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“First there was dance”, Homeros

The music, the natural rhythms, natural instruments accompanying the dance, were an inseperable part of the tribal way of life. Rhythm was human's most pure and arcaic nature.

The rhythms innate ability to restore the human nature, is an important element to deepening a person's spiritual perception, enabling to get in touch with the essences purpose of existence. The body is a unit of condensed energy and moves within a specific frequency of awareness. By using this motion with a controlled attitude, the body reaches the ability to tab into different vibrations and ascent into a plane of higher awareness and experience a higher energy dimension.

Rhythm and dance is one of the easiest methods to apply to transfrom energy.

That's why physicians in ancient ages were using rhythm , music and dance to treat patients. In the parts of the world, where this treatment is still being used, a state of trance, induced through the life force energy circling the whole body because of motion, aimed to help to reach the necessary information for the treatment of the patient. Physicians, wise people or instructors we can call healers, conduct this trance and therapy process mostly with various rhythm instruments.

One of the oldest and most known methods used with this aim is the whirling dance.

Why whirling?

Because the basic condition of existing is whirling. It represents a round trip. Electrones vibrate and turn around the nucleus with a speed that changes between 1000 and 100.000 km. Electrones with a mass no different to eachother still have different energy levels and vibrate and turn in 7 different orbits. The fast and infinite whirling of the electron is the essence of everything, that exists. Everything in the universe is kept alive with this whirling, which emanates from vibration. The stars, the plantes, the blood in our bodies, life in the soil, everything whilrs in harmony.

The whirling dance, which we mostly are accustomed to see in relation with the Sufi tradition and rituals, is today largly known under the names "dance of the derwishes", "sufi dance" or "sema". But this 'dance' is dating back to the Luvians, Ancient Egypt, Tibet, Sumerians and Mayans and was among the therapy, ritual and teachings of these and many more ancient civilisations. In places influenced by these civilisations this experience continues since millenia to live on in different methods.


In our country, where whirling is known because of mevlevism (being a derwish), is one of the most prominent rituals of the religious order founded after the death of the great wise man Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, whom lived in the 13. century. This whirling ritual is called 'sema'. The whirling derwishes are being called 'semazen'. 'Sema' means sky in common use, but also has meanings like "hearing, listening". My guess is, that this name is given to them, because they associate they have wings instead of arms and fly up into the sky while whirling and enter a state of listening to the universe and their inner worlds.

“A person, whom is whirling, whirls in the direction of his/her heart; because the heart is God's house. Hands and arms slowly take their appopriate position. The right hand position itself in order to receive God's gifts, the left hand turns to the soil in order to share.” İbn Arabi-Divine Love ("İlahi Aşk")

Those, who do 'sema' are called Sema'zen, the venue in which this takes place is called Semahane. The circualr shape of a Semahane: Represents the cosmos. The crossed arm position at the start of Sema: Means invocation. The Semazen take off their black sweaters and cross their arms by placing their hands on their shoulders. This represents the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, Elif, the number 1. It means that the individual states 'I testify with all my being that Allah exists.' The right side: The visible and known Material plane. The left side: Represent the plane of Meaning.

Sufism existence is as old as man kind. Sufi authors describe this religion as “

the "religion of prophets". This mystic religion came in the 8th century from Horasan, Şirvan and Erdebil and spread to many more places, finding it's expression in various different forms. Alevism and Bektashism are the living representatives for this tradition in Anatolia. “Semah” is a way of worshipping through dance and is performed as various whirling motions and mostly accompanied with live music.

As we know since former times, the Alevi people's worshipping ceremony held with their congregation is called "Cem". An elder, whom is called Dede (Grandfather) or a Baba (Father) is leading this ceremony. Bards, whom play the traditional turkish stringed instrument called 'baglama' and whom are described as "Zakir" in this tradition, perform Alevi breaths, elegizin, express idioms and the special traditional folk songs called duaz-ı imams, where twelve imams are being mentioned. The Grandfather (Dede) also listens to his communities problems and brings piece between people, whom had a fall out. Men and women sit together in a circle, face to face to eachtother during a Cem ceremony. The Grandfather (Dede) initiates this ceremony by reading a gülbenk prayer. With the Grandfather's permission all the participants in the circle bow to eachother by bringing their foreheads to the ground.The whirling can also only start if the Grandfather grants it. To whirl and perform the Semah ritual represent the Ascencion.

