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Dervishes, whirling and otherwise

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54344.  Wed Feb 22, 2006 8:24 am Reply with quote

Writing in Mystery Readers Journal (Fall 2005), crime novelist Barbara Nadel discusses her series featuring two Istanbul detectives. The latest book is set in part in a book bazaar called the Sahaflar, “in a shady little courtyard just west of the Grand bazaar.” Nadel writes that she often visits this place, where “the booksellers themselves, those calm and very unassertive men who stand serenely by their stalls and just appear, seemingly, when you need help are very much the reason why the Sahaflar is as it is. The booksellers of the book bazaar are, it is said, dervishes, that is Muslim mystics who are very learned, very gentle and who seek to have a personal relationship with God. Dervishes are welcoming, kind and see it as their duty to do no harm to anyone or anything.”

Like most people, I suspect, I know nothing about dervishes - not even what or who they are - beyond the “fact” that they whirl. So a question along the lines of “What do dervishes do for a living?” might be worth a go; I suspect “sell second hand books” wouldn't be in the top ten answers. (It seems that, like Western monks, different “orders” of dervishes will often pursue the same living: some groups, for instance, are fishermen.)

There’s a picture of the book market here:
(Looks like the perfect place for a QIcon - except, presumably, no pub.)

54365.  Wed Feb 22, 2006 8:53 am Reply with quote

Isn't it only the Sufi ones who whirl?

54870.  Thu Feb 23, 2006 11:38 am Reply with quote

Yes, I think Whirling Dervishism is a branch of Sufi. Dervish is Turkish for “poor man,” thus a dervish (whirling or otherwise) is roughly a kind of Muslim monk.

Whirling Dervishes belong to the Mevlevi Order, founded by the poet Rumi, and live in cloisters. The purpose of the dancing, and its accompanying music, and chanting of poetry, is to “induce a feeling of soaring, of ecstasy, of mystical flight.”

The sect is part of Sunni Islam, and “although occasionally criticised for its heretical ideas” is part of the mainstream. Many great Islamic rulers were strong supporters of the Mevlevi, including Suleyman, who gifted them a whirling hall or “semahane.” Amongst the sect’s heresies is that it uses music as an article of faith, the founder having taught them that music lifts the spirit to the higher realms. Many more dogmatic branches of the faith banned music altogether. Thus, for many centuries, the whirling dervishes were the very centre of music and dance in the Ottoman world.

Today, a whirling performance uses 12 musicians and 12 dancers, and a master of ceremonies. “A performance is broken into two parts with the introduction conducted by the master followed by 3 or 4 pieces of music. This is followed by a 4-part whirling ceremony.” One of the recitations given concerns Mary and the miraculous birth of Jesus.

“The Ritual of Sema” is based on the idea that “The fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve.” Very true. The Semazen wear a camel’s-felt hat representing a tombstone.

It’s very important that spectators don’t applaud while watching, as the performance is a “spiritual act.” If so moved, one may applaud when the dervishes have left the stage. (Guidance on autographs is not given).

Sources: For full details of the whirling, have a look here
See also

Possible linkage: “At the end, by the salute, the dervish demonstrates again the number ‘1’ in his appearance, arms consciously and humbly crossed, and, by this, the unity of God.” We’ve been discussing the oneness of the spirit under Darts, and also Differences (Excluding Herrings).

54881.  Thu Feb 23, 2006 12:16 pm Reply with quote

I went to the place where they whirl, in Konya, once but they'd taken the day off or something. Nobody whirled, anyway.

60364.  Fri Mar 17, 2006 5:34 am Reply with quote

Famous Whirling Dervishes of the Modern Age, Part 14:
Terrance Stamp.

Source: Mr Stamp’s own mouth, on ‘Desert island Discs,’ BBC Radio 4, 17 March 2006.

60382.  Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:41 am Reply with quote

Jasper Maskelyne (I know, it seems like I'm obsessed), met with the Imam of the Whirling Dervishes, after he threatened to declare jihad on Britain should any soldier set foot on Arab soil. Any retreat from Egypt would necessarily have to go through these forbidden territories, so desperate measures were required.

Maskeleyn's meeting with the Imam took the form of a kind-of "magic-off" where the two tricksters played more and more amazing deceptions until the Imam played his trump card - spearing himself (there was a legend that Dervished would spear themselves as a child, creating holes in the abdomen which, as an adult, would accommodate any number of weapons.). Maskeleyn realised that this was just a trick, using a leather belt, and threatened to unmask the Imam for the fraud that he was - at this, the threat of jihad was lifted and a route for retreat was secured.

The War Magician - David Fisher

60387.  Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:51 am Reply with quote

Fantabulosa! (© K Williams)

Does the book say how the trick worked, and could Stephen do it in the studio without Sarah having a fit?

60389.  Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:56 am Reply with quote

It's the basic bendy sword, pushed into hollow belt which fits around the body. Mere childsplay - but you'd need the props.

60394.  Fri Mar 17, 2006 7:05 am Reply with quote

So the rest of the deceptions were magic, then, and not just tricks to be similarly challenged? :-D

60397.  Fri Mar 17, 2006 7:14 am Reply with quote

Of course, you old cynic you.


Actually the book alludes to the fact that the Makeleyne family had spent a lot of money and research time attempting to prove one way or other whether magic actually existed in the world.


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