The Sema Ceremony (Whirling Dervish)

I have pulled out some excerpts from Sema: Human Being in the Universal Movement (Text by Dr. Celaleddin Celebi, illustrations by Ingrid Schaar) which will help to explain the Sema Ceremony of whirling. At the end it explains briefly how to twirl like a dervish and tap into the energy of nature, please read the full article with an in depth explanation here.

Sema is part of the inspiration of Mevlana Jalaluddin-i Rumi (1207- 1273) as well as of Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture.

The fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no object, no being which does not revolve and the shared similarity among beings is the revolution of the electrons, protons and neutrons in the atoms, which constitute the structure of each of them. As a consequence of this similarity, everything revolves and man carries on his live, his very existence by means of the revolution in the atoms, structural stones of his body, by the revolution of his blood, by his coming from the earth and return to it, by his revolving with earth itself.

The “whirling dervish” or Semazen causes the mind to participate in the shared similarity and revolution of all other beings…

The Sema ceremony represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to “Perfection.” Turning towards the truth, he grows through love, deserts his ego. Then he returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection. He will love and be of service to the whole of creation, to all creatures without discrimination of beliefs, races, classes and nations.

Sema Consists of Seven Parts:

It begins with the dervish: the tall headdress represents the ego’s tombstone, the white skirt represents the ego’s shroud. While whirling the arms are open, the right hand is directed to the skies ready to receive God’s beneficence. The left hand turned toward the earth and the head is looking towards the left hand. The dervish then turns from right to left around the heart.

In this manner the dervish conveys God’s blessing to the people. Revolving around the heart, from right to left, all of mankind and creation is embraced with affection and love.

The whirling begins with an eulogy “Nat-I Serif” to the Prophet, who represents love, and all Prophets before him. To praise them is praising God, who created all of them.

The Sema Ceremony ends with a reading of the Quran, in particular the verse from sura Bakara 2, verse 115,

“Unto God belong the East and the West, and whither over ye turn, you are faced with Him. He is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.”

Full details and diagrams of the seven parts of the Sema Ceremony can be found here.

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