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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 its defenders.

‘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 literature.


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.

And it came to pass, moreover, that the said Fajardo, being in the town of Montijo, was told by the alcalde, that a certain inhabitant of that place had some time previous lost a mare; and wandering about the plains in quest of her, he arrived at a place called Arroyo el Puerco, where stood a ruined house, on entering which he found various Gitanos employed in preparing their dinner, which consisted of a quarter of a human body, which was being roasted before a huge fire: the result, however, we are not told; whether the Gypsies were angry at being disturbed in their cookery, or whether the man of the mare departed unobserved.

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.

The Gazette of Frankfort for the year 1782, Nos. 157 and 207, states that one hundred and fifty Gypsies were imprisoned charged with this practice; and that the Empress Teresa sent commissioners to inquire into the facts of the accusation, who discovered that they were true; whereupon the empress published a law to oblige all the Gypsies in her dominions to become stationary, which, however, had no effect.

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 mulattos.

Above I have pointed out all the difficulties and dangers which must have attended the path of the Gitanos, had they passed from Spain into Barbary, and attempted to spread themselves over that region, as over Europe and many parts of Asia. To these observations I have been led by the assertion that they accomplished this, and no proof of the fact having, as I am aware, ever been adduced; for who amongst those who have made such a statement has seen or conversed with the Egyptians of Barbary, or had sufficient intercourse with them to justify him in the assertion that they are one and the same people as those of Europe, from whom they differ about as much as the various tribes which inhabit various European countries differ from each other? At the same time, I wish it to be distinctly understood that I am far from denying the existence of Gypsies in various parts of the interior of Barbary. Indeed, I almost believe the fact, though the information which I possess is by no means of a description which would justify me in speaking with full certainty; I having myself never come in contact with any sect or caste of people amongst the Moors, who not only tallied in their pursuits with the Rommany, but who likewise spoke amongst themselves a dialect of the language of Roma; nor am I aware that any individual worthy of credit has ever presumed to say that he has been more fortunate in these respects.

Nevertheless, I repeat that I am inclined to believe that Gypsies virtually exist in Barbary, and my reasons I shall presently adduce; but I will here observe, that if these strange outcasts did indeed contrive to penetrate into the heart of that savage and inhospitable region, they could only have succeeded after having become well acquainted with the Moorish language, and when, after a considerable sojourn on the coast, they had raised for themselves a name, and were regarded with superstitious fear; in a word, if they walked this land of peril untouched and unscathed, it was not that they were considered as harmless and inoffensive people, which, indeed, would not have protected them, and which assuredly they were not; it was not that they were mistaken for wandering Moors and Bedouins, from whom they differed in feature and complexion, but because, wherever they went, they were dreaded as the possessors of supernatural powers, and as mighty sorcerers.

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 in Europe. Chiromancy, from the most remote periods, has been practised in all countries. Neither do we know, whether in this practice they were ever guided by fixed and certain rules; the probability, however, is, that they were not, and that they never followed it but as a means of fraud and robbery; certainly, amongst all the professors of this art that ever existed, no people are more adapted by nature to turn it to account than these females, call them by whatever name you will, Gitanas, Ziganas, Gypsies, or Bohemians; their forms, their features, the expression of their countenances are ever wild and Sibylline, frequently beautiful, but never vulgar. Observe, for example, the Gitana, even her of Seville. She is standing before the portal of a large house in one of the narrow Moorish streets of the capital of Andalusia; through the grated iron door, she looks in upon the court; it is paved with small marble slabs of almost snowy whiteness; in the middle is a fountain distilling limpid water, and all around there is a profusion of macetas, in which flowering plants and aromatic shrubs are growing, and at each corner there is an orange tree, and the perfume of the azahar may be distinguished; you hear the melody of birds from a small aviary beneath the piazza which surrounds the court, which is surmounted by a toldo or linen awning, for it is the commencement of May, and the glorious sun of Andalusia is burning with a splendour too intense for his rays to be borne with impunity. It is a fairy scene such as nowhere meets the eye but at Seville, or perhaps at Fez and Shiraz, in the palaces of the Sultan and the Shah. The Gypsy looks through the iron-grated door, and beholds, seated near the fountain, a richly dressed dame and two lovely delicate maidens; they are busied at their morning’s occupation, intertwining with their sharp needles the gold and silk on the tambour; several female attendants are seated behind. The Gypsy pulls the bell, when is heard the soft cry of ‘Quien es’; the door, unlocked by means of a string, recedes upon its hinges, when in walks the Gitana, the witch-wife of Multan, with a look such as the tiger-cat casts when she stealeth from her jungle into the plain.

