Monday, July 13, 2009

Beyond Witnessing... the Whirling Dervish Ceremony at Carevanserai

I. In generosity and helping others, be like a river*

This is a place of open sky
an ancient oasis for resting, refreshing,
a place to wash the desert
from sandaled feet
and sand-scorched eyes

II. In compassion and grace, be like the sun

The sun has set
and we walk through the stony lot
surrounding this respite space.
Once inside,
I look up to see
the clear cappadocian sky
unencumbered by roof or dome
my face open to the night air
soft and mischievous on my neck, my shoulders.
There is lightning in the darkness
fragments of intermittent light
and the rain begins to puddle around my feet.

III. In concealing others' faults, be like night

And as the sky opens up
we travel back to candlelight
bats darting into ceiling cracks
of a side room
sheltered from the raining sky.
There is apple tea
warm and syrup sweet in our hands.
One candle transforms this dwelling
into the long ago, into the far away.

IV. In anger and fury, be like the dead

A theatre in the round holds all of us
observers of the ancient Sufi ritutual
Eleven men enter
dark-robed, black-robed,
bowing to us, one at a time.
I am voyeur, refusing to avert my eyes.
I eavesdrop in this darkness.
The Hat -i Serif begins,
a eulogy to the Prophet.
This is love song, lament,
a praise melody
followed by Kun Be,
a reverberation on the drums
patterned to evoke
the Creator,
fashioning order out of chaos,
the world an unstill body
revoling in each of us
around each of us
through each of us.

V. In modesty and humility, be like the earth

And then there is that voice again
joined by the fingered harp
in the lap of the man
who cannot remain isolated in this music.
His partners in this song
look forward,
eyes unblinking,
rooted in the song, unflinching.
But he is the unspoken conductor
eyes connecting
this soul to soul salutation
he cannot refrain
from smiling, nodding, acknowledging
the harmonies of the reed flutes.
And I remember Ramchadra
a blind boy in Nepal
leading his band of sightless musicians
in a back-house courtyard
on the first eve of the Tihar Festival.
His body is a shadow
conducting in three-quarter time
a Nepalese walty
and my feet cannot remain
silent in the presence of this rhythm,
and so I ask him to dance
ask him to conduct
from that small space next to the wok
where our dinner is beginning to crackle, to sizzle.
"I cannot dance. I've never danced," he tells me.
And I match my palms to his,
my hips to his,
and our swaying becomes our dancing
and he tells me,
"There is nothing separating us now.
We are one in this dancing..."

VI. In tolerance, be like a sea

And then the black cloaks
are removed
lovers baring themselves
to their beloved,
a birthing to the truth
layer upon layer exposed
to an all-embracing lover.
There is no fear here,
no need for modesty,
and their arms, crosswise,
testify to God's unity,
their unity with God.

I watch them unravel themselves
but not at all alone.
It is on each face, this joy,
this uniting with their beloved,
these revolutions of the body
revolving around the heart,
pivoting around the heart.

And all the while
there is a consciousness of place,
right hand reaching toward the sky
open palmed
a hungry hand
reaching toward
and receiving
and the left hand
rooted to the earth
his body becomes a conduit
a holy vessel
both receiving and returing
grace to his beloved.

I move my hands in tandem
stretching toward this ecstacy,
the drums calling me, inviting me.
There is a soul to soul in this place,
my hands a mirror ofhis
my body open
in the lightning of this place
transcending and transfixed,
yet firmly rooted,
pulled and torn in their twirling,
their whirling has taken me
a most willing captive.
Revolving, turning
I am transformed
a dervish, one with them,
on this starless Cappadocian night,
an ode to joy.

*from the Seven Advice of Mevlana



  1. This sounds very transformational. I think you are having a real honest to God adventure girl! As always your writing is a peek into the vast wonderland you are experiencing as you navigate a new country and explore the soul of it's people. Carry on!

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Therese! I do feel like I am exploring with an open mind, body, and soul...
    Love you,

  3. no one need ever avert their eyes from you Marianne. your invitation to dance is always warm, welcoming, close. another dance please.