Saint Sarah the patron saint of the Romani people - by Raine Geoghegan
Saint Sarah or Sara la Kali as she is also known is the patron saint of the Romani people. It is said that she was the servant of one of the three Mary’s and she travelled by boat to the Camargue. Her statue remains in the shrine of Saint Marie de la Mer and every year she is carried down to the sea as part of a ritual which honours her and her close relationship to the Roma.
Her Names are Many
(A Reimagining of Sara-Kali, the Patron Saint of Gypsies)
Some call her ‘blessed one’, her names are many.
Look, there she goes,
dressed in her finery for a Gypsy Rommer.
Black leather boots, long purple dress,
gold around her neck and a feather in her hat.
She’ll mingle with the guests,
drink wine until she’s skimmished.
She’ll hitch her skirts up and dance like the young ones.
Just before she leaves she’ll give order and sing a song
that nobody knows but everyone loves
and then as if by magic,
she’ll disappear into the shadows
into the dust that rolls along along
the empty streets and never settles.
Rommer: wedding; Skimmished – drunk.
Shrine at Sainte Marie de la Mer
Good Friday, 2020 - Lockdown
The shrine is empty today. No footfall except for one woman who comes daily to clean the statue of Sara-Kali. As she wipes the limbs of her beloved Saint, she sings, and the shrine is full with song. Once finished, she kneels, resting her bones.
‘Sara-Kali is dreaming
a boat on the shore,
white horses galloping towards her,
she a young girl, wanting to do good.
The woman offers up her prayers, kisses the feet of her faithful Mother. Once she leaves, all is quiet and still, only the dark face in the corner of the room glistens in the final flicker of candlelight.
She travels to Trafalgar Square, once a year, sits on the bench, feeds the pidgeons. She relives the old days, the market sellers. She sees it all now, vegetables, cheeses, nuts, the organ grinder and the barrow boys. There was one that they called Curly, on account of him having no hair. He would wink and smile at her, she a young girl calling out. ‘lucky ‘eather sir.’
She is the one walking the long road/ the one stepping out of the rock/ the one being washed in the sea/ standing on the shore/ she opens her arms and the horses bow down their heads/ knowing her power.
KNOW MY TRUE FACE
I’m a lot older than you think.
Look closely. See the dust in me eyes, the rivers in me veins.
Look at these ‘ands, they carry the weight of the world yet never grow tired.
Man made me into a saint but my life belongs to my race and the days gone past,
a time when religion was found in the clay, in mountains and forests,
in the song of the wind and at a mother’s breast.
The grains of truth ‘ave scattered far but are found wherever we tread,
so keep ‘movin’, know that I am your mother, sister, midwife and the phuri dhai.
Come to me and know my true face.
(Phuri dhai – the source of all Romany blood)
Raine Geoghegan, M.A. is a Romani poet, writer and playwright living in the UK. She is a Forward prize, twice Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net 2018 nominee. Her work has been published online and in print. Her two pamphlets are published by Hedgehog Press. Her essay is featured in the anthology ‘Gifts of Gravity and Light’ with Hodder & Stoughton. Her First Collection will be published with Salmon Poetry Press in March 2022. Website: rainegeoghegan.co.uk