Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling, by Charles Godfrey Leland, , at sacred-texts.com
THE RECOVERY OF STOLEN PROPERTY—LOVE-CHARMS—SHOES AND LOVE-POTIONS, OR PHILTRES
WHEN a man has lost anything, or been robbed, he often has in his own mind, quite unconsciously, some suspicion or clue to it. A clever fortune-teller or gypsy who has made a life-long study of such clues, can often elicit from the loser, hints which
enable the magician to surmise the truth. Many people place absolute confidence in their servants, and perhaps suspect nobody. The detective or gypsy has no such faith in man, and suspects everybody. Where positive knowledge cannot be established there is, however, another resource. The thief is often as superstitious as his victim. Hence he fears that some mysterious curse may be laid on him, which he cannot escape. In the Pacific Islands, as among negroes everywhere, a man will die if taboo or voodoo attaches to the taking of objects which have been consecrated by a certain formula. Therefore such formulas are commonly employed. Among the Hungarian gypsies to recover a stolen animal, some of its dung is taken and thrown to the East and the West with the words
"Kay tut o kam dikhel:
Odoy ává kiyá mánge!"
"Where the sun sees thee,
Hence return to me!"
But when a horse has been stolen, they take what is left of his harness, bury it in the earth and make a fire over it, saying
"Kó tut cordyás
Nasvales th' ávlás
Leske sor ná ávlás,
Tu ná ač kiyá leske
Avá sástes kiyá mange!
Leskro sor káthe pashlyol
Sár e tçuv avriurál!"
"Who stole thee
Sick may he be
May his strength depart
Do not thou remain by him,
Come (back) sound to me,
His strength lies here
As the smoke goes away!"
To know in which direction the stolen thing lies, they carry a sucking babe to a stream, hold it over the water and say:—
"Pen mánge, oh Nivaseya
Kay hin m'ro gráy,
Ujes hin čavo,
Ujes sár o kam
Ujes sár páñi
Ujes sár čumut
Ujes sar legujes?
Pen mánge, oh Niváseyá.
Kay hin m'ro gráy!"
"Tell me, oh Nivaseha,
By the child's hand!
Where is my horse ?
Pure is the child
Pure as the sun,
Pure as water,
Pure as the moon,
Pure as the purest.
Tell me, oh Nivaseha,
By the child's hand!
Where is my horse?"
In this we have an illustration of the widely spread belief that an innocent child is a powerful agent in prophecy and sorcery. The oath "by the hand" is still in vogue among all gypsies. "Apo miro dadeskro vast!" ("By my father's hand!") is one of their greatest oaths in Germany, ("Die Zigeuner," von RICHARD LIEBICH), and I have met with an old gypsy in England who knew it.
If a man who is seeking for stolen goods finds willow twigs grown into a knot, he ties it up and says:—
"Me avri pçándáv čoreskro báçht!"
"I tie up the thief's luck!"
There is also a belief among the gypsies that these knots are twined by the fairies, and that whoever undoes them undoes his own luck, or
that of the person on whom he is thinking. (Vide ROCHOLZ, "Alemannisches Kinderlied und Kinderspiel aus der Schweiz," p. 146). These willow-knots are much used in love-charms. To win the love of a maid, a man cuts one of them, puts it into his mouth, and says:—
"T're báçt me çáv,
T're baçt me piyáv,
Dáv tute m're baçt,
Káná tu mánge sál."
I eat thy luck,
I drink thy luck
Give me that luck of thine,
Then thou shalt be mine."
Then the lover, if he can, secretly hides this knot in the bed of the wished-for bride. It is worth noting that these lines are so much like English Gypsy as it was once spoken that there are still men who would, in England, understand every word of it. Somewhat allied to this is another charm. The lover takes a blade of grass in his mouth, and turning to the East and the West, says:—
"Kay o kám, avriável,
Kiya mánge lele beshel!
Kay o kám tel' ável,
Kiya lelákri me beshav."
"Where the sun goes up
Shall my love be by me
Where the sun goes down
There by her I'll be."
