Sunday, February 21, 2010

Whirling Dervishes and the Sema

"Whirling dervish" just seems like an exotic, mysterious thing, doesn't it? I never knew quite what it was, but when I received this postcard in the mail from one of my favorite Postcrossers, pinuccia, I decided it was time to learn more about it. As my repeat readers will know, I have two favorite posting themes - dances and food. Today, it's a dance.

"Whirling dervish" is a colloquial name for members of the Mevlevi Sufi order, an Islamic sect founded in Konya, Turkey by Celaleddin Mevlana Rumi in 1273. The dancing ritual that the Mevlevi are famous for is called the Sema. Sema represents the mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to "Perfect," the state in which the follower grows through love, deserts his ego, and finds truth. To me, this all sounds
remarkably like Hindu mysticism, which I suppose could have influenced this sect in some respect.

The dance is divided into four parts - a song of praise to the Prophet Mohammad, followed by a bowing process and the removal of the black robes. The main dance, called the Four Selams, consists of the dancers, called semazen, spinning around the Sheikh. The semazen represent the moon, and the Sheikh represents the sun. The semazan spin on their right foot with their right palm facing upward toward heaven and the left hand pointing toward the ground, to represent a sort of communion of heaven and earth, as well as the spiritual ascension that believers experience. The Four Selams represent recognition of God, recognition of unity with God, ecstasy associated total surrender, and peace of heart due to divine unity. The ceremony is concluded with a recitation from the Holy Qu'ran.

From what I gather, the Mevlevi sect was abolished by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the monasteries were converted to museums. Decades later, the brotherhood was revived by the Turkish government as a "cultural association" - mainly for tourism reasons, I suspect. Now the brotherhood tours the world performing the ceremony.


Amanda said...

Katie, that stamp is amazing! I am totally jealous. Thanks for the super informative information... one day I'm going to learn to dance!

Chris Overstreet said...

Very cool card and stamp. I lived in Ankara for a few years, and they are something to see.

pinuccia said...

Katie dear, I'm so happy to see my card and stamp on your blog. I found some cool cards that you might like. Stay tuned baby :)

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