Ritual Communication of Camlica Region in Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak
Assistant Professor, Department of Social
Anthropology, Institute of Social Science,
Yeditepe University, Istanbul, Turkey
- *Corresponding Author:
- Seyhan Kayhan-Kılıc
Assistant Prof, Department of Social Anthropology
Institute of Social Science
Yeditepe University, Istanbul, Turkey
Tel: 0090 216 578 0000 (1921)
Received date: August 29, 2016; Accepted date: September 16, 2016; Published date: October 01, 2016
Citation: Kılıc SK. Ritual Communication of
Camlica Region in Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak. Global
Media Journal. 2016, 14:27.
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The objective of this paper is to introduce ritual communications of Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak (Hearth) in ÇamlÃÂ±ca Region, which is the designated research field located in Kütahya-a province in Western Anatolia. In rural areas, traditional rituals of Alevism are known to have been organized through ocaks. Each of those ocaks had a historical and charismatic religious leader, Seyyid Ali Sultan being one of these eminent figures. In other words, an ocak was formed as part of the dede's families who descended from a historical religious leader. Traditionally, each Alevi belongs to an ocak, by birth. When individuals declare to obey Alevi rules and are initiated into Alevism in front of the dede and the congregation in an each ocak by cem ritual, that’s when the relationships and responsibilities are formed among each initiated Alevi, named talips. This ethnographic study depends on qualitative methodology that consists of indepth interviews, informal conversations, open-ended questions and observation of participants during the rituals. The collection of oral literature samples is one of the most characterizing parts of this research. The fieldwork studies of cem ritual lasted around two years, having started on October 20, 2012 and having ended on February, 15 2014. I believe rituals to be unique means to maintain intra-group communication and group unity, following that group communication is a method to retain and continue ritual culture. In this way, I shall endeavour to clarify my belief that the study of ritual communication is essential, and explain quite a number of communication terms within the cultural context, whenever deemed necessary. I shall try to understand and analyze how they create, share and transfer this ocak culture and maint
Ritual communication; Alevis; Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak; Camlıca region;
In this paper1,author have construed rituals to share the
semantic contents of communication; to the transmission of
certain messages and certain sorts of information. Rituals are
represented in every culture by shared symbols and meanings, which individuals learn in an intricate process, naturally finding its
reflection in their everyday lives. In addition, individuals create,
learn and change ritual symbols and meanings in an interactive
Ritual Communication Of Camlica Region
Rituals are regularly performed by group members, who create
and sustain rules and resources in any relationship. It's the
group members, who categorize the world, achieve order, and
take an indispensable part in vital steps such as decision making, problem solving, and the maintenance of group identity through
the introduction of their cultural texts . Seyyid Ali Sultan was
a charismatic historical leader, in whose personal agenda the
cultural contexts of the following group members are embedded.
Now, the religious leadership of the group members carries on his
agenda, with some changes, though.
Roy Rappaport, Edmund Leach, Stanley Tambiah and Anthony
Wallace [2-5] look at rituals from a communicational perspective.
Many anthropological definitions about rituals consider them
to be a mean of communication. Rituals are interactional
performances and the structure of a ritual is essentially
communicative in nature.
Leach  postulates rituals as an instrument of communication,
explaining ritual communication with two different and related
points-of-view; “do things” and “say things” (p. 179), which
relate directly to the scope of communication. Seeking answers
to his questions “What does ritual mean?” and “How do we
discover what it says?”,  came to the conclusion that rituals
are like languages (p. 180). He said “ritual is best used to denote
the communicative aspects of behaviour" . Similarly, Leach
 regarded rituals to be some sort of a language- a form of
social communication. Stating that “our day-to-day relationships
depend upon a mutual knowledge and mutual acceptance” and
“...each member of a group stands in relation to every other and
in relation to a larger system” , he underlined the most crucial
aspect of our ever-existing social ties and the importance of an
I assume that my inquiries about the interaction through rituals
are now evident. My questions will allow us to confirm Leach's
 hypothesis that ritual is a medium of communication.
Ritual structure explains how ritual allows communication of
a meaning, focusing on how participation in a ritual allows for
transformation and socialization. After making comparisons
between everyday behaviours and those behaviours, I will show
how everyday behaviours are associated with ritual. I shall also
explain how ritual allows participants to maintain mutual consent
and hierarchy. All these are keys to determine the validity of
Leach's  premise; that ritual is a medium of communication.
Edmund Leach  cited that behaviour includes signals as a part
of culture. In other words, behaviour is encoded culturally. It is
culturally defined “communication code” (p. 403).
