What is a Whirling Dervish and Why Is It Called That: Exploring the Mystical Tradition of Sufism

Have you ever heard of a whirling dervish? No, it’s not some sort of carnival ride or circus act! A whirling dervish is actually a member of the mystical Islamic sect known as the Mevlevi Order, which was founded in Konya, Turkey in the 13th century. The whirling dervish tradition is all about spinning in circles while performing a religious ceremony that’s designed to help them connect with God. But why are they called whirling dervishes? Well, that’s a great question that we’re going to explore in this article.

To understand why they’re called whirling dervishes, we need to go back to the origins of the Mevlevi Order. The founder, Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, was a Sufi mystic and philosopher who believed in a form of worship that emphasized spiritual experiences over intellectual knowledge. He wanted his followers to be free of distractions and fully focused on their connection to God. So, he came up with a series of rituals and practices that would help them achieve this state. One of these practices was spinning in circles, which he believed would allow the practitioner to enter a trance-like state and become one with the divine.

Over time, these spinning ceremonies became a defining characteristic of the Mevlevi Order, and their followers became known as whirling dervishes. The name may sound strange to us, but it actually makes perfect sense: “dervish” is a term used to describe a member of a Sufi order, while “whirling” refers to the spinning motion that’s central to their practice. By spinning in circles, the whirling dervishes hope to let go of their egos and become one with God, a process that requires intense devotion and discipline. So, the next time you hear about whirling dervishes, you’ll know exactly what they’re all about!

Origins of whirling dervish in Sufi culture

The whirling dervish, also known as the Mevlevi Order, originates from the mystical Islamic faith of Sufism. Sufism focuses on finding a personal connection with Allah and discovering one’s true self through various practices such as meditation, music, and dance. In the 13th century, the Sufi saint Jalaluddin Rumi founded the Mevlevi Order in present-day Turkey, which became an important center for the practice.

The whirling dervish dance, or Sema, is a form of meditation that is meant to bring the dancer closer to God. The dance is performed in a group, with each dancer wearing a specific outfit that consists of a long, flowing skirt and a tall hat that symbolizes the tombstone of the ego. The dance begins with a slow and steady pace, with the dancers holding their hands out to the sides, palms facing upwards. As the music intensifies, the dancers begin to spin in a circular motion, with their arms crossed over their chests.

The whirling dervish dance is meant to be both a physical and spiritual experience. The spinning motion is meant to represent the spiritual journey towards enlightenment, with the dancer’s body becoming a metaphor for the universe. The arms crossed over the chest represent the unity of all things, while the skirt symbolizes the world that is turned towards God. The dance is often accompanied by live music, which typically includes the ney flute, a stringed instrument called the oud, and the kudum drum.

Today, the Mevlevi Order and the whirling dervish dance can be found in various parts of the world, including Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The dance has even become a popular tourist attraction, with many people flocking to see the intricate movements and vivid colors of the dervish outfits.

Mevlevi Order of Whirling Dervishes

If you have ever heard of Whirling Dervishes, then you might have heard about the Mevlevi Order of Whirling Dervishes. This order is a Sufi order founded in Konya in Turkey by the followers of Jalaluddin Rumi, who was a 13th-century Persian poet, Islamic jurist, and theologian.

The Mevlevi Order is also known as the Order of the Mevlana, which means the followers of Rumi. It is a spiritual order, and its members are deeply committed to their faith. These members are called dervishes, which means “poor” or “needy” in Arabic. The dervishes of the Mevlevi Order are known for their practice of whirling, which is a form of meditation and a way of attaining salvation.

What is the Mevlevi Order of Whirling Dervishes?

  • The Mevlevi Order is a Sufi order founded by followers of Jalaluddin Rumi in Konya, Turkey.
  • The members of the Mevlevi Order are called dervishes, which means “poor” or “needy” in Arabic.
  • The dervishes of the Mevlevi Order practice whirling as a form of meditation and a way of attaining salvation.

What is Whirling?

Whirling is a form of Sufi meditation that involves spinning around in circles. The practice of whirling is a way of achieving spiritual enlightenment and union with God. During the practice of whirling, dervishes wear a white robe and a black cloak, which are supposed to represent their death and rebirth. The spinning motion is supposed to represent the orbiting of the planets and the whirling of the atoms. It is believed that through this practice, the dervishes can reach a state of ecstasy and connect with the divine.

