Author: Eleanor T. Beaty
Published: July 9th 2012
Why a Gypsy?
I love writing about mysterious and mystical cultures, some still in existence, others extinct. Their rituals, their beliefs and their history can in itself be gripping enough to get me sidetracked!
When I began to write Veiled Mist, I had already decided to have a Gypsy, Ornella, as a central character. Why a gypsy? Can there be people more mysterious than Gypsies? Not much is known about them, and just that in itself, gave me room to create the most intriguing character. I bought some books did some research and came away with a few interesting facts. The one that really struck me as surprising is that most of them, if not all, as one can never make any accretions about all Gypsies, are Christians. They believe in Jesus. I liked that; it allowed me to build up the goodness to balance their bad reputation.
In general, Gypsies are feared because of the mystery surrounding them, their nomadic ways, the belief that they can do magic and their fortune telling abilities. They are also hated because many either use trickery or stealing as a mean of survival instead of working. They are seen as dirty, as they tend to liter and pollute the area where they set up camp. For centuries they have been kicked-out of every country in Europe.
But where did they originate?
Since they are wanderers, no one can pinpoint with absolute certainty where they began their journey. One theory, and probably the strongest, is that they originated in Egypt, as traders, peddlers and mostly entertainers. The other hypothesis is India, due to the phonetic similarities of their language, Romani, to the Indian Sanskrit.
When money became short, they began their travels, offering their service along the way. The constant travels also allowed them to gather knowledge, which gave them power. They had skills most settled populations didn’t have at that time, and they took every advantage of that. Ornella’s background was that of traditional Gypsies from Hungary, where there was a very large colony of Gypsies. As I never tire of saying I love history, so whenever I get a chance to tie history to my story, or vice-verse, I take it. I needed a special moment in Hungarian history for the magic tribe to surface and went back in time. I found the perfect moment for such a turning point in a group’s life. 1456, the yearOttoman Mehmet II laid siege to Belgrade, then part of the Kingdom of Hungary, threatening Christendom. A moment in history, a one time thing, when the Gypsies were included as a part of society because Hungary’s army was so diminished, they were forced to recruit from the peasantry. Peasants, gypsies and the Hungarian elite fought side-by-side and sent the Turks packing. Brave soldiers united in battle. Once the war was over, the Gypsies went back to being outcasts. Could that have been due to their own choice? Maybe they have never wanted to settle and change their ways.
When I researched about the gypsy magic I realized quite a bit of their rituals use mental images. The power of the mind. For example, to protect yourself against a curse you place yourself inside all-enveloping cloak, from head to toe. Nothing can penetrate it. Or if you’re the type that needs an object you can make one yourself by simply believing that whatever object you choose, a coin, a necklace or a pen, will protect you. The stronger you believe, the more it comes true. That doesn’t seem very magical does it?
And then there are the more mysterious superstitions that shouldn’t be rationalized. Here are two from the book of Gypsy Magic, by Patrinella Cooper. (Do stay away from the curses as, no matter what, one day they will come right back to you.)
Never walk over a lost coin in the street. Pick it up and spit on it saying ‘ See a penny, pick it up, all day long I’ll have good luck.”
Respectfully greet a white horse, a hare, a fox, magpies, rooks and crows. These creatures are touched with magic.
Every book takes me on a trip of knowledge. I found it very interesting how similar the gypsies beliefs and teachings are to the spiritualists, I mean the classical spiritualists like French Allan Kardec. This similarity extends to many other religions as well. It’s all about the power of the mind. We can build or destroy with our thoughts.
As for Ornella, the gypsy, she took me on a trip of growth and laughter. I enjoyed every moment I wrote as her. I had so much fun creating the spells and living in the magic. I wish I could be her and I wish I had a dog like the Count. I’ve had people tell me The Count deserves his own book!
Caribbean Island of Maurray
The wind blasted against her face, blowing her hair back and filling her mouth with a bitter taste.
Hanna covered her head with her hands. Oh, my God. Her hair was stiff and knotted, like a freaking bird’s nest. No way. Her hair did not knot. No knots. Ever. Hanna pulled on a strand, intending to untangle it and screamed. Besides knotting her hair, the wind was changing its color? Brown…deadpan brown? The color…of dog poop. Never would she be caught with that vile color. She would rather be dead than have that hair color. What had happened to her beautiful bright-gold, shiny hair?
She screamed at her brother John to close the window and fought her way to her hairbrush which hovered in the air, taunting her, daring her to grab it. Hanna’s hand shot out. She stretched her arm. She was but inches from the brush’s black handle…she almost had it…John hadn’t moved. Hanna was about to call out to him again when a dark shadow covered the window. She froze and dropped her hand as she saw a face with sagging, dry skin and hollowed cheeks. His bald head, more of a skull with a thin layer of skin stretched over it, had black sores the size of squashed grapes, oozing pus. He looked mummified.