Stanley Tambiah  defines ritual as, “a culturally constructed
system of symbolic communication” (p. 119). It is constituted
of patterned and ordered sequences of words and acts, often
expressed in multiple media, whose content and arrangement
are characterized in varying degree by formality (conventionality),
stereotypy (rigidity), condensation (fusion), and redundancy
(repetition)”. At this juncture, I would like to underline the word
of “multimedia”. Ritual is performed with more than one medium
of communication. It is difficult to understand and describe all
cem rituals stage by stage. This is because participants are
simultaneously affected by dance, music, text, prayer, sacred
objects, performances, noises, illustrations, etc.
Anthony Wallace  classified rituals according to their
purposes; technical, therapeutic, anti-therapeutic, salvation,
ideological, and revitalization. Wallace (1966) defined ritual as:
(…) communication without information: that is to say, each ritual
is a particular sequence of signals which, once announced, allows
no uncertainty, no choice, and hence, in the statistical sense of
information theory, conveys information from sender to receiver.
It is, ideally, a system of perfect order and any deviation from this
order is a mistake (p. 233).
Similarly, Rappaport  saw invariance as central in most
religious rituals. This is an essentially communicational definition
and Wallace’s  individuals were influenced and manipulated
by ritual communication. Ritual is regular and standard, but also
West and Turner,  define space as an environment which is a
key symbol to communication;
Environment is the situation or context in which communication
occurs. The environment includes a number of elements, including
time, place, historical period, relationship, and a speaker’s and
listener’s cultural background (p. 7).
In the case of this study, communication is not always intragroup.
This must be emphasized since the referenced individuals
believe in their ancestor, Seyyid Ali Sultan. The study is limited to
the group’s environment, which includes their location, relations
and cultural backgrounds.
According to Turner  each cem ritual is “performed in a
sequestered place” (p. 183). All cem rituals, within Çamlıca Region,
are performed in the cemevi, which means a gathering house.
According to Turner  the cemevi is “designed to influence
preter-natural entities or forces on behalf of the actors’ goals and
interest.” (p. 183). It must be noted that their place of worship
contains aspects of the functionality of the architectural model.
A kitchen, pantry and toilets are located on the first floor. On the
second floor, there is the cem room, plus two other rooms. Three
sofas are placed in front of the door, for the dedes. Many objects
in the cem room are sacred, which includes sweepers, sticks and
belts, candles and portraits. I observed that a cemevi is physically
safe, but not too very large. It is difficult to move around,
especially when individuals are seated and particularly when the
congregation exceeds 50 in number. Hence, during a cem ritual,
there are often as many individuals outside of the cem room as
within. Many of them are engaged with the arrangements. Many
others chat in the different two rooms located in the cemevi.
Therefore, I cannot say that all villagers are technically in the cem
ritual. Many of the villagers are unable to participate in the cem
ritual. They may be less enthusiastic or too patient. They may be
elderly or too young. There are many reasons that members may
not participate in the cem ritual. Often, it is quite practical and
depends on the villagers’ wishes and their availability.
The congregation of Çamlıca Region is neither temporal nor
experimental and it gathers to realize their common goals.
According to Durkheim’s concepts of solidarity , it can be said
that there is a mechanic solidarity in the region. Moreover, this
group is not too big to be well-observed. There is face-to-face
communication in everyday relations, especially when they meet for a period of time during the cem ritual. Regarding the size of
the group, as it was mentioned previously, the community of
Çamlıca Region currently has 10 households with a total of 35
residents. However, the average number for each cem ritual
varies anywhere from 60 to 80 participants. Not surprisingly,
the numbers in the group sharply increase during the rituals.
Others will attend from the centre of Kütahya, Eskişehir etc.
These visitors from the outside of Çamlıca Region are considered,
by the residents of Çamlıca Region, as guests. Hence, their
mutual face-to-face communication and non-verbal behaviours
and interaction during a ritual are not too difficult to observe.
However, validation of the research takes a great deal of time.
