Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 255
Publication Date: 1891
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This book discusses spells, incantations and talismans used within Roma culture, as well as the more practical magic they use in their interaction with the Gorgios--the non-Gypsies. It is this latter topic which provides some of the most interesting and instructional reading. Leland gives some generalized methods of fortune-telling which any prospective psychic would do well to study; as well as the details of the 'Great Secret', a magic trick in which all of your money disappears.
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AS their peculiar perfume is the chief association with spices, so sorcery is allied in every memory to gypsies. And as it has not escaped many poets that there is something more strangely sweet and mysterious in the scent of cloves than in that of flowers, so the attribute of inherited magic power adds to the romance of these picturesque wanderers. Both the spices and the Romany come from the far East—the fatherland of divination and enchantment. The latter have been traced with tolerable accuracy, If we admit their affinity with the Indian Dom and Domar, back to the threshold of history, or well-nigh into prehistoric times, and in all ages they, or their women, have been engaged, as if by elvish instinct, in selling enchant. merits, peddling prophecies and palmistry, and dealing with the devil generally ill a small retail way. As it was of old so it is to-day—
Ki shan i Romani—
Adoi san' i chov'hani.
Wherever gypsies go,
There the witches are, we know.
It is no great problem ill ethnology or anthropology as to how gypsies became fortune-tellers. We may find a very curious illustration of it in the wren. This is apparently as humble, modest, prosaic little fowl as exists, and as far from mystery and wickedness as an old hen. But the ornithologists of the olden time, and the myth-makers, and the gypsies who lurked and lived in the forest, knew better. They saw how this bright-eyed, strange little creature in her elvish way slipped in and out of hollow trees and wood shade into sunlight, and anon was gone, no man knew whither, and so they knew that it was an uncanny creature, and told wonderful tales of its deeds in human form, and to-day it is called by gypsies in Germany, as in England, the witch-bird, or more briefly, chorihani, "the witch." Just so the gypsies themselves, with their glittering Indian eyes, slipping like the wren in and out of the shadow of the Unknown, and anon away and invisible, won for themselves the name which now they wear. Wherever Shamanism, or the sorcery which is based on exorcising or commanding spirits, exists, its professors from leading strange lives, or from solitude or wandering, become strange and wild-looking. When men have this appearance people associate with it mysterious power. This is the case in Tartary, Africa, among the Eskimo, Lapps, or Red Indians, with all of whom the sorcerer, voodoo or medaolin, has the eye of the "fascinator," glittering and cold as that of a serpent. So the gypsies, from the mere fact of being wanderers and out-of-doors livers in wild places, became wild-looking, and when asked if they did not associate with the devils who dwell in the desert places, admitted the soft impeachment, and being further questioned as to whether their friends the devils, fairies, elves, and goblins had not taught them how to tell the future, they pleaded guilty, and finding that it paid well, went to work in their small way to improve their "science," and particularly their pecuniary resources. It was an easy calling; it required no property or properties, neither capital nor capitol, shiners nor shrines, wherein to work the oracle. And as I believe that a company of children left entirely to themselves would form and grow up with a language which in a very few years would be spoken fluently, so I am certain that the shades of night, and fear, pain, and lightning and mystery would produce in the same time conceptions of dreaded beings, resulting first in demonology and then in the fancied art of driving devils away. For out of my own childish experiences and memories I retain with absolute accuracy material enough to declare that without any aid from other people the youthful mind forms for itself strange and seemingly supernatural phenomena.
A tree or bush waving in the night breeze by moonlight is perhaps mistaken for a great man, the mere repetition of the sight or of its memory make it a personal reality. Once when I was a child powerful doses of quinine caused a peculiar throb in my ear which I for some time believed was the sound of somebody continually walking upstairs. Very young children sometimes imagine invisible playmates or companions talk with them, and actually believe that the unseen talk to them in return. I myself knew a small boy who had, as he sincerely believed, such a companion, whom he called Bill, and when he could not understand his lessons he consulted the mysterious William, who explained them to him. There are children who, by the voluntary or involuntary exercise of visual perception or volitional eye-memory, reproduce or create images which they imagine to be real, and this faculty is much commoner than is supposed. In fact I believe that where it exists in most remarkable degrees the adults to whom the children describe their visions dismiss them as "fancies" or falsehoods. Even in the very extraordinary cases recorded by Professor HALE, in which little children formed for themselves spontaneously a language in which they conversed fluently, neither their parents nor anybody else appears to have taken the least interest in the matter.