaps, establish the fact. Any particular language or jargon which they speak amongst themselves will be the best criterion. The word which they employ for 'water' would decide the point; for the Dar-bushi-fal are not Gypsies, if, in their peculiar speech, they designate that blessed element and article most necessary to human existence by aught else than the Sanscrit term 'Pani,' a word brought by the race from sunny Ind, and esteemed so holy that they have never even presumed to modify it.
The following is an account of the Dar-bushi-fal, given me by a Jew of Fez, who had travelled much in Barbary, and which I insert almost literally as I heard it from his mouth. Various other individuals, Moors, have spoken of them in much the same manner.
'In one of my journeys I passed the night in a place called Mulai-Jacub Munsur.'Not far from this place is a Char Seharra, or witch-hamlet, where dwell those of the Dar-bushi-fal. These are very evil people, and powerful enchanters; for it is well known that if any traveller stop to sleep in their Char, they will with their sorceries, if he be a white man, turn him as black as a coal, and will afterwards sell him as a negro. Horses and mules they serve in the same manner, for if they are black, they will turn them red, or any other colour which best may please them; and although the owners demand justice of the authorities, the sorcerers always come off best. They have a language which they use among themselves, very different from all other languages, so much so that it is impossible to understand them. They are very swarthy, quite as much so as mulattos, and their faces are exceedingly lean. As for their legs, they are like reeds; and when they run, the devil himself cannot overtake them. They tell Dar-bushi-fal with flour; they fill a plate, and then they are able to tell you anything you ask them. They likewise tell it with a shoe; they put it in their mouth, and then they will recall to your memory every action of your life. They likewise tell Dar-bushi-fal with oil; and indeed are, in every respect, most powerful sorcerers.
'Two women, once on a time, came to Fez, bringing with them an exceedingly white donkey, which they placed in the middle of the square called Faz el Bali; they then killed it, and cut it into upwards of thirty pieces. Upon the ground there was much of the donkey's filth and dung; some of this they took in their hands, when it straight assumed the appearance of fresh dates. There were some people who were greedy enough to put these dates into their mouths, and then they found that it was dung. These women deceived me amongst the rest with a date; when I put it into my mouth, lo and behold it was the donkey's dung. After they had collected much money from the spectators, one of them took a needle, and ran it into the tail of the donkey, crying "Arrhe li dar" (Get home), whereupon the donkey instantly rose up, and set off running, kicking every now and then most furiously; and it was remarked, that not one single trace of blood remained upon the ground, just as if they had done nothing to it. Both these women were of the very same Char Seharra which I have already mentioned. They likewise took paper, and cut it into the shape of a peseta, and a dollar, and a half-dollar, until they had made many pesetas and dollars, and then they put them into an earthen pan over a fire, and when they took them out, they appeared just fresh from the stamp, and with such money these people buy all they want.
'There was a friend of my grandfather, who came frequently to our house, who was in the habit of making this money. One day he took me with him to buy white silk; and when they had shown him some, he took the silk in his hand, and pressed it to his mouth, and then I saw that the silk, which was before white, had become green, even as grass. The master of the shop said, "Pay me for my silk." "Of what colour was your silk?" he demanded. "White," said the man; whereupon, turning round, he cried, "Good people, behold, the white silk is green"; and so he got a pound of silk for nothing; and he also was of the Char Seharra.
'They are very evil people indeed, and the emperor himself is afraid of them. The poor wretch who falls into their hands has cause to rue; they always go badly dressed, and exhibit every appearance of misery, though they are far from being miserable. Such is the life they lead.'There is, of course, some exaggeration in the above account of the Dar-bushi-fal; yet there is little reason to doubt that there is a foundation of truth in all the facts stated. The belief that they are enabled, by sorcery, to change a white into a black man had its origin in the great skill which they possess in altering the appearance of a horse or a mule, and giving it another colour. Their changing white into green silk is a very simple trick, and is accomplished by dexterously substituting one thing for another. Had the man of the Dar-bushi-fal been searched, the white silk would have been found upon him. The Gypsies, wherever they are found, are fond of this species of fraud. In Germany, for example, they go to the wine-shop with two pitchers exactly similar, one in their hand empty, and the other beneath their cloaks filled with water; when the empty pitcher is filled with wine they pretend to be dissatisfied with the quality, or to have no money, but contrive to substitute the pitcher of water in its stead, which the wine-seller generally snatches up in anger, and pours the contents back, as he thinks, into the butt - but it is not wine but water which he pours. With respect to the donkey, which APPEARED to be cut in pieces, but which afterwards, being pricked in the tail, got up and ran home, I have little to say, but that I have myself seen almost as strange things without believing in sorcery.As for the dates of dung, and the paper money, they are mere feats of legerdemain.
I repeat, that if legitimate Gypsies really exist in Barbary, they are the men
and women of the Dar-bushi-fal.
CHIROMANCY, or the divination of the hand, is, according to the orthodox theory, the determining from certain lines upon the hand the quality of the physical and intellectual powers of the possessor.
The whole science is based upon the five principal lines in the hand, and the triangle which they form in the palm. These lines, which have all their particular and appropriate names, and the principal of which is called 'the line of life,' are, if we may believe those who have written on the subject, connected with the heart, with the genitals, with the brain, with the liver or stomach, and the head. Torreblanca, (23) in his curious and learned book on magic, observes: 'In judging these lines you must pay attention to their substance, colour, and continuance, together with the disposition of the correspondent member; for, if the line be well and clearly described, and is of a vivid colour, without being intermitted or PUNCTURIS INFECTA, it denotes the good complexion and virtue of its member, according to Aristotle.'So that if the line of the heart be found sufficiently long and reasonably deep, and not crossed by other accidental lines, it is an infallible sign of the health of the heart and the great virtue of the heart, and the abundance of spirits and good blood in the heart, and accordingly denotes boldness and liberal genius for every work.'In like manner, by means of the hepatal line, it is easy to form an accurate judgment as to the state of a person's liver, and of his powers of digestion, and so on with respect to all the other organs of the body.
After having laid down all the rules of chiromancy with the utmost possible clearness, the sage Torreblanca exclaims: 'And with these terminate the canons of true and catholic chiromancy; for as for the other species by which people pretend to divine concerning the affairs of life, either past or to come, dignities, fortunes, children, events, chances, dangers, etc., such chiromancy is not only reprobated by theologians, but by men of law and physic, as a foolish, false, vain, scandalous, futile, superstitious practice, smelling much of divinery and a pact with the devil.'Then, after mentioning a number of erudite and enlightened men of the three learned professions, who have written against such absurd superstitions, amongst whom he cites Martin Del Rio, he falls foul of the Gypsy wives in this manner: 'A practice turned to profit by the wives of that rabble of abandoned miscreants whom the Italians call Cingari, the Latins Egyptians, and we Gitanos, who, notwithstanding that they are sent by the Turks into Spain for the purpose of acting as spies upon the Christian religion, pretend that they are wandering over the world in fulfilment of a penance enjoined upon them, part of which penance seems to be the living by fraud and imposition.' And shortly afterwards he remarks: 'Nor do they derive any authority for such a practice from those words in Exodus, (24) "et quasi signum in manu tua," as that passage does not treat of chiromancy, but of the festival of unleavened bread; the observance of which, in order that it might be memorable to the Hebrews, the sacred historian said should be as a sign upon the hand; a metaphor derived from those who, when they wish to remember anything, tie a thread round their finger, or put a ring upon it; and still less I ween does that chapter of Job (25) speak in their favour, where is written, "Qui in manu hominis signat, ut norint omnes opera sua," because the divine power is meant thereby which is preached to those here below: for the hand is intended for power and magnitude, Exod. chap. xiv., (26) or stands for free will, which is placed in a man's hand, that is, in his power. Wisdom, chap. xxxvi. "In manibus abscondit lucem," (27) etc. etc. etc.
No, no, good Torreblanca, we know perfectly well that the witch-wives of Multan, who for the last four hundred years have been running about Spain and other countries, telling fortunes by the hand, and deriving good profit from the same, are not countenanced in such a practice by the sacred volume; we yield as little credit to their chiromancy as we do to that which you call the true and catholic, and believe that the lines of the hand have as little connection with the events of life as with the liver and stomach, notwithstanding Aristotle, who you forget was a heathen, and knew as little and cared as little for the Scriptures as the Gitanos, whether male or female, who little reck what sanction any of their practices may receive from authority, whether divine or human, if the pursuit enable them to provide sufficient for the existence, however poor and miserable, of their families and themselves.
A very singular kind of women are the Gitanas, far more remarkable in most
points than their husbands, in whose pursuits of low cheating and petty robbery there is
little capable of exciting much interest; but if there be one being in the world who, more
than another, deserves the title of sorceress (and where do you find a word of greater
romance and more thrilling interest?), it is the Gypsy female in the prime and vigour of
her age and ripeness of her understanding - the Gypsy wife, the mother of two or three
children. Mention to me a point of devilry with which that woman is not acquainted. She
can at any time, when it suits her, show herself as expert a jockey as her husband, and he
appears to advantage in no other character, and is only eloquent when descanting on the
merits of some particular animal; but she can do much more: she is a prophetess, though
she believes not in prophecy; she is a physician, though she will not taste her own
philtres; she is a procuress, though she is not to be procured; she is a singer of obscene
songs, though she will suffer no obscene hand to touch her; and though no one is more
tenacious of the little she possesses, she is a cutpurse and a shop-lifter whenever
opportunity shall offer.In all times, since we have known anything of these women, they
have been addicted to and famous for fortune-telling; indeed, it is their only ostensible
means of livelihood, though they have various others which they pursue more secretly.