According to the prudent observations of mine, participants
begin to gather shortly after 17:00 p.m. However, each cem ritual
generally starts at 19:00 p.m. The duration of the cem rituals is
approximately seven hours. It must be noted that this information
is rather general, though I have never faced different timings in
the field. As it has been mentioned above, the prominent point
is that Alevis-Bektashis perform their rituals during the winter,
simply because they work less during this season. Alternatively,
ritual performers in Çamlıca Region, prefer the Friday night cem
ritual, which starts after 17:00 p.m on Thursday evening and ends
after midnight, around 02:00 a.m. on Friday. Hence, it is called
the Friday night cem ritual. This timing is very significant for the
Alevis-Bektashis and Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak in particular. They
believe that God will accept all of their desires during this time,
when Alevis Bektashis consciously prefer to pray and reach the
Ritual timings are so vital for the believers, it is as if the timings
are interactive amongst the individual believers, the group and
their ancestors. For this reason, they prefer to arrange a specific
time for the cem rituals. Clearly, the timings of the cem ritual
affect the group’s collectiveness and enthusiasm. Moreover,
the ritual performers believe that God and their ancestors will
better accept the ritual performers’ messages if they are offered
at a definite time. Furthermore, many other cem rituals have
specific times, too. For instance, the Muharram cem ritual is not
performed either before or after the mount of Muharram. The
framework of ritual communication is specified by that time.
All members of Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak, including both dede, sit on
the post. Other participants, who are in the cem ritual, include;
the other dede/s from Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak or another ocak/s,
aşık/s (minstrel), rehber/s (guide), twelve celebrants (except the
dede, rehber and aşık), talip/s (believers), who are in the cem
ritual, or in the lobby. They are members of Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak.
All of them affect the cem ritual in a certain way. Performers of
cem ritual believe that God and their ancestors may watch them.
Therefore, they try to satisfy both God and their ancestors. This
belief has a great influence over the cem ritual. For apparent
reasons, God and all the believers’ ancestors are also considered
to be obvious participants of the cem ritual.
Participants are not only senders and receivers, but they may also
be silent during the ritual. For example, even if a person does not
say or do anything, they affect the ritual because of their present
entity. Many persons are, in fact, silent. Nevertheless, at least,
they are witnesses to the cem ritual. In addition, a significant
numbers of individuals may not stay in the cem ritual. Many
of them are in the kitchen. Their task is to cook lokma (shared
food). Still others are engaged with sacrifice. They slaughter and
butcher the animal to cook it.
Not only oral literature, but also the vast majority of the
announcements, reminders and comments are told by the dede
and then aşık. In addition, the aşık play a more substiantial role
than the other celebrants. In this way, the oral tradition of the
cem ritual is transferred by the dede and the aşık to the ocak’s
talips. Evidently, another function of the cem ritual is to educate
the next generation. Each person participates in a peaceful,
loving manner, since they believe that they are not hierarchically
separated from each other in the Divine Reality.
Several participants perform a service [the sakâ (water), câr
(sweep) or tarikat abdesti (ritual ablution)] and talk during the
cem rituals. They play a lot more prominent roles than the other
participants. Others are always silent and answer questions
succinctly. They often respond and chant in chorus, “By God” (Allah
Eyvallah!). In this way, they offer their agreement. They speak in
chorus and together, accompany the ritual songs. Alternatively,
they are simply, collectively silent. All participants must be silent
when the aşık sings düvazs (hymns in the honor of the 12 imams),
the dede recites gülbengs (prayer). Participants know when they
must stay silent and when they must speak more loudly. Sinc cem
ritual takes a long time, the participants need breaks-several of
them. So, they rest. However, during their intermissions, they
continue talking to each other. Informally, they can ask questions
to the dede or aşık at this time. Hence, there are no ritualistic
positions or words spoken during the interludes.
There is a person, whose service named gözcü is responsible
to control discipline during the cem ritual. The gözcü entreated
them to maintain silence in the cem rituals. The gözcü chided,
“Hü brothers, Hü sisters (Hü erenler) (Hü bacılar)” to the
participants. The word Hü is a characteristic expression of
“He” to God, and used both as an expression of adoration and
intercession. However, why did the gözcü not instruct the cem
ritual participants to “be quiet” when they made excessive noise
remains to be explored. Therefore, he reminds the participants
of the power and sacredness of God. At the same time, the gözcü
reminds participants that the cem ritual is sacred and performed
both for and by the God and the ancestors.
As it has been mentioned earlier, words or sentences are spoken
in chorus, by all the cem ritual’s participants so as to express their
feelings. In addition, the repetitious portions of the düvazs and
nefess (hymns about mystical experiences) are sung by all the
participants. The enthusiasm of the ritual participants gradually
increases as they say in chorus, “Allah eyvallah, Allah Allah, tövbe
estağfirullah, Ya Muhammad, Ya Ali, Ya Hussein”.