Then the blade of grass is cut up into pieces and mingled with some food which the girl must eat, and if she swallow the least bit of the grass, she will be gewogen und treugesinnt—moved to love, and true-hearted. On which Dr. WLISLOCKI remarks on the old custom "also known to the Hindoos," by which any one wishing to deprecate the wrath of another, or to express complete subjection, takes a blade of
grass in his mouth. Of which GRIMM writes: "This custom may have sprung from the idea that the one conquered gave himself up like a domestic animal to the absolute power of another. And with this appears to be connected the ancient custom of holding out grass as a sign of surrender. The conquered man took the blade of grass in his mouth and then transferred it to his conqueror."
If a gypsy girl be in love she finds the foot-print of her "object," digs out the earth which is within its outline and buries this under a willow-tree, saying:—
"Upro pçuv hin but Pçuvá;
Kás kámáv, mange th' ávlá!
Bárvol, bárvol, sálciye,
Brigá ná hin mánge!
Yov tover, me pori,
Yov kokosh, me cátrá,
Ádá, ádá me kamav!"
"Many earths on earth there be,
Whom I love my own shall be,
Grow, grow willow tree!
Sorrow none unto me!
He the axe, I the helve,
He the cock, I the hen,
This, this (be as) I will!"
Another love-charm which belongs to ancient black witchcraft, and is known far and wide, is the following: When dogs are coupling (Wenn Hund und Hündin bei der Paarung zusammenhangen) the lover suddenly covers them with a cloth, if possible, one which is afterwards presented to the girl whom he seeks, while he says
"Me jiuklo, yoy jiukli,
Yoy tover, me pori,
Me kokosh, yoy cátrá,
Ádá, ádá, me kamáv!"
"I the dog, she the bitch,
I the helve, she the axe,
I the cock (and) she the hen,
That, that I desire!"
He or she who finds a red ribbon, tape, or even a piece of red stuff of any kind, especially if it be wool, will have luck in love. It must be picked up and carried as an amulet, and when raising it from the ground the finder must make a wish for the love of some person, or if he have no particular desire for any one, he may wish for luck in love, or a sweetheart. This is, I believe, pretty generally known in some form all over the world. A yellow ribbon or flower, especially if it be floating on water, presages gold; a white object, silver, or peace or reconciliation with enemies.
It is also lucky for love to find a key. In Tuscany there is a special formula which must be spoken while picking it up. Very old keys are valuable amulets. Those who carry them will learn secrets, penetrate mysteries, and succeed in what they undertake.
If you can get a shoe which a girl has worn you may make sad havoc with her heart if you carry it near your own. Also hang it up over your bed and put into it the leaves of rue.
During November, 1889, not a few newspaper commentators busied themselves with conjectures as to why a Scotch constable buried the boots of a murdered man. That it was done through some superstitious belief is conceded; but what the fashion of the superstition is seems unknown. It originated, beyond question, in the old Norse custom of always burying the dead in their shoes or with them. For they believed that the deceased would have, when he arrived in the other world, to traverse broad and burning plains before he could reach his destination, be it Valhalla or the dreary home of Hel; and to protect his feet from the fire his friends bound on them the "hell-shoon!' Other cares were also taken: and in the saga of Olof Tryggvasen we are told that one monarch was thoughtfully provided with a cow; while the Vikings were buried
in their ships, so that they could keep on pirating "for ever and-ever."
The superstition of the burial of the boots probably survives in England. It is about seventeen years since the writer heard from an old gypsy that when another gypsy was "pûvado," or "earthed," a very good pair of boots was placed by him in the grave. The reason was not given; perhaps it was not known. These customs often survive after the cause is forgotten, simply from some feeling that good or bad luck attends their observance or the neglect of it. Many years since a writer in an article on shoes in The English Magazine stated that, "according to an Aryan tradition, the greater part of the way from the land of the living to that of death lay through morasses and vast moors overgrown with furzes and thorns. That the dead might not pass over them barefoot, a pair of shoes was laid with them in the grave."