Where and how they first learned the practice we know not; they may have brought it with
them from the East, or they may have adopted it, which is less likely, after their arrival
There is no female eye in Seville can support the glance of hers, - so fierce and penetrating, and yet so artful and sly, is the expression of their dark orbs; her mouth is fine and almost delicate, and there is not a queen on the proudest throne between Madrid and Moscow who might not and would not envy the white and even rows of teeth which adorn it, which seem not of pearl but of the purest elephant's bone of Multan. She comes not alone; a swarthy two-year-old bantling clasps her neck with one arm, its naked body half extant from the coarse blanket which, drawn round her shoulders, is secured at her bosom by a skewer. Though tender of age, it looks wicked and sly, like a veritable imp of Roma. Huge rings of false gold dangle from wide slits in the lobes of her ears; her nether garments are rags, and her feet are cased in hempen sandals. Such is the wandering Gitana, such is the witch-wife of Multan, who has come to spae the fortune of the Sevillian countess and her daughters.
'O may the blessing of Egypt light upon your head, you high-born lady! (May an evil end overtake your body, daughter of a Busnee harlot!) and may the same blessing await the two fair roses of the Nile here flowering by your side! (May evil Moors seize them and carry them across the water!) O listen to the words of the poor woman who is come from a distant country; she is of a wise people, though it has pleased the God of the sky to punish them for their sins by sending them to wander through the world. They denied shelter to the Majari, whom you call the queen of heaven, and to the Son of God, when they flew to the land of Egypt before the wrath of the wicked king; it is said that they even refused them a draught of the sweet waters of the great river when the blessed two were athirst. O you will say that it was a heavy crime; and truly so it was, and heavily has the Lord punished the Egyptians. He has sent us a-wandering, poor as you see, with scarcely a blanket to cover us. O blessed lady, (Accursed be thy dead, as many as thou mayest have,) we have no money to buy us bread; we have only our wisdom with which to support ourselves and our poor hungry babes; when God took away their silks from the Egyptians, and their gold from the Egyptians, he left them their wisdom as a resource that they might not starve. O who can read the stars like the Egyptians? and who can read the lines of the palm like the Egyptians? The poor woman read in the stars that there was a rich ventura for all of this goodly house, so she followed the bidding of the stars and came to declare it. O blessed lady, (I defile thy dead corse,) your husband is at Granada, fighting with king Ferdinand against the wild Corahai! (May an evil ball smite him and split his head!) Within three months he shall return with twenty captive Moors, round the neck of each a chain of gold. (God grant that when he enter the house a beam may fall upon him and crush him!) And within nine months after his return God shall bless you with a fair chabo, the pledge for which you have sighed so long. (Accursed be the salt placed in its mouth in the church when it is baptized!) Your palm, blessed lady, your palm, and the palms of all I see here, that I may tell you all the rich ventura which is hanging over this good house; (May evil lightning fall upon it and consume it!) but first let me sing you a song of Egypt, that the spirit of the Chowahanee may descend more plenteously upon the poor woman.'
Her demeanour now instantly undergoes a change. Hitherto she has been pouring forth a lying and wild harangue without much flurry or agitation of manner. Her speech, it is true, has been rapid, but her voice has never been raised to a very high key; but she now stamps on the ground, and placing her hands on her hips, she moves quickly to the right and left, advancing and retreating in a sidelong direction. Her glances become more fierce and fiery, and her coarse hair stands erect on her head, stiff as the prickles of the hedgehog; and now she commences clapping her hands, and uttering words of an unknown tongue, to a strange and uncouth tune.
The tawny bantling seems inspired with the same fiend, and, foaming at the mouth, utters wild sounds, in imitation of its dam. Still more rapid become the sidelong movements of the Gitana. Movement! she springs, she bounds, and at every bound she is a yard above the ground. She no longer bears the child in her bosom; she plucks it from thence, and fiercely brandishes it aloft, till at last, with a yell she tosses it high into the air, like a ball, and then, with neck and head thrown back, receives it, as it falls, on her hands and breast, extracting a cry from the terrified beholders. Is it possible she can be singing? Yes, in the wildest style of her people; and here is a snatch of the song, in the language of Roma, which she occasionally screams -
'En los sastos de yesque plai me diquelo,
'On the top of a mountain I stand,
Such was the Gitana in the days of Ferdinand and Isabella, and much the same is she now in the days of Isabel and Christina.
Of the Gitanas and their practices I shall have much to say on a future
occasion, when speaking of those of the present time, with many of whom I have had no
little intercourse. All the ancient Spanish authors who mention these women speak of them
in unmeasured terms of abhorrence, employing against them every abusive word contained in
the language in which they wrote. Amongst other vile names, they have been called harlots,
though perhaps no females on earth are, and have ever been, more chaste in their own
persons, though at all times willing to encourage licentiousness in others, from a hope of
gain. It is one thing to be a procuress, and another to be a harlot, though the former has
assuredly no reason to complain if she be confounded with the latter.
The author of Alonso, (29) he who of all the old Spanish writers has written most graphically concerning the Gitanos, and I believe with most correctness, puts the following account of the Gitanas, and their fortune-telling practices, into the entertaining mouth of his hero:-
'O how many times did these Gitanas carry me along with them, for being, after all, women, even they have their fears, and were glad of me as a protector: and so they went through the neighbouring villages, and entered the houses a-begging, giving to understand thereby their poverty and necessity, and then they would call aside the girls, in order to tell them the buena ventura, and the young fellows the good luck which they were to enjoy, never failing in the first place to ask for a cuarto or real, in order to make the sign of the cross; and with these flattering words, they got as much as they could, although, it is true, not much in money, as their harvest in that article was generally slight; but enough in bacon to afford subsistence to their husbands and bantlings. I looked on and laughed at the simplicity of those foolish people, who, especially such as wished to be married, were as satisfied and content with what the Gitana told them, as if an apostle had spoken it.'
The above description of Gitanas telling fortunes amongst the villages of Navarre, and which was written by a Spanish author at the commencement of the seventeenth century, is, in every respect, applicable, as the reader will not fail to have observed, to the English Gypsy women of the present day, engaged in the same occupation in the rural districts of England, where the first demand of the sibyls is invariably a sixpence, in order that they may cross their hands with silver, and where the same promises are made, and as easily believed; all which, if it serves to confirm the opinion that in all times the practices and habits of the Egyptian race have been, in almost all respects, the same as at the present day, brings us also to the following mortifying conclusion, - that mental illumination, amongst the generality of mankind, has made no progress at all; as we observe in the nineteenth century the same gross credulity manifested as in the seventeenth, and the inhabitants of one of the countries most celebrated for the arts of civilisation, imposed upon by the same stale tricks which served to deceive two centuries before in Spain, a country whose name has long and justly been considered as synonymous with every species of ignorance and barbarism.
The same author, whilst speaking of these female Thugs, relates an anecdote very characteristic of them; a device at which they are adepts, which they love to employ, and which is generally attended with success. It is the more deserving attention, as an instance of the same description, attended with very similar circumstances, occurred within the sphere of my own knowledge in my own country. This species of deceit is styled, in the peculiar language of the Rommany, HOKKANO BARO, or the 'great trick'; it being considered by the women as their most fruitful source of plunder. The story, as related by Alonso, runs as follows:-
'A band of Gitanos being in the neighbourhood of a village, one of the women went to a house where lived a lady alone. This lady was a young widow, rich, without children, and of very handsome person. After having saluted her, the Gypsy repeated the harangue which she had already studied, to the effect that there was neither bachelor, widower, nor married man, nobleman, nor gallant, endowed with a thousand graces, who was not dying for love of her; and then continued: "Lady, I have contracted a great affection for you, and since I know that you well merit the riches you possess, notwithstanding you live heedless of your good fortune, I wish to reveal to you a secret. You must know, then, that in your cellar you have a vast treasure; nevertheless you will experience great difficulty in arriving at it, as it is enchanted, and to remove it is impossible, save alone on the eve of Saint John. We are now at the eighteenth of June, and it wants five days to the twenty-third; therefore, in the meanwhile, collect some jewels of gold and silver, and likewise some money, whatever you please, provided it be not copper, and provide six tapers, of white or yellow wax, for at the time appointed I will come with a sister of mine, when we will extract from the cellar such abundance of riches, that you will be able to live in a style which will excite the envy of the whole country." The ignorant widow, hearing these words, put implicit confidence in the deceiver, and imagined that she already possessed all the gold of Arabia and the silver of Potosi.
'The appointed day arrived, and not more punctual were the two Gypsies, than anxiously expected by the lady. Being asked whether she had prepared all as she had been desired, she replied in the affirmative, when the Gypsy thus addressed her: "You must know, good lady, that gold calls forth gold, and silver calls forth silver; let us light these tapers, and descend to the cellar before it grows late, in order that we may have time for our conjurations." Thereupon the trio, the widow and the two Gypsies, went down, and having lighted the tapers and placed them in candlesticks in the shape of a circle, they deposited in the midst a silver tankard, with some pieces of eight, and some corals tipped with gold, and other jewels of small value. They then told the lady, that it was necessary for them all to return to the staircase by which they had descended to the cellar, and there they uplifted their hands, and remained for a short time as if engaged in prayer.
'The two Gypsies then bade the widow wait for them, and descended again, when
they commenced holding a conversation, speaking and answering alternately, and altering
their voices in such a manner that five or six people appeared to be in the cellar.
"Blessed little Saint John," said one, "will it be possible to remove the
treasure which you keep hidden here?" "O yes, and with a little more trouble it
will be yours," replied the Gypsy sister, altering her voice to a thin treble, as if
it proceeded from a child four or five years old. In the meantime, the lady remained
astonished, expecting the promised riches, and the two Gitanas presently coming to her,
said, "Come up, lady, for our desire is upon the point of being gratified. Bring down
the best petticoat, gown, and mantle which you have in your chest, that I may dress
myself, and appear in other guise to what I do now." The simple woman, not perceiving
the trick they were playing upon her, ascended with them to the doorway, and leaving them
alone, went to fetch the things which they demanded.