The Semah whirling ritual is held in three stages. The first stage; is the welcoming. It represents the journey between Mekka and Mescid-i aksa. The second stage; the walk. Stands for the journey between Mescid-i Aksa and Sidrei Münteha, which is a tree in the 7th and highest level of paradise. The third stage; framing or flying. At this stage the joruney between Sidrei Münteha and Kaab-ı Kavseyn is represented; which is know as the point of encounter of the prophet Muhammet and God.

A person, which whirls in the Semah ritual is known to be freed from his/her self and identify with God, experiences the taste in vanishing in God. In summary: The welcoming is 'bekabillah', the walk is 'seyrillah', the framing is 'fenafillah' with it's original names. During 'Fenafillah' the essence becomes divine merged with the Divine. Semah is in that sense an invocation performed by the person on his/her feet.

Semah isn't performed alone. It is performed with two or more individual souls, whom are lovingly called "can". "Can" means "Life force, essence, soul" and is pronounced "jdann". There's no limit in number of people, who can whirl together as a collective. Man and women whirl together. The Word 'Semah', derrived from the root of the Arabic word "sema" is translated into Turkish as 'sema' or 'semah'.

The Mevlevi sema and the Alevi semah are different from eachother in the actual performance: In the Mevlevi tradition only men whirl, in the Alevi tradition men and women whirl together. at the Semah ritual a specific number of people can whirl together. Either in numbers of 2,4,8,10,12 or 3,5,7,12. These numbers are believed to be sacred. Basic figures in the Semah ritual are made for hands and feet. Hands and arms symbolize a bird in flight. The most common hand posture is that the right hands palm is facing upwards in reveiving and the left hands palm is facing the eart in a sharing manner. This figure symbolizes the act of 'What's given by the Divine is given back to the people'.


The five Tibetan movements came from Lamas of a lost convent in the depths of tibetan area, that was declared forbidden to enter for thousands of years. These excercises, kept as a well guarded secret until the 30ies, were intoduced to the western world by Peter Kelder.

This secret consists of five simple ancient rituals, which have the power to change ones life until the end of days. these five rituals, hold the power to make one feel and look younger and at the same time gain a great aliveness.

These excercises, increase ones energy and regulate the function of all chakras. They enable one to achieve a state of physical flexibility and strenght.

We have various energy centers in our bodies. It is through the movement like in a whirlpool in thesee points, that we are at balance spiritually and physically. It is due to many reasons like our daily scurries, pressures, thoughts in wrong frequencies, that our chakras get to spin slower in time or even come to a still point. This however leads to physical and spiritual imbalances in the afflicted areas and their corresponding ranges.This situation can make a person seem uglier than he/she really is, can lead to illnesses, unhappyness, to aging, and so on. The five basic movements in Tibetan yoga, apply a spot-on pressure to these energetic whirlpools, so that those can flow in order, balance and health. In the first moevement both hands are stretched out to each side, feet solidly standing on the floor, palms facing to the floor and the whole body spins clockwise.


The Tungus people, (that's weher the word 'shaman' came) perform the ritual known to us as shamanic journeying through a trance dance that involves whirling. The Tungus people believed that the sky is turning around a center and called that center " Core of the sky, which had it's counter point on earth, which was called "core of the earth". This peculiar spin of the sky around it's own axis, brought the desing into life, that suggests the sky is leaning against a more grounded support. That's why some people assumed that the sky was spinning on top of a great pillar or other solid axis. Therefore the Kirgizi, Baskirt and the turkish people of western Sibiria named the Northern Star as "Iron-Stake", the Mongolians and Tungusians named it "Golden Pole" Nitekim Kırgız, Başkırt ve Batı Sibirya Türk halklarının kutup yıldızını “Demir-kazık". As the saying goes, gods would tie their horses to these stakes and poles. This is why during a shamanic journey to the upper world the shaman opens the space by first spinning in a circle and then around him or herself and then let's every participant whirl according to the healing or intention of the ceremony.