The shoe was of old in many countries a symbol of life, liberty, or entire personal control. In Ruth we are told that "it was the custom in Israel concerning changing, that a man plucked off his shoe and delivered it to his neighbour." So the bride, who was originally always a slave, transferred herself by the symbol of the shoe. When the Emperor Waldimir made proposals of marriage to the daughter of Ragnald, she replied scornfully that she would not take off her shoes to the son of a slave. Gregory of Tours, in speaking of wedding, says The bridegroom, having given a ring to the bride, presents her with a shoe."
As regards the Scandinavian hel-shoe, or hell-shoon, Kelley, in his "Indo-European Folk-lore," tells us that a funeral is still called a dead shoe in the Henneberg district; and the writer already cited adds that in a MS. of the Cotton Library, containing an account. of Cleveland in Yorkshire, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, there is a passage which illustrates this curious custom. It was quoted by Sir Walter Scott in the notes to "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," and runs thus:—
"When any dieth certaine women sing a song to the dead bodie, reciting the journey that the partye deceased must goe; and they are of beliefe that once in their
lives it is goode to give a pair of new shoes to a poor man; forasmuch as before this life they are to pass bare-foote through a great lande, full of thornes and furzen—excepte by the meryte of the almes aforesaid they have redeemed the forfeyte—for at the edge of the launde an oulde man shall meet them with the same shoes that were given by the partie when he was lyving, and after he hath shodde them dismisseth them to go, through thick and thin without scratch or scalle.
This must be a very agreeable reflection to all gentlemen who have bestowed their old boots on waiters, or ladies who have in like fashion gifted their maids. It is true, the legend specifies new shoes; but surely a pair of thirty-shilling boots only half worn count for as much as a new pair of half a sovereign chaussures. However, if one is to go "through thick and thin without scratch or scalle," it may be just as, well to be on the safe side, and give a good new extra stout pair to the gardener for Christmas. For truly these superstitions are strange things, and no one knows what may be in them.
There are one or two quaint shoe stories of the olden time which may be of value to the collector. It befell once in the beginnings of Bohemia, that, according to Schafarik ("Slawische Alterthümer," vol. ii. p. 422), Lïbussa, queen of that land, found herself compelled by her council to wed. And the wise men, being consulted, declared that he who was to marry the queen would be found by her favourite horse, who would lead the way till he found a man eating from an iron table, and kneel to him. So the horse went on, and unto a field where a man sat eating a peasant's dinner from a ploughshare. This was the farmer Prschemischl. So they covered him with the royal robes and led him to the queen expectant. But ere going he took his shoes of willow-wood and placed them in his bosom and kept them to remind him ever after of his low origin. It will, of course, at once strike the reader, as it has the learned, that this is a story which would naturally originate in any country where there are iron ploughshares, horses, queens, and wooden shoes: and, as Schafarik shrewdly suggests, that it was all "a put-up job;" since, of course, Prschemischl was already a lover of the queen,
the horse was trained to find him and to kneel before him, and, finally, that the ploughshare and wooden shoes were the prepared properties of the little drama. The only little flaw in this evidence is the name Prschemischl, which, it must be admitted, is extremely difficult to get over.
The Seven League Boots and the shoes of Peter Schlemilil, which take one over the world at will, have a variation in a pair recorded in another tale. There was a beautiful and extremely proud damsel, who refused a young man with every conceivable aggravation of the offence, informing him that when she ran after him, and not before that, he might hope to marry her; and at the same time meeting a poor old gypsy woman who begged her for a pair of old shoes. To which the proud Princess replied:—
"Shoes here, shoes there;
Give me a couple, I'll give thee a pair."
To which the old gypsy, who was a witch, grimly muttered, "I'll give thee a pair which ———" The rest of the expression was really too unamiable to repeat. Well, the youth and the witch met, and, going to the lady's shoemaker, "made him make" a superbly elegant pair of shoes, which were sent to the damsel as a gift. Such a gift! No sooner were they put on than off they started, carrying the Princess, malgré elle, over hill and dale. By and by she saw that a man—the man, of course, whom she had refused—was in advance of her. As in the song of the Cork Leg, "the shoes never stopped, but kept on the pace." And the young man led her to a lonely castle and reasoned with her. And as she had promised to marry should she ever run after him, and as she had pursued him a whole day, she kept her word. The shoes she sent to the witch filled with gold; and they were wedded, and all went as merry as a thousand grigs in a duck-pond.