Amongst the crimes laid to their charge, connected with the exercise of occult
powers, there is one, however, of which they were certainly not capable, as it is a purely
imaginary one, though if they were punished for it, they had assuredly little right to
complain, as the chastisement they met was fully merited by practices equally malefic as
the crime imputed to them, provided that were possible. IT WAS CASTING THE EVIL EYE.
IN the Gitano language, casting the evil eye is called QUERELAR NASULA, which simply means making sick, and which, according to the common superstition, is accomplished by casting an evil look at people, especially children, who, from the tenderness of their constitution, are supposed to be more easily blighted than those of a more mature age. After receiving the evil glance, they fall sick, and die in a few hours.
The Spaniards have very little to say respecting the evil eye, though the belief in it is very prevalent, especially in Andalusia amongst the lower orders. A stag's horn is considered a good safeguard, and on that account a small horn, tipped with silver, is frequently attached to the children's necks by means of a cord braided from the hair of a black mare's tail. Should the evil glance be cast, it is imagined that the horn receives it, and instantly snaps asunder. Such horns may be purchased in some of the silversmiths' shops at Seville.
The Gitanos have nothing more to say on this species of sorcery than the Spaniards, which can cause but little surprise, when we consider that they have no traditions, and can give no rational account of themselves, nor of the country from which they come.
Some of the women, however, pretend to have the power of casting it, though if questioned how they accomplish it, they can return no answer. They will likewise sell remedies for the evil eye, which need not be particularised, as they consist of any drugs which they happen to possess or be acquainted with; the prescribers being perfectly reckless as to the effect produced on the patient, provided they receive their paltry reward.
I have known these beings offer to cure the glanders in a horse (an incurable disorder) with the very same powders which they offer as a specific for the evil eye.
Leaving, therefore, for a time, the Spaniards and Gitanos, whose ideas on this
subject are very scanty and indistinct, let us turn to other nations amongst whom this
superstition exists, and endeavour to ascertain on what it is founded, and in what it
The evil eye is mentioned in Scripture, but of course not in the false and superstitious sense; evil in the eye, which occurs in Prov. xxiii. v. 6, merely denoting niggardness and illiberality. The Hebrew words are AIN RA, and stand in contradistinction to AIN TOUB, or the benignant in eye, which denotes an inclination to bounty and liberality.
It is imagined that this blight is most easily inflicted when a person is enjoying himself with little or no care for the future, when he is reclining in the sun before the door, or when he is full of health and spirits: it may be cast designedly or not; and the same effect may be produced by an inadvertent word. It is deemed partially unlucky to say to any person, 'How well you look'; as the probabilities are that such an individual will receive a sudden blight and pine away. We have however no occasion to go to Hindoos, Turks, and Jews for this idea; we shall find it nearer home, or something akin to it. Is there one of ourselves, however enlightened and free from prejudice, who would not shrink, even in the midst of his highest glee and enjoyment, from saying, 'How happy I am!' or if the words inadvertently escaped him, would he not consider them as ominous of approaching evil, and would he not endeavour to qualify them by saying, 'God preserve me!' - Ay, God preserve you, brother! Who knows what the morrow will bring forth?
The common remedy for the evil eye, in the East, is the spittle of the person
who has cast it, provided it can be obtained. 'Spit in the face of my child,' said the Jew
of Janina to the Greek physician: recourse is had to the same means in Barbary, where the
superstition is universal. In that country both Jews and Moors carry papers about with
them scrawled with hieroglyphics, which are prepared by their respective priests, and
sold. These papers, placed in a little bag, and hung about the person, are deemed
infallible preservatives from the 'evil eye.'
'Whosoever when about to enter into a city is afraid of evil eyes, let him grasp the thumb of his right hand with his left hand, and his left-hand thumb with his right hand, and let him cry in this manner: "I am such a one, son of such a one, sprung from the seed of Joseph"; and the evil eyes shall not prevail against him. JOSEPH IS A FRUITFUL BOUGH, A FRUITFUL BOUGH BY A WELL, (31) etc. Now you should not say BY A WELL, but OVER AN EYE. (32) Rabbi Joseph Bar Henina makes the following deduction: AND THEY SHALL BECOME (the seed of Joseph) LIKE FISHES IN MULTITUDE IN THE MIDST OF THE EARTH. (33) Now the fishes of the sea are covered by the waters, and the evil eye has no power over them; and so over those of the seed of Joseph the evil eye has no power.'
I have been thus diffuse upon the evil eye, because of late years it has been a
common practice of writers to speak of it without apparently possessing any farther
knowledge of the subject than what may be gathered from the words themselves.Like most
other superstitions, it is, perhaps, founded on a physical reality.I have observed, that
only in hot countries, where the sun and moon are particularly dazzling, the belief in the
evil eye is prevalent.
The northern nations have a superstition which bears some resemblance to the
evil eye, when allowance is made for circumstances. They have no brilliant sun and moon to
addle the brain and poison the eye, but the grey north has its marshes, and fenny ground,
and fetid mists, which produce agues, low fevers, and moping madness, and are as fatal to
cattle as to man. Such disorders are attributed to elves and fairies. This superstition
still lingers in some parts of England under the name of elf-shot, whilst, throughout the
north, it is called elle-skiod, and elle-vild (fairy wild). It is particularly prevalent
amongst shepherds and cow-herds, the people who, from their manner of life, are most
exposed to the effects of the elf-shot. Those who wish to know more of this superstition
are referred to Thiele's - DANSKE FOLKESAGN, and to the notes of the KOEMPE-VISER, or
popular Danish Ballads.
WHEN the six hundred
thousand men, (34) and the mixed multitude of women and children, went forth from the land
of Egypt, the God whom they worshipped, the only true God, went before them by day in a
pillar of cloud, to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them
light; this God who rescued them from slavery, who guided them through the wilderness, who
was their captain in battle, and who cast down before them the strong walls which
encompassed the towns of their enemies, this God they still remember, after the lapse of
more than three thousand years, and still worship with adoration the most unbounded. If
there be one event in the eventful history of the Hebrews which awakens in their minds
deeper feelings of gratitude than another, it is the exodus; and that wonderful
manifestation of olden mercy still serves them as an assurance that the Lord will yet one
day redeem and gather together his scattered and oppressed people.
They brought with them no Indian idols, as far as we are able to judge at the present time, nor indeed Indian rites or observances, for no traces of such are to be discovered amongst them.All, therefore, which relates to their original religion is shrouded in mystery, and is likely so to remain. They may have been idolaters, or atheists, or what they now are, totally neglectful of worship of any kind; and though not exactly prepared to deny the existence of a Supreme Being, as regardless of him as if he existed not, and never mentioning his name, save in oaths and blasphemy, or in moments of pain or sudden surprise, as they have heard other people do, but always without any fixed belief, trust, or hope.
There are certainly some points of resemblance between the children of Roma and those of Israel. Both have had an exodus, both are exiles and dispersed amongst the Gentiles, by whom they are hated and despised, and whom they hate and despise, under the names of Busnees and Goyim; both, though speaking the language of the Gentiles, possess a peculiar tongue, which the latter do not understand, and both possess a peculiar cast of countenance, by which they may, without difficulty, be distinguished from all other nations; but with these points the similarity terminates. The Israelites have a peculiar religion, to which they are fanatically attached; the Romas have none, as they invariably adopt, though only in appearance, that of the people with whom they chance to sojourn; the Israelites possess the most authentic history of any people in the world, and are acquainted with and delight to recapitulate all that has befallen their race, from ages the most remote; the Romas have no history, they do not even know the name of their original country; and the only tradition which they possess, that of their Egyptian origin, is a false one, whether invented by themselves or others; the Israelites are of all people the most wealthy, the Romas the most poor - poor as a Gypsy being proverbial amongst some nations, though both are equally greedy of gain; and finally, though both are noted for peculiar craft and cunning, no people are more ignorant than the Romas, whilst the Jews have always been a learned people, being in possession of the oldest literature in the world, and certainly the most important and interesting.
Sad and weary must have been the path of the mixed rabble of the Romas, when they left India's sunny land and wended their way to the West, in comparison with the glorious exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, whose God went before them in cloud and in fire, working miracles and astonishing the hearts of their foes.Even supposing that they worshipped Buddh or Brahmah, neither of these false deities could have accomplished for them what God effected for his chosen people, although it is true that the idea that a Supreme Being was watching over them, in return for the reverence paid to his image, might have cheered them 'midst storm and lightning, 'midst mountains and wildernesses, 'midst hunger and drought; for it is assuredly better to trust even in an idol, in a tree, or a stone, than to be entirely godless; and the most superstitious hind of the Himalayan hills, who trusts in the Grand Foutsa in the hour of peril and danger, is more wise than the most enlightened atheist, who cherishes no consoling delusion to relieve his mind, oppressed by the terrible ideas of reality.
But it is evident that they arrived at the confines of Europe without any certain or rooted faith. Knowing, as we do, with what tenacity they retain their primitive habits and customs, their sect being, in all points, the same as it was four hundred years ago, it appears impossible that they should have forgotten their peculiar god, if in any peculiar god they trusted.
Though cloudy ideas of the Indian deities might be occasionally floating in their minds, these ideas, doubtless, quickly passed away when they ceased to behold the pagodas and temples of Indian worship, and were no longer in contact with the enthusiastic adorers of the idols of the East; they passed away even as the dim and cloudy ideas which they subsequently adopted of the Eternal and His Son, Mary and the saints, would pass away when they ceased to be nourished by the sight of churches and crosses; for should it please the Almighty to reconduct the Romas to Indian climes, who can doubt that within half a century they would entirely forget all connected with the religion of the West! Any poor shreds of that faith which they bore with them they would drop by degrees as they would relinquish their European garments when they became old, and as they relinquished their Asiatic ones to adopt those of Europe; no particular dress makes a part of the things essential to the sect of Roma, so likewise no particular god and no particular religion.