Yes, well may you exclaim ‘Ave Maria purissima,’ ye dames and maidens of Seville, as she advances towards you; she is not of yourselves, she is not of your blood, she or her fathers have walked to your climate from a distance of three thousand leagues. She has come from the far East, like the three enchanted kings, to Cologne; but, unlike them, she and her race have come with hate and not with love. She comes to flatter, and to deceive, and to rob, for she is a lying prophetess, and a she-Thug; she will greet you with blessings which will make your hearts rejoice, but your hearts’ blood would freeze, could you hear the curses which to herself she murmurs against you; for she says, that in her children’s veins flows the dark blood of the ‘husbands,’ whilst in those of yours flows the pale tide of the ‘savages,’ and therefore she would gladly set her foot on all your corses first poisoned by her hands. For all her love – and she can love – is for the Romas; and all her hate – and who can hate like her? – is for the Busnees; for she says that the world would be a fair world if there were no Busnees, and if the Romamiks could heat their kettles undisturbed at the foot of the olive-trees; and therefore she would kill them all if she could and if she dared. She never seeks the houses of the Busnees but for the purpose of prey; for the wild animals of the sierra do not more abhor the sight of man than she abhors the countenances of the Busnees. She now comes to prey upon you and to scoff at you. Will you believe her words? Fools! do you think that the being before ye has any sympathy for the like of you?

She is of the middle stature, neither strongly nor slightly built, and yet her every movement denotes agility and vigour. As she stands erect before you, she appears like a falcon about to soar, and you are almost tempted to believe that the power of volition is hers; and were you to stretch forth your hand to seize her, she would spring above the house-tops like a bird. Her face is oval, and her features are regular but somewhat hard and coarse, for she was born amongst rocks in a thicket, and she has been wind-beaten and sun-scorched for many a year, even like her parents before her; there is many a speck upon her cheek, and perhaps a scar, but no dimples of love; and her brow is wrinkled over, though she is yet young. Her complexion is more than dark, for it is almost that of a mulatto; and her hair, which hangs in long locks on either side of her face, is black as coal, and coarse as the tail of a horse, from which it seems to have been gathered.

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, Doscusanas de sonacai terelo, –
Corojai diquelo abillar,
Y ne asislo chapescar, chapescar.’

‘On the top of a mountain I stand,
With a crown of red gold in my hand, – Wild Moors came trooping o’er the lea,
O how from their fury shall I flee, flee, flee? O how from their fury shall I flee?’

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 Gitanas,’ says Doctor Sancho de Moncada, in his discourse concerning the Gypsies, which I shall presently lay before the reader, ‘are public harlots, common, as it is said, to all the Gitanos, and with dances, demeanour, and filthy songs, are the cause of infinite harm to the souls of the vassals of your Majesty (Philip III.), as it is notorious what infinite harm they have caused in many honourable houses. The married women whom they have separated from their husbands, and the maidens whom they have perverted; 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 the places and corners.”‘ (28)

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. Thereupon the two Gypsies, seeing themselves at liberty, and having already pocketed the gold and silver which had been deposited for their conjuration, opened the street door, and escaped with all the speed they could.

‘The beguiled widow returned laden with the clothes, and not finding those whom she had left waiting, descended into the cellar, when, perceiving the trick which they had played her, and the robbery which they had committed in stealing her jewels, she began to cry and weep, but all in vain. All the neighbours hastened to her, and to them she related her misfortune, which served more to raise laughter and jeers at her expense than to excite pity; though the subtlety of the two she-thieves was universally praised. These latter, as soon as they had got out of the door, knew well how to conceal themselves, for having once reached the mountain it was not possible to find them. So much for their divination, their foreseeing things to come, their power over the secrets of nature, and their knowledge of the stars.’

The Gitanas in the olden time appear to have not unfrequently been subjected to punishment as sorceresses, and with great justice, as the abominable trade which they drove in philtres and decoctions certainly entitled them to that appellation, and to the pains and penalties reserved for those who practised what was termed ‘witchcraft.’

