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Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, [1899], at


Far less dubious seems an extract from the Georgian Life of Giorgi Mtharsmindel of Mount Athos (St. Petersburg, 1846, p, 241), which was demonstrably composed in the year 1100. We have two French translations of that extract--one published by Otto Boehtlingk (Bulletin historico-philol. de l’Académie de St. Petersbourg, ii. 1853, p. 4), and the other by Miklosich (loc. cit., part vi. p. 60). Both translations agree closely; I follow Miklosich's:--'Whilst the pious king, Bagrat IV. [c. 1048], was in the imperial city of Constantinople, he learnt--a thing marvellous and quite incredible--that there were certain descendants there of the Samaritan race of Simon Magus, called Atsincan, wizards and famous rogues. Now there were wild beasts that used to come and devour the animals kept, for the monarch's chase, in the imperial park. The great emperor Monomachus, learning of this, bade summon the Atsincan, to destroy by their magic art the beasts devouring his game. They, in obedience to the imperial behest, killed a quantity of wild beasts. King Bagrat heard of it, and summoning the Atsincan, said, "How have you killed these beasts?" "Sire," said they, "our art teaches us to poison meat, which we put in a place frequented by these beasts; then climbing a tree, we attract them by imitating the cry of the animals; they assemble, eat the meat, and drop down dead. Only beasts born on Holy Saturday obey us not. Instead of eating the poisoned meat, they say to us, 'Eat it yourselves'; then off they go unharmed." The monarch, wishing to see it with his own eyes, bade them summon a beast of this sort, but they could find nothing but a dog which they knew had not been born upon that day. The monk, who was present with the king, was moved with the same natural sentiment as we have spoken of above, on the subject of the icons and of the divine representation. He was moved, not with pity only, but with the fear of God, and would have no such doings among Christians, above all before the king, in a place where he was himself. He made the sign of the cross on the poisoned meat, and the animal had no sooner swallowed it than it brought it up, and so did not drop dead. The dog having taken no harm, the baffled wizards begged the king to have the monk, Giorgi, taken into the inner apartments, and to order another dog to be brought. The holy monk gone, they brought another dog, and gave him the

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poisoned meat: he fell dead instantly. At sight of this King Bagrat and his lords rejoiced exceedingly, and told the marvel to the pious emperor, Constantine Monomachus [1042-54], who shared their satisfaction and thanked God. As to King Bagrat, he said, "With this holy man near me, I fear neither wizards nor their deadly poisons."' That things fell out precisely as here reported is questionable, but Gypsies are clearly meant by the Atsincan; the passage attests their existence in Europe in the eleventh century. The poisoning of pigs--for which compare Borrow's Romany Rye--has become a lost Gypsy art. But twenty-five years ago I knew English Gypsies who had a most unpleasant knowledge of whence to get natural arsenic. One of them dropped down dead, and the policeman who examined his body found a quantity of it in his pocket. ' Oh! yes,' explained the survivors, ' he used it, you know, sir, in his tinkering.' 1

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