Many anthropologists have studied rituals and offered several
fundamental approaches concerning the goals and desires of
the participants. Through the periodic performance of a ritual,
participants form, reaffirm and maintain order in their social group. Metaphorically, a ritual is like a safety valve, in that it
controls and reduces anxiety of the participants. Accordingly,
the reduction and fulfilment of feelings and desires are psychosociological
functions of rituals. This may be recognized as a form
of social solidarity. As the information regarding the function
of rituals have been adequately provided until this point, it is
evident that the aforementioned psycho-sociological functions
include a solidarity within their society and the capability to help
members accept, recreate and also rebuild relations between the
actual and historical individuals [2,6-9].
All cem rituals of Camlıca Region are life-changing rituals. The Muharram/Aşhura, Union (Birlik) and Abdal Musa cem rituals
are calendrical and annual act of remembrance, all of which are
indicators of the common memory of Alevis-Bektashis. For this
ritual, individuals remember their history regularly, introduce
their troth to the saints and maintain their continuity and
solidarity. These rituals are performed to maintain strength,
peace and fertility. In yıl/görgü rituals, which takes place once
a year, individuals want to maintain the mutual consent of the
people. They control their members once a year. The düşkün (the
excommunicated person) kaldırma and the dar cem rituals are
performed to maintain the mutual consent of the people as well.
At the düşkün kaldırma cem ritual, the individual will sacrifice an
animal and will promise to obey community rules.
Afterwards, the community will forgive the individual, who will
be then accepted again as an insider. This ritual is performed
to reintegration of deviant. The dar cem ritual is performed at
the time of an individual’s death. The surviving relatives of the
deceased must sacrifice an animal to avoid being outsiders.
However, the direct functions of the these rituals are the
protection and maintainence of the group identity to establish a
Symbols of Cem Ritual
I shall to try to understand ritual communication with key symbols.
First however, it is necessary to explain my own understanding
of symbols. Turner  focused on symbols and later defined
symbols as actions within ritual performances. According to
Turner , a ritual symbol “is the smallest unit of ritual which
still retains the specific properties of ritual behaviour; it is the
ultimate unit of specific structure in a ritual context”. He noted
that symbols can be objects, activities, words, relationships,
events, gestures, or spatial units . Turner  believes that, in
order to understand culture, one must understand that rituals are
composed of dominant symbols and people’s shared meaning
of these symbols. Turner  underlined the social aspect of
Symbols instigate social action. In a field context, they may even
be described as forces,’ in that they are determinable influences
inclining persons and groups to action. [. . .] The symbol [is] a unit
of action” (p. 36).
However, according to Geertz  symbols are a “controlling
behaviour”; symbols “are ‘programs’; they program social and
psychological processes” (p. 52-216). Ortner  used the notion
of key symbol, instead of Turner’s  dominant symbols. I
shall also use Ortner’s notion to advantage, in this research.
She cited that there are five characteristics, which create a clear
understanding of a key symbol; clearly, the key symbol is culturally
important for natives. It is found in many domains and many
different contexts, actions or conversation, or it is found in myth,
ritual, art etc. It is either elaborated or restricted. Moreover, it is
surrounded by a culture. Ortner  classifies symbols according
to their functions. She defines summarized symbols as blessing
objects and catalysts of emotion. Additionally, symbols have
details about a special person, place, or things, in multiple various
contexts, for this reason, it is to be seen that symbols are crucial
to understand what is culturally important.
Let me share Fikes’explanations of symbols (p. 151). He cited
that symbols indicate relations between words and what they
represent. These relations might be arbitrary or conventional.
Fikes gives two examples for this exact matter of inquiry: The first
is a crown, it may represent a king or a queen. The second is a
flag. It may often represent a nation (p. 151). According to Ortner
, a flag is a summarizing symbol. Elaborating symbols, on the
other hand, relate to root metaphor and a key scenario. A root
metaphor is identified and explained by Ortner , “it is felt in
culture that many aspects of experience can be likened to, and
illuminated by the comparison with, the symbol itself”. For the
root metaphor, she gives an example of the Dinka’s cattle-beasts.
According to Ortner , “cows provide for the Dinka an almost
endless set of categories for the conceptualizing and responding
to the subtleties of experience”.
Rituals constitute a verbal, nonverbal and behavioural symbolic
system. Nonverbal ritual communication employs body
language, gestures, facial expressions, voice, smile, personal and
geographical space, time and artefacts, whereas stories, myths,
folk tales, names, nicknames, jargon, explanations and heroes
are verbal manifestations of organizational culture . I shall now
introduce the symbols and categories of organizational culture as
adapted from Hatch, 1997.
According to Hatch (1997) (as cited In West and Turner, 2004,
p. 280), there are three categories of symbols in organizational
(ocak) culture; physical, behavioural and verbal manifestations.
