Tag Archives: turkey

Turkish Good Luck Charms 

Background Information: 

The informant is a residential real estate developer who learned a lot of traditions and superstitions from their mother. They currently live in Detroit, Michigan but emigrated from Turkey. 

Main Piece: 

ME: Hey GD, would you mind telling me a bit about what you would do for good luck when selling your homes?

GD: Well… what I would do when initially trying to sell a house… elephants are supposed to be good luck. It’s a set of seven elephants from Turkey, and they are like a graduated size, starting from a big one all the way down to a baby one. I would always put them together in a room in one of my spec houses to bring good luck in selling the home. 

ME: Do you have any idea where this comes from or how you found out about it?

GD: Well I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but uh I imagine it is cross-cultural. Only because we have friends from India and they do the same thing. Uh but I got it from my mother who is Turkish. And obviously seven… seven is a lucky number too right, so. 

ME: Would you do anything else to try and sell your homes?

GD: So whenever I present any of my new homeowners with their keys, I always put their keys on an evil-eye keychain that I buy from Turkey. 

ME: So what’s the significance of the evil eye?

GD: So the evil eye… it’s basically like a mirror. If there are, you know, legend has it, that if there are people that give off bad vibes their vibes can affect things, and the evil eye will reflect their bad vibes and give it back to them… It basically reflects evil back to the evil person.  

Context:

This interview happened a month ago at my home. 

Thoughts: 

It is interesting to me that the informant does not seem to know a ton about the origin of their superstitious beliefs, yet they still use them in their business, and partially credit their successes to these artifacts. It is also interesting how the informant brought up aspects of multiculturalism through folk artifacts. According to the informant, the seven elephants signify good luck in their culture as well as the culture of their Indian friends. The origin of the elephant as a good luck symbol actually does not originate from Turkey at all, but instead comes from Hinduism and the god Ganesha, and elephants are commonly used in Feng Shui practices as good luck. For more information see here: Cho, Anjie. “Uses of the Elephant Symbol in Feng Shui.” The Spruce, The Spruce, 24 Feb. 2022, https://www.thespruce.com/use-of-the-elephant-symbol-in-feng-shui-1274686. Looking at the evil eye, it’s origins surpasses even those of the Ottoman Empire. Researchers think that the first evil eye amulet was created in 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, or what is now Syria. The origin of the modern-day blue evil eye beads first appeared in multiple locations around the Mediterranean at around 1500 B.C. For more information see here: Hargitai, Quinn. “The Strange Power of the ‘Evil Eye’.” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 Feb. 2018, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20180216-the-strange-power-of-the-evil-eye. It is very interesting that these two charms, which are very widespread in Turkey, are neither original to the region, nor originated in the region. 

Turkish Mountain Ghost Story

Background Information: 

The informant is an older person who grew up in Central Turkey in the 40s and 50s. They have now been living in the US for the last 30 years. They are describing things from their childhood. 

Main Content: 

ME: So could you tell me about the time you saw a ghost on the mountain, that you told me about a few years ago? 

NA: So one day me, my brother, and my father went to visit a farm that my father owned in a different village. We had to walk about 2-3 hours through very mountainous terrain to get there. We stayed there for a few hours and be the time we were leaving it started to get really dark. However, the people who worked on the farm insisted that we didn’t go, simply begging not to leave, they were telling us that the weather was going to be really bad, but my father said that we had to leave. The worker insisted that he let his son take us back on two horses, and my father said fine. We stated climbing on the mountains and it started raining, my father sends the son back with the horses because he was scared that something would happen to him or the horses. Anyways, me and my brother and my father kept going on foot. If there wasn’t any lightning, we couldn’t see in front of our step, and it was lightning constantly. We say two, well I remember seeing one person on a horse, but my father says that there was two. I’m not sure if it was just imagine or real, but they were behind these rocks. My father started yelling at them, and he used two speak all of the Kurdish languages. He used to speak two of them real good and the other one not so good. There was a lot of Kurds in this area, he was in touch with them all day every day, he lived with them for many, many years. The horsemen were not that far away, and he spoke with them in all three languages, and he still didn’t get no answer. Maybe there was nobody, but we all saw them multiple times in the lightning, and all of the sudden they disappeared. There was also a lot of hail, hail as big as eggs, pounding on our heads. 

