Today Roma honor the Goddess-Saint Kali Sara

St. Sarah, Kali Sara, Sara Kali, Sara-la-Kali, Sati-Sara, The Black Madonna, The Black Mother… many names for one Goddess-Saint sacred to Roma all over the world. Today is her festival– she is the Goddess of Fate, good fortune, fertility, and protection– and Roma honor her in pilgrimage, by worshiping her statue, through dance and community… so many ways, so many incarnations of the goddess who accompanied the Roma all the way from India.

Take a look at these articles below for more information about the Goddess-Saint, Romanipen/Romani religion/spirituality, and her celebration. Be sure to click the links for the whole articles.

The Romani Goddess-Saint Sara Kali

The Romani Goddess-Saint Sara Kali

“Until recently it was widely believed that this worship of Kali Sara, the Romani Black Madonna or Goddess was unique to Les Saintes Maries de La Mer. My own recent research among Romani refugees from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and in countries of the Balkans has uncovered the little-known fact that other Black Virgins are worshipped by Roma in central/eastern Europe and that Roma from these countries perform similar rituals. These rituals include laying flowers at the feet of the statue, adorning the statue with clothing of the sick hoping for cures, placing requests to the statue, and lighting candles to the female divinity. To the Roma, Kali Sara is the Protectress who will cure sickness, bring good luck and fertility and grant success in business ventures.
The Romani ceremony at Les Saintes Maries, as elsewhere, consists of carrying the statue on a platform strewn with flowers (4) into the closest body of water such as a sea, lake, flowing river or even a large pond of clear water. The platform is then lowered to touch the water while the crowd throws flowers into the water. Indian scholars such as Dr. Weer Rishi (5) and others who have witnessed this Romani ceremony, as well as Western observers who are familiar with Hindu religious customs have identified this ceremony with the Durga Poojaof India. In Romani, Kali Sara means Black Sara and in India, the Goddess Kali is known as Kali/Durga/Sara. Like the Hindus, the Roma practice shaktism, the worship of Goddesses. In other words, the Roma who attend the pilgrimage to Les Saintes Maries in France and in other related ceremonies elsewhere honouring black female divinities, are in fact continuing to worship Kali/Durga/Sara their original Goddess in India.

According to the Durgasaptashati (seven hundred verses in the worship of Goddess Durga and her various forms), chapter 5, verse 12, which mentions Sara, contains the following: “Salute to Durga, Durgapara, (Deliver of all difficulties), Sara, (Embodiment of everything par-excellent), Cause of everything, Krishna and Dhurma (Evaporated form in smoke).” Other references in this ancient Hindu scripture also confirm that Sara is one and the same with the Indian goddess Durga who is also another aspect of Kali, the consort of Shiva.” —“THE ROMANI GODDESS KALI SARA” by RONALD LEE

The Indian Goddess Kali

The Indian Goddess Kali

Some Romani groups in Europe today appear to maintain elements of Shaktism or goddess-worship; the Rajputs worshipped the warrior-goddess Parvati, another name for the female deity Sati-Sara, who is Saint Sarah, the Romani Goddess of Fate. That she forms part of the yearly pilgrimage to La Camargue at Stes. Maries de la Mer in the south of France is of particular significance; here she is carried into the sea just as she is carried into the waters of the Ganges each December in India. Both Sati-Sara and St. Sarah wear a crown, both are also called Kali, and both have shining faces painted black.  Sati-Sara is a consort of the god Ðiva, and is known by many other names, Bhadrakali, Uma, Durga and Syamaamong them.” —

“ROMANI (‘GYPSY’) RELIGION” by Ian Hancock

Sara, toi la sainte patronne des voyageurs et gitans du monde entier,
tu as vécu en ce lieu des Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
Tu es venue d’un lointain pays au-delà des mers.
J’aime venir te retrouver ici, te dire tout ce que j’ai dans le Cœur,
te confier mes peines et mes joies.
Je te prie pour tous les membres de ma famille et tous mes amis.
Sara, veille sur moi!

