Tag Archives: turkey

Turkish Comedic Tales

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: Can you tell me a little bit about the Nasrettin Hoca story? 

NA: Yeah, so he (Nasrettin Hoca), goes to his neighbor and asks “Can I borrow your pan”, cooking pan you know? Then he says “Ok” and gives him the pan. And then he uses it and then puts a little pan, his own, in it, and returns the pan the nest day. Then the neighbor says, “Hoca, what is this?”. He says,” Well, your pan has given birth”. (We both laugh). “So this is yours too”. And then okay, two days later, Hoca goes back and asks for that pan, the one that he borrowed originally, and then he takes it and never gives it back. Neighbor waits for few days and then goes to Hoca and says,” Hoca, I need my pan would you give it back to me?”. Hoca responded,” I don’t have it, it died”. The neighbor asks, “Hoca, how is that possible, how can a pie die?”. Hoca responded,” Well, you believed in the birth, how come you don’t believe in death?”. 

ME: That’s really funny (laughing)

Context: 

This conversation happened over a FaceTime call. 

Thoughts: 

This legend is a part of a larger collection of folk legends about this one man, Nasrettin Hoca. These tales are very popular in the Turkish oral storytelling tradition. These stories are often told to little kids to teach them life lessons, while also providing some comedic relief. The man, Nasrettin, is clearly an idiot, but his story can actually serve as a valuable life lesson to children and even people. The neighbor had no issues accepting the extra pan when Hoca told him that it had “given birth”, but was upset when Hoca took the pan and claimed that it had “died”. This oral story clearly is trying to convey the lesson of “The Golden Rule”, or treating others how you want to be treated. The neighbor could have not accepted the extra pan, in which case Hoca would not have stolen his pan. Conveying this through a comedic and fun medium is also much more entertaining and compelling to small children. For a written version of this tale, see this book: Nasrettin Hoca Hikayeleri. Hürriyet, 2015. 