“The Middle Eastern doctors, who are called Kam and Baksı used music and dancing to treat their patients. In Kazakhistan, Kırghizistan, Altai, Mongolia and Siberia, where this treatment with dancing is still being kept, whirling is used. Through the spiritual energy, which is invoked by shoulder and head movements,a state of trance is induced and with that it's possible to acess the necessary information for the treatment of the patient.The Baksis, induced trance and performed they treatment with authentic turkish musical instruments like Kılkopuz, Dombra, Şankopuz, Asatayak and the drum.”


The forest people of Kung. They are a hunter-gatherer tribe withing the borders of the republic of Botsvana and Namibia. They are chanelling "Num" which is a deity with healing power and for that the healer first whirls in his/her own axis to get in touch with the supernatural powers.


Gnawa music is indigineous to North Africa. It dates back before the time the people accepted Islam as their religion. It merged with the traditional music and dance with the region and survived to this day. This music is performed as a way of worhip in ceremonies called "lila", which can be described as rituals. A virtuous musician called Maalem (master) is leading a band of musicians and dancers. The tunes and even danc figures come from a region under the Sahara desert, reaching until West Africa. They are especially popular in Marocco and South West of Algeria. A Gnawa song, consists of the repetition of a sentence or a word. It is in a way similar to Dhikr (invocation). The songs don't have a set timespan, but they can be performed for hours.

Gnawa is a ceremony/worshipping tradition with it's own set of rules. The first part explains the creation of the cosmos and the world.In this part the saints are referred to with seven colours. All the different parts of the ceremony, are led by people we can call oracles and whom have more extended perceptions. They are called Moqadma and Shuwafa. If need be, with a change in costumes and accessoires different beings (probably genies) can be conjured in order to control the participants during the ritual. As a result of this a whirling dance called "Jedba" happens. The musicians accompany the dancers with percussion instruments called 'Qraqab' or 'Krakebs'.


In religions like Condomble and Umbanda whirling is a fundamental part and they whilr in white skirts just like the Mevleviis. The authentic rituals of their religion, which is based on oral tradition and initiation, are held at special venues and are mostly exclusive. The music, especially the african polyrhythms performed by virtuous artists are used for getting in trance. Most kinds of brasillian music, ow their rhythmic patterns to this tradition.

According to the belief system of Candomble, the great god 'Oludumare' created the cosmos. Oludumare governs the universe with his helpers. These helping deities (spirits) are called 'Oreexas' and are also forces of nature. Oreexas are not divided into bad and good; They all have their own masteries and qualities and all the humans, one by one are under the protection of a specific Oreexa, from which they can chanell certain qualities. In order to bring forth those qualities a lifetime of effort can be needed. In rituals where spiritual leaders and initiates conjure Oreexas, animal sacrifices are offered, special dresses are chosen and a whirling dance is perfomed by chosen dancers to get in trance. The ceremonies are held at night. The aim is that the Oreexas enter the bodies of the previously chosen participants and to take over the command and channel messages and to be enlightened. In addition to that wishes are passed on and Oreexas are asked for their magick to grant those wishes.

In time these Oreexas also got more and more identified with the saints with the effect of Catholicism or got blurred and became eclectic. It is known that the Candomble cult, which was more common during slavery times, was brought in by slaves from West Africa, whom where under the influence of Islam. Therefore this teaching carries obvious traces of the islamic tradition. The spreading of their skirts during whirling in trance, shows a resemblence with the spreading of the Sufiis skirts. But the whirling dancers here are women.

To be continued...

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