At Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer,A Roma Pilgrimage of the Heart    
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Every year in May, the Roma people in Europe, also known as the Romani people, gather for a religious festival in honor of Saint Sara in the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France. This southern coastal town is the capital of the Camargue, which is the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhone River delta.

Hallo, loving viewers. Today, we are at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, located in the south of France. A seaside resort, this village is also the capital of Camargue, a magnificent humid area located in the Rhone delta. The Rhone is a European river that flows into the Mediterranean Sea. During a few days, the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer village reunites Roma people from all over Europe. They will be thousands right behind me, coming to honor their patron saint Sara, the Black Madonna.

With its devotional atmosphere, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is said to be the place where the three Biblical Marys – Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobe – sailed to from Palestine after witnessing the resurrection of Jesus. Legend has it that these three saints had a maid by the name of Sara. Sara was known to be a kind woman who helped the poor by collecting alms, and was thought to be a Roma. The Roma people regard her as their saint.

The village Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer takes its name from Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome, who left Palestine and ended up here, and then took up as a servant, Sara, the patron saint of the Roma.

My name is Yanoush Sisco. I’m presenting to you a few stone engravings that I’ve done here in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. It’s a schist rock and there are also some slates. So this is the work that I’ve been doing during the year. These are rocks that I pick up at sea and to which I give pleasant forms that remain in the country’s image.

We are from the east. My parents come from Poland, my mother from Hungary and my faith… We’ve walked on a great path, but up until now, what brought us to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is this wonderful pilgrimage to see our patron, Sara.

What exactly is this pilgrimage?

This pilgrimage is mostly, I think, about a special gathering. I’ve found people who I’ve met in the past, 30 years ago, we found each other on the pilgrimage.

Is there a profound religious dimension for you in this pilgrimage?

Yes, yes, certainly. The Church of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer brings us closer, closer to everyone really, and Sara, in her crypt, is for us something very strong. The faith in Sara has brought a lot to the Roma.

Yes, the pilgrimage is very beautiful; we have faith in the Saint. We have to believe in her because she performs a lot of miracles.

Another legend depicts Saint Sara to be of noble birth living on the banks of the Rhone. She was one of the first to have received the secrets of the Revelation. It was revealed to her that the three saints who had been present during the crucifixion of Lord Jesus would arrive to her land. The three Marys did arrive to shore amidst rough seas and weather, and it was Saint Sara who then helped them.

Interestingly, Saint Sara, also known as Sara la Kali, is also thought by some to be the representation of the Indian goddess Kali. The procession in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is compared to the Kali procession in India where the statue is immersed into water. These traditions may have been carried from the Roma people’s roots in India.

We are a family of Romani and we meet every year at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, because that's where we gather. Because there are families from home, sometimes distant cousins that we cannot see, we see them here exceptionally, at home.

The Roma people believe in community living and have strong values of family and brotherhood.

We Roma have a lot of respect towards the elderly, our brothers, our sisters, our brothers-in-law, the family, the children, and let them live to the best of this world.

So, we are very family-oriented, very warm. Regarding the oldest one whom we call grandfather because he is the oldest, so, for us, he is our godfather, really.

He is our guide.

And the family today is still the great melting pot of sharing. We still have this... in us, the instinct of sharing. And there is a word with us, that says... It is this law that if one is in need of help, the other will help without trying to understand. There is always sharing. When we eat at home, there's always more in case someone comes and they are hungry. And we never hesitate to give food to someone who is hungry even if we are without a meal.

I think their value, their primary value, in my opinion, is brotherhood. It is this support, this ongoing support, when one man is in trouble the others come immediately.

In the family today, what are the strong values?

Well, it is respect, community living, especially with family!

You move all the time, how you live with that?

Well, let us say that is our life, we are born into it, we are cradled; it is like the guitar, we are born with a guitar. So, the thing is that, we do not notice, but we are enriched by all the people we encounter in every country, in every city. And that also allows us to show our values, because we are also musicians in life.

And through this music, we try to show who we really are. And what we love, and our traditions! To share with everyone in fact, that's it.

The Roma people are widely known for their talents in singing, dancing, and craftsmanship. Very spiritual, they infuse their faith in their arts.

In fact, music for the Roma, we do not learn it, we are born with it, it is in our blood. Everyone sings, everyone does something. When you are a Roma at heart, we have warm blood, we are very warm people.

We sing a lot, we sing to Jesus a lot, to God. We sing a lot of God music.


Especially prayers through our music.

In this world, especially, we must also remember what was the music. Today, it's always the flamenco here in the south of France, but long ago, it was on the guitar of Django that we discovered our styles of music. And that became the Roma jazz played by many today, including the well-known Thomas Dutronc. It's a little bit today, the world of travel with an extraordinary cultural mix. These trades are also found in dance.

Because today, dance will not change. It's always flamenco for the Roma as such. But in some places as in the north of France, it is also what we call the “beacoup,” “ombra,” or “rondelets.” Dances in small steps to mark the intensity of meditation to go to a communion in faith and belief of all the elements that surround us.

When you’re a nomad, what is your relationship to the Earth as a whole, and because there are no frontiers, how do you see Earth as you pass through it?

One thing for sure is that we look at the sky and the Sun. The Sun, this freedom, we as nomads, it is all about freedom: to live in total freedom from our hearts, we welcome all... Of course, there might be differences, but we still welcome others perfectly. We make meals, evenings with guitar, violins, of course, it is extraordinary.

We always put the bread in a tree when we eat in the wild. It's always a question of belief with the elements. There are also some still with us... to recover from poor health, sun bathing or dew bathing in the morning at dawn. For bread you put it in a tree. We will never put it on the ground. We will always put it on a tree branch in the belief that the tree gives us strength and we breathe health.

Being a Roma is magical because we head out on an adventure to discover the world. Because we get back on the road, we leave, but we do not really know where we will end up. When we settle down, and we just discovered the world bit by bit like that, we learn about other traditions, because every time we stop somewhere, we get to know people that we do not really know.

To sum up, for people who don’t know anything about Roma people, the big picture is music, the heart, the big heart. That’s what I think: the heart.

Yes, absolutely. Yes, indeed. You feel the Roma music, you hear the violins, the xylophones and the pan flute. You hear something that holds on to the heart, that catches the heart. It is the song of life, the singing of the past, the present and the future. Most importantly, it is a legacy and what we call legacy is that of receiving. It’s really all about welcoming, truly about welcoming. It leaves a good memory, we always leave good memories and that is very important for us.

And I wondered if there were children who became friends over time after the gathering?

Yes, yes.

How is it when they part? When they part, when you move on to another...

We never say goodbye. We say, “See you tomorrow,” very simply. It’s a desire to fully live. We must get back on the long road and we have no frontiers. There are no frontiers; there are no borders for others to come to our home.

May the Roma people and your warm-hearted traditions be blessed and flourish evermore. Wishing you all a joyous, blessed and memorable pilgrimage.

Thank you for your kind presence on our show today about the Roma culture and pilgrimage at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France. Coming up next is Words of Wisdom, after Noteworthy News, on Supreme Master Television. May we all cherish one another in love and harmony.
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