Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The amazing Whirling Dervish ceremony

I was quite excited to be going to a whirling dervish ceremony. All I knew about whirling dervishes was that when someone was racing around you said that they were "like whirling dervishes."

We were seated in the small theatre in the round and waited for the ceremony, known as a Sema. The Sema dates back to the thirteenth century when it was founded by the Sufi mystic, Rumi. He believed that music and dance represented a means to induce an ecstatic state of universal love and offered a way to liberate the individual from anxiety and the pain of daily life.

As we watched the ceremony I found several similarities to yoga and meditation including the revolving, the hand movements and a movement similar to namaste. There were three musicians playing a ney or reed flute, a stringed instrument, and cymbals. The dervishes arrived wearing black cloaks and a conical headdress. The cloak was removed to reveal a white skirted outfit symbolizing the ego's shroud.

The Sema ritual has five parts, three of which consist of prayers or greetings. In the fourth part the dervishes repeat three times a circular walk, and then in the fifth part they start whirling. This continues for some time with one hand facing up and the other down. It was very impressive  to watch this rapid twirling going on for such a time. Just try it. There was no wobbling or falling down when they were finished. At the end they have reached a state of Nirvana in Buddhism or Fenafillah in Islam. The ceremony ends with a prayer and then the dervishes go to meditate.

The ceremony was quite beautiful and watching it was meditative. At the end of the ceremony we were offered some apple tea in the lobby. Then it was back to the hotel, along the way passing Goreme's fairy chimneys, which were lit up and looking more magical than ever.

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