Where these people first assumed the name of Egyptians, or where that title was first bestowed upon them, it is difficult to determine; perhaps, however, in the eastern parts of Europe, where it should seem the grand body of this nation of wanderers made a halt for a considerable time, and where they are still to be found in greater numbers than in any other part. One thing is certain, that when they first entered Germany, which they speedily overran, they appeared under the character of Egyptians, doing penance for the sin of having refused hospitality to the Virgin and her Son, and, of course, as believers in the Christian faith, notwithstanding that they subsisted by the perpetration of every kind of robbery and imposition; Aventinus (ANNALES BOIORUM, 826) speaking of them says: 'Adeo tamen vana superstitio hominum mentes, velut lethargus invasit, ut eos violari nefas putet, atque grassari, furari, imponere passim sinant.'
This singular story of banishment from Egypt, and Wandering through the world for a period of seven years, for inhospitality displayed to the Virgin, and which I find much difficulty in attributing to the invention of people so ignorant as the Romas, tallies strangely with the fate foretold to the ancient Egyptians in certain chapters of Ezekiel, so much so, indeed, that it seems to be derived from that source. The Lord is angry with Egypt because its inhabitants have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel, and thus he threatens them by the mouth of his prophet.
'I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are
desolate, and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be desolate forty
years: and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through
the countries.' Ezek., chap. xxix. v. 12. 'Yet thus saith the Lord God; at the end of
forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered.' v.
The reader will at once observe that the apocryphal tale which the Romas brought into Germany, concerning their origin and wanderings, agrees in every material point with the sacred prophecy. The ancient Egyptians were to be driven from their country and dispersed amongst the nations, for a period of forty years, for having been the cause of Israel's backsliding, and for not having known the Lord, - the modern pseudo-Egyptians are to be dispersed among the nations for seven years, for having denied hospitality to the Virgin and her child. The prophecy seems only to have been remodelled for the purpose of suiting the taste of the time; as no legend possessed much interest in which the Virgin did not figure, she and her child are here introduced instead of the Israelites, and the Lord of Heaven offended with the Egyptians; and this legend appears to have been very well received in Germany, for a time at least, for, as Aventinus observes, it was esteemed a crime of the first magnitude to offer any violence to the Egyptian pilgrims, who were permitted to rob on the highway, to commit larceny, and to practise every species of imposition with impunity.
The tale, however, of the Romas could hardly have been invented by themselves, as they were, and still are, utterly unacquainted with the Scripture; it probably originated amongst the priests and learned men of the east of Europe, who, startled by the sudden apparition of bands of people foreign in appearance and language, skilled in divination and the occult arts, endeavoured to find in Scripture a clue to such a phenomenon; the result of which was, that the Romas of Hindustan were suddenly transformed into Egyptian penitents, a title which they have ever since borne in various parts of Europe. There are no means of ascertaining whether they themselves believed from the first in this story; they most probably took it on credit, more especially as they could give no account of themselves, there being every reason for supposing that from time immemorial they had existed in the East as a thievish wandering sect, as they at present do in Europe, without history or traditions, and unable to look back for a period of eighty years.
The tale moreover answered their purpose, as beneath the garb of penitence they could rob and cheat with impunity, for a time at least. One thing is certain, that in whatever manner the tale of their Egyptian descent originated, many branches of the sect place implicit confidence in it at the present day, more especially those of England and Spain.
Even at the present time there are writers who contend that the Romas are the descendants of the ancient Egyptians, who were scattered amongst the nations by the Assyrians. This belief they principally found upon particular parts of the prophecy from which we have already quoted, and there is no lack of plausibility in the arguments which they deduce therefrom. The Egyptians, say they, were to fall upon the open fields, they were not to be brought together nor gathered; they were to be dispersed through the countries, their idols were to be destroyed, and their images were to cease out of Noph! In what people in the world do these denunciations appear to be verified save the Gypsies? - a people who pass their lives in the open fields, who are not gathered together, who are dispersed through the countries, who have no idols, no images, nor any fixed or certain religion.
In Spain, the want of religion amongst the Gitanos was speedily observed, and became quite as notorious as their want of honesty; they have been styled atheists, heathen idolaters, and Moors. In the little book of Quinones', we find the subject noticed in the following manner:-
'They do not understand what kind of thing the church is, and never enter it but for the purpose of committing sacrilege. They do not know the prayers; for I examined them myself, males and females, and they knew them not, or if any, very imperfectly. They never partake of the Holy Sacraments, and though they marry relations they procure no dispensations. (35) No one knows whether they are baptized. One of the five whom I caused to be hung a few days ago was baptized in the prison, being at the time upwards of thirty years of age. Don Martin Fajardo says that two Gitanos and a Gitana, whom he hanged in the village of Torre Perojil, were baptized at the foot of the gallows, and declared themselves Moors.
'They invariably look out, when they marry, if we can call theirs marrying, for the woman most dexterous in pilfering and deceiving, caring nothing whether she is akin to them or married already, (36) for it is only necessary to keep her company and to call her wife.
Sometimes they purchase them from their husbands, or receive them as pledges: so says, at least, Doctor Salazar de Mendoza.'Friar Melchior of Guelama states that he heard asserted of two Gitanos what was never yet heard of any barbarous nation, namely, that they exchanged their wives, and that as one was more comely looking than the other, he who took the handsome woman gave a certain sum of money to him who took the ugly one. The licentiate Alonzo Duran has certified to me, that in the year 1623-4, one Simon Ramirez, captain of a band of Gitanos, repudiated Teresa because she was old, and married one called Melchora, who was young and handsome, and that on the day when the repudiation took place and the bridal was celebrated he was journeying along the road, and perceived a company feasting and revelling beneath some trees in a plain within the jurisdiction of the village of Deleitosa, and that on demanding the cause he was told that it was on account of Simon Ramirez marrying one Gitana and casting off another; and that the repudiated woman told him, with an agony of tears, that he abandoned her because she was old, and married another because she was young. Certainly Gitanos and Gitanas confessed before Don Martin Fajardo that they did not really marry, but that in their banquets and festivals they selected the woman whom they liked, and that it was lawful for them to have as many as three mistresses, and on that account they begat so many children. They never keep fasts nor any ecclesiastical command. They always eat meat, Friday and Lent not excepted; the morning when I seized those whom I afterwards executed, which was in Lent, they had three lambs which they intended to eat for their dinner that day. - Quinones, page 13.
Although what is stated in the above extracts, respecting the marriages of the Gitanos and their licentious manner of living, is, for the most part, incorrect, there is no reason to conclude the same with respect to their want of religion in the olden time, and their slight regard for the forms and observances of the church, as their behaviour at the present day serves to confirm what is said on those points. From the whole, we may form a tolerably correct idea of the opinions of the time respecting the Gitanos in matters of morality and religion. A very natural question now seems to present itself, namely, what steps did the government of Spain, civil and ecclesiastical, which has so often trumpeted its zeal in the cause of what it calls the Christian religion, which has so often been the scourge of the Jew, of the Mahometan, and of the professors of the reformed faith; what steps did it take towards converting, punishing, and rooting out from Spain, a sect of demi-atheists, who, besides being cheats and robbers, displayed the most marked indifference for the forms of the Catholic religion, and presumed to eat flesh every day, and to intermarry with their relations, without paying the vicegerent of Christ here on earth for permission so to do?The Gitanos have at all times, since their first appearance in Spain, been notorious for their contempt of religious observances; yet there is no proof that they were subjected to persecution on that account. The men have been punished as robbers and murderers, with the gallows and the galleys; the women, as thieves and sorceresses, with imprisonment, flagellation, and sometimes death; but as a rabble, living without fear of God, and, by so doing, affording an evil example to the nation at large, few people gave themselves much trouble about them, though they may have occasionally been designated as such in a royal edict, intended to check their robberies, or by some priest from the pulpit, from whose stable they had perhaps contrived to extract the mule which previously had the honour of ambling beneath his portly person.
The Inquisition, which burnt so many Jews and Moors, and conscientious Christians, at Seville and Madrid, and in other parts of Spain, seems to have exhibited the greatest clemency and forbearance to the Gitanos. Indeed, we cannot find one instance of its having interfered with them. The charge of restraining the excesses of the Gitanos was abandoned entirely to the secular authorities, and more particularly to the Santa Hermandad, a kind of police instituted for the purpose of clearing the roads of robbers. Whilst I resided at Cordova, I was acquainted with an aged ecclesiastic, who was priest of a village called Puente, at about two leagues' distance from the city. He was detained in Cordova on account of his political opinions, though he was otherwise at liberty. We lived together at the same house; and he frequently visited me in my apartment.
This person, who was upwards of eighty years of age, had formerly been inquisitor at Cordova. One night, whilst we were seated together, three Gitanos entered to pay me a visit, and on observing the old ecclesiastic, exhibited every mark of dissatisfaction, and speaking in their own idiom, called him a BALICHOW, and abused priests in general in most unmeasured terms. On their departing, I inquired of the old man whether he, who having been an inquisitor, was doubtless versed in the annals of the holy office, could inform me whether the Inquisition had ever taken any active measures for the suppression and punishment of the sect of the Gitanos: whereupon he replied, 'that he was not aware of one case of a Gitano having been tried or punished by the Inquisition'; adding these remarkable words: 'The Inquisition always looked upon them with too much contempt to give itself the slightest trouble concerning them; for as no danger either to the state, or the church of Rome, could proceed from the Gitanos, it was a matter of perfect indifference to the holy office whether they lived without religion or not. The holy office has always reserved its anger for people very different; the Gitanos having at all times been GENTE BARATA Y DESPRECIABLE.