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 consists. The fear of the evil eye is common amongst all oriental people, whether Turks, Arabs, or Hindoos. It is dangerous in some parts to survey a person with a fixed glance, as he instantly concludes that you are casting the evil eye upon him. Children, particularly, are afraid of the evil eye from the superstitious fear inculcated in their minds in the nursery. Parents in the East feel no delight when strangers look at their children in admiration of their loveliness; they consider that you merely look at them in order to blight them. The attendants on the children of the great are enjoined never to permit strangers to fix their glance upon them. I was once in the shop of an Armenian at Constantinople, waiting to see a procession which was expected to pass by; there was a Janisary there, holding by the hand a little boy about six years of age, the son of some Bey; they also had come to see the procession. I was struck with the remarkable loveliness of the child, and fixed my glance upon it: presently it became uneasy, and turning to the Janisary, said: ‘There are evil eyes upon me; drive them away.’ ‘Take your eyes off the child, Frank,’ said the Janisary, who had a long white beard, and wore a hanjar. ‘What harm can they do to the child, efendijem?’ said I. ‘Are they not the eyes of a Frank?’ replied the Janisary; ‘but were they the eyes of Omar, they should not rest on the child.’ ‘Omar,’ said I, ‘and why not Ali? Don’t you love Ali?’ ‘What matters it to you whom I love,’ said the Turk in a rage; ‘look at the child again with your chesm fanar and I will smite you.’ ‘Bad as my eyes are,’ said I, ‘they can see that you do not love Ali.’ ‘Ya Ali, ya Mahoma, Alahhu!’ (30) said the Turk, drawing his hanjar. All Franks, by which are meant Christians, are considered as casters of the evil eye. I was lately at Janina in Albania, where a friend of mine, a Greek gentleman, is established as physician. ‘I have been visiting the child of a Jew that is sick,’ said he to me one day; ‘scarcely, however, had I left the house, when the father came running after me. “You have cast the evil eye on my child,” said he; “come back and spit in its face.” And I assure you,’ continued my friend, ‘that notwithstanding all I could say, he compelled me to go back and spit in the face of his child.’

Perhaps there is no nation in the world amongst whom this belief is so firmly rooted and from so ancient a period as the Jews; it being a subject treated of, and in the gravest manner, by the old Rabbinical writers themselves, which induces the conclusion that the superstition of the evil eye is of an antiquity almost as remote as the origin of the Hebrew race; (and can we go farther back?) as the oral traditions of the Jews, contained and commented upon in what is called the Talmud, are certainly not less ancient than the inspired writings of the Old Testament, and have unhappily been at all times regarded by them with equal if not greater reverence.

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.’

Let us now see what the TALMUD itself says about the evil eye. The passage which we are about to quote is curious, not so much from the subject which it treats of, as in affording an example of the manner in which the Rabbins are wont to interpret the Scripture, and the strange and wonderful deductions which they draw from words and phrases apparently of the greatest simplicity.

‘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. If we turn to Scripture, the wonderful book which is capable of resolving every mystery, I believe that we shall presently come to the solution of the evil eye. ‘The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.’ Ps. cxxi. v. 6.

Those who wish to avoid the evil eye, instead of trusting in charms, scrawls, and Rabbinical antidotes, let them never loiter in the sunshine before the king of day has nearly reached his bourn in the west; for the sun has an evil eye, and his glance produces brain fevers; and let them not sleep uncovered beneath the smile of the moon, for her glance is poisonous, and produces insupportable itching in the eye, and not unfrequently blindness.

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. ‘Art thou not the God who brought us out of the land of bondage?’ they exclaim in the days of their heaviest trouble and affliction. He who redeemed Israel from the hand of Pharaoh is yet capable of restoring the kingdom and sceptre to Israel.

If the Rommany trusted in any God at the period of THEIR exodus, they must speedily have forgotten him. Coming from Ind, as they most assuredly did, it was impossible for them to have known the true, and they must have been followers (if they followed any) either of Buddh, or Brahmah, those tremendous phantoms which have led, and are likely still to lead, the souls of hundreds of millions to destruction; yet they are now ignorant of such names, nor does it appear that such were ever current amongst them subsequent to their arrival in Europe, if indeed they ever were. 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. 13.

‘Thus saith the Lord; I will make the multitude of Egypt to cease, by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.’ Chap. xxx. v. 10.

‘And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among the countries; and they shall know that I am the Lord.’ Chap. xxx. v. 26.

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


‘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 first is that they are foreigners, though authors differ much with respect to the country from whence they came. The majority say that they are from Africa, and that they came with the Moors when Spain was lost; others that they are Tartars, Persians, Cilicians, Nubians, from Lower Egypt, from Syria, or from other parts of Asia and Africa, and others consider them to be descendants of Chus, son of Cain; others say that they are of European origin, Bohemians, Germans, or outcasts from other nations of this quarter of the world.

‘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, Fastidit patrium non nisi nosse solum.”

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