The Religion Before?

To destroy a peoples you must take their language, their history and their religion.

I do not fanatically regret the current cultural practices of the British Romany,  as if in some fantastical school-ground fantasy wishing upon a star for some historical fallacy that never truly existed outside the minds of romantic poets. I am however aware of the cultural erosion experienced by all Romani (regardless of group or vitsa) and occasionally I ponder. I wonder about what has been lost, either through fear of persecution, enslavement and cultural genocide, or through adaptation.

My family has lost our language, I know of only a few words in an already pogadi chib. But for all the puerile sadness this causes me it is not for what I ponder today.

From what I understand, Romani groups upon first arriving in Europe converted to Christianity, as they may have converted to Islam previously, to secure free-passed with the popularity of the religion spreading through coercion, oppression, slavery and positive economic opportunity. Most Romani today are Christian. Truly, full-heartedly but it wasn’t the religion we first arrived with and glimmers of this can be seen throughout our culture from our strict marime code to our unique take on religious ceremony.

The largest Romani festival is the pilgrimage of Saint Sarah in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Camargue. Saint Sarah is thoughts to have been adopted by the Romani after their arrival in Europe, she is a Christian saint after all. However parallel cannot help but be drawn between this figure and the Hindu deity Kali, as also suggested by her Romani name Sara-e-Kali (translation: Black Sarah).

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

The Crypt of Sara-e-Kali

Even outside of  Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Sara-e-Kali is important, some Catholic Romanies when they pray to the Blessed Mother refer to Sara-e-Kali and not the Virgin Mary!

So I wonder and I ponder what our religion would have once looked like, obviously each group would have had different practices that stretched and changed as they made contact with new people and cultures but what was it like before Christianity. What would Christmas have been like before we became Christians?

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