Indeed, most of the persecutions which have arisen in Spain against Jews, Moors, and Protestants, sprang from motives with which fanaticism and bigotry, of which it is true the Spaniards have their full share, had very little connection. Religion was assumed as a mask to conceal the vilest and most detestable motives which ever yet led to the commission of crying injustice; the Jews were doomed to persecution and destruction on two accounts, - their great riches, and their high superiority over the Spaniards in learning and intellect. Avarice has always been the dominant passion in Spanish minds, their rage for money being only to be compared to the wild hunger of wolves for horse-flesh in the time of winter: next to avarice, envy of superior talent and accomplishment is the prevailing passion. These two detestable feelings united, proved the ruin of the Jews in Spain, who were, for a long time, an eyesore, both to the clergy and laity, for their great riches and learning. Much the same causes insured the expulsion of the Moriscos, who were abhorred for their superior industry, which the Spaniards would not imitate; whilst the reformation was kept down by the gaunt arm of the Inquisition, lest the property of the church should pass into other and more deserving hands. The faggot piles in the squares of Seville and Madrid, which consumed the bodies of the Hebrew, the Morisco, and the Protestant, were lighted by avarice and envy, and those same piles would likewise have consumed the mulatto carcass of the Gitano, had he been learned and wealthy enough to become obnoxious to the two master passions of the Spaniards.
Of all the Spanish writers who have written concerning the Gitanos, the one who appears to have been most scandalised at the want of religion observable amongst them, and their contempt for things sacred, was a certain Doctor Sancho De Moncada.
This worthy, whom we have already had occasion to mention, was Professor of Theology at the University of Toledo, and shortly after the expulsion of the Moriscos had been brought about by the intrigues of the monks and robbers who thronged the court of Philip the Third, he endeavoured to get up a cry against the Gitanos similar to that with which for the last half-century Spain had resounded against the unfortunate and oppressed Africans, and to effect this he published a discourse, entitled 'The Expulsion of the Gitanos,' addressed to Philip the Third, in which he conjures that monarch, for the sake of morality and everything sacred, to complete the good work he had commenced, and to send the Gitanos packing after the Moriscos.
Whether this discourse produced any benefit to the author, we have no means of
ascertaining. One thing is certain, that it did no harm to the Gitanos, who still continue
in Spain.If he had other expectations, he must have understood very little of the genius
of his countrymen, or of King Philip and his court. It would have been easier to get up a
crusade against the wild cats of the sierra, than against the Gitanos, as the former have
skins to reward those who slay them. His discourse, however, is well worthy of perusal, as
it exhibits some learning, and comprises many curious details respecting the Gitanos,
their habits, and their practices. As it is not very lengthy, we here subjoin it, hoping
that the reader will excuse its many absurdities, for the sake of its many valuable facts.
'The people of God were always afflicted by the Egyptians, but the Supreme King delivered them from their hands by means of many miracles, which are related in the Holy Scriptures; and now, without having recourse to so many, but only by means of the miraculous talent which your Majesty possesses for expelling such reprobates, he will, doubtless, free this kingdom from them, which is what is supplicated in this discourse, and it behoves us, in the first place, to consider
'WHO ARE THE GITANOS?
'Writers generally agree that the first time the Gitanos were seen in Europe
was the year 1417, which was in the time of Pope Martinus the Fifth and King Don John the
Second; others say that Tamerlane had them in his camp in 1401, and that their captain was
Cingo, from whence it is said that they call themselves Cingary. But the opinions
concerning their origin are infinite.
'The second and sure opinion is, that those who prowl about Spain are not Egyptians, but swarms of wasps and atheistical wretches, without any kind of law or religion, Spaniards, who have introduced this Gypsy life or sect, and who admit into it every day all the idle and broken people of Spain. There are some foreigners who would make Spain the origin and fountain of all the Gypsies of Europe, as they say that they proceeded from a river in Spain called Cija, of which Lucan makes mention; an opinion, however, not much adopted amongst the learned. In the opinion of respectable authors, they are called Cingary or Cinli, because they in every respect resemble the bird cinclo, which we call in Spanish Motacilla, or aguzanieve (wagtail), which is a vagrant bird and builds no nest, (37) but broods in those of other birds, a bird restless and poor of plumage, as AElian writes.
'There is not a nation which does not consider them as a most pernicious rabble; even the Turks and Moors abominate them, amongst whom this sect is found under the names of Torlaquis, (38) Hugiemalars, and Dervislars, of whom some historians make mention, and all agree that they are most evil people, and highly detrimental to the country where they are found.
'In the first place, because in all parts they are considered as enemies of the states where they wander, and as spies and traitors to the crown; which was proven by the emperors Maximilian and Albert, who declared them to be such in public edicts; a fact easy to be believed, when we consider that they enter with ease into the enemies' country, and know the languages of all nations.
'Secondly, because they are idle vagabond people, who are in no respect useful to the kingdom; without commerce, occupation, or trade of any description; and if they have any it is making picklocks and pothooks for appearance sake, being wasps, who only live by sucking and impoverishing the country, sustaining themselves by the sweat of the miserable labourers, as a German poet has said of them:-
"Quos aliena juvant, propriis habitare molestum,
They are much more useless than the Moriscos, as these last were of some service to the state and the royal revenues, but the Gitanos are neither labourers, gardeners, mechanics, nor merchants, and only serve, like the wolves, to plunder and to flee.
'Thirdly, because the Gitanas are public harlots, common, as it is said, to all the Gitanos, and with dances, demeanour, and filthy songs, are the cause of continual detriment to the souls of the vassals of your Majesty, it being notorious that they have done infinite harm in many honourable houses by separating the married women from their husbands, and perverting the maidens: and finally, in the best of these Gitanas any one may recognise all the signs of a harlot given by the wise king; they are gadders about, whisperers, always unquiet in places and corners.
'Fourthly, because in all parts they are accounted famous thieves, about which authors write wonderful things; we ourselves have continual experience of this fact in Spain, where there is scarcely a corner where they have not committed some heavy offence.
'Father Martin Del Rio says they were notorious when he was in Leon in the year 1584; as they even attempted to sack the town of Logrono in the time of the pest, as Don Francisco De Cordoba writes in his DIDASCALIA. Enormous cases of their excesses we see in infinite processes in all the tribunals, and particularly in that of the Holy Brotherhood; their wickedness ascending to such a pitch, that they steal children, and carry them for sale to Barbary; the reason why the Moors call them in Arabic, RASO CHERANY, (39) which, as Andreas Tebetus writes, means MASTER THIEVES. Although they are addicted to every species of robbery, they mostly practise horse and cattle stealing, on which account they are called in law ABIGEOS, and in Spanish QUATREROS, from which practice great evils result to the poor labourers. When they cannot steal cattle, they endeavour to deceive by means of them, acting as TERCEROS, in fairs and markets.
'Fifthly, because they are enchanters, diviners, magicians, chiromancers, who tell the future by the lines of the hand, which is what they call BUENA VENTURA, and are in general addicted to all kind of superstition.
'This is the opinion entertained of them universally, and which is confirmed every day by experience; and some think that they are caller Cingary, from the great Magian Cineus, from whom it is said they learned their sorceries, and from which result in Spain (especially amongst the vulgar) great errors, and superstitious credulity, mighty witchcrafts, and heavy evils, both spiritual and corporeal.
'Sixthly, because very devout men consider them as heretics, and many as Gentile idolaters, or atheists, without any religion, although they exteriorly accommodate themselves to the religion of the country in which they wander, being Turks with the Turks, heretics with the heretics, and, amongst the Christians, baptizing now and then a child for form's sake. Friar Jayme Bleda produces a hundred signs, from which he concludes that the Moriscos were not Christians, all which are visible in the Gitanos; very few are known to baptize their children; they are not married, but it is believed that they keep the women in common; they do not use dispensations, nor receive the sacraments; they pay no respect to images, rosaries, bulls, neither do they hear mass, nor divine services; they never enter the churches, nor observe fasts, Lent, nor any ecclesiastical precept; which enormities have been attested by long experience, as every person says.
'Finally, they practise every kind of wickedness in safety, by discoursing
amongst themselves in a language with which they understand each other without being
understood, which in Spain is called Gerigonza, which, as some think, ought to be called
Cingerionza, or language of Cingary. The king our lord saw the evil of such a practice in
the law which he enacted at Madrid, in the year 1566, in which he forbade the Arabic to
the Moriscos, as the use of different languages amongst the natives of one kingdom opens a
door to treason, and is a source of heavy inconvenience; and this is exemplified more in
the case of the Gitanos than of any other people.
'THE GITANOS OUGHT TO BE SEIZED WHEREVER FOUND
'The civil law ordains that vagrants be seized wherever they are found, without any favour being shown to them; in conformity with which, the Gitanos in the Greek empire were given as slaves to those who should capture them; as respectable authors write. Moreover, the emperor, our lord, has decreed by a law made in Toledo, in the year 1525, THAT THE THIRD TIME THEY BE FOUND WANDERING THEY SHALL SERVE AS SLAVES DURING THEIR WHOLE LIFE TO THOSE WHO CAPTURE THEM. Which can be easily justified, inasmuch as there is no shepherd who does not place barriers against the wolves, and does not endeavour to save his flock, and I have already exposed to your Majesty the damage which the Gitanos perpetrate in Spain.
'THE GITANOS OUGHT TO BE CONDEMNED TO DEATH
'The reasons are many. The first, for being spies, and traitors to the crown;
the second as idlers and vagabonds.
'The third, because they are stealers of four-footed beasts, who are condemned to death by the laws of Spain, in the wise code of the famous King Don Alonso; which enactment became a part of the common law.