By means of the Hatch’s model (1997), I shall offer all cem ritual
manifestations of Çamlıca Region through the cultural context of
their ocak organization (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Manifestations of an Organizational Culture Hatch, 1997.
Now, one can interpret the many manifestations of the Seyyid
Ali Sultan Ocak in Çamlıca Region. First, way (yol) is a key symbol
that includes a metaphor and an elaborating symbol at the same
time. This is because yol has analytic and symbolic clusters.
The yol indicates the culture of the Alevis-Bektashis, especially
their religious order and moral values. The members of Seyyid
Ali Sultan Ocak, in Çamlıca Region, believe their religious order
has been originated with Hakk-Muhammed-Ali. Through their
gülbengs (prayers), they ask for help from Hakk-Muhammed-Ali.
Metaphorically, while yol decodes as being on the way of Hakk
Muhammed Ali. Yol is an umbrella term and it is not used only in
Çamlıca Region, but also refers to Alevi-Bektashi belief system.
So, all other manifestations of Alevis in Çamlıca Region are in an
index of the yol.
At this juncture, the ocak is in an index of the yol. In the case of
Çamlıca Region, the Ocak is a dominant or key symbol. According
to the lexical definitions, ocak represents fire, fireplace, a large
black kettle (kara kazan), raw and cooked foods, a focus point or
a mid-axis. For the members, the ocak is also a place to heal. The
ocak is not merely a physical object, in that it also refers to the
sacred linage of the dede families; who descended from Ahl-al
Bayt (the family of the Prophet Mohammed). This relationship
supports their belief in the dede’s supernatural powers. For
these characteristics, the ocak may be said to function like an
organization, where there is a hierarchical relationship between
There are deer antlers in the tomb of Seyyid Ali Sultan in Çamlıca
Region. The locals of Çamlıca Region believe these are the deer
antlers of Seyyid Ali Sultan. The deer antler is a summarizing
symbol, which is blessed by them. They believe that the deer
antler has curative properties for a sick person's back. It is also
believed that the deer antler is a catalyst for emotion. This belief
stems from the stories I have listened about the miracles of Seyyid
Ali Sultan. They believe that when soldiers came to capture Seyyid
Ali Sultan, he mounted a deer. In addition, the deer antler is an
index symbol for the powers of the ancestors of Seyyid Ali Sultan.
Aşure is a catalyst of emotion, hence it is a summarizing symbol.
Aşure is a reminder of the Karbala Massacre. When individuals of
Çamlıca Region cook Aşure, they understand that they fasted for
the Imam Hussein and for all of the other victims, who were killed
in the Karbala Desert. They also perform the Muharram cem
ritual. In addition, aspersing participants with water in a ritual
is known as sakka suyu. As it was personally observed, this is
performed in all cem ritual in Çamlıca Region. I shall explain what
kind of symbolic and historical meaning sakka suyu comprises for
the specific ritual in advance. First of all, it should be realized that
water is a summarizing symbol, which connotates strong feelings.
The sakka suyu shows reverence and is a catalyst of emotion.
One remembers how the victims of the Karbala massacre waited
in Karbala Desert without water. There is a simple natural
importance of water in the ritual, for one cannot live without
The dede sits on the post which symbolizes the authority of Hakk
Muhammad Ali and the Twelve Imams. The post is a rank. In the
same vein, the tığbend symbolizes a rank. When an individual ties
the tığbend, we understand that the individual has been initiated
into the ocak and, then gets interrogated annually. When
individuals tie the tığbend, they move up from an individual status
to a talip status. Both the post and the tığbend are sacred symbols
in the cem ritual. In Çamlıca Region, the çırağ is both a candle and
the light of the candle’s flame. Metaphorically, the çırağ is the
symbol of an awakened, enlightened soul, so the participants use
the term “awaken çırağ” (çırağ uyandırmak) in the cem ritual of
Çamlıca Region. It is the light of the Allah-Muhammed-Ali. Hence,
the çırağ must be extinguished only by hand.
Codes and Channels of Speech
The talips of Seyyid Ali Sultan perform rituals to maintain the
best understanding among the group, and between the group
and their ancestors. Using the cem ritual as a pathway or a
communication channel, the informants send words, sounds,
actions, or gestures as messages. Additionally, channels are often
varied. This is in accordance with the interest and goals of the
cem ritual participants. Therefore, in a cem ritual, the originators
use many different channels to affect each other, God and their
ancestors. For instance, the participants send their wishes
through gülbengs. We understand that the dede calls upon the
saint for assistance during the cem ritual. The gülbeng is the
channel that transmits the message from the participants to God
and the saints.
