Friday, August 26, 2011

everything whirls

Derviche Tourneur from Réno Violo on Vimeo.

The Mevlevi Order of Sufis of Turkey, the ones we know as the Whirling Dervishes, are monastics whose prayerful dances are rarely seen. When they do appear in public nobody applauds because the audience understands they are witnessing a ritual trance that unites them with God. The Order was founded in the 13th century and named after Mevlana Jalal al-din Rumi who ended one of his poems with the line: 'dazed by the marvels of love, our whirling endures'.

The Dervishes make very precise movements with their hands while turning and every gesture is symbolic. The right hand is turned upward to receive Allah's grace and the left hand is turned down to convey that grace to earth. The left foot is kept as still as possible.

I found a video of a tanoura dance based on dervish technique which is often used to entertain tourists and parties in Turkey and Egypt. I'd never seen it before and thought you might enjoy it too. The dancer may not be a Dervish but you can see just how mesmerizing it is to witness the whirl taken to a whole different level.

A Dervish turns from right to left embracing all creation as he chants the name of God within the heart for the enrichment of this earth and the well-being of all.

Maybe we should all dance for that even though whirling would make most of us fall over.


  1. Widdershin is a pagan (witchcraft) ceremony dating back centuries where the devout spin counter-clockwise to connect with earth and sky.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  2. Made me dizzy just to watch. Can't imagine how long they must train to remain upright. I certainly couldn't do it! Thanks for posting this, Susan.

  3. It is hypnotizing to watch. Thank you for the information because I never knew they keep the one foot in place like that. I'm not sure I ever would have noticed because my eyes are fixed on the fabric.

    I am thinking of you and wondering if your area is under watch with the end of Irene coming close by. Sure hope it avoids you completely.

  4. THey are amazing to watch aren't they. I think Rumi poetry should be made compulsory reading!

  5. ol'buzzard - It's fascinating to imagine just how far back in history and prehistory music and dancing go.

    marja-leena - I was pretty amazed too.

    the crow - I've always wondered the same thing about ice skaters. I would definitely fall down after just a few rotations.

    lydia - Apparently anchoring the left foot is a symbol of holding down the ego as well as providing a pivot for balance.

    We went for a long walk through our favorite big park yesterday to see the trees again before they blow over. No, really I'm sure we'll be okay.

    jams - I agree on both counts.

  6. I'm all for dancing myself into a spiritual trance. :)

  7. I'd be sick in about 30 seconds which only proves that this is obviously some kind of jihadist hypnotizing ritual.

  8. liberality - and I'm sure you'd be very good at it too :-)

    gina - Absolutely.

    randal - Perhaps, but in the meantime you'd have fun twirling your skirt overhead.

  9. I prefer to watch these days, although I think when I was younger I did some experimentation with spinning around to get high...

  10. What Randal said... no spinning for me.

  11. fascinating. i too am fascinated by the fabric. i wonder.... painted, printed or pieced? and what is the fiber? are there women dervishes?

    i've been thinking about Irene's visit to your shores as well. i hope she's brief and mild and keeps her worst far out at sea with no one afloat nearby to endanger.

  12. if - I haven't spun around to get high since I was six and could fall on the grass. Later there were other methods.

    okjimm - Why spin when there's beer?

  13. gfid - The first thing I realized looking at the dance is that the top skirt must be pretty heavy to make the shape it does. I looked all over to see if I could find how they're made and found this article from the Times of India. The performer says the dress weighs 40 kilos. yikes! From what I can see there aren't many women Tanoura dancers - #1: Middle East #2: strength ... and there are no female Sufi Dervishes.

    So far we're fine with the weather but expecting some wind overnight and tomorrow. Mostly, she's heading through Quebec. Thanks for the good thought.

  14. i enjoyed the article.... yes, it would be an exceptionally strong woman who could spin for an hour with almost 90 pounds of fabric attached to her. exceptional in a man as well, for that matter. i love it that the fellow interviewed designs and builds his own garment... makes it very personal and wholistic. funny how as adults, often we have to re-learn some of the things every child knows instinctively. remember the euphoria of dresses or skirts with enough fullness to do a really great spin-till-you're dizzy....? but as adults we can't seem to just do anything for pure joy, we have to give it a 'purpose'.

  15. Pretty darn cool, and pretty darm amazing as well. Of course I'm closer to the dancing that goes on at a Pow Wow around here. Each dance step has a meaning, just like the whirlers. I think traditional tribal dancing is all like that. Some exhibitions of the Hmong, as we have a large populationnfrom Loas here in the region, have intricate movements. I love the regalia, the specialized garments, the colors. All very fascinating. Thanks for sharing.
    On the road for a fewq days, I'll get the laptop up and running from New Mexico in a few days.


  16. I just remembered, as a teen I did the twist, the frug, the watusi, the stroll, the mashed potato, the fish, the boogaloo, the cha cha, the tango, the waltz and a few others that I can't remember their names. Just so you know.

    More Peace

  17. gfid - I knew they'd be heavy but not quite that heavy. It really was neat to find out about these dancers, many of whom are quite famous (and for good reason) in the Middle East. There are all sorts of glass ceilings to be broken and maybe one day some wonderful woman will invent a performance costume that's a bit lighter in weight. I'm so glad you share the memory of circle dresses and skirts and just how joyous was the experience of twirling under a sunny summer sky until you fell down. That was my first experience of getting high and it still works.

    spadoman - You're right that sacred ceremonies are the heart and soul of healthy human interactions. You were most blessed to find the Native American teachers who took you into their homes and hearts.

    I hope you're enjoying excellent summer travel adventures.
    Peace and Happy Trails

  18. Wow! I was afraid I would feel dizzy after watching, but I wasn't. I realized that I was watching his feet more than anything else.

  19. A couple of years ago I had the good fortune (and foresight, I suppose) to see a "performance" by a group of Dervishes at the local Mass MoCA venue, a modern art/performance space of singular scale and vision. They had a huge video screen suspended behind the stage and a live camera looking straight down at the dancers, providing a composite straight-on/straight down view of the action. I can't adequately express the power of the effect, transporting all of us to a place we could probably never have gotten to without the dedicated work of the Dervishes. It was a lot gentler than these [I suspect] competition/exhibition videos, and a good deal less flashy, but immeasurably more transporting. I left exhausted, as did everyone around me.

    Thanks for passing this on, it's a spiritually oriented art form we here in the West know much too little about.

  20. cr - From your description of the event it sounds as if you got to see the real Mehlevi Dervishes in performance - the Sufis. The one here is most definitely a performance and not a traditional religious rite. I've never seen them myself but their exhibitions in public are most rare and I can well imagine the affect they had on you and the rest of the lucky audience.

    I have a good friend who's been part of a Sufi fellowship in Philadelphia for many years. They do a lot of outreach programs which are very beneficial. We do have much to learn.