The Zincali - An Account of the Gypsies of Spain
by George Borrow
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Besides trafficking in horses and mules, and now and then attacking and plundering travellers upon the highway, the Gypsies of Spain appear, from a very early period, to have plied occasionally the trade of the blacksmith, and to have worked in iron, forming rude implements of domestic and agricultural use, which they disposed of, either for provisions or money, in the neighbourhood of those places where they had taken up their temporary residence. As their bands were composed of numerous individuals, there is no improbability in assuming that to every member was allotted that branch of labour in which he was most calculated to excel. The most important, and that which required the greatest share of cunning and address, was undoubtedly that of the chalan or jockey, who frequented the fairs with the beasts which he had obtained by various means, but generally by theft. Highway robbery, though occasionally committed by all jointly or severally, was probably the peculiar department of the boldest spirits of the gang; whilst wielding the hammer and tongs was abandoned to those who, though possessed of athletic forms, were perhaps, like Vulcan, lame, or from some particular cause, moral or physical, unsuited for the other two very respectable avocations. The forge was generally placed in the heart of some mountain abounding in wood; the gaunt smiths felled a tree, perhaps with the very axes which their own sturdy hands had hammered at a former period; with the wood thus procured they prepared the charcoal which their labour demanded. Everything is in readiness; the bellows puff until the coal is excited to a furious glow; the metal, hot, pliant, and ductile, is laid on the anvil, round which stands the Cyclop group, their hammers upraised; down they descend successively, one, two, three, the sparks are scattered on every side. The sparks -

'More than a hundred lovely daughters I see produced at one time, fiery as roses: in one moment they expire gracefully circumvolving.' (17)

The anvil rings beneath the thundering stroke, hour succeeds hour, and still endures the hard sullen toil.

One of the most remarkable features in the history of Gypsies is the striking similarity of their pursuits in every region of the globe to which they have penetrated; they are not merely alike in limb and in feature, in the cast and expression of the eye, in the colour of the hair, in their walk and gait, but everywhere they seem to exhibit the same tendencies, and to hunt for their bread by the same means, as if they were not of the human but rather of the animal species, and in lieu of reason were endowed with a kind of instinct which assists them to a very limited extent and no farther.

In no part of the world are they found engaged in the cultivation of the earth, or in the service of a regular master; but in all lands they are jockeys, or thieves, or cheats; and if ever they devote themselves to any toil or trade, it is assuredly in every material point one and the same. We have found them above, in the heart of a wild mountain, hammering iron, and manufacturing from it instruments either for their own use or that of the neighbouring towns and villages. They may be seen employed in a similar manner in the plains of Russia, or in the bosom of its eternal forests; and whoever inspects the site where a horde of Gypsies has encamped, in the grassy lanes beneath the hazel bushes of merry England, is generally sure to find relics of tin and other metal, avouching that they have there been exercising the arts of the tinker or smith. Perhaps nothing speaks more forcibly for the antiquity of this sect or caste than the tenacity with which they have uniformly preserved their peculiar customs since the period of their becoming generally known; for, unless their habits had become a part of their nature, which could only have been effected by a strict devotion to them through a long succession of generations, it is not to be supposed that after their arrival in civilised Europe they would have retained and cherished them precisely in the same manner in the various countries where they found an asylum.

Each band or family of the Spanish Gypsies had its Captain, or, as he was generally designated, its Count. Don Juan de Quinones, who, in a small volume published in 1632, has written some details respecting their way of life, says: 'They roam about, divided into families and troops, each of which has its head or Count; and to fill this office they choose the most valiant and courageous individual amongst them, and the one endowed with the greatest strength. He must at the same time be crafty and sagacious, and adapted in every respect to govern them. It is he who settles their differences and disputes, even when they are residing in a place where there is a regular justice. He heads them at night when they go out to plunder the flocks, or to rob travellers on the highway; and whatever they steal or plunder they divide amongst them, always allowing the captain a third part of the whole.'

