Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Alevi Mizah (Comic Fables)

click to zoom

The Alevis are a kind of religious group in Anatolia.  They are an odd combination of Islam (mostly Shii), old Shamanic ideas, odds and ends from the world's other major religions, and possibly even Zoroasterism.  No one seems to agree on who they are for sure.  For a long time, they have been persecuted in Turkey for not conforming to the mainstream.  I went to one of their meetings once, called a Jem House, with Delal.  It was during Ramadan, the fasting month.  The "pastor" if you will (In Turkish, they call him the Dede or Grandfather) made a point, first, to tell us that there were no women or men here, only living beings, all of whom where equal.  Then he went on to make fun of the Sunni Muslims fasting outside.  "The true fast," he said.  "Is inside you.  It's a spiritual thing, a state of the soul."  There was a lot of music and dancing--the baglama is almost a sacred instrument.
Anyway, I have a book of comic stories from Alevi tradition.  Some of them are pretty funny, and I want to translate one or two here.  They mostly show how humble the Dede is, how human and fallible--in fact humility, a flouting of authority, human fallibility, tolerance, and the ability to laugh at yourself seem to be the prominent themes.  They can also be quite crude.
Here's the first one.  Only one vocabulary word is important to know here.  Dede, as I've explained, means "Grandfather"--but for Alevis, the Dede is the leader of the people in his parish, an elder and teacher that has no equivalent in modern Christianity.  The closest thing I can think of is a pastor in the traditional, rural sense--someone who was both spiritual leader and an adviser in the every day world.


An Alevi Dede was making the rounds of his parish and visiting everyone in his congregation.  At the insistence of one of his parishioners, he stayed over, and woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  And what should he see, but a huge, mean dog sprawled out in front of the bathroom door!  He wanted to jump over him, but he inevitably drew back when the animal started snarling at him.  He waited a bit and then made another move to get into the bathroom.  But the dog showed no mercy.  The Dede really needed to go, and while wondering what in the world he was going to do, his eye fell on the baby sleeping in its crib in the next room.  An idea hit him.  He snuck into the baby's room taking care that no one heard him.  He unfastened the diaper, did his business inside it, and then taped it back up like it had been before.

When the people of the house woke up the next morning, undid the baby's diaper and saw the huge pile of feces, they stood frozen in shock.  "How can a breastfed little baby make such a monstrous bowel movement!" they wondered.  They decided to ask the one man who was so much wiser and more experienced than they--the Dede.  He stroked his beard, deep in thought, and then answered briskly.

"By God, I'll tell you what--as long as that dog lies in front of the bathroom door, that baby will take shits far bigger than this one."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jeff you really can come up with some funny stories enjoy reading them.
Love your sister.