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EducationProverbs referring to Witches, Gypsies, and Fairies (2)

Proverbs referring to Witches, Gypsies, and Fairies (2)

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Where the scythe cuts and the sock rives,
No more fairies and bee-hives.

Laugh like a pixy (i.e., fairy).

Waters locked! waters locked! (A favourite cry of fairies.)

Borram! borram! borram! (The cry of the Irish fairies after mounting their steeds.
Equivalent to the Scottish cry, “Horse! horse and hattock!”)

To live in the land of the Fair family. (A Welsh fairy saying.)

God grant that the fairies may put money in your shoes and keep your house clean.
(One of the good wishes of the old time.)

Fairies comb goats’ beards every Friday.

He who finds a piece of money will always find another in the same place, so long as he keeps it a secret.
(In reference to fairy gifts.)

It’s going on, like Stokepitch’s can.

A pixey or fairy saying, used in Devonshire. The family of Stokespitch or Sukespic resided near Topsham, and a barrel of ale in their cellars had for many years run freely without being exhausted. It was considered a valuable heirloom, and was esteemed accordingly, till an inquisitive maidservant took out the bung to ascertain the cause why it never run dry. On looking into the cask she found it full of cobwebs, but the fairies, it would seem, were offended, for on turning the cock, as usual, the ale had ceased to flow.

It was a common reply at Topsham to the inquiry how any affair went on “It’s going on like Stokepitch’s can,” or proceeding prosperously.

To laugh like Robin Goodfellow.

To laugh like old Bogie;
He caps Bogie.
(Amplified to “He caps Bogie, and Bogie capped old Nick.”)

To play the Puck. (An Irish saying, equivalent to the English one, “To play the deuce or devil.” KEIGHTLEY’S “Fairy Mythology.”)

He has got into Lob’s pound or pond. (That is, into the fairies’ pinfold. KEIGHTLEY’S “Fairy Mythology.”)

p. 203

Pinch like a fairy. (“Pinch them, arms, legs, backs, shoulders, sides, and shins.” “Merry Wives of Windsor.”)

To be fairy-struck. (The paralysis is, or rather perhaps was, so called. KEIGHTLEY’S “Fairy Mythology.”)

There has never been a merry world since the Phynoderee lost his ground. [A Manx fairy saying. See Train’s “Isle of Man,” ii. p. 14.8. “Popular Rhymes of the Isle of Man,” pp. 16, 17.]

To be pixey-led.

Led astray by fairies or goblins. “When a man has got a wee drap ower muckle whuskey, misses his way home, and gets miles out of his direct course, he tells a tale of excuse and whiles lays the blame on the innocent pixies” (see KEIGHTLEY’S “Fairy Mythology”). Also recalling Feufollet, or the Will o’ the Wisp, and the traveller who

         “thro’ bog and bush
Was lantern-led by Friar Rush.”

Gypsies have from their out of doors life much familiarity with these “spirits” whom they call mullo dûdia, or mûllo doods, i.e., dead or ghost lights. For an account of the adventure of a gypsy with them, see “The English Gypsies and their Language,” by C. G. LELAND. London: Trübner & Co. “Pyxie-led is to be in a maze, to be bewildered as if led out of the way by hobgoblins or puck, or one of the fairies. The cure is to turn one of your garments the inside outward; some say that is for a woman to turn her cap inside outward, and for a man to do the same with some of his clothes” (MS. “Devon Glimpses”—Halliwell). “Thee pixie-led in Popish piety” (CLOBERY’S “Divine Glimpses,” 1659).

The fairies’ lanthorn.

That is the glow-worm. In America a popular story represents an Irishman as believing that a fire-fly was a mosquito “sakin‘ his prey wid a lanthorn.”

God speed you, gentlemen!

When an Irish peasant sees a cloud of dust sweeping along the road,

p. 204

he raises his hat and utters this blessing in behoof of ye company of invisible fairies who, as he believes, caused it.” (“Fairy Mythology”).

The Phooka have dirtied the blackberries.

Said when the fruit of the blackberry is spoiled through age or covered with dust at the end of the season. In the North of England we say “the devil has set his foot on the Bumble-Kites” (“Denham Tract”).

Fairy, fairy, bake me a bannock and roast me a collop,
And I’ll give ye a spintle off my god end.

This is spoken three times by the Clydesdale peasant when ploughing, because he believes that on getting to the end of the fourth furrow those good things will be found spread out on the grass “(CHAMBERS’ “Popular Rhymes, Scotland,” 3rd ed. p. 106).

Turn your clokes (i.e., coats),
For fairy folkes
Are in old oakes.

“I well remember that on more occasions than one, when a schoolboy, I have turned and worn my coat inside out in passing through a wood in order to avoid the ‘good people.’ On nutting days, those glorious red-letter festivals in the schoolboy’s calendar, the use pretty generally prevailed. The rhymes in the text are the English formula” (“Denham Tract”).

He’s got Pigwiggan

Vulgarly called Peggy Wiggan. A severe fall or Somerset is so termed in the B’prick. The fairy Pigwiggan is celebrated by Drayton in his Nymphidia” (“Denham Tract”). To which may be added a few more from other sources.

Do what you may, say what you can,
No washing e’er whitens the black Zingan.

