For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Tight Connection

A long time ago I stopped off at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the mysterious, flat Camargue region of the French Mediterranean. A land of wild horses and flamingos and ancient beliefs. In fact it must have been around the time Bob Dylan visited the place in May 1975, when he attended the annual gypsy gathering there. On 24 and 25 May each year Saintes-Maries becomes the focus for a Romany pilgrimage. Gypsies gather to pay homage to 2 Marys whose wooden statues are brought out for the occasion, the statues of Marie-Salomé and Marie-Jacobé, who are said to have fled the Holy Land (supposedly also with Lazarus and Mary Magdalene) by boat after Christ's Resurrection. But there is also a 3rd statue, the one most idolized, of the enigmatic black saint Sara-la-Kali. Pagan goddess? Dark Egyptian woman? Servant of Christ's mother Mary? Mary Magdalene? Who knows. But every year on 24 May the gypsies meet to venerate their patron saint and return her effigy to the sea in an ecstatic and symbolic ritual. For 24 May is St Sara's festival day. And also Bob Dylan's birthday, of course... And Sara the name of his greatest love...

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