(Sara, patron saint of travelers and gypsies the world over, you who lived in this region of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. You came from a far-away country from across the seas. I love to come and find you here, to tell you all that I have in my heart and in you confide my sorrows and joys. I pray to you for everyone in my family and all my friends. Sara, come to me!) —Saint Sara-la-Kali: A Sister to Kali Maa

Saint Sarah

Saint Sarah


“Gypsy” Jazz singer Tatiana Eva-Marie talks with Quail Bell Magazine

I want my audience to feel that they are constantly traveling with their ears.” –Tatiana Eva-Marie

Read the interview “Tatiana Eva-Marie on the harmonious fusion of Romani ‘Gypsy’ music” in Quail Bell Magazine and find out what she has to say about Romani music and representation, how her multicultural heritage shapes her art, growing up in theatres and concert halls all over Europe, the Music Explorer competition/documentary (click the heart to vote for her!), and her life in the Avalon Jazz Band in New York City. You can also listen to some beautiful songs from the competition.

JR: How do you think the Romani arts scene can support the fight for Romani rights and representation?

TEM: By showing an open and generous culture, not magical creatures, not chicken thieves, but real people. I suppose it is somewhat natural to be afraid of foreign things, but in the age of internet and communication there can be no excuse for that anymore. We are all so mixed now and most people can trace their heritage back to more than one country. We should all embrace our differences and be proud of our origins. We should try and educate the people around us, share our knowledge with each other. Art is a wonderful way of doing that and has always been a bridge between people.

Opre Roma! Find out more at


Tatiana Eva-Marie singing with the Avalon Jazz Band

The best way to Slovenia’s heart is through its stomach. “Introducing Roma Cuisine, The Little-Known ‘Soul Food’ Of Europe” in NPR

Meghan Collins Sullivan’s excellent article in NPR, “Introducing Roma Cuisine, The Little-Known ‘Soul Food’ Of Europe” explores the rising trend of Romani “soul food” against the antigypsyist sentiment and legislation in Europe. She reports, “A development group in Slovenia has just opened the first large-scale Roma restaurant in Europe. Romani Kafenava in Maribor, Slovenia, began serving up traditional Balkan Romani dishes like stews and grilled meats in April.” In Slovenia, like many other EU countries, Roma suffer discrimination, poor living conditions, and racial profiling, but Roma and Romani activist are hopeful that the new interest in Romani cuisine will educate outsiders about the culture and encourage coexistence and tolerance.

“Slovenians have a lot of stereotypes, prejudices about Roma community,” says Simon Simoncic, the restaurant’s project manager. “Roma culture is different from us. Of course some of their habits we can’t understand, but coherence and coexistence is … a fact nowadays. So Romani Kafenava is one [way] to break stereotypes.”


The dishes at Romani Kafenava hail from the Balkans — and more specifically Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia. The eatery serves a lot of grilled and baked meat and vegetables, often spiced with paprika and chili. And there’s a bit of a Mediterranean influence; stuffed peppers and grape leaves are mainstay.


“Roma food deserves attention,” says Ian Hancock, a Roma scholar, author and professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “You can equate it with the emergence of soul food in this country. Soul food was poor people’s food and it has become fashionable.”

Hancock says the concept of a Roma restaurant is not new – there are many small, family-run businesses elsewhere — but that this one takes a fresh approach on a larger scale.

Read the article for more

I love the idea of Romani culture becoming more visible and accessible– the best way for outsiders to understand Romani culture is for them to fall in love with it, and there is a lot to love.


A dish of Mesne Dolme from Romani Kafenava. Image Source:


A new adventure! And the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne, France

So the Florida State University class is over– it’s been a really lovely three year contract teaching at FSU, two of which were spent teaching this class, “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves: Writing Creatively about Romani Culture.” I want to say thank you to all my wonderful students– it’s been a pleasure working with everyone and I will always hold this time dear. And thank you to the readers outside my class– it’s so cool and unexpected that y’all would join in to the discussion and I’m so glad that you did. I’m decided to keep the blog going and continue to post about and discuss Romani arts, culture, representation, and human rights. 