The shoe, as has been shown by a Danish writer in a book chiefly devoted to the subject, is a type of life, especially as shown in productiveness
and fertility. Hence old shoes and grain are thrown after a bride, as people say, for luck; but the Jews do it crying, "Peru urphu" "Increase and multiply." For this, and much more, the reader may consult that wonderful treasury of Folk-lore, "Die Symbolik und Mythologie der Natur," J. B. FRIEDRICH, Würzburg, 1859. To which we would add our mite by remarking as a curious confirmation of this theory, that—
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
Who had so many children she didn't know what to do.
This passes now for a mere nursery-rhyme; but doubtless there are those who will trace it back to the early morning of mythology, and prove that it was once a Himaritic hymn, sung to some Melitta who has long passed away down the back entry of time.
For several additional Hungarian gypsy love-charms and spells, collected by Dr. Wlislocki, published in Ethnographia, and subsequently in The Gipsy-Lore Journal for June, 1890, I am greatly indebted to the kindness of Mr. D. MacRitchie:—
"The gypsy girls of Transylvania believe that spells to 'know your future husband' can be best carried out on the eves of certain days, such as New Year, Easter, and Saint George. 'On New Year's Eve they throw shoes or boots on a willow tree, but are only allowed to throw them nine times.' Compare this with the throwing of the old shoe after the bride in many countries. 'If the shoe catches in the branches the girl who threw it will be married within a year.'
"'Per de, per de prájtina,
Varckaj hin, hász kâmav?
Basá, párro dzsiuklo,
Pirano dzsâl mai szigo.'
"'Scattered leaves around I see,
Where can my true lover be?
Ah, the white dog barks at last
And my love comes running fast!'
"If during the singing the bark of a dog should be heard, the damsel will be 'wedded and bedded and a' 'ere New Year comes again. This is virtually the same
with a charm practised in Tuscany, which from other ancient witness I believe to be of Etruscan origin. Allied to this is the following: On the night of Saint George's Day (query, Saint George's Eve?) gypsy girls blindfold a white dog, then, letting it loose, place themselves quietly in several places. She to whom the dog runs first will be the first married. Blindman's buff was anciently an amorous, semi-magical, or witches' game, only that in place of the dog a man was blindfolded.
"'Or the girl pulls a hair from her head, fastens a ring to it, and dangles it in a jug. The ring vibrates or swings, and so often as it touches the side of the jug so many years will it be before she marries.' This is an ancient spell of Eastern origin. As performed according to old works the thread must be wound around the ring-finger and touch the pulse. On the edge of a bowl the letters of the alphabet, or numerals, are marked, and the ring swinging against these spells words or denotes numbers. The touching of the latter indicates the number of lovers a girl is to have.
"Early on Whitsunday morning the girls go out, and if they see clouds in the East they throw twigs in that direction, saying:—
"'Predzsia, csirik leja,
Te ná tráda m're píranes.'
'Fly my bird-fly, I say,
Do not chase my love away.'
For they think that if on Whitsun-morn there are many clouds in the East few girls will be married during the coming year. This peculiar, seemingly incomprehensible, custom of the gypsies originated in an old belief, the germ of which we find in the Hindoo myth, according to which the spring morning which spreads brightness and blessings descends from the blue bird of heaven, who, on the other hand, also represents night or winter. Special preparations are made so that the predictions shall be fulfilled. On the days mentioned the girls are neither allowed to wash themselves, nor to kiss any one, nor go to church. At Easter, or on the Eve of Saint George, the girl must eat fish, in order to see the future in her dreams.
"On Easter morning the girls boil water, in the bubbles of which they try to make out the names of their future husbands.
"To find out whether the future husband is young or old the girl must take nine seeds of the thorn-apple, ploughed-up earth of nine different places, and water from as many more. With these she kneads a cake, which is laid on a cross-road on Easter or Saint George's morning. If a woman steps first on the cake her husband will be a widower or an old man, but if a man the husband will be single or young.