The process of whirling is carefully choreographed and involves a number of steps. It is usually accompanied by music played by a group of musicians who use traditional instruments such as the ney (a type of flute), the kudum (a type of drum), and the tanbur (a type of lute).

Mevlevi Whirling Ceremony

The Mevlevi Whirling Ceremony is the most famous and spectacular ceremony of the Mevlevi Order. It is performed on special occasions such as religious holidays, weddings, and funerals. The ceremony begins with the entrance of the dervishes into the room, followed by the musicians. The dervishes then perform a series of movements and recitations before beginning to whirl.

Step Description
Salutation The dervishes greet the audience and each other.
Cross-arm dance The dervishes cross their arms over their chests and move together in a circle.
Four-corners The dervishes move to the four corners of the room to symbolize the four seasons.
Greeting the sheikh The dervishes pay their respects to their leader, or sheikh.
Whirling The dervishes begin to whirl, first slowly and then faster and faster.
Conclusion The dervishes stop whirling and the ceremony comes to an end.

The Mevlevi Whirling Ceremony is an important part of Turkish culture and has been recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. If you ever get the chance to witness the ceremony, it is sure to be an awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience.

Steps of the traditional whirling dance

The whirling dance, also known as Sufi whirling or the whirling dervish dance, has been practiced for centuries by Sufi Muslim communities as a form of spiritual meditation. The dance involves spinning around the body’s own axis, as a way to connect with the divine energy or tawfiq, and to overcome the self in order to merge with the divine. The following are the main steps of the traditional whirling dance:

  • Preparation: Before starting the spinning, the dervishes are required to perform a series of ritualistic actions, including taking off their outer garments and shoes, and tying on a loose, long-skirted garment called a sikke. The sikke represents the tombstone of the ego, and the long skirt signifies the abandoning of worldly desires. The dervishes also raise their arms in a form of prayer and recite verses from the Quran.
  • Spinning: The dervishes start spinning on one foot, while the other foot is placed forward at a 90-degree angle. They then bend their knees slightly and begin to rotate around their own axis with their arms extended at shoulder height. The right hand is turned upward to the sky, while the left hand is turned downward to the earth, symbolizing the connection between the divine and the natural world. The spinning motion is repeated for several minutes, with the dervishes gradually increasing their speed, while keeping their eyes focused on the ground.
  • Merger: As the spinning continues, the dervishes eventually raise their right hand toward the sky, and their left hand toward the ground, indicating their spiritual submission to the divine will. The spinning motion also slows down until they gradually come to a stop, with their right hand resting on their heart and their left hand pointing outward, illustrating the distribution of divine blessings to all humanity. This final pose represents the dervish’s inner transformation and the merging of the individual soul with the divine presence.

Why is it called a Whirling Dervish?

The term “whirling dervish” comes from the Turkish word “derviş”, which means “one who is humble or poor”. The term “whirling” refers to the spinning motion of the dance, and has become synonymous with the Sufi practice of spinning to connect with the divine. The whirling dance is also sometimes called the Mevlevi dance, after the Mevlevi Order of Sufis, founded by the poet and mystic Rumi in the 13th century. The Mevlevi Order is one of the most well-known and respected Sufi orders in the world, and their whirling dance is famous for its poetic and spiritual resonance.

The Symbolism of the Whirling Dance

The whirling dance is rich in symbolic meaning and reflects many of the central tenets of Sufism, including surrender to the divine will, detachment from worldly desires, and the merging of the individual self with the divine presence. The spinning motion itself is often interpreted as a form of prayer or meditation, with the body acting as a physical vessel for the spirit to achieve a state of trance or spiritual ecstasy. The white garb worn by the dervishes symbolizes purity and the avoidance of worldly desires, while the spinning motion represents the cycle of life and death and the journey of the soul toward enlightenment. Overall, the whirling dance is a powerful expression of devotion and connection to the divine, and has been a cornerstone of Sufi religious practice for centuries.

Symbolic Elements Meaning
Sikke Tombstone of the ego
Long skirt Abandoning of worldly desires
Spinning motion Connection with the divine
Hand positions Connection between the divine and the natural
Final pose Merging of the individual soul with the divine presence

The symbolism of the whirling dance encompasses a wide range of religious and philosophical concepts, and reflects the deep spiritual connection between the individual self and the divine presence. From the tombstone of the ego to the final pose of spiritual unity, the whirling dance is a potent symbol of the Sufi path to enlightenment and a testament to the enduring power of spiritual practice in our lives.