I’m very excited about my next teaching adventure– I will be teaching fiction workshops as a guest professor at the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne in France! The retreat has been featured in Poets and Writers and has excellent reviews. The application deadline for applications is May 15th. I went on the retreat last year as a guest and absolutely adored it– I discuss how fate aligned my teaching spot this summer in my blog. We went on excursions to Chantilly, Paris, and Picardy; swam in the Château moat; practiced yoga every morning and every evening in the gardens; ate fresh homemade French food; workshopped out work; attended lectures on writing in our private salon; took art classes and sketched on the lawn… it’s a good thing. Obviously, I would like all the delightful and talented people I know to join us on this gorgeous retreat, so think about it. Click here for more information, a sample syllabus, tuition and housing, applications, etc. 

Thanks again for a fantastic semester and a rewarding 3 years– I’ll miss you all, and I’m also happy about what’s coming up in the present. Have a great summer everyone and kushti baxt! (Best of luck!) And maybe I’ll see you in France–

Hungary’s democracy fell. What happens to women, LGBTQ, Roma, Jewish people, and other ethnic & religious minorities?

“Hungary is no longer a democracy” and the extreme right-wing Neo-Nazi Jobbik Party has more power than ever. The E.U. was formed in part to prevent these kinds of Fascist paramilitia uprisings, and yet, here we are. Benjamin Abtan writes in The New Statesman:

“The attack was clear and continuous: crippling restriction of the freedom of the press, political direction of the Central Bank, inclusion in the Constitution of Christian religious references and of the ‘social utility’ of individuals as a necessary condition for the enforcement of social rights, deletion of the word ‘Republic”‘in the same Constitution to define the country’s political system, condemnation of homosexuality, criminalisation of the homeless, attacks against women’s rights, impunity afforded to perpetrators of racist murders, the strengthening of a virulent anti-Semitism . . .

Only a few days ago, prime minister Viktor Orban officially decorated three extreme right-wing leading figures: journalist Ferenc Szaniszlo, known for his diatribes against the Jews and the Roma people, who he compares to “monkeys”; anti-Semitic archaeologist Kornel Bakav, who blames the Jews for having organized the slave trade in the Middle-Age; finally, “artist” Petras Janos, who proudly claims his proximity to the Jobbik and its paramilitary militia, responsible for several racist murders of Romani people and heiress of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party, that organised the extermination of Jews and Gypsies during the Second World War.” 

For the rest of the article, click here

Elle Hungary‘s recent article praising Dora Duro, a Neo-Nazi party member who is anti-Semitic and anti-Rom, is a chilling reminder of how easily great tragedy begins when embraced by the media. We cannot allow history to repeat itself.

Filmmaker Laszlo Nemes writes a letter addressing the problematic article:

“Dear Sir/Madam,

This is to express my shock and condemnation regarding the cover story of Elle‘s Hungarian Edition featuring Hungarian Neonazi MP Ms. Dora Duro. The party “Jobbik” of which Ms. Duro is a member with its anti-democratic, antisemitic and anti Roma tendencies and its affiliation with the paramilitary organization called Magyar Garda (the new Hungarian SS) is a direct threat to Hungarian democracy and the safety of Hungarian Jews and the Roma population of the country.

By publishing the above mentioned story Elle is getting directly and actively involved in whitewashing a political organization whose values are against our most basic human values.

I am strongly urging you to investigate the circumstances under this story could have happened and to apologize to the Hungarian public. I am also urging you to take further action that something like this should never happen in the future.

Best regards,

Laszlo Nemes
film director”

Now, the most important thing we can do is to spread awareness. Please share Nemes’s letter and articles about the issues. Write and share letters to the media and government officials in the U.S., Hungary, and the E.U. calling for action to protect citizens targeted by the Jobbik Party. We need to let the international community know what is happening and that we will not stand for it. When you stand up for human rights, you’re a #RealGypsyWarrior.


Opre Roma! Roma, rise up.
Image source:

Suivant Balint, je viens d’envoyer ca a Lagardere qui publie ELLE. N’hésitez pas a me suivre

“Madame, Monsieur,

Résidant en Hongrie, j’apprends avec consternation que l’édition hongroise du Magazine ELLE, numéro d’avril 2014, a choisi de consacrer un article d’interview a la députée du parti néo-nazi hongrois “Jobbik”, Dora Duro.

