Accepted Paper:

Transformations of ritual community: Romas and the Ilyosha village feast  
Ergo-Hart Västrik (University of Tartu)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation discusses public celebration of the festival of St. Paraskeva Piatnitsa in Ilyosha village situated in the Leningrad oblast of the Russian Federation. What makes this festival special is the fact that the Russian Orthodox religious feast has been taken over by the Roma community.

Paper long abstract:

In this presentation I will discuss public celebration of the festival of St. Paraskeva Piatnitsa (St. Elijah's Friday) in Ilyosha village situated in the Kingissepp region of the Leningrad oblast, Russian Federation. The annual celebration includes activities in the village church (holy mass and procession) as well as the site of the former chapel (prayers and healing) that was destructed during the Soviet period. What makes this festival special is the fact that the Russian Orthodox religious feast, and the site as a destination of pilgrims from nearby areas, has been taken over by the members of Roma community, who usually do not regard themselves as Orthodox believers.

My research questions concern the historical reasons why Romas have 'occupied' the festival of St. Paraskeva Piatntsa and why do they consider her to be their patron saint? What kind of bodily expressions of Orthodox faith Romas have taken over and how do they carry on local vernacular healing practices related to the site of the former village chapel? How do they explain the holiness of the site and in which respect their versions of the Christian legend deviate from the vernacular versions of other Orthodox believers?

The paper is based on field recordings made in Ilyosha village in 2000 when the research team of the Estonian Literature Museum documented the celebrations of the festival on the videotape. Field recordings included interviews with villagers and pilgrims. Synchronic documentation has been supplemented with some historical investigations.

Panel P230
Ritual places through the ritual year II