ME: Wow that sounds incredibly scary, do you think that it was ghosts that you saw? 

NA: I don’t know exactly if they were ghosts, but they were not people. They would have responded to my father otherwise. The road was maybe as wide as a coach, its not even a real road, maybe like a trail, trail is even wider than that, so it was almost impossible for there to be anybody. Maybe it was just a hallucination, but we definitely saw something. Afterwards, my father sacrificed two lambs because we got out of that trouble. 

Context: 

This conversation happened over a Facetime call. 

Thoughts: 

This story sounds like a classic example of a horror story. The dark, rain, thunder, and even hail. On top of that, they didn’t even have cars, the whole experience was either on horseback or by foot. It is so reminiscent of a generic scary story. Besides that, it is incredible that the informant still has such a vivid memory of what seems to be a relatively insignificant incident from almost 60 years ago. This leads me to believe that whatever the informant had seen that night was very convincing. Maybe it is possible that they saw the spirits of dead or lost travelers through the mountains, but it’s impossible to know. I think it is also interesting that their father sacrificed a lamb afterwards to thank Allah for getting them out of that situation. I’m not sure if he was more concerned with the weather or the ghosts, but either way it goes to prove that they found this to be a particularly dire situation. 

Turkish Haunted House

Background Information: 

The informant is an older person who grew up in Central Turkey in the 40s and 50s. They have now been living in the US for the last 30 years. They are describing things from their childhood. The informant remembers part of this story and was told the rest by her siblings and parents. 

Main Content: 

ME: Could you tell me about the haunted house that you lived in?

NA: Yeah, so when I was a little kid we used to live in this house. And after the lights went off at night, they would hear something on the walls, it also sounded like there was something in the house, and my father used to get up and get the, those days, there was no electricity I guess, and would get the lamps and go around the house. He couldn’t find anything, the windows were closed, the doors were closed, nobody was there. They used to tell this to the Imam, and the Imam, they know everything (laugh), they say “Oh, these are Jinn (Evil Spirits from the Quran)”. And then you know Uncle Jengis? Uncle Jengis’s mother she used to tell us that she was seeing the Jinn and spanking them, but it didn’t work. How could this happen? I’m thinkinking now that she must have had a nightmare. 

ME: Yeah, who knows? Did you guys do anything else to try and get rid of the Jinn. 

NA: Well, I mean, I was very young, and I hardly remember, but they were very scared. They couldn’t get rid of them, so we moved. They couldn’t take it anymore and moved. And then I think after that, my father used to rent out the house. 

Context: 

This conversation happened over a Facetime call.

Thoughts:

It sounds to me that these stories are very legitimate, especially if the informant’s family decided to move out because of the Jinn. Especially in a small town, this would be incredibly unsettling and scary, and I understand why they would want to leave, especially after the Imam couldn’t get rid of the Jinn. I also think that its interesting that the Imam described the ghosts in the house as Jinn, which are included in the Quran, but they originated as Pre-Islamic Arabic folklore. The actions of this Jinn fit the bill of what is described in the Quran. In the Quran, Jinn are often described as possessive beings that will take over houses and start occupying them, causing terror on it’s inhabitants during the nightime. It also makes sense that the Imam didn’t really try to do anything to get rid of the Jinn, because there are no described ways to get rid of them in the Quran. 

Turkish Coffee Fortune Telling

Background Information: 

The informant is a residential real estate developer who learned a lot of traditions and superstitions from their mother. They currently live in Detroit, Michigan but emigrated from Turkey. 

Main Content: 

ME: So can you tell me a bit about using Turkish Coffee to tell someone’s fortune? 