The blessings, reverences and adjurations are heard by the locals.
They almost prefer “We” rather than “I”. For example, “We have
voice, may Haji Bektas Veli (saint) give us breath” they say. Almost
always, gülbengs start with the sentence, “In the name of the
Prince, Allah Allah”, and they end with “Attention to the truth and
the faithful, ya Ali!”. Gülbengs contain a very unique verbalism. It
forms a comprehensible code for the groups. However, this code
is not comprehensible by the outsiders. This is because forms
and styles of speech with different dialect features are used by
the insiders and especially by the participants of the cem ritual.
Hence, these codes are very restricted.
The Nefes, düvaz, deyiş (a song about mystical love) and
mihraçlama (a song about the journey (named after Miraj (Mirac)
of the Prophet Mohammed to Heaven) are various important
channels in a cem ritual. These form a considerable part of the
oral literature of Çamlıca Region and contain aesthetic codes.
Their oral literature contains their unique stories and morals.
Furthermore, the participants of the cem rituals must not laugh,
when the dede recites the gülbeng, nor when the aşık sings the
nefes, düvaz, or deyiş. There are many ritualistic behaviours that
may accompany these channels. One should note that women
are not allowed to sit whilst the aşık sings the nefes, düvaz and
deyiş. Moreover, neither women nor men are allowed to sit as
the aşık recites the mihraçlama. These behaviours regarding the
constraints on gender are an characteristic part of their ritual
The bağlama is another channel. All ritual songs are
accompanied by this musical instrument. Metaphorically, it is
known as, “the stringed Qur’an”. The bağlama is played by the
aşık, who endeavours to transform all the ideas and beliefs of
the participants in cem through the instrument. So, like holy scriptures, this instrument employs an indispensable function.
Generally, the participants of the cem ritual in Çamlıca Region
use various codes and channels to maintain the best possible
understanding of each other, the group and their ancestors.
Anthropologists have observed that rituals are manifested in
literature, theatre, storytelling, games or as scenarios (Turner,
1977c; Ortner, 1973). The Miraj (mystical journey of the Prophet
Mohammed to Miraç or Heaven), and Karbala Massacre are
key scenarios for Alevis in Çamlıca Region. As it was previously
explained, the cem ritual of Çamlıca Region is based upon The
Assembly of Forty Saints (Kırklar Meclisi) in Miraj. Both the Miraj
and Karbala Massacre scenarios are animated by the participants
of the cem ritual.
Semah as a Nonverbal Communication
Many anthropologists cite that dance is a way to release anxiety,
which may occur as a result of life crises like marriage and childbirth.
So, a dance is arranged periodically to relieve tension and resolve
the anxiety [9,13] (Malinowski, 1925, pp. 59-60; Gluckman, 1963,
pp. 124-125; Hanna, 1979, p. 5). Turner  wrote dancing as to be
some sort of witchcraft, which might be related to a cathartic theme.
Radcliffe Brown  wrote that the dancer loses himself/herself in
the dance, unified community, social harmony transformation from
the ordinary level to the extraordinary (pp. 252-253). Margaret Mead
 cited that dancing has an educational role, and both boys and
girls develop individualistic skills through their socialization process
(pp. 97-99, 108).
Judith Lynne Hanna  hypothesizes why people dance, and
remarks that dancing is a nonverbal mode of communication that
is a more effective channel than verbal channel . Dancing is
a kinetic (body motion) language which is learned in the culture
through the shared thoughts, senses, feelings and movement.
According to Hanna , dancing is an important part of culture
that communicates the components of emotions, stories and
The semah is a religious dance from the cem ritual and serves
as yet another channel. It includes other important aesthetic
codes, kinetic (body motion) language and dialects. Five women
always perform the Kırklar/Analar Semahı (semah of the Forty/
Mothers), while the aşık sings the miraçlama. Again, it must be
noted that the twelve celebrants wear neither socks nor shoes in
the meydan (a wide place, where the twelve services are perform
in front of the dedes’ post) during the semah or any of the twelve
services.This is a physical code and as noted previously, may be
decoded as, “to die before death (ölmeden önce ölmek)”. They
are questioned at the meydan by the dede during the cem ritual.
It is a simile for the Day of Judgement, and they know that they
will be naked (üryan büryan) before God when the time comes.
They understand they will not have any worldly material objects
in the hereafter. Hence, in their way, they animate the Day of
Judgement. So, “die before death” is the key scenario.
