Whirling Dervishes/Sema


Sema is a part of Turkish history, custom and belief system and has developed through the devotional work of Mevlânâ Celâleddin-i Rumî (1207 – 1273)It symbolizes, in seven parts, the different meanings of a spiritual journey to perfection (Ascension – Mirac).

When we consider the sema from a scientific perspective we see that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no object, no being which does not revolve and theshared similarity among beings is the revolution of the electrons and protons in the atoms, whichconstitute the structure of all things, from the smallest particle to the furthest stars.

Everything revolves and Man carries on with his life, his very existence by means of therevolution in the atoms, structural elements in his body, by the circulation of his blood; he revolves coming from the Earth andreturning to it, revolving with the Earth itself.

However, all of these are natural, unconscious revolutions. But Man has will and intelligence which distinguishes him from and makes him superior to other beings. Thus the whirling dervish or Semâzen has the mind accompany the revolution of all things

The Semâ ceremony represents a the journey of Man’s spiritual ascent throughlove, leaving his ego behind; through this journey he finds the truth and arrives at perfection. Then he returns from this spiritual journey as a person whohas reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole of creation, to all creatures.

The dervish with his head dress (his ego’s tomb), his white skirt (his ego’s shroud) is born to truth, by removing his cloak,he journeys and advances to spiritual maturity through the stages of the Semâ.

At the on set and eachstage of the Semâ holding his arms crosswise he represents number one, and testifies to God’s unity. Whilewhirling his armsareopen, his right hand directed to the sky ready to receive God’s beneficence, gazing his left hand turned toward the earth, he turns from right to left, pivoting around the heart. This is his way of conveying God’s spiritual gift to the people upon whom God looks with Divine watchfulness.

Revolving around the heart, from right to left, he embraces all of humankind, all creation, with affection and love.

The Semâ consists of several parts, with different meanings.

The First Part: Starts with a Nat-ı Sherif, euology to the Prophet, who

Represents divine love. To praise our Prophet is to praise all Prophets before him and God who created all of them.

The Second Part:

The eulogy is followed by a drum sound symbolising the Divine order of the Creator…. ‘Kun=Be!’ (Qur’an 36:82)

The Third Part:

Then follows an instrumental music improvisation ‘ taksim ‘ with a reed ‘ ney ‘, representing the divine breath which gives life to everthing.

The Fourth Part:

‘Devri Veledi’ accompanied by music called ‘peshrev’. The dervishes greet each other three times in their repeated circular walk. It symbolizes souls, concealed as they are by shapes and bodies, saluting each other.

The Fifth Part: The Semâ (whirling) consists of four salutes or ‘Selam’s. By removing his black cloak he symbolically is born to turht and by crossing his arms he represents the number one and testifies to God’s unity.

He kisses Shaykh Effendi’s hand and gains permission to join the whirling and then start the Sema

The First Salute is Man’s birth to truth with knowledge, and his realization of the Great Creator and his being His subject.

The Second Salute, expresses the rapture of Man in the face of God’s greatness and omnipotence, by witnessing the order and splendor of creation.

The Third Salute, is the completion of Man’s spiritual journey, his acceptance of his lot, his return to his natural duty, from creation- that is of being a servant of God. The Shaykh Effendi and the Leader of the Semazen participate in this salute. At this point the whirling dervish experiences the joy of having put his faith in God, His angels, His books, His Prophets, as in Surah Bakara, verse 285. He is cognizant of the joys of divine orders and causes of creation… He has defeated his self, his ego and had obeyed the order of the Prophet ‘die before you die’ and the order of the Qur’an in the 27th and last verses of Surah Fajr ‘Oh self, that is safe and satisfied in its knowledge, return to your Lord, you being content with Him and He being content with you! Enter the group those servants of mine who are close to Me! Enter with them in my heaven!’

The Fifth Salute, of the Semâ continues with a reading of the Quran, especialy of the verse from Sura Bakara 2, verse 115 ‘To God belong the East and the West, and wherever you turn, there is God’s countenance. He is All-Embracing. All-Knowing.’

The Sixth Salute, Semâ ceremony ends with a prayer of Fatiha for the peace of the souls of all Prophets, the martyrs and all believers, and then a prayer for the well being of the state.

After the completion of Semâ greeting all the dervishes return silently to their meditation cells for contemplation.