Symbolism behind the whirling dervish

Whirling dervishes are mystic dancers who perform the Sufi dance known as the Sema. The dance represents a journey of spiritual ascent towards truth and love, symbolized by the whirling movement. It is a mesmerizing dance that originated in 13th century Turkey as a form of worship and meditation by the followers of the Sufi poet and philosopher, Rumi.

  • The number 4: The whirling dervish dance is based on the number 4, which represents the four essential elements of human existence: mind, body, heart, and soul. The dancer uses all four elements to reach a spiritual state of self-realization and unity with creation. The four elements are also represented by the four parts of the dancer’s outfit: a white skirt symbolizing the ego’s shroud, a black coat symbolizing the tomb of the ego, a brown cloak symbolizing spiritual poverty, and a tall conical hat symbolizing the ego’s tombstone.
  • The color white: The white skirt represents purity and a desire to shed the ego’s limitations and reach a higher state of consciousness.
  • The color black: The black coat symbolizes the ego’s death and the renunciation of worldly desires.
  • The color brown: The brown cloak symbolizes the dervish’s poverty and humility before God.

The whirling dance is not just a physical act, but also a form of meditation that helps the dancer transcend the limits of the self and experience a state of ecstasy and unity. It is a way of experiencing God’s presence and a reminder of the Sufi principle of the unity of being, which states that all creation is part of the same divine essence.

During the dance, the dervishes hold their arms in a specific way to represent the greeting posture of the divine, as if they are receiving blessings from above. The whirling motion symbolizes the revolution of the planets around the sun, which represents the flow of divine energy. It also represents the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, a reminder that everything in creation is transient and subject to change.

Symbolism Meaning
White skirt Purity and shedding of ego
Black coat Ego’s death and renunciation of desires
Brown cloak Poverty and humility before God
Tall conical hat Ego’s tombstone

The whirling dervish dance is a mesmerizing spectacle that transcends language and culture. It is a symbol of the human quest for spiritual fulfillment and a reminder of the unity of all existence.

Music and instruments used during whirling ceremony

The whirling dervish ceremony is not just the act of spinning, but it is also a spiritual journey that involves music and instruments played by the accompanying musicians. The selection and the quality of the music played during the ceremony are of utmost importance in terms of setting the desired mood, rhythm, and energy level for the spinning ceremony.

The traditional instruments used in the whirling ceremony are the ney, kudum drums, and a stringed instrument called tanbur. The music played during the ceremony follows a particular tune, which is known as the “Samah.” The Samah tune consists of five parts:

  • The “taksim” or the introductory part
  • The “salaam” or greeting part
  • The “peshrev” or slow dance part
  • The “hava” or energetic dance part
  • The “duva” or prayer song

The ney, which is a type of flute, is considered to be the most important instrument in the whirling ceremony. It has the ability to create a deep emotional response within the listener and is believed to help the dancer connect with the divine. The kudum drum is commonly used to keep the rhythm and it is believed to help the dancer reach a state of trance during the ceremony. Lastly, the tanbur, which is a type of a long-necked lute, provides both a steady bassline and a melodic structure.

In addition to the traditional instruments, other musical instruments like the violin, cello, and percussion can be used to enhance the musical experience of the ceremony. Some modern whirling ceremonies allow for new age music, electronic music or even rock music to be used, but this is a subject of lively debate among the Islamic traditionalists and the modern musicians.

Instrument Explanation
Ney A type of flute that helps the dancer connect with the divine.
Kudum A type of drum used to keep the rhythm and help the dancer reach a trance state.
Tanbur A long-necked stringed instrument that provides steady bassline and melodic structure.

Music and instruments are the soul of the whirling ceremony. They not only help the whirling dervish connect with the divine, but it also adds to the spiritual and emotional journey for the participants and the observers. The whirling dervish ceremony is not only a dance or spinning, but it is a celebration of life and the connection to the divine.

Modern interpretations and adaptations of the whirling tradition

The whirling dance tradition of the Sufi Dervishes has been around for centuries and has undergone several transformations throughout history. Here are some modern interpretations and adaptations of the whirling tradition:

  • Ecstatic Dance: Ecstatic dance is a modern version of the whirling tradition, which involves free-form dancing to music. It allows dancers to explore and express their emotions and connect with their spiritual side, similar to the spirituality that whirling dervishes aim to achieve.
  • Mental Health Therapy: Several modern therapies like Dance Movement Therapy (DMT), Somatic Experiencing, and Trauma Release Exercises incorporate movements like whirling to help individuals overcome trauma and release emotional blockages.
  • Performance Art: Whirling has also become a popular form of performance art, where dancers showcase the movements and beauty of the Sufi whirling in front of an audience. Groups like The Whirling Dervishes of Rumi have gained worldwide recognition for their performances.