One may consider music and the semah as a pattern of body
movement in the cem ritual. These are instruments for ritual
domination. Children learn how to perform these patterns,
according to their roles as a musician, dancer or talip. The semah
is a nonverbal language with a semantic structure and an inner
meaning. The participants of the cem ritual learn their culture
through their whole bodies. They infect interaction with each
other, because their music and dances are performed, shared and
learned physically, ideationally and emotionally. Clearly, dancing
maintains the unity of their bodies. This is because synchrony is
essential for the unity of the cem ritual. Not only dancing, but
also speeches and behaviours that are performed in chorus,
help to maintain the group unity, all of which are synchronic and
Face-to-Face Communication; “cemal
Mead  and Goffman  mentioned that face-work is the key
dimension to analyze the public-self. They questioned whether
we must always be conscious of our performance or not. Hence,
their interests include theatre, as a metaphor for everyday life. I
believe that their face-work analysis has helped me to interpret
my data, since the cem ritual is, by definition, a type of face-toface
communication. The believers of Alevis Bektashis, especially
in Çamlıca Region, call it “cemal cemale”. The individuals
employ symbols to establish and interpret meaning from their
environment. The verbal and nonverbal symbols that we use
to communicate with our friends and families are strongly
influenced by our culture.
I have attempted to understand the corporate culture of Seyyid
Ali Sultan Ocak. As shown with the examples, it is extremely vital
for the members of Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak to be interconnected
with each other and with their ancestors through the symbolic
and metaphoric verbal, non-verbal and physical cem ritual
manifestations. They believe that the spiritual world is generated
by the group in their cem rituals. The self concept is developed
in the enculturation processes and cem rituals assist them in this
complex process. The dede, aşık, rehber, twelve celebrants and
all other participants develop a self concept of each individual.
Moreover, they believe that myths, stories and miracles about
historical holy persons help them to develop a self concept.
According to Goffman , the processes include several faceto-
face behaviours (speech, gesture, glance, distance amongst
participants). For example, at the meydan, the Çırağcı places
the çırağ on the erkan kilimi and then he kneels in front of the
çırağ. Hence, there is a certain distance between the two physical
objects; the çırağ and çırağcı. When an individual assumes
the dâr position, there is a distance between the post and the
individual. This is based upon feelings towards the objects and
simultaneously, the inner meanings of the objects.
All participants play their own role in the cem ritual. To exemplify,
females assume the dâr position several times in the meydan, as
they sing the mersiye, which called a dirge about the martyrdom
of Imam Hussein for the Karbala Massacre. These two roles are
completely different from each other. The niyaz, where each
participant kneels on the meydan and kisses meydan or his/
her forefingers on the right hand, sefalaşma, which a is form of
greeting that includes shake hands and kiss, rızalık, where the
participants of the cem rituals try to provide mutual consent
amongst one another, tövbe, where the participants recite, “We are sorry for all our sins and omissions…” are ritualistic positions
in the cem rituals. They are offered with the appropriate sounds
and speeches. These ritualistic positions are performed for
peace and mutual agreement between themselves and their
ancestors. It should be noted that the cem ritual is performed
with more than one medium of communication. All participants
are simultaneously affected by the verbal, non-verbal, physical
objects, words and behaviours. “Are you satisfied with each other,
or not?” the dede questions, through which he announces to all
the participants, if someone is dissatisfied with something or
someone, after which they are to come to the meydan. If all are
silent, then the dede continues to give advice to the participants
“Look brothers/sisters in the âyin-i cem. There is a salve for an
open wound. There is no salve for a hidden hurt. If you say you
are sore, we shall try to apply a salve…”
“Bakın âyin-i cem kardeşler, açık yaraya merhem olur, kapalı
yaraya merhem olmaz. Siz yaranızı söylerseniz biz de merhem
olmaya çalışırız…” (Ali Kayıhan (male, 1947-2013) November
25, 2012-November 16, 2013, Muharram Cem Ritual, Çamlıca
Region, Seyhan Kayhan Kılıç.)
This part of the ritual is called mutual consent, where someone
declares their dissatisfaction with the person in question.
Social Order; Yol
Cem ritual standards, principles, values, behaviours, beliefs,
procedures are subconsciously shared by the believers in
Çamlıca Region. As a group, the members arrange interaction
and communication by their rules. If a group agrees upon their
norms, they believe that their unity is maintained. Conformity
and social order are enabled by those group norms. Norms
represent an underlying social consensus, for the group regulates
and reproduces itself. It must be noted that the population of
Çamlıca Region have been found to be cohesive.