"To see the form of a future husband a girl must go on the night of Saint George to a cross-road. Her hair is combed backwards, and, pricking the little finger of the left hand, she must let three drops of blood fall on the ground while saying:—
"'Mro rat dav piraneszke,
Kász dikhav, avava adaleske.'
"'I give my blood to my loved one,
Whom I shall see shall be mine own!'
"Then the form of her future husband will rise slowly out of the blood and fade as slowly away. She must then gather up the dust, or mud-blood, and throw it into a river, otherwise the Nivashi, or Water-spirits, will lick up the blood, and the girl be drowned within the Year. It is said that about twenty years ago the beautiful Roszi (Rosa), the daughter of Peter Danku, the waywode, or chief of the Kukuja tribe, was drowned during the time of her betrothal because when she performed this ceremony she had neglected to gather up the sprinkled blood.
"If a girl wishes to see the form of her future husband, and also to know what luck awaits her love, she goes on any of the fore-named nights to a cross-road, and sits down on the ground, putting before her a fried fish and a glass of brandy. Then the form of her future husband will appear and stand before her for a time, silent and immovable. Should he then take the fish the marriage will be happy, but if he begin with the brandy it will be truly wretched. But if he takes neither, one of the two will die during the year.
"That the laying of cards, the interpretation of dreams, the reading of the future in the hand, and similar divinations are constantly practised is quite natural, but it would lead us too far to enlarge on all these practices. But there are charms to win or cause love which are more interesting. Among these are the love-potions or philtres, for preparing which gypsies have always been famed.
"The simplest and least hurtful beverage which they give unknown to persons to secure love is made as follows:—On any of the nights mentioned they collect in the meadows gander-goose (Romání, vast bengeszkero—devil's hand; in Latin, Orchis maculata; German, Knaberkraut), the yellow roots of which they dry and crush and mix with their menses, and this they introduce to the food of the person whose love they wish to secure"
Of the same character is a potion which they prepare as follows: On the day of Saint John they catch a green frog and put it in a closed earthen receptacle full of small holes, and this they place in an ant-hill. The ants cat the frog and leave the skeleton. This s ground to powder, mixed with the blood of a bat and dried bath-flies and shaped into small buns, which are, as the chance occurs, put secretly into the food of the person to be charmed.
There is yet another charm connected with this which I leave in the original Latin in which it is modestly given by Dr. Wlislocki: "Qualibet supradictarum noctium occiduntur duo canes nigri, mas et femina, quorum genitalia exstirpata ad condensationem coquntur. Hujus materiæ particula consumpta quemvis invincibili amore facit exardescare in eam eamve, qui hoc medio prodigioso usus est."
It may be remarked that these abominable charms are also not only known to the Tuscan witches of the present day, but are found in Voodoo sorcery, and are indeed all over the world. To use revolting means in black sorcery may be, or perhaps certainly is, spontaneous—sporadic, but when we find the peculiar details of the processes identical, we are so much nearer to transmission or history that the burden of disproving must fall on the doubter.
"To the less revolting philtres belongs one in which the girl puts the ashes of a burnt piece of her dress which had been wet with perspiration and has, perhaps, hair adhering to it, into a man's food or drink (also Tuscan).
"To bury the foot of a badger (also Voodoo), or the eye of a crow, under one's sleeping-place is believed to excite or awaken love.
"According to gypsy belief one can spread love by transplanting blood, perspiration, or hair into the body of a person.
"By burning the hair, blood, or saliva of any one, his or her love can be extinguished.
"The following is a charm used to punish a faithless lover. The deceived maid lights a candle at midnight and pricks it several times with a needle, saying:—
Pchâgera tre vodyi!'
"'Thrice the candle's broke by me
Thrice thy heart shall broken be!'
"If the faithless lover marries another. the girl mixes the broken shell of a crab in his food or drink, or hides one of her hairs in a bird's nest. This will make the marriage unhappy, and the husband will continually pine for his neglected sweetheart."
This last charm is allied to another current among the Slavonians, and elsewhere mentioned, by which it is believed that if a bird gets any of a man's hair and works it into a nest he will suffer terribly till it is completely decayed.