Monday, June 14, 2010

More Funny Alevi Stories and a Prettty Picture


Some background for the rest of these stories.  Careful, its gets all historical, and it's much more complicated than this, but basically....
As far as organized religion is concerned, Alevis are most closely bound up in Islamic tradition, and Mohammed is, of course, the most respected and loved figure in Islam.  When Mohammed died, many people believed his son-in-law and cousin Ali should have replaced him.  Ali had been one of his first and most faithful disciples after all, and was family.  But due to some political maneuvering, the position went to a man named Abu Bakr.  He was the first "caliph", or replacement for Mohammed.
When he died, Umar became caliph, then the position fell to a guy called Uthman.  These three are considered thieves in a way (by the Alevis at least) as they stole the position from the rightful heir, Ali.  Alevis in Turkey will traditionally not name their children Omer (The Turkish version of Umar), Ebubekir (The Turkish version of Abu Bakr), or Osman (Uthman).
Ali eventually became the fourth caliph, but it was too little, too late.  A ruler of Syria refused to accept Ali's authority and openly rebelled against him.  This led to all sorts of civil war type ugliness.  Basically the Syrian guy was trying to get his son Yazid installed in Ali's place.  Yazid was power hungry, and wanted to establish a family dynasty, which most considered completely contrary to Islamic teachings.  To eliminate the competition, Yazid sent his army to massacre Husayn, one of Ali's sons and the only living blood relatives of the Prophet Mohammed.   They did this--killed some women and children too after making them suffer a while in the desert.  This whole thing happened at the Battle of Kerbala.  After Kerbala, Yazid then had Husayn's brother Hasan murdered for good measure.
Remembering the betrayal of Ali, and also remembering Kerbala, the suffering of Husayn, Hassan, and their families is an important part of Alevi tradition and ceremonies.  The pictures of all three men hang in most Cem houses (the place where Alevis conduct their ceremonies).  A guy on a baglama sings a song about the event and the whole congregation starts crying.
In the following story, the so-called "bigwigs" of Islam would be (according to the mainstream Sunni Islam which dominates Turkey) Mohammed, the first three caliphs, Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman, and then of course Ali.
One last thing, an Aga was the all-powerful landowner in Turkey's old feudal system.  The title is probably equivalent to lord, or in the old Southern sharecropping system, "Massah".

So What's Left?

In the town of Kangal in the state of Sivas lived a man named Pirzo.  Pirzo was an Alevi, you might even call him a hardheaded fanatic.  Even so, he was also well known for his smart remarks and especially for his foul mouth.
He made his living as a sharecropper, working with the Aga.  The biggest amusement of the mayor and Aga of Kangal was to hang out with Pirzo.  One day, then the mayor came to visit the Aga, he said,
"Hey, let's find out where Pirzo is and bring him here.  We'll hang out a little and have some fun with him."
"Come on, Mayor," protested the Aga.  "What do you want with Pirzo?  You know what a dirty mouth he has.  He'll end up hurting your feelings and offending me, too."
But the mayor insisted and they had someone bring Pirzo.   Pirzo came to them and after making all the proper inquiries about his health, the mayor asked in a deeply serious voice.
"Pirzo, do you know why we had you come here?"
"No, sir.  How could I possibly know, Mr. Mayor, sir?  You summoned me, and I hurried as fast as I could.  Your word is law, sir."
"I want to divide up the bigwigs of Islam with you.  You take two and I'll take two.  Would that be okay?"
"Well, Mr. Mayor, sir, I don't know.  Who knows what might happen if you share such high faluting things with me."
"Oh please, Pirzo.  What could you possibly do?  Come on, let's share."
"Well, sir, you know best I guess."
"But first, I pick."
"Of course, Mr. Mayor.  You always take precedent, sir.  Please, go ahead, pick."
With a mischievious little smile, the mayor named his choices.
"I will take Mohammed and Ali.  There, now it's your turn."
It was clear that whatever Pirzo had been planning was ruined.  He started shrieking.
"Ah hell, you left me with all the fucking shitheads.  Take them, too, goddamnit.  They're yours!

They're looking for the killers!

Two Sunni Muslims wanted to become Alevis and so they went to an Alevi Dede and asked for his help.  The Dede told the two hopefuls that they'd have to pass a preliminary test and called them one by one into his presence.  To the first one he said,
"So you want to become an Alevi?  Well first, I need to see if you have the basic information necessary, so I'm going to give you a little quiz.  Now tell me, who killed our teachers Hasan and Husayn?"
"I swear on my mother's soul, sir, it wasn't me."
"Sorry, no go.  Get out of here and call your friend."
The one who failed his test ran out in an awful hurry.  Of course, his friend wanted to know what had happened inside and nervously asked him about it.
"What in the world went on in there.  Tell me!"
"Man!  They're looking for the guy who killed some dudes named Hasan and Husayn.  Let's beat it before they blame falls on us!"

He still hasn't vented all his rage!
(This story is a lesson against simplistic belief and superstition...I think)

An Alevi shepherd was tending his sheep on the mountain when a wolf attacked his herd.  Helpless to stop the wolf from tearing his flock to pieces, he called out to the Dede.
"Help me, O Wise One!"
Just at the moment when the shepherd had lost all hope, an enormous sheep dog appeared out of nowhere, tore out the wolf's throat, and saved the flock.  The wacky shepherd, believing the dog had been sent by the Dede, was overjoyed and ran quickly to town to thank him.  He was out of breath when he arrived, and taking both the Dede's wizened hands in his, began to explain.
"O Wise One!  A wolf was killing my sheep one after the other and I called out to you for help.  Just when I had lost all hope, you took the form of a giant sheep dog and ran to my aid.  You grabbed the wolf by the throat and ripped him to pieces, saving all my sheep!"
The Dede, miffed that this silly shepherd had thought he was some stupid dog, began to mutter and swear under his breath.
"Will wonders never cease!" said the shepherd.  "Just look at my Dede!  It's clear that he couldn't vent all his rage against that evil wolf.  He's still growling in anger on my behalf!"

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