Aside from its modern transformations, the whirling dance tradition has also served as inspiration for various works of art, such as poetry, literature, music, and visual arts. Celebrities like Madonna and Sting have been known to incorporate elements of whirling dance in their performances, further contributing to the global popularity of this spiritual practice.

Despite the changes in the way the whirling tradition is perceived and practiced, it still serves as a valuable tool for those looking to connect with their inner selves and achieve spiritual growth.

Modern Interpretations and Adaptations of Whirling Description
Ecstatic Dance Free-form dancing to music, allowing individuals to express emotions and connect with spirituality
Mental Health Therapy Whirling included in therapies like Dance Movement Therapy, Somatic Experiencing, and Trauma Release Exercises to help individuals overcome trauma and emotional blockages
Performance Art Whirling incorporated in various forms of performance art, including The Whirling Dervishes of Rumi and popular music and dance performances

Whether it’s through performance art, mental health therapy, or personal practice, the whirling tradition continues to inspire and influence individuals all around the world.

Spiritual and meditative benefits of whirling practice

Whirling practice is not just a form of physical exercise but has great spiritual and meditative benefits as well. It has been practiced by the Sufi mystics for centuries as a means to connect with the divine and reach a state of transcendence.

Below are some of the spiritual and meditative benefits of whirling practice:

  • Connecting with the divine: Whirling is often performed as a form of devotion to God, with the spinning representing the cyclical nature of the universe and the ecstasy of surrendering oneself to a higher power.
  • Cultivating mindfulness: As the Sufi mystic spins, they focus on their breath, heartbeat, and the sensation of the earth beneath their feet. This mindfulness practice can help practitioners become more present and in tune with their bodies.
  • Experiencing transcendence: Through the constant whirling motion, practitioners are able to enter a trance-like state where they feel connected to the universe and can experience a sense of oneness with all things.

The significance of the number 7

In Sufi tradition, the number 7 holds great significance and is often incorporated into the whirling practice. Here are some of the reasons why:

Reason Explanation
The seven heavens According to Islamic tradition, there are seven heavens, each of which represents a different level of spiritual attainment. The number 7 is therefore symbolic of reaching spiritual heights.
The seven chakras In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, there are seven chakras or energy centers in the body. By whirling the body seven times, Sufi mystics believe they can activate these chakras and restore their flow of energy.
The seven prophets The number 7 is also significant in Islamic tradition as there are believed to be seven prophets or messengers, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Whirling seven times is seen as a way to honor and connect with these spiritual figures.

Overall, whirling practice offers a unique way to connect with the divine and experience a sense of transcendence. By incorporating the number 7 into their practice, Sufi mystics are able to tap into the symbolism and significance that this number holds across different spiritual traditions.

FAQs about Whirling Dervish

1. What is a Whirling Dervish?

A Whirling Dervish is a member of a religious order known as Mevlevi who practice their unique form of Sufi Islam through a spinning dance ritual.

2. Why do Whirling Dervishes spin?

Whirling Dervishes spin as a way to connect with Allah and achieve a mystical union with Him. They consider it a form of meditation and prayer.

3. What do the Whirling Dervish costumes mean?

The Whirling Dervish costume represents the burial shroud as a symbol of ego death. The tall hat, or sikke, symbolizes the tombstone, while the white frock symbolizes the burial shroud.

4. Where did Whirling Dervish originate?

The Whirling Dervish originated in Konya, Turkey, in the 13th century. It was founded by the poet and mystic, Rumi.

5. How long do Whirling Dervish performances last?

Whirling Dervish performances usually last around an hour, but can sometimes go on for longer.

6. What is the significance of the Whirling Dervish music?

The Whirling Dervish music is a significant part of the ceremony as it sets the pace and rhythm for the spinning. It is also designed to assist in achieving a state of trance.

7. Is the Whirling Dervish dance performed by women?

No, traditionally the Whirling Dervish dance is only performed by men. However, in recent years, some women have begun to perform it as well.

Closing Paragraph: Thanks for Reading!

There you have it, the fascinating world of Whirling Dervish. We hope you have learned something new about this unique religious practice. Thanks for reading, and please visit us again soon for more engaging and informative articles.