'The fourth, for wizards, diviners, and for practising arts which are prohibited under pain of death by the divine law itself. And Saul is praised for having caused this law to be put in execution in the beginning of his reign; and the Holy Scripture attributes to the breach of it (namely, his consulting the witch) his disastrous death, and the transfer of the kingdom to David. The Emperor Constantine the Great, and other emperors who founded the civil law, condemned to death those who should practise such facinorousness, - as the President of Tolosa has written.
'The last and most urgent cause is, that they are heretics, if what is said be truth; and it is the practice of the law in Spain to burn such.
'THE GITANOS ARE EXPELLED FROM THE COUNTRY BY THE LAWS OF SPAIN
'Firstly, they are comprehended as hale beggars in the law of the wise king, Don Alonso, by which he expelled all sturdy beggars, as being idle and useless.
'Secondly, the law expels public harlots from the city; and of this matter I have already said something in my second chapter.
'Thirdly, as people who cause scandal, and who, as is visible at the first glance, are prejudicial to morals and common decency. Now, it is established by the statute law of these kingdoms, that such people be expelled therefrom; it is said so in the well-
pondered words of the edict for the expulsion of the Moors: "And forasmuch as the sense of good and Christian government makes it a matter of conscience to expel from the kingdoms the things which cause scandal, injury to honest subjects, danger to the state, and above all, disloyalty to the Lord our God." Therefore, considering the incorrigibility of the Gitanos, the Spanish kings made many holy laws in order to deliver their subjects from such pernicious people.
'Fourthly, the Catholic princes, Ferdinand and Isabella, by a law which they made in Medina del Campo, in the year 1494, and which the emperor our lord renewed in Toledo in 1523, and in Madrid in 1528 and 1534, and the late king our lord, in 1560, banished them perpetually from Spain, and gave them as slaves to whomsoever should find them, after the expiration of the term specified in the edict - laws which are notorious even amongst strangers. The words are:- "We declare to be vagabonds, and subject to the aforesaid penalty, the Egyptians and foreign tinkers, who by laws and statutes of these kingdoms are commanded to depart therefrom; and the poor sturdy beggars, who contrary to the order given in the new edict, beg for alms and wander about."
'THE LAWS ARE VERY JUST WHICH EXPEL THE GITANOS FROM THE STATES
All the doctors, who are of opinion that the Gitanos may be condemned to death, would consider it as an act of mercy in your Majesty to banish them perpetually from Spain, and at the same time as exceedingly just. Many and learned men not only consider that it is just to expel them, but cannot sufficiently wonder that they are tolerated in Christian states, and even consider that such toleration is an insult to the kingdoms.
'Whilst engaged in writing this, I have seen a very learned memorial, in which Doctor Salazar de Mendoza makes the same supplication to your Majesty which is made in this discourse, holding it to be the imperious duty of every good government.
'It stands in reason that the prince is bound to watch for the welfare of his subjects, and the wrongs which those of your Majesty receive from the Gitanos I have already exposed in my second chapter; it being a point worthy of great consideration that the wrongs caused by the Moriscos moved your royal and merciful bosom to drive them out, although they were many, and their departure would be felt as a loss to the population, the commerce, the royal revenues, and agriculture. Now, with respect to the Gitanos, as they are few, and perfectly useless for everything, it appears more necessary to drive them forth, the injuries which they cause being so numerous.
'Secondly, because the Gitanos, as I have already said, are Spaniards; and as others profess the sacred orders of religion, even so do these fellows profess gypsying, which is robbery and all the other vices enumerated in chapter the second. And whereas it is just to banish from the kingdom those who have committed any heavy delinquency, it is still more so to banish those who profess to be injurious to all.
'Thirdly, because all the kings and rulers have always endeavoured to eject from their kingdoms the idle and useless. And it is very remarkable, that the law invariably commands them to be expelled, and the republics of Athens and Corinth were accustomed to do so - casting them forth like dung, even as Athenaeus writes: NOS GENUS HOC MORTALIUM EJICIMUS EX HAC URBE VELUT PURGAMINA. Now the profession of the Gypsy is idleness.
'Fourthly, because the Gitanos are diviners, enchanters, and mischievous wretches, and the law commands us to expel such from the state.
'In the fifth place, because your Majesty, in the Cortes at present assembled, has obliged your royal conscience to fulfil all the articles voted for the public service, and the forty-ninth says: "One of the things at present most necessary to be done in these kingdoms, is to afford a remedy for the robberies, plundering and murders committed by the Gitanos, who go wandering about the country, stealing the cattle of the poor, and committing a thousand outrages, living without any fear of God, and being Christians only in name. It is therefore deemed expedient, that your Majesty command them to quit these kingdoms within six months, to be reckoned from the day of the ratification of these presents, and that they do not return to the same under pain of death."
'Against this, two things may possibly be urged:-
'The second, that it appears a pity to banish the women and children. But to this can be opposed that holy act of your Majesty which expelled the Moriscos, and the children of the Moriscos, for the reason given in the royal edict. WHENEVER ANY DETESTABLE CRIME IS COMMITTED BY ANY UNIVERSITY, IT IS WELL TO PUNISH ALL. And the most detestable crimes of all are those which the Gitanos commit, since it is notorious that they subsist on what they steal; and as to the children, there is no law which obliges us to bring up wolf-whelps, to cause here-after certain damage to the flock.
'IT HAS EVER BEEN THE PRACTICE OF PRINCES TO EXPEL THE GITANOS
'Every one who considers the manner of your Majesty's government as the truly Christian pattern must entertain fervent hope that the advice proffered in this discourse will be attended to; more especially on reflecting that not only the good, but even the most barbarous kings have acted up to it in their respective dominions.
'Pharaoh was bad enough, nevertheless he judged that the children of Israel were dangerous to the state, because they appeared to him to be living without any certain occupation; and for this very reason the Chaldeans cast them out of Babylon. Amasis, king of Egypt, drove all the vagrants from his kingdom, forbidding them to return under pain of death. The Soldan of Egypt expelled the Torlaquis. The Moors did the same; and Bajazet cast them out of all the Ottoman empire, according to Leo Clavius.
'In the second place, the Christian princes have deemed it an important measure
'Thirdly, there is one grand reason which ought to be conclusive in moving him who so much values himself in being a faithful son of the church, - I mean the example which Pope Pius the Fifth gave to all the princes; for he drove the Gitanos from all his domains, and in the year 1568, he expelled the Jews, assigning as reasons for their expulsion those which are more closely applicable to the Gitanos; - namely, that they sucked the vitals of the state, without being of any utility whatever; that they were thieves themselves, and harbourers of others; that they were wizards, diviners, and wretches who induced people to believe that they knew the future, which is what the Gitanos at present do by telling fortunes.
'Your Majesty has already freed us from greater and more dangerous enemies; finish, therefore, the enterprise begun, whence will result universal joy and security, and by which your Majesty will earn immortal honour. Amen.
'O Regum summe, horum plura ne temnas (absit) ne forte tempsisse Hispaniae periculosum existat.'
PERHAPS there is no country in which more laws have been framed, having in view the extinction and suppression of the Gypsy name, race, and manner of life, than Spain. Every monarch, during a period of three hundred years, appears at his accession to the throne to have considered that one of his first and most imperative duties consisted in suppressing or checking the robberies, frauds, and other enormities of the Gitanos, with which the whole country seems to have resounded since the time of their first appearance.
They have, by royal edicts, been repeatedly banished from Spain, under terrible penalties, unless they renounced their inveterate habits; and for the purpose of eventually confounding them with the residue of the population, they have been forbidden, even when stationary, to reside together, every family being enjoined to live apart, and neither to seek nor to hold communication with others of the race.
We shall say nothing at present as to the wisdom which dictated these provisions, nor whether others might not have been devised, better calculated to produce the end desired. Certain it is, that the laws were never, or very imperfectly, put in force, and for reasons with which their expediency or equity (which no one at the time impugned) had no connection whatever.
It is true that, in a country like Spain, abounding in wildernesses and almost inaccessible mountains, the task of hunting down and exterminating or banishing the roving bands would have been found one of no slight difficulty, even if such had ever been attempted; but it must be remembered, that from an early period colonies of Gitanos have existed in the principal towns of Spain, where the men have plied the trades of jockeys and blacksmiths, and the women subsisted by divination, and all kinds of fraud. These colonies were, of course, always within the reach of the hand of justice, yet it does not appear that they were more interfered with than the roving and independent bands, and that any serious attempts were made to break them up, though notorious as nurseries and refuges of crime.
It is a lamentable fact, that pure and uncorrupt justice has never existed in Spain, as far at least as record will allow us to judge; not that the principles of justice have been less understood there than in other countries, but because the entire system of justiciary administration has ever been shamelessly profligate and vile.Spanish justice has invariably been a mockery, a thing to be bought and sold, terrible only to the feeble and innocent, and an instrument of cruelty and avarice.The tremendous satires of Le Sage upon Spanish corregidors and alguazils are true, even at the present day, and the most notorious offenders can generally escape, if able to administer sufficient bribes to the ministers (40) of what is misnamed justice.
The reader, whilst perusing the following extracts from the laws framed against
the Gitanos, will be filled with wonder that the Gypsy sect still exists in Spain,
contrary to the declared will of the sovereign and the nation, so often repeated during a
period of three hundred years; yet such is the fact, and it can only be accounted for on
the ground of corruption.
To the high and noble, they were known as Chalanes, and to the plebeian functionaries, as people who, notwithstanding their general poverty, could pay for protection.
A law was even enacted against these protectors of the Gitanos, which of course failed, as the execution of the law was confided to the very delinquents against whom it was directed. Thus, the Gitano bought, sold, and exchanged animals openly, though he subjected himself to the penalty of death by so doing, or left his habitation when he thought fit, though such an act, by the law of the land, was punishable with the galleys.