Le parti Jobbik dont Mme Duro est porte-parole est un parti extrémiste avec des positions violemment anti-démocratiques et haineuses, antisémites, négationnistes et anti-roms. Jobbik est affilié á une section militaire dont les membres défilent en uniforme dans tout le pays: la Garde hongroise, une force d’intimidation. La Garde hongroise est la branche armée, milice paramilitaire, de Jobbik. C’est sans exagération une force de déstabilisation du pays, une menace pour les minorités Tziganes et Juives, et rappelle de bien sombres souvenirs.

Mme Duro méritait, selon ELLE Hongrie, de figurer parmi les femmes politiques a admirer, bien que le magazine se défende de tout positionnement politique – a deux semaines des élections législatives hongroises! Le portrait d’une femme exemplaire est d’autant plus scandaleux que sa vie privée ici dévoilée est partagée avec l’un des fondateurs de Jobbik, le sinistre néo-nazi en cravate Elod Novak, négationniste notoire, activiste anti-européen avec des liens avec de nombreux groupuscules de l’ultra droite hongrois et international, et organisateur du site néo nazi, racialiste, suprématiste et négationniste.

Je voudrais vous rappeler que dans un tel cas, votre métier suppose de grandes responsabilités publiques dont vous ne pouvez moralement vous défaire.

Faire l’hagiographie de personnes qui ne respectent pas la moindre valeur de la dignité et de la personne humaines est une grave erreur et je vous appelle á tirer les conséquences de ce regrettable épisode.


Laszlo Nemes


Romani women face discrimination because of cultural stereotypes, lecturer says

Check out this article about in The Daily Texan about the ways in which “Gypsy” stereotypes in pop culture and the media, particularly representations of Romani women as promiscuous, immoral, and inhuman, fuels the Romani human rights crisis. 

“The rape of Romani women isn’t considered a crime because of this Jezebel trope [of the Roma],” Oprea said. “People see Gypsy women as ‘welfare queens,’ sexually promiscuous and irresponsible. 

The discrimination and subordination Romani women face parallel that of minority women in the U.S., Oprea said. 

“Like African-Americans and Native Americans, Roma have a long history of subordination in the hands of white supremacy,” Oprea said. “Just as the rape of black women by white slave masters was essential to the perpetuation of the system of slavery in the U.S., the rape of Romani women was essential to the system of slavery in Romania.”


For extra-credit, in 300 words or more, analyze the parallels between an example of a pop culture “Gypsy” stereotype and a Romani human rights infringement.

Some Romani Easter traditions!

Whatever y’all are up to today, I hope it’s a good day. 

“Out of concern for health, Roma eat lighter vegetarian dishes in addition to the heavy meat dishes on a feast day. Among the ursarii Roma, during Easter Fast Days, women clean the house thoroughly, whitewash walls and prepare the oven to cook traditional sponge cake. The Roma attach a specific meaning to each ritual dish: lamb to be light and pure as the lamb, fish (eaten on the first Easter Day) to be swift as the fish. Polenta is not to be prepared or eaten on the first Easter Day to preserve male and female fertility (so that one will not turn soft like polenta). In addition, the members of the family are not supposed to eat salt or perspire heavily. Such recommendations and dietary taboos rest on similitude magic, but from an external perspective, they also preserve a good state of health through a well balanced diet.

Hardelezii, also known as Tinker’s Easter, is the major feast of the Roma tinkers and is celebrated one week after the Orthodox Easter. It combines the symbol of Easter with Muslim Gurban. The main element of the ritual is slaughtering a lamb either for the recovery of a member of the family who suffers from a disease or the protection of the family from disease and misfortunes. Sometimes one lamb slaughtered for each child, for protection and well-being. Some of the rudarii Roma, similar to their tinker brethren, also celebrate the Gurban/Hardelezii, a tradition which reunites the symbol of the Easter and the Muslim feast. The rudarii hold a feast on Ascension, which consists of killing a lamb as an offering to God for reparatory healing purposes.”

To read more about Romani culture, check out the rest of the article by Romanian Romani academic Delia Grigore on The Gypsy Chronicles