These Counts, being elected for such qualities as promised to be useful to their troop or family, were consequently liable to be deposed if at any time their conduct was not calculated to afford satisfaction to their subjects. The office was not hereditary, and though it carried along with it partial privileges, was both toilsome and dangerous. Should the plans for plunder, which it was the duty of the Count to form, miscarry in the attempt to execute them; should individuals of the gang fall into the hand of justice, and the Count be unable to devise a method to save their lives or obtain their liberty, the blame was cast at the Count's door, and he was in considerable danger of being deprived of his insignia of authority, which consisted not so much in ornaments or in dress, as in hawks and hounds with which the Senor Count took the diversion of hunting when he thought proper. As the ground which he hunted over was not his own, he incurred some danger of coming in contact with the lord of the soil, attended, perhaps, by his armed followers. There is a tradition (rather apocryphal, it is true), that a Gitano chief, once pursuing this amusement, was encountered by a real Count, who is styled Count Pepe. An engagement ensued between the two parties, which ended in the Gypsies being worsted, and their chief left dying on the field. The slain chief leaves a son, who, at the instigation of his mother, steals the infant heir of his father's enemy, who, reared up amongst the Gypsies, becomes a chief, and, in process of time, hunting over the same ground, slays Count Pepe in the very spot where the blood of the Gypsy had been poured out. This tradition is alluded to in the following stanza:-

'I have a gallant mare in stall; My mother gave that mare That I might seek Count Pepe's hall And steal his son and heir.'

Martin Del Rio, in his TRACTATUS DE MAGIA, speaks of the Gypsies and their Counts to the following effect: 'When, in the year 1584, I was marching in Spain with the regiment, a multitude of these wretches were infesting the fields. It happened that the feast of Corpus Domini was being celebrated, and they requested to be admitted into the town, that they might dance in honour of the sacrifice, as was customary; they did so, but about midday a great tumult arose owing to the many thefts which the women committed, whereupon they fled out of the suburbs, and assembled about St. Mark's, the magnificent mansion and hospital of the knights of St. James, where the ministers of justice attempting to seize them were repulsed by force of arms; nevertheless, all of a sudden, and I know not how, everything was hushed up. At this time they had a Count, a fellow who spoke the Castilian idiom with as much purity as if he had been a native of Toledo; he was acquainted with all the ports of Spain, and all the difficult and broken ground of the provinces. He knew the exact strength of every city, and who were the principal people in each, and the exact amount of their property; there was nothing relating to the state, however secret, that he was not acquainted with; nor did he make a mystery of his knowledge, but publicly boasted of it.'

From the passage quoted above, we learn that the Gitanos in the ancient times were considered as foreigners who prowled about the country; indeed, in many of the laws which at various times have been promulgated against them, they are spoken of as Egyptians, and as such commanded to leave Spain, and return to their native country; at one time they undoubtedly were foreigners in Spain, foreigners by birth, foreigners by language but at the time they are mentioned by the worthy Del Rio, they were certainly not entitled to the appellation. True it is that they spoke a language amongst themselves, unintelligible to the rest of the Spaniards, from whom they differed considerably in feature and complexion, as they still do; but if being born in a country, and being bred there, constitute a right to be considered a native of that country, they had as much claim to the appellation of Spaniards as the worthy author himself. Del Rio mentions, as a remarkable circumstance, the fact of the Gypsy Count speaking Castilian with as much purity as a native of Toledo, whereas it is by no means improbable that the individual in question was a native of that town; but the truth is, at the time we are speaking of, they were generally believed to be not only foreigners, but by means of sorcery to have acquired the power of speaking all languages with equal facility; and Del Rio, who was a believer in magic, and wrote one of the most curious and erudite treatises on the subject ever penned, had perhaps adopted that idea, which possibly originated from their speaking most of the languages and dialects of the Peninsula, which they picked up in their wanderings. That the Gypsy chief was so well acquainted with every town of Spain, and the broken and difficult ground, can cause but little surprise, when we reflect that the life which the Gypsies led was one above all others calculated to afford them that knowledge. They were continually at variance with justice; they were frequently obliged to seek shelter in the inmost recesses of the hills; and when their thievish pursuits led them to the cities, they naturally made themselves acquainted with the names of the principal individuals, in hopes of plundering them. Doubtless the chief possessed all this species of knowledge in a superior degree, as it was his courage, acuteness, and experience alone which placed him at the head of his tribe, though Del Rio from this circumstance wishes to infer that the Gitanos were spies sent by foreign foes, and with some simplicity inquires, 'Quo ant cui rei haec curiosa exploratio? nonne compescenda vagamundorum haec curiositas, etiam si solum peregrini et inculpatae vitae.'