In one of their songs they have commemorated the impunity with which they wandered about. The escribano, to whom the Gitanos of the neighbourhood pay contribution, on a strange Gypsy being brought before him, instantly orders him to be liberated, assigning as a reason that he is no Gitano, but a legitimate Spaniard:-
'I left my house, and walked about
'From out the prison me they led,
In a word, nothing was to be gained by interfering with the Gitanos, by those in whose hands the power was vested; but, on the contrary, something was to be lost. The chief sufferers were the labourers, and they had no power to right themselves, though their wrongs were universally admitted, and laws for their protection continually being made, which their enemies contrived to set at nought; as will presently be seen.
The first law issued against the Gypsies appears to have been that of Ferdinand
and Isabella, at Medina del Campo, in 1499. In this edict they were commanded, under
certain penalties, to become stationary in towns and villages, and to provide themselves
with masters whom they might serve for their maintenance, or in default thereof, to quit
the kingdom at the end of sixty days. No mention is made of the country to which they were
expected to betake themselves in the event of their quitting Spain. Perhaps, as they are
called Egyptians, it was concluded that they would forthwith return to Egypt; but the
framers of the law never seem to have considered what means these Egyptians possessed of
transporting their families and themselves across the sea to such a distance, or if they
betook themselves to other countries, what reception a host of people, confessedly thieves
and vagabonds, were likely to meet with, or whether it was fair in the TWO CHRISTIAN
PRINCES to get rid of such a nuisance at the expense of their neighbours. Such matters
were of course left for the Gypsies themselves to settle.
Don Carlos and Donna Juanna, at Toledo, 1539, confirmed the edict of Medina del Campo against the Egyptians, with the addition, that if any Egyptian, after the expiration of the sixty days, should be found wandering about, he should be sent to the galleys for six years, if above the age of twenty and under that of fifty, and if under or above those years, punished as the preceding law provides.
Philip the Second, at Madrid, 1586, after commanding that all the laws and edicts be observed, by which the Gypsies are forbidden to wander about, and commanded to establish themselves, ordains, with the view of restraining their thievish and cheating practices, that none of them be permitted to sell anything, either within or without fairs or markets, if not provided with a testimony signed by the notary public, to prove that they have a settled residence, and where it may be; which testimony must also specify and describe the horses, cattle, linen, and other things, which they carry forth for sale; otherwise they are to be punished as thieves, and what they attempt to sell considered as stolen property.
Philip the Third, at Belem, in Portugal, 1619, commands all the Gypsies of the
kingdom to quit the same within the term of six months, and never to return, under pain of
death; those who should wish to remain are to establish themselves in cities, towns, and
villages, of one thousand families and upwards, and are not to be allowed the use of the
dress, name, and language of Gypsies, IN ORDER THAT, FORASMUCH AS THEY ARE NOT SUCH BY
NATION, THIS NAME AND MANNER OF LIFE MAY BE FOR EVERMORE CONFOUNDED AND FORGOTTEN. They
are moreover forbidden, under the same penalty, to have anything to do with the buying or
selling of cattle, whether great or small.
The law, moreover, in stating that they are not Gypsies by nation, seems to have forgotten that in that case it would be impossible to distinguish them from other Spaniards, so soon as they should have dropped the name, language, and dress of Gypsies. How, provided they were like other Spaniards, and did not carry the mark of another nation on their countenances, could it be known whether or not they obeyed the law, which commanded them to live only in populous towns or villages, or how could they be detected in the buying or selling of cattle, which the law forbids them under pain of death?
The attempt to abolish the Gypsy name and manner of life might have been made
without the assertion of a palpable absurdity.
'1st. That under the same penalties, the aforesaid people shall, within two months, leave the quarters (barrios) where they now live with the denomination of Gitanos, and that they shall separate from each other, and mingle with the other inhabitants, and that they shall hold no more meetings, neither in public nor in secret; that the ministers of justice are to observe, with particular diligence, how they fulfil these commands, and whether they hold communication with each other, or marry amongst themselves; and how they fulfil the obligations of Christians by assisting at sacred worship in the churches; upon which latter point they are to procure information with all possible secrecy from the curates and clergy of the parishes where the Gitanos reside.
'2ndly. And in order to extirpate, in every way, the name of Gitanos, we ordain that they be not called so, and that no one venture to call them so, and that such shall be esteemed a very heavy injury, and shall be punished as such, if proved, and that nought pertaining to the Gypsies, their name, dress, or actions, be represented, either in dances or in any other performance, under the penalty of two years' banishment, and a mulct of fifty thousand maravedis to whomsoever shall offend for the first time, and double punishment for the second.'
The above two articles seem to have in view the suppression and breaking up of the Gypsy colonies established in the large towns, more especially the suburbs; farther on, mention is made of the wandering bands.
'4thly. And forasmuch as we have understood that numerous Gitanos rove in bands through various parts of the kingdom, committing robberies in uninhabited places, and even invading some small villages, to the great terror and danger of the inhabitants, we give by this our law a general commission to all ministers of justice, whether appertaining to royal domains, lordships, or abbatial territories, that every one may, in his district, proceed to the imprisonment and chastisement of the delinquents, and may pass beyond his own jurisdiction in pursuit of them; and we also command all the ministers of justice aforesaid, that on receiving information that Gitanos or highwaymen are prowling in their districts, they do assemble at an appointed day, and with the necessary preparation of men and arms they do hunt down, take, and deliver them under a good guard to the nearest officer holding the royal commission.'
Carlos the Second followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, with respect to the Gitanos. By a law of the 20th of November 1692, he inhibits the Gitanos from living in towns of less than one thousand heads of families (vecinos), and pursuing any trade or employment, save the cultivation of the ground; from going in the dress of Gypsies, or speaking the language or gibberish which they use; from living apart in any particular quarter of the town; from visiting fairs with cattle, great or small, or even selling or exchanging such at any time, unless with the testimonial of the public notary, that they were bred within their own houses. By this law they are also forbidden to have firearms in their possession.
So far from being abashed by this law, or the preceding one, the Gitanos seem
to have increased in excesses of every kind. Only three years after (12th June 1695), the
same monarch deemed it necessary to publish a new law for their persecution and
chastisement. This law, which is exceedingly severe, consists of twenty-nine articles.
By the fifth, they are forbidden to keep horses or mares, either within or without their houses, or to make use of them in any way whatever, under the penalty of two months' imprisonment and the forfeiture of such animals; and any one lending them a horse or a mare is to forfeit the same, if it be found in their possession. They are declared only capable of keeping a mule, or some lesser beast, to assist them in their labour, or for the use of their families.
By the twelfth, they are to be punished with six years in the galleys, if they leave the towns or villages in which they are located, and pass to others, or wander in the fields or roads; and they are only to be permitted to go out, in order to exercise the pursuit of husbandry. In this edict, particular mention is made of the favour and protection shown to the Gitanos, by people of various descriptions, by means of which they had been enabled to follow their manner of life undisturbed, and to baffle the severity of the laws:-
'Article 16. - And because we understand that the continuance in these kingdoms of those who are called Gitanos has depended on the favour, protection, and assistance which they have experienced from persons of different stations, we do ordain, that whosoever, against whom shall be proved the fact of having, since the day of the publication hereof, favoured, received, or assisted the said Gitanos, in any manner whatever, whether within their houses or without, the said person, provided he is noble, shall be subjected to the fine of six thousand ducats, the half of which shall be applied to our treasury, and the other half to the expenses of the prosecution; and, if a plebeian, to a punishment of ten years in the galleys. And we declare, that in order to proceed to the infliction of such fine and punishment, the evidence of two respectable witnesses, without stain or suspicion, shall be esteemed legitimate and conclusive, although they depose to separate acts, or three depositions of the Gitanos themselves, MADE UPON THE RACK, although they relate to separate and different acts of abetting and harbouring.'
The following article is curious, as it bears evidence to Gypsy craft and cunning:-
'Article 18. - And whereas it is very difficult to prove against the Gitanos the robberies and delinquencies which they commit, partly because they happen in uninhabited places, but more especially on account of the MALICE and CUNNING with which they execute them; we do ordain, in order that they may receive the merited chastisement, that to convict, in these cases, those who are called Gitanos, the depositions of the persons whom they have robbed in uninhabited places shall be sufficient, provided there are at least two witnesses to one and the same fact, and these of good fame and reputation; and we also declare, that the CORPUS DELICTI may be proved in the same manner in these cases, in order that the culprits may be proceeded against, and condemned to the corresponding pains and punishments.'
The council of Madrid published a schedule, 18th of August 1705, from which it appears that the villages and roads were so much infested by the Gitano race, that there was neither peace nor safety for labourers and travellers; the corregidors and justices are therefore exhorted to use their utmost endeavour to apprehend these outlaws, and to execute upon them the punishments enjoined by the preceding law. The ministers of justice are empowered to fire upon them as public enemies, wherever they meet them, in case of resistance or refusal to deliver up the arms they carry about them.
Philip the Fifth, by schedule, October 1st, 1726, forbade any complaints which the Gitanos might have to make against the inferior justices being heard in the higher tribunals, and, on that account, banished all the Gypsy women from Madrid, and, indeed, from all towns where royal audiences were held, it being the custom of the women to flock up to the capital from the small towns and villages, under pretence of claiming satisfaction for wrongs inflicted upon their husbands and relations, and when there to practise the art of divination, and to sing obscene songs through the streets; by this law, also, the justices are particularly commanded not to permit the Gitanos to leave their places of domicile, except in cases of very urgent necessity.
This law was attended with the same success as the others; the Gitanos left their places of domicile whenever they thought proper, ented the various fairs, and played off their jockey tricks as usual, or traversed the country in armed gangs, plundering the small villages, and assaulting travellers.
