Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling

It is no great problem in 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 today 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 medallion, 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 theydid not associate with the devils who dwell in the desert places, admitted the soft impeach merit, 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 found 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, where unto 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 childhood experiences and memories I retain with absolute accuracy material enough to declare that without any aid fromother 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 makes 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 I 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 of1visual perception or volitional eye-memory,2 reproduce or create images that they imagine to be real, and this faculty is much more 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.However, the fact being that babes can form for themselves supernatural conceptions and embryo mythologies, and as they always do attribute to strange or terrible-looking persons power which the latter do not possess, it is easy, without going further, to understand why a wild Indian gypsy, with eyes like a demon when excited, and unearthly-looking at his calmest, should have been supposed to be a sorcerer by credulous child-like villagers.All of this I believe might have taken place, or really did take place, in the very dawn of man’s existence as a rational creature—that as soon as ” the frontal convolution of the brain which monkeys do not possess,” had begun with the “genial tubercle,”‘ essential to language, to develop itself, then also certain other convolutions and tubercules, not as yet discovered, but which ad interim I will call ” the ghost-making,” began to act.” Genial,” they certainly were not—little joy and much sorrow has man got out of his spectro-facient apparatus—perhaps if it and talk are correlative he might as well, many a time, have been better off if he were dumb.