With the Counts rested the management and direction of these remarkable societies; it was they who determined their marches, counter-marches, advances, and retreats; what was to be attempted or avoided; what individuals were to be admitted into the fellowship and privileges of the Gitanos, or who were to be excluded from their society; they settled disputes and sat in judgment over offences. The greatest crimes, according to the Gypsy code, were a quarrelsome disposition, and revealing the secrets of the brotherhood. By this code the members were forbidden to eat, drink, or sleep in the house of a Busno, which signifies any person who is not of the sect of the Gypsies, or to marry out of that sect; they were likewise not to teach the language of Roma to any but those who, by birth or inauguration, belonged to that sect; they were enjoined to relieve their brethren in distress at any expense or peril; they were to use a peculiar dress, which is frequently alluded to in the Spanish laws, but the particulars of which are not stated; and they were to cultivate the gift of speech to the utmost possible extent, and never to lose anything which might be obtained by a loose and deceiving tongue, to encourage which they had many excellent proverbs, for example -

'The poor fool who closes his mouth never winneth a dollar.'

'The river which runneth with sound bears along with it stones and water.'


THE Gitanos not unfrequently made their appearance in considerable numbers, so as to be able to bid defiance to any force which could be assembled against them on a sudden; whole districts thus became a prey to them, and were plundered and devastated.

It is said that, in the year 1618, more than eight hundred of these wretches scoured the country between Castile and Aragon, committing the most enormous crimes. The royal council despatched regular troops against them, who experienced some difficulty in dispersing them.

But we now proceed to touch upon an event which forms an era in the history of the Gitanos of Spain, and which for wildness and singularity throws all other events connected with them and their race, wherever found, entirely into the shade.


About the middle of the sixteenth century, there resided one Francisco Alvarez in the city of Logrono, the chief town of Rioja, a province which borders on Aragon. He was a man above the middle age, sober, reserved, and in general absorbed in thought; he lived near the great church, and obtained a livelihood by selling printed books and manuscripts in a small shop. He was a very learned man, and was continually reading in the books which he was in the habit of selling, and some of these books were in foreign tongues and characters, so foreign, indeed, that none but himself and some of his friends, the canons, could understand them; he was much visited by the clergy, who were his principal customers, and took much pleasure in listening to his discourse.

He had been a considerable traveller in his youth, and had wandered through all Spain, visiting the various provinces and the most remarkable cities. It was likewise said that he had visited Italy and Barbary. He was, however, invariably silent with respect to his travels, and whenever the subject was mentioned to him, the gloom and melancholy increased which usually clouded his features.

One day, in the commencement of autumn, he was visited by a priest with whom he had long been intimate, and for whom he had always displayed a greater respect and liking than for any other acquaintance. The ecclesiastic found him even more sad than usual, and there was a haggard paleness upon his countenance which alarmed his visitor. The good priest made affectionate inquiries respecting the health of his friend, and whether anything had of late occurred to give him uneasiness; adding at the same time, that he had long suspected that some secret lay heavy upon his mind, which he now conjured him to reveal, as life was uncertain, and it was very possible that he might be quickly summoned from earth into the presence of his Maker.

The bookseller continued for some time in gloomy meditation, till at last he broke silence in these words:- 'It is true I have a secret which weighs heavy upon my mind, and which I am still loth to reveal; but I have a presentiment that my end is approaching, and that a heavy misfortune is about to fall upon this city: I will therefore unburden myself, for it were now a sin to remain silent.

'I am, as you are aware, a native of this town, which I first left when I went to acquire an education at Salamanca; I continued there until I became a licentiate, when I quitted the university and strolled through Spain, supporting myself in general by touching the guitar, according to the practice of penniless students; my adventures were numerous, and I frequently experienced great poverty. Once, whilst making my way from Toledo to Andalusia through the wild mountains, I fell in with and was made captive by a band of the people called Gitanos, or wandering Egyptians; they in general lived amongst these wilds, and plundered or murdered every person whom they met. I should probably have been assassinated by them, but my skill in music perhaps saved my life. I continued with them a considerable time, till at last they persuaded me to become one of them, whereupon I was inaugurated into their society with many strange and horrid ceremonies, and having thus become a Gitano, I went with them to plunder and assassinate upon the roads.