Ritual rules also include the morality of the group. Every society
gives its members a sense of good and bad. Religion provides a
framework for correct and false, sin and pollution and the usual
dos and don’ts [9,13,15,20]. The ritual rules of Çamlıca Region
are an essential part of their belief system. These rules are called
erkân. A group of people in Çamlıca Region believe that the erkân
are given to them by God, their ancestors and especially, their
charismatic ocak leader, Seyyid Ali Sultan. Norms are learned and
generalized by ritual songs, myths and scenarios. They are passed
from generation to generation. For example, as noted throughout
the paper, in the ikrar cem ritual of Çamlıca Region, the dede reminds the young spouses of the norms of the ocak.
During the cem ritual, individuals in Çamlıca Region have social
interactions. They must obey the rules of their Ocak, and
must avoid breaking the taboos in their daily lives and in their
rituals. This is sometimes called as ‘ritual avoidance’ or ‘ritual
prohibitions”, as postulated by Radcliffe-Brown . The dede
recounts ritual avoidance or taboos during the Muharram Fast.
During the Muharram Fast, the most important rule is that
individuals must not quaff water, eat meat or use a knife. In
addition, in Çamlıca Region, there are rules regarding pollution
and food taboos. Many animals are not allowed to be eaten by
the members of the group, in that if any individual eats forbidden
animals such as rabbit, pig, donkey, horse, dog, cat, then they
are considered to be unclean. They may restore their status
by making a sacrifice, though. The believers in Çamlıca Region
describe forbidden animals as haram, while the others are
considered to be halal. If any person breaks the norms, they may
perform a ritual to redefine their status. Because of the change
in their status, people are obliged to make either a bloody or a
bloodless sacrifice. A ritual sacrifice is also an essential norm to
maintain intergroup relations and social order.
This is the last example concerning norms. Individuals of Çamlıca
Region avoid marriage outside of their group. They wish to
marry those who are Alevi, since they believe that there are
great differences between Alevis and Sunnis. Moreover, Alevis in
Çamlıca Region are not allowed to divorce. They believe this is an
important reason to avoid mixed marriages. However, it is always
possible to come across exceptional cases.
The primary function of rituals is communication. Rituals can be
a medium of communication. Rituals are culturally constructed
by the system of symbolic communication. Rituals convey
information from a sender to a receiver. In a ritual, group
members try to maintain together, both group solidarity and
unity, through a mutual communication. They communicate
and transmit shared symbols and meanings. Every group has a
unique culture. Their culture includes verbal, nonverbal and
behavioural manifestations. These manifestations are repeated
and strengthened in an interaction between ritual participants.
As a result, a ritual is a communication performance. Hence,
to maintain the intra-ocak unity, communication is the main
function of ritual performance.
One must remember that their ritual communication is not only
defined as intra-group connection. Rather, it is three-legged.
First, they communicate with each other, within the group. This
is the interpersonal communication. Secondly, they strive to
communicate with God and all of their ancestors. Finally, there
is the intra-group communication amongst each person, who is
a logical member of the group. Their ocak culture occurs within
these three-legged communication. Obviously, this ocak culture
has an identity and a personality which is embedded in their ocak
Ritual communication includes shared symbols and meanings,
attitudes, opinions, beliefs and a series of bureaucratic rules
and procedures among the ocak members. The aim of the ritual
communication is to maintain a better understanding, interaction
and an agreement amongst members within a culture. An
ocak may also exert control, have a ranked hierarchy and even
excommunicate the members, when they sin or break rules of
Each time a cem ritual occurs, an index is created, along with other
manifestations. It consists of place, each participant’s background,
their mutual relations and the historical period of their Ocak.
In other words, the Ocak’s organizational reality is created and maintained. This phenomenon is shared by the members of
Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak in Çamlıca Region through cem rituals in
their environment. Evidently, cem rituals of Çamlıca Region are
performances that include symbolic and behavioural processes.
The cem ritual performance is regulated, shared, cooperative and
mutual. I would like to emphasize that all rituals are interactional
between participants, services and the supernatural [21-23], to
which they pay attention and respond. During the ritual, both
the reception and acceptance of the messages are fundamental
multimedia performances, for which I described the cem ritual as
1 While I was writing this text, the chapter “Why Ritual Communication” and “Analysis of Ritual Communication: Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak Çamlıca
Sürek” in my PhD thesis entitled “Ritual Communication: A Case Study in
Seyyid Ali Sultan Ocak’s Cem Rituals” was used as a reference. Kayhan-
Kiliç, Seyhan. (2014).
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