For every gypsy that comes to toon,
A hen will be a-missing soon,
And for every gypsy woman old,
A maiden’s fortune will be told. p. 205
Gypsy hair and devil’s eyes,
Ever stealing, full of lies,
Yet always poor and never wise.

He who has never lived like a gypsy does not know how to enjoy life as a gentleman.

I never enjoyed the mere living as regards all that constitutes ordinary respectable life so keenly as I did after some weeks of great hunger, exposure, and misery, in an artillery company in 1863, at the time of the battle of Gettysburg.

Zigeuner Leben Greiner Leben. (Gipsy life a groaning life. KORTE’S “Sprichwörter d. D.”)

Er taugt nicht zum Zigeuner. Spottisch vom Lügner gesagt weil er nicht wahr-sagt. (KORTE, “Sprichwörter.”)

“He would not do for a gypsy.” Said of a liar because he cannot tell the truth. In German to predict or tell fortunes also means to speak truly, i.e., wahr = true, and sprechen = to speak.

Gypsy repentance for stolen hens is not worth much. (Old German Saying.)

The Romany chi
And the Romany chal
Love luripen
And lutchipen
And dukkeripen
And huknipen
And every pen
But latchipen
And tatchipen.

The gypsy woman
And gypsy man
Love stealing
And lewdness
And fortune telling
And lying
And every pen
But shame
And truth.

Pen is the termination of all verbal nouns.

                         (GEORGE BORROW, Quoted from memory.)

p. 206

It’s a winter morning.

Meaning a bad day, or that matters look badly. In allusion to the Winters, a gypsy clan with a bad name.

As wild as a gypsy.

Puro romaneskoes. (In the old gypsy fashion.)

Sie hat ‘nen Kobold. (“She has a brownie, or house-fairy.”)

“Said of a girl who does everything deftly and readily. In some places the peasants believe that a fairy lives in the house, who does the work, brings water or wood, or curries the horses. Where such a fairy dwells, all succeeds if he or she is kindly treated” (KORTE’S “German Proverbs”).

“Man siehet wohl wess Geisters Kind Sie (Er.) ist.”

“One can well see what spirit was his sire.” In allusion to men of singular or eccentric habits, who are believed to have been begotten by the incubus, or goblins, or fairies. There are ceremonies by which spirits may be attracted to come to people in dreams.

“There was a young man who lived near Monte Lupo, and one day he found in a place among some old ruins a statue of a fate (fairy or goddess) all naked. He set it up in its shrine, and admiring it greatly embraced it with love (ut semen ejus profluit super statuam). And that night and ever after the fate came to him in his dreams and lay with him, and told him where to find treasures, so that he became a rich man. But he lived no more among men, nor did he after that ever enter a church. And I have heard that any one who will do as he did can draw the fate to come to him, for they are greatly desirous to be loved and worshipped by men as they were in the Roman times.”

The following are Hungarian or Transylvanian proverbs:—

False as a Tzigane, ie., gypsy.

Dirty as a gypsy.

They live like gypsies (said of a quarrelsome couple).

p. 207

He moans like a guilty Tzigane (said of a man given to useless lamenting).

He knows how to plow with the gypsies (said of a liar). Also: “He knows how to ride the gypsies’ horse.”

He knows the gypsy trade (i.e., he is a thief).

Tzigane weather (i.e., a showery day).

It is gypsy honey (i.e., adulterated).

A gypsy duck i.e., a poor sort of wild duck.

“The gypsy said his favourite bird would be the pig if it had only wings” (in allusion to the gypsy fondness for pork).

Mrs. GERARD gives a number of proverbs as current among Hungarian gypsies which appear to be borrowed by them from those of other races. Among them are:—

Who would steal potatoes must not forget the sack.

The best smith cannot make more than one ring at a time.

Nothing is so bad but it is good enough for somebody.

Bacon makes bold.

“He eats his faith as the gypsies ate their church.”

A Wallach proverb founded on another to the effect that the gypsy church was made of pork and the dogs ate it. I shall never forget how an old gypsy in Brighton laughed when I told her this, and how she repeated: “O Romani kangri sos kerdo bâllovas te i juckli hawde lis.”

“No entertainment without gypsies.”

In reference to gypsy musicians who are always on hand at every festivity.

The Hungarian wants only a glass of water and a gypsy fiddler to make him drunk.

In reference to the excitement which Hungarians experience in listening to gypsy music.

With a wet rag you can put to flight a whole village of gypsies (Hungarian).

It would not be advisable to attempt this with any gypsies in Great

p. 208

[paragraph continues] Britain, where they are almost, without exception, only too ready to fight with anybody.

Every gypsy woman is a witch.

“Every woman is at heart a witch.”

Source: In the “Materials for the Study of the Gypsies,” by M. I. KOUNAVINE, which I have not yet seen, there are, according to A. B. Elysseeff (Gypsy-Lore Journal, July, 1890), three or four score of gypsy proverbial sayings and maxims. These refer to Slavonian or far Eastern Russian Romanis. I may here state in this connection that all who are interested in this subject, or aught relating to it, will find much to interest them in this journal of the Gypsy-Lore Society, printed by T. & A. Constable, Edinburgh. The price of subscription, including membership of the society, is £1 a year—Address: David Mac Ritchie, 4, Archibald Place, Edinburgh.

Illustration source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling, by Charles Godfrey Leland. Release Date: December 13, 2018 [EBook #58465]

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