'The Count or head man of these Gitanos had an only daughter, about my own age; she was very beautiful, but, at the same time, exceedingly strong and robust; this Gitana was given to me as a wife or cadjee, and I lived with her several years, and she bore me children.

'My wife was an arrant Gitana, and in her all the wickedness of her race seemed to be concentrated. At last her father was killed in an affray with the troopers of the Hermandad, whereupon my wife and myself succeeded to the authority which he had formerly exercised in the tribe. We had at first loved each other, but at last the Gitano life, with its accompanying wickedness, becoming hateful to my eyes, my wife, who was not slow in perceiving my altered disposition, conceived for me the most deadly hatred; apprehending that I meditated withdrawing myself from the society, and perhaps betraying the secrets of the band, she formed a conspiracy against me, and, at one time, being opposite the Moorish coast, I was seized and bound by the other Gitanos, conveyed across the sea, and delivered as a slave into the hands of the Moors.

'I continued for a long time in slavery in various parts of Morocco and Fez, until I was at length redeemed from my state of bondage by a missionary friar who paid my ransom. With him I shortly after departed for Italy, of which he was a native. In that country I remained some years, until a longing to revisit my native land seized me, when I returned to Spain and established myself here, where I have since lived by vending books, many of which I brought from the strange lands which I visited. I kept my history, however, a profound secret, being afraid of exposing myself to the laws in force against the Gitanos, to which I should instantly become amenable, were it once known that I had at any time been a member of this detestable sect.

'My present wretchedness, of which you have demanded the cause, dates from yesterday; I had been on a short journey to the Augustine convent, which stands on the plain in the direction of Saragossa, carrying with me an Arabian book, which a learned monk was desirous of seeing. Night overtook me ere I could return. I speedily lost my way, and wandered about until I came near a dilapidated edifice with which I was acquainted; I was about to proceed in the direction of the town, when I heard voices within the ruined walls; I listened, and recognised the language of the abhorred Gitanos; I was about to fly, when a word arrested me. It was Drao, which in their tongue signifies the horrid poison with which this race are in the habit of destroying the cattle; they now said that the men of Logrono should rue the Drao which they had been casting. I heard no more, but fled. What increased my fear was, that in the words spoken, I thought I recognised the peculiar jargon of my own tribe; I repeat, that I believe some horrible misfortune is overhanging this city, and that my own days are numbered.'

The priest, having conversed with him for some time upon particular points of the history that he had related, took his leave, advising him to compose his spirits, as he saw no reason why he should indulge in such gloomy forebodings.

The very next day a sickness broke out in the town of Logrono. It was one of a peculiar kind; unlike most others, it did not arise by slow and gradual degrees, but at once appeared in full violence, in the shape of a terrific epidemic. Dizziness in the head was the first symptom: then convulsive retchings, followed by a dreadful struggle between life and death, which generally terminated in favour of the grim destroyer. The bodies, after the spirit which animated them had taken flight, were frightfully swollen, and exhibited a dark blue colour, checkered with crimson spots. Nothing was heard within the houses or the streets, but groans of agony; no remedy was at hand, and the powers of medicine were exhausted in vain upon this terrible pest; so that within a few days the greatest part of the inhabitants of Logrono had perished. The bookseller had not been seen since the commencement of this frightful visitation.

Once, at the dead of night, a knock was heard at the door of the priest, of whom we have already spoken; the priest himself staggered to the door, and opened it, - he was the only one who remained alive in the house, and was himself slowly recovering from the malady which had destroyed all the other inmates; a wild spectral-looking figure presented itself to his eye - it was his friend Alvarez. Both went into the house, when the bookseller, glancing gloomily on the wasted features of the priest, exclaimed, 'You too, I see, amongst others, have cause to rue the Drao which the Gitanos have cast. Know,' he continued, 'that in order to accomplish a detestable plan, the fountains of Logrono have been poisoned by emissaries of the roving bands, who are now assembled in the neighbourhood. On the first appearance of the disorder, from which I happily escaped by tasting the water of a private fountain, which I possess in my own house, I instantly recognised the effects of the poison of the Gitanos, brought by their ancestors from the isles of the Indian sea; and suspecting their intentions, I disguised myself as a Gitano, and went forth in the hope of being able to act as a spy upon their actions. I have been successful, and am at present thoroughly acquainted with their designs. They intended, from the first, to sack the town, as soon as it should have been emptied of 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)

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