Mummy-Man’s meatless lips parted exposing rotten teeth. The anger in his sunken eyes as he jumped onto the windowsill held the only telltale sign of life. His bony fingers grabbed the window frame and he sprang towards Hanna. Hanna faltered back until she hit the wall. Mummy-Man let out an angry roar, blasting Hanna with the smell of rotten, decayed flesh. Hanna gagged. She had a sensitive stomach, any strong smell made her gag, if not throw up. Even in her dreams? Hanna held her breath so as not to barf.
John stepped back and looked up at the ceiling, unaware of the danger. Hanna yelled at John as Mummy-Man’s hand shot to grab him. John continued to look up, as if he weren’t there. Didn’t he see the disgusting creature inches away?
Hanna screamed at John again, telling him to duck. Bang, the shutter crashed against the outside wall. Mummy-Man and John were sucked violently out. The hairbrush followed. Hanna tried to call after John, but instead released a snort. She opened her eyes. Had she really snorted? Like a pig? She gasped and covered her mouth.
Hanna swallowed. Her mouth tasted foul. Even more disgusting than the snort. Gross. Hanna’s right hand shot out from under the sheets and grabbed the glass of water by her bed. She took a large gulp, swished it around her mouth and swallowed. She did not want to throw up. A second swish took the bad taste away. She lay back down.
Why was her room so bright? Why were the shutters wide open? She sat up in bed and saw the large portrait of Princess Diana hanging lopsided on the wall opposite the window. Oh, no, had her dream come true? She ran her hands through her hair. A sigh of relief left her plump lips as she found no knots. She inspected several strands. She was still blond. Hanna eyed the Princess, her idol, whose shy smile and bright blue eyes had captured the world. There wasn’t even a breeze, so why was Lady Di lopsided?
The sweet perfume of daylilies drifted in from the garden patch below Hanna’s window as Hanna climbed out of bed and stretched. Their fragrance and the sunlight eased her feverish mind, pushing the nightmare aside. She turned to the fireplace and her eyes went wide. Her heart pounded inside her head and the scream that came out of her mouth resounded through the Williams’ English-style mansion. The ten-bedroom brick house, with its impeccable flowerbeds and design hedges, was located in Maurray City’s most elite neighborhood, the King James. The neighbors were far enough not to have heard Hanna, but that would not be the case for the other residents of the prestigious mansion: John Williams III, his estranged, but strangely still attached wife Camilla, and John, their offspring, were all jolted awake. However, it wasn’t any of them who came to find out why Hanna was screaming.
It was Vani, the five-foot Guatemalan housekeeper. She hurried into the room and came to a halt a few feet from Hanna, who stood near her bed facing the fireplace.
Vani looked around the room. She stretched her neck to check the red couch facing the terrace doors in the small living room, then gave Hanna a quick inspection. “What, Miss Hanna? Why you scream?” Vani looked around again. “Someone here?”
Hanna stood frozen, her eyes were all that moved, from the fireplace to the maid and back. Her lips seemed to be glued shut, or her jaw muscles were frozen, whichever it was, she just couldn’t speak. Vani clapped her hands a few inches from Hanna’s face, missing Hanna’s nose by inches. Hanna jolted back to life and turned to glare at Vani. Rage, she felt rage.
Vani gasped as Hanna leaned into her with a deranged look on her face.
“Oh, devil’s look,” Vani hissed under her breath. She raised her arms to block any possible blows. “Miss Hanna, stop acting like that. You possessed by bad spirit.”
“What happened to my doll?” Hanna finally yelled. Her words came out in a burst, forcing Vani to look away as spittle sprayed her face.
Vani took two steps back. “What doll?”
Hanna jabbed a finger at the mantle where her antique French doll stood inside its thick glass case, with both arms lying on the bottom. “I only have one doll. How did her arms fall off?”
Vani turned her black eyes to the doll and shuddered. “Doll is old. Maybe arms get tired…”
Hanna continued to glare at Vani. The shudder, Hanna didn’t like the shudder. Why did Vani always shudder when Hanna mentioned the doll? “You moved it, didn’t you?”
Vani took another step back. “No…no…I don’t come in while you sleeping.”
“Liar.” Hanna picked up her shoe and threw it at Vani. “Liar.”
Vani ducked. “I never touch…that…evil doll.” Vani made the sign of the cross as she retreated to the door.
“I’m going to tell my grandfather you broke my doll.”
“Go, tell what you want, chica loca,” Vani hissed, ducking out as Hanna threw the second shoe.
The shoe hit the door and chipped off a flake of white paint. Only when the shoe fell to the floor did Hanna realize what she had just done. She looked at her shaking hands as if they belonged to someone else. Then she slumped onto the bed crying.
There was a hole inside her chest. A huge dark hole…a loss, she had lost something. Hanna turned to the doll. She wished she could hug it and make the pain go away. The eighteenth-century doll, with its delicate features, diamond tiara and yellow-laced gown, was all she had left of her mother. That doll gave Hanna great comfort every day. It was her mother Marie watching over her. Marie, a descendant of the French aristocracy, had died in childbirth. On Hanna’s fifth birthday, her grandfather John II had brought the doll and placed it on the mantelpiece. For ten years it hadn’t been moved, so she thought. How could this happen? Now her doll looked like a cheap prop from a B-horror film. Hanna shuddered. Oh, my God, she’d shuddered? Was shuddering contagious?
