An Accursed Race eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 28 pages of information about An Accursed Race.

Another very plausible idea is, that they are the descendants of unfortunate individuals afflicted with goitres, which is, even to this day, not an uncommon disorder in the gorges and valleys of the Pyrenees.  Some have even derived the word goitre from Got, or Goth; but their name, Crestia, is not unlike Cretin, and the same symptoms of idiotism were not unusual among the Cagots; although sometimes, if old tradition is to be credited, their malady of the brain took rather the form of violent delirium, which attacked them at new and full moons.  Then the workmen laid down their tools, and rushed off from their labour to play mad pranks up and down the country.  Perpetual motion was required to alleviate the agony of fury that seized upon the Cagots at such times.  In this desire for rapid movement, the attack resembled the Neapolitan tarantella; while in the mad deeds they performed during such attacks, they were not unlike the northern Berserker.  In Bearn especially, those suffering from this madness were dreaded by the pure race; the Bearnais, going to cut their wooden clogs in the great forests that lay around the base of the Pyrenees, feared above all things to go too near the periods when the Cagoutelle seized on the oppressed and accursed people; from whom it was then the oppressors’ turn to fly.  A man was living within the memory of some, who married a Cagot wife; he used to beat her right soundly when he saw the first symptoms of the Cagoutelle, and, having reduced her to a wholesome state of exhaustion and insensibility, he locked her up until the moon had altered her shape in the heavens.  If he had not taken such decided steps, say the oldest inhabitants, there is no knowing what might have happened.

From the thirteenth to the end of the nineteenth century, there are facts enough to prove the universal abhorrence in which this unfortunate race was held; whether called Cagots, or Gahets in Pyrenean districts, Caqueaux in Brittany, or Yaqueros Asturias.  The great French revolution brought some good out of its fermentation of the people:  the more intelligent among them tried to overcome the prejudice against the Cagots.

In seventeen hundred and eighteen, there was a famous cause tried at Biarritz relating to Cagot rights and privileges.  There was a wealthy miller, Etienne Arnauld by name, of the race of Gotz, Quagotz, Bisigotz, Astragotz, or Gahetz, as his people are described in the legal document.  He married an heiress, a Gotte (or Cagot) of Biarritz; and the newly-married well-to-do couple saw no reason why they should stand near the door in the church, nor why he should not hold some civil office in the commune, of which he was the principal inhabitant.  Accordingly, he petitioned the law that he and his wife might be allowed to sit in the gallery of the church, and that he might be relieved from his civil disabilities.  This wealthy white miller, Etienne Arnauld, pursued his rights with some vigour against the Baillie of Labourd,

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An Accursed Race from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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