GD: Yeah so, um, after you drink your Turkish coffee, in your Turkish coffee cup, its a small cup, maybe about like 5 mL ish, you turn it upside down and once the bottom is cool to the touch, um, you turn it right-side up, and there are people who claim they can tell your future and your fortune from what they see in the coffee grounds. 

ME: Do you know what they look for in the grounds? 

GD: If they see, like, it really depends on the person’s interpretation, it’s very subjective. But, like, you know, if someone sees something that looks like a mountain, one person will tell you that it looks like there will be a big obstacle in the way, while another person will tell you that it looks like you will be traveling somewhere soon. It’s very subjective, it’s like an art, really.

ME: I’ve seen you do it a number of times before, in cafes in Turkey with your friends, do you believe in it at all, or do you just do it for fun? 

GD: Kaya, some people absolutely believe in it, and they have people they go to regularly to read their fortunes. But if we’re doing it, it’s just for fun. I don’t believe in it, but there are definitely people who believe in it, and there are definitely people who know what they are talking about. 

ME: Do you know how it started, or how you learned about it? 

GD: I have no idea, you would have to look it up. My family is Turkish, and, um, I grew up with my aunts and family friends, that, after they drink their Turkish coffee, they turn their cup upside down and have their fortune read. 

Background: 

This interview happened at my house. 

Thoughts: 

This tradition is very popular in Turkey. The informant is my mother, and I remember seeing her do this countless times with her Turkish friends. However, to them, it was always something that they laughed about and nobody really took it seriously. Upon further research, this is a tradition that has been around for thousands of years and can be referred to as Tasseography. Trying to find the origin of this tradition was very difficult, and I could not find a credible source citing one place where this began. However, some say that this practice did indeed begin in Ottoman Turkey in the 16th century. However, other sources say that this tradition started with reading tea leaves in ancient China, whereas others claim that it first began in Victorian England. Regardless, this is a very old tradition that has a lot of history. To Turkish culture, it is something very old and cherished, and even though some do not take it seriously, most Turkish people take pride in doing this activity, just like the informant. 

Windsor Caroussel of Nations

Background Information: 

The informant is a middle-aged person who grew up in Windsor, a city in Canada. They emigrated to Windsor from Turkey, at a young age. They are describing a festival that they remember from their childhood. 

Main Content: 

ME: Can you tell me about the Windsor Caroussel of Nations? 

ED: So there was this festival called the Caroussel of Nations when I was growing up, and you know Canada prides itself on being a multicultural society and they consider themselves a cultural mosaic, as opposed to a melting pot, like the US. They fund a lot of festivals that, you know, help people stay connected to their cultural backgrounds and stuff. So one of those things was the Caroussel of Nations and it was around Canada Day. It was a festival where all of the cultures that wanted to get involved sign up, and they get a little grant for their space, and people have arts and crafts that they sell or display, there’s some different venues that have people who do shows like cultural dancing and displays. There’s always food, of course, which is probably the biggest thing and my mom would always make Turkish shish kebabs and shish koftes and things like that. People from all the community go around and check out all of the different cultures and enjoy the food and the environment.

ME: Did you ever participate? 

ED: I used to do this Turkish dance as a kid, we used to dress up in old traditional Turkish outfits and do a traditional Turkish line dance called Halay, you know? We would do that as a display, we would be like performing monkeys for the visiting Canadians (laughs). It was a lot of fun, everyone was coming together and the whole Turkish community would come together to put this on, it was fun visiting the other communities too. I think it’s still going on today.

Context: 

This interview happened at my house.  

Thoughts: 

The informant is my father and it seems that he really enjoyed it growing up. It seems like the Turkish community in Windsor would rally together to put on a good event and it would bring the community closer together. I have attended this festival once, and it is really amazing to see dozens of different cultures on display. It is also interesting to analyze the approach that Canada takes as a “cultural mosaic” as opposed to the “melting pot” here in the United States. I think that festivals like these are great examples of the difference. This festival is not about assimilating to Canadian culture at all, but it is about celebrating the folk dancing and traditional food from the countries that people immigrated from.