Gypsy Ritual in the American Heyday
A rare inside look at Roma culture, ritual, and belief at its peak in the American Gypsy experience
“If future Gypsies remember the past, it will be because of Carol’s written words and the love she felt for all of us”
—Anastasia Todorovich, Machvanka poet
A diaspora spread over five continents, Gypsies conjure the romance of a nomadic life, a nostalgia for a simpler time. We think of dancing Spanish Gypsies or French jazz guitarists or a Romanian king. Gypsies have yet to enter the American public consciousness, yet they have been arriving since the late sixteenth century. Columbus brought several, forcibly transported to the Colonies, and many Americans today may count, unknown, a Gypsy or two among their forebears.
A legacy of misfortune and mistrust lives on in Gypsy blood, and glimpses into their lives are rare. A young anthropologist drawn in by a Gypsy matriarch had no idea her life’s work would be witness to this hidden culture and its dilution over decades of cultural adaptation. From 1966 to 2000 Carol Miller lived among the Machvaia during their Heyday. Here are her stories about creating a bounty of good luck made by good times: three-day weddings, opulent slavi (saint days), baptisms, holidays, parties, and fabulous offerings for the Dead Ones. From Baby Steve and Alice to Big Smith, Rose and Giorgio, from Pretty Bobby, Old Kaboka and Puro Bahto, from Julie and Jelly John to Luludj, Mek and the inimitable Lola, “The Heyday,” this particular heyday, is done, and we will not see its like again.
Carol Miller is an anthropologist who has studied the Machvaia Roma of California. She is the author of Lola’s Luck: My Life Among the California Gypsies which Susan Sarandon called “A wild and bittersweet adventure into a world none but Machvaia Gypsies know.” Carol Miller lives in Seattle and spends much of the year in California.
The Church of Cheese: Gypsy Ritual in the American Heyday
Paper, 240 pages