Friday, December 21, 2012

Mevlevi Sema Ceremony

        One ceremony from our itinerary that I am excited to attend isthe Mevlevi Sema Ceremony. Earlier that day we’ll be at the Galata MevleviTekkesi, which, from what I gather, is a Mevlevi Whirling Dervish hall (theMevlevi are an order of Sufis).
    The tradition of the whirling dances originated Konya andeventually spread throughout the Ottoman Empire. Dancers receive 1,001 days oftraining in ethics, codes of behavior, prayer, religious music, etc. to be amember of the dancing order. Directly before the ceremony, dancers fast for a fewhours. They proceed to then whirl in white robes while reciting prayer forabout 15 minutes at a time (I think it’s remarkable that they don’t get dizzy! Icertainly would!). They keep their eyes open and watch the world blur by. Thehope is that after the training and dances, the members of the order go back totheir former occupations and resume their lives with a deeper spiritualunderstanding.
    Due to secularistpolicies, the entire Mevlevi order was outlawed in 1925 by the Turkish government. Though the orderremains illegal, the government granted the Mevlevi rights to perform. Thesedances are mostly tourist attractions nowadays. I found this tradition reallyinteresting because so many cultures have traditional dances, yet I haven’tseen anything like this before. Not only is it a cultural dance, it’s alsoreligious and philosophical and they receive nearly 3 years of instruction! I’m very excited to see this groupperform! 
    This is a link to a youtube video of another group with anarration.There is also a bit of information about this tradition in the Istanbul travelguide we have on page 47 under Winter- events.