Maybe Vani was right, but not about the doll. There was something evil going on. Something evil had broken her doll. The shutters banged again, making Hanna jump. She stared at the window and wiped her face. She had locked those shutters before going to bed. She was sure of it. Hanna stood and walked over to the window. She pulled the shutters closed, then changed her mind and threw them open, fastening them to the slip-hooks on the outside wall.
No, the doll wasn’t evil. Hanna twisted around and made her way back to the fireplace. She placed a gentle kiss on the glass case and headed to the bathroom to get ready for school. Her mind stayed with the doll while her green eyes watched her hand comb her blond strands; a robot doing its routine chore. She would get it fixed. Hanna applied black mascara and some gloss to her lips, wondering if the doll’s arms falling off could be an omen.
Omens were an obsession with her grandmother Elizabeth; she saw omens in everything and everywhere. While some on the island called Elizabeth a witch, Hanna thought of her as spiritual, albeit eerie. Vani called her Chupacabra, the mythical goat-bloodsucking demon creature. Last week, when Hanna had told Elizabeth she’d dreamt of a hand stabbing her doll in the back, her grandmother explained it forewarned betrayal. Elizabeth told Hanna to be vigilant. Her grandmother didn’t like the doll. Hanna wondered what she would say about the doll’s fallen arms. As she headed across the bedroom, the shutters banged again. Hanna twirled around wide-eyed. That was not possible. Shutters didn’t get loose from those hooks. Did they? Perhaps the hooks were weak.
She went back to her bed and slipped her hand under her pillow and removed an old, faded black-and-white picture of a young woman sitting sideways smiling at the camera. Marie wore her dark-blond hair up in a loose bun known as the French twist. Her mother had a kind face. Her almond-brown eyes and small full lips held a childish innocence. Her beaded evening gown spilled to the floor around her legs. She wore a delicate diamond necklace and matching diamond earrings.
The photo was quite creased from all the nights Hanna held it under her pillow while falling asleep. She wished she had more pictures, but her grandmamma told her Marie was extremely shy, a recluse almost, and didn’t allow her picture to be taken. This had been an exception, taken two days before her entire family had been wiped out during an earthquake in France. Poor Marie’s life had been a sequence of tragedies. Hanna kissed the picture and put it away in the bedside table drawer as she did every morning so no one would touch it. She would give anything to have known her.
In the kitchen she found John eating a large bowl of honey-puff cereal. The thirteen-year-old geek couldn’t be more different from Hanna. In looks, he took after his mother Camilla, dark-blond hair and brown eyes. As to his high IQ, that was a mystery. Hanna sat down next to John and looked at the bowl with a yellow mush. “Vani, is this diet banana?”
“Yes, yes. Diet banana,” Vani called from within the pantry.
John had told Hanna that the “diet banana” was a lie, invented by Vani to get around Hanna’s demand for a fruit larger than a grape, with only fifty calories. Hanna didn’t believe him.
“So, what happened? Did your Prada shoes run off with your Versace bag?” John asked.
Hanna paused to consider if John might have messed with her doll. She watched him stuff a large spoonful of cereal into his mouth.
John felt her stare. “What?”
“Did you happen to sneak into my room this morning?”
“Ha, ha. I don’t have a death wish. Why? What’s missing?”
“Someone broke my doll’s arms.”
John shuddered and Hanna caught him doing it. “What’s with all the shuddering? That doll is not evil.”
John took another spoonful of cereal and turned back to watch Hanna.
“I have to get it fixed,” Hanna said. She ate the mush and drank her lemon juice.
“Get what fixed?”
“The doll, John, the doll. Is there anything stuck in my teeth?”
“Mush doesn’t stick to teeth. Grandmamma might know of someone.”
She might, but Hanna wouldn’t ask her. Grandmamma would use the excuse to disappear with it. But her grandfather would help. “Maybe Grandpapa.” Hanna took out her phone and hit speed dial. John II didn’t pick up. He always picked up for her. Why wasn’t he picking up? Had something happened to him?
John’s face lit up. “Did you talk to him about the car?”
“Not yet. I think there’s still time for that.”
John wanted their grandfather’s 1960 Mustang for his sixteenth birthday. He knew their paternal grandfather had a soft spot for Hanna.
The doorbell rang. That would be Thomas, their driver, letting them know it was time to go. John grabbed his backpack while Hanna grabbed her Chanel handbag and one notebook. The two headed for the limousine. Hanna pressed redial as she walked out the front door, but hung up before the phone began to ring. It had been no nightmare. In the daylily patch beneath her window was a blackened area the shape of a body. Mummy-man.
I am Brazilian born and raised, of American parents. I live in Sao Paulo with my third husband and children. I studied at the American school in Brazil, in boarding schools in Switzerland and the US. I have a BA in English Literature from FIU. I published a YA trilogy in Brazil and another YA novel in Turkey in 2001, now in its fifth edition. My passion is history and spiritualism. Besides Veiled Mist, I have another YA novel, Fallen Ruler, being released soon.
Twitter @ eleanortbeaty
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