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Marriage Customs Of Gipsies And Mormons

( Originally Published 1897 )



IN Spain, a gipsy girl is generally betrothed at the age of fourteen to a youth chosen by her parents, and the marriage takes place two years after. During the period of betrothal they must never appoint a rendezvous at a distance, or converse with one another save as mere acquaintances. The wedding festival is a very costly affair, the bridegroom often involving himself in difficulties for life in order to provide an entertainment worthy of the occasion. In that country they are very strict with their daughters, and any lapse from virtue on the part of a betrothed girl may be punished with death. Mr. George Borrow, who witnessed a marriage at a church, thus describes what followed. " When the wedding party returned, singing and dancing began. Sweatmeats nearly a ton in weight strewed the room to a depth of three inches. The bride and bridegroom began to dance on them, the company followed suit. To convey a slight idea of the scene, is almost beyond the power of the words. In a few minutes the sweatmeats were reduced to a powder, or rather to a mud, and the dancers were soiled to the knees with sugar, fruit; and yolk of eggs. Still more terrific became the lunatic merriment. The men sprang high into the air, neighed, brayed and crowed ; whilst the Gitanas snapped their fingers in their own fashion louder than the castanets."

In one corner an old convict gipsy produced demoniacal sounds from a guitar. The festivities lasted three days.

The gipsies in some parts of the continent have a curious custom. The chief breaks a pitcher crowned with flowers, and from the fragments foretells the for-tune of the bridal pair.

According to Mr. C. G. Leland and others,' the most valuable gifts are contributed by the girls, probably in order to show that they are not quite penniless. They will hide money they have earned and bake it in a cake, which, at some fitting opportunity they throw over the hedge to their lovers. A Romany song says :

"I told a lady's fortune
In that big house hard by ;
No gipsy could have done it,
More cleverly than I
I promised that she'd marry,
A lord with heaps of gold ;
She filled my hands with silver,
As much as I could hold."

The following lines allude to the cakes thrown to lovers :

"English Gipsy Songs."
" Oh, Rommanis are coming !
I know what I'm about
I hid away the money,
Where no one found it out.
I'bought some flour last evening,
I bought it secretly ;
Come, now the cake is ready,
And nobody to see.
Meal so white, money bright,
Baked together here ;
All for you, love, all for true love,
All for luck, my dear."

Marrying over the tongs" is a Scotch gipsy custom referred to by Mr. J. M. Barrie in his well-known " Auld Licht Idylls," who says it " is a thing to startle any well-brought-up person, for before he joined the couple's hands, ` Jimmy' (the gipsy king who officiated as priest) jumped about in a.. startling way, uttering wild gibberish, and after the ceremony was over, there was rough work with incantations and blowing on pipes." The parties, it appears, stood on either side of the tongs, or in some cases it was a broomstick. Until recent years British soldiers frequently married over the sword."

Scotch gipsies had also a curious ceremony of divorce. The man and woman who were about to separate for life led forth an unblemished horse, and chose a priest (by lot) who walked several times round the animal, extolling its good qualities, and repeating the names of its possessors. It was then let go and caught again, when the priest stabbed it. Then the man and woman j c fined hands over its dead body ; they walked three times round it, halting at last at the tail, where they shook hands and went off in opposite directions. The woman received a token made of cast iron, which she was made to wear for the rest of her days. They never allowed her to marry again, and she was liable to be put to death if she endeavoured to pass for an unmarried woman. The horse was buried, all but the heart, which was taken out, roasted, and eaten by the husband and his friends.

The Mormons of Utah have their own peculiar marriage rites and customs. In the early days of the sect they seem to have borrowed their forms and ceremonies from other religious bodies, only adding here and there terms of an original character. The ceremony was performed by the President himself in the Temple ; but in some cases he deputed a competent elder to take the office, in which case the ceremony took place at the officer's house.

Disputes arose continually between the various courts as to the legality of such elders' performance of the rites, but these they settled amongst them-selves. When, however, the Church became more organised, it was ordained that the ceremony of marriage might be performed in a public place, the office being taken by the highest or the lowest dignitary, as the occasion served. In fact the restrictions became less and less, and those in the church were permitted to employ the usual outside agencies for the marrying of their children, without fear of censure or reproof.

Of the religious aspect of marriage the Mormon seems more tenacious, interpreting Scripture to show the error of uniting with unbelievers, and generally giving to the ceremony an air of solemnity which must have been impressive to the thoughtful mind. The concluding words of the priest are : " In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the authority of the holy priesthood, I pronounce you legally and lawfully husband and wife for time and for all eternity. And I seal upon you the blessings of the holy resurrection with power to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection clothed with glory, immortality and everlasting lives, and I seal upon you the blessing of thrones and dominions and principalities and powers and exaltations, together with the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, etc.," after which follows the registration, a few friends also signing their names as witnesses. When the man already has a wife the first wife stands to the left of her husband, and the bride at her left hand. The president then asks, Are you willing to give this woman to your husband to be his lawful and wedded wife for time and for all eternity ? If you are, you will manifest it by placing her right hand in the right hand of your husband." The right hands of the husband and bride being thus joined, the wife takes her husband by the left arm, and the ceremony then proceeds as described above.

The church, in addition to such benediction, secures other privileges for the initiated. Thus, by the additional ceremony of "Spiritual Marriage," eternal salvation and permanent positions of spiritual rank may be attained. For say they, " One woman can save one man only ; but a man can be instrumental in the salvation of an indefinite number of women."

Brigham Young, in a discourse delivered forty or fifty years ago, gave the following dictum : " And I would say, as no man can be perfect without the woman, so no woman can be perfect without a man to lead her. I tell you the truth as it is in the bosom of eternity ; and I say so to every man upon the face of the earth, if he wishes to be saved he cannot be saved without a woman by his side."

The first wife, according to the view generally taken amongst polygamists, is the wife, and assumes the husband's name and title ; the others are called

sisters," and stand to the first wife's children in the relation of aunts. The first wife is married for time, the others sealed for eternity. The age at which girls marry is about sixteen, or a little more, and this seems to meet with approval by the bachelors. Divorce is not much sought, because the man is ashamed that he cannot keep order in his house ; only in case of adultery, cruelty, desertion, or neglect of a flagrant kind. Then wives are allowed to claim to be free. The too literal interpretation of Scripture has seemingly led the Mormon to commit poly-gamy. Thus Abraham's descendants were to be as the stars and the sands of the sea, and in his seed all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. And they, believing themselves to be Abraham's children, seek to perpetuate the same design. The theory that the man is not without the woman, nor the woman without the man," they interpret as an absolute command that both sexes should marry, and that a woman cannot enter the heavenly kingdom without a husband to introduce her. Nature is dual," say they, and an unmarried man or woman is, and for ever must be, an imperfect creature. A celestial marriage is a marriage of God, and those thus joined can never be divorced except by the power of God.

In justice to the Mormons, we may add, in conclusion, that they have other codes which appear less open to objection than some of those we have alluded to above. Their polygamy has lately been made illegal by the United States Government.



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