The same monarch, in October, published another law against them, from St. Lorenzo, of the Escurial. From the words of this edict, and the measures resolved upon, the reader may form some idea of the excesses of the Gitanos at this period. They are to be hunted down with fire and sword, and even the sanctity of the temples is to be invaded in their pursuit, and the Gitanos dragged from the horns of the altar, should they flee thither for refuge. It was impossible, in Spain, to carry the severity of persecution farther, as the very parricide was in perfect safety, could he escape to the church. Here follows part of this law:-
'I have resolved that all the lord-lieutenants, intendants, and corregidors shall publish proclamations, and fix edicts, to the effect that all the Gitanos who are domiciled in the cities and towns of their jurisdiction shall return within the space of fifteen days to their places of domicile, under penalty of being declared, at the expiration of that term, as public banditti, subject to be fired at in the event of being found with arms, or without them, beyond the limits of their places of domicile; and at the expiration of the term aforesaid, the lord-lieutenants, intendants, and corregidors are strictly commanded, that either they themselves, or suitable persons deputed by them, march out with armed soldiery, or if there be none at hand, with the militias, and their officers, accompanied by the horse rangers, destined for the protection of the revenue, for the purpose of scouring the whole district within their jurisdiction, making use of all possible diligence to apprehend such Gitanos as are to be found on the public roads and other places beyond their domiciliary bounds, and to inflict upon them the penalty of death, for the mere act of being found.
'And in the event of their taking refuge in sacred places, they are empowered to drag them forth, and conduct them to the neighbouring prisons and fortresses, and provided the ecclesiastical judges proceed against the secular, in order that they be restored to the church, they are at liberty to avail themselves of the recourse to force, countenanced by laws declaring, even as I now declare, that all the Gitanos who shall leave their allotted places of abode, are to be held as incorrigible rebels, and enemies of the public peace.'
From this period, until the year 1780, various other laws and schedules were directed against the Gitanos, which, as they contain nothing very new or remarkable, we may be well excused from particularising. In 1783, a law was passed by the government, widely differing in character from any which had hitherto been enacted in connection with the Gitano caste or religion in Spain.
CARLOS TERCERO, or Charles
the Third, ascended the throne of Spain in the year 1759, and died in 1788. No Spanish
monarch has left behind a more favourable impression on the minds of the generality of his
countrymen; indeed, he is the only one who is remembered at all by all ranks and
conditions; - perhaps he took the surest means for preventing his name being forgotten, by
erecting a durable monument in every large town, - we do not mean a pillar surmounted by a
statue, or a colossal figure on horseback, but some useful and stately public edifice.
We have said that he left behind him a favourable impression amongst the generality of his countrymen; by which we mean the great body found in every nation, who neither think nor reason, - for there are amongst the Spaniards not a few who deny that any of his actions entitle him to the gratitude of the nation. 'All his thoughts,' say they, 'were directed to hunting - and hunting alone; and all the days of the year he employed himself either in hunting or in preparation for the sport. In one expedition, in the parks of the Pardo, he spent several millions of reals. The noble edifices which adorn Spain, though built by his orders, are less due to his reign than to the anterior one, - to the reign of Ferdinand the Sixth, who left immense treasures, a small portion of which Carlos Tercero devoted to these purposes, squandering away the remainder. It is said that Carlos Tercero was no friend to superstition; yet how little did Spain during his time gain in religious liberty! The great part of the nation remained intolerant and theocratic as before, the other and smaller section turned philosophic, but after the insane manner of the French revolutionists, intolerant in its incredulity, and believing more in the ENCYCLOPEDIE than in the Gospel of the Nazarene.' (41)
We should not have said thus much of Carlos Tercero, whose character has been extravagantly praised by the multitude, and severely criticised by the discerning few who look deeper than the surface of things, if a law passed during his reign did not connect him intimately with the history of the Gitanos, whose condition to a certain extent it has already altered, and over whose future destinies there can be no doubt that it will exert considerable influence. Whether Carlos Tercero had anything farther to do with its enactment than subscribing it with his own hand, is a point difficult to determine; the chances are that he had not; there is damning evidence to prove that in many respects he was a mere Nimrod, and it is not probable that such a character would occupy his thoughts much with plans for the welfare of his people, especially such a class as the Gitanos, however willing to build public edifices, gratifying to his vanity, with the money which a provident predecessor had amassed.
The law in question is dated 19th September 1783. It is entitled, 'Rules for repressing and chastising the vagrant mode of life, and other excesses, of those who are called Gitanos.' It is in many respects widely different from all the preceding laws, and on that account we have separated it from them, deeming it worthy of particular notice. It is evidently the production of a comparatively enlightened spirit, for Spain had already begun to emerge from the dreary night of monachism and bigotry, though the light which beamed upon her was not that of the Gospel, but of modern philosophy. The spirit, however, of the writers of the ENCYCLOPEDIE is to be preferred to that of TORQUEMADA AND MONCADA, and however deeply we may lament the many grievous omissions in the law of Carlos Tercero (for no provision was made for the spiritual instruction of the Gitanos), we prefer it in all points to that of Philip the Third, and to the law passed during the reign of that unhappy victim of monkish fraud, perfidy, and poison, Charles the Second.
Whoever framed the law of Carlos Tercero with respect to the Gitanos, had sense enough to see that it would be impossible to reclaim and bring them within the pale of civilised society by pursuing the course invariably adopted on former occasions - to see that all the menacing edicts for the last three hundred years, breathing a spirit of blood and persecution, had been unable to eradicate Gitanismo from Spain; but on the contrary, had rather served to extend it. Whoever framed this law was, moreover, well acquainted with the manner of administering justice in Spain, and saw the folly of making statutes which were never put into effect. Instead, therefore, of relying on corregidors and alguazils for the extinction of the Gypsy sect, the statute addresses itself more particularly to the Gitanos themselves, and endeavours to convince them that it would be for their interest to renounce their much cherished Gitanismo. Those who framed the former laws had invariably done their best to brand this race with infamy, and had marked out for its members, in the event of abandoning their Gypsy habits, a life to which death itself must have been preferable in every respect. They were not to speak to each other, nor to intermarry, though, as they were considered of an impure caste, it was scarcely to be expected that the other Spaniards would form with them relations of love or amity, and they were debarred the exercise of any trade or occupation but hard labour, for which neither by nature nor habit they were at all adapted. The law of Carlos Tercero, on the contrary, flung open to them the whole career of arts and sciences, and declared them capable of following any trade or profession to which they might please to addict themselves. Here follow extracts from the above-mentioned law:-
'Art. 1. I declare that those who go by the name of Gitanos are not so by origin or nature, nor do they proceed from any infected root.
'2. I therefore command that neither they, nor any one of them shall use the language, dress, or vagrant kind of life which they have followed unto the present time, under the penalties here below contained.
'3. I forbid all my vassals, of whatever state, class, and condition they may be, to call or name the above-mentioned people by the names of Gitanos, or new Castilians, under the same penalties to which those are subject who injure others by word or writing.
'5. It is my will that those who abandon the said mode of life, dress, language, or jargon, be admitted to whatever offices or employments to which they may apply themselves, and likewise to any guilds or communities, without any obstacle or contradiction being offered to them, or admitted under this pretext within or without courts of law.
'6. Those who shall oppose and refuse the admission of this class of reclaimed people to their trades and guilds shall be mulcted ten ducats for the first time, twenty for the second, and a double quantity for the third; and during the time they continue in their opposition they shall be prohibited from exercising the same trade, for a certain period, to be determined by the judge, and proportioned to the opposition which they display.
'7. I grant the term of ninety days, to be reckoned from the publication of this law in the principal town of every district, in order that all the vagabonds of this and any other class may retire to the towns and villages where they may choose to locate themselves, with the exception, for the present, of the capital and the royal residences, in order that, abandoning the dress, language, and behaviour of those who are called Gitanos, they may devote themselves to some honest office, trade, or occupation, it being a matter of indifference whether the same be connected with labour or the arts.
'8. It will not be sufficient for those who have been formerly known to follow this manner of life to devote themselves solely to the occupation of shearing and clipping animals, nor to the traffic of markets and fairs, nor still less to the occupation of keepers of inns and ventas in uninhabited places, although they may be innkeepers within towns, which employment shall be considered as sufficient, provided always there be no well-founded indications of their being delinquents themselves, or harbourers of such people.
'9. At the expiration of ninety days, the justices shall proceed against the disobedient in the following manner:- Those who, having abandoned the dress, name, language or jargon, association, and manners of Gitanos, and shall have moreover chosen and established a domicile, but shall not have devoted themselves to any office or employment, though it be only that of day-labourers, shall be considered as vagrants, and be apprehended and punished according to the laws in force against such people without any distinction being made between them and the other vassals.
'10. Those who henceforth shall commit any crimes, having abandoned the language, dress, and manners of Gitanos, chosen a domicile, and applied themselves to any office, shall be prosecuted and chastised like others guilty of the same crimes, without any difference being made between them.
'11. But those who shall have abandoned the aforesaid dress, language and behaviour, and those who, pretending to speak and dress like the other vassals, and even to choose a domiciliary residence, shall continue to go forth, wandering about the roads and uninhabited places, although it be with the pretext of visiting markets and fairs, such people shall be pursued and taken by the justices, and a list of them formed, with their names and appellations, age, description, with the places where they say they reside and were born.
'16. I, however, except from punishment the children and young people of both sexes who are not above sixteen years of age.
'17. Such, although they may belong to a family, shall be separated from their parents who wander about and have no employment, and shall be destined to learn something, or shall be placed out in hospices or houses of instruction.
'20. When the register of the Gitanos who have proved disobedient shall have taken place, it shall be notified and made known to them, that in case of another relapse, the punishment of death shall be executed upon them without remission, on the examination of the register, and proof being adduced that they have returned to their former life.'
What effect was produced by this law, and whether its results at all
corresponded to the views of those who enacted it, will be gathered from the following
chapters of this work, in which an attempt will be made to delineate briefly the present
condition of the Gypsies in Spain.