Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling

Oct 18, 2012 by

I don’t think I can say it any better than what they wrote in the preface of GYPSY SORCERY & FORTUNE TELLING published in 1889.

“This work contains a collection of the customs, usages, and ceremonies current among gypsies, as regards fortune-telling, witch-doctoring, love philtering, and other sorcery, illustrated by many anecdotes and instances, taken either from works as yet very little known to the English reader or from personal experiences. Within a very few years, since Ethnology and Archaeology have received a great inspiration, and much enlarged their scope through Folklore, everything relating to such subjects is studied with far greater interest and to much greater profit than was the case when they were cultivated in a languid, half-believing, half sceptical spirit which was in reality rather one of mere romance than reason.

Now that we seek with resolution to find the whole truth, be it based on materialism, spiritualism, or their identity, we are amazed to find that the realm of marvel and mystery, of wonder and poetry, connected with what we vaguely call ” magic,” far from being explained away or exploded, enlarges ………..in a paper read before the Congres des Traditions populaires in Paris, 1889, on the relations of gypsies to Folk-lore, I set forth my belief that these people have always been the humble priests of what is really the practical religion of all peasants and poor people ; that is their magical ceremonies and medicine. Very few have any conception of the degree to which gypsies have been the colporteurs of what in Italy is called ” the old faith,” or witchcraft…….EGGS….Fortune-telling in Northumberland.

Besides the divination practised with the white of an egg, which certainly appears of a vague and unsatisfactory character, another species of fortune-telling with eggs is in vogue in Northumberland on the eve of St. Agnes. A maiden desirous of knowing what her future lord is like, is enjoined to boil an egg, after having spent the whole day fasting and in silence, then to extract the yolk, fill the cavity with salt, and eat the whole, including the shell. This highly unpalatable supper finished, the heroic maid must walk backwards, uttering this invocation to the saint : ‘ Sweet St. Agnes, work thy fast, If ever I be to marry man, Or man be to marry me, I hope him this night to see.’ Friedrich and others assert that the saying in Luke xi. 12 — ‘Or if he shall ask an egg shall he give him reference to ancient belief that the egg typified the good principle, and the scorpion evil, and which is certainly supported by a cloud of witnesses in the form of classic folk-lore.

The egg, as a cosmogenic symbol, and indicating the origin of all things, finds a place in the mythologies of many races. These are indicated with much erudition by Friedrich, ‘ Symbolik der Natur,’ p. 686. In Lower Alsatia it is believed that if a man will take an Easter egg into the church and look about him, if there be any witches in the congregation he may know them by their having in their hands pieces of pork instead of prayer-books, and milk-pails on their heads for bonnets (Wolf, ” Deutsche Mahrchen und Sagen,” p. 270). There is also an ancient belief that an egg built into a new building will protect it against evil and witchcraft. Such eggs were found in old houses in Altenhagen and Iserlohen, while in the East there is a proverb, ‘ the egg of the chamber’ (‘Hamasa’ of Abu Temman, v. Ruckert, Stuttgart, 1846), which seems to point to the same practice. The Romans expressed a disaster by saying, ‘Ovum ruptum est’ (‘The egg is smashed’). Among other egg-proverbs I find the following : — His eggs are all omelettes (French) ; i.e., broken up. Eggs in the pan give pancakes but nevermore chicks (Low German). Never a chicken comes from broken eggs (Low German). Bad eggs, bad chickens. Hence in America ‘a bad egg’ for a man who is radically bad, and ‘a good egg’ for the contrary. Eggs not yet laid are uncertain chickens; i.e., ‘Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.’ Tread carefully among eggs (German). The egg pretends to be cleverer than the hen. He waits for the eggs and lets the hen go. He who wants eggs must endure the clucking of the hen (Westphalian). He thinks his eggs are of more account than other people’s hens. One rotten egg spoils all the pudding. Rotten eggs and bad butter always stand by one another ; or ‘go well together.’ Old eggs, old lovers, and an old horse, Are either rotten or for the worse.

Yup, there you have it.   Here’s a fascinating book Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling for all your personal or work spell casting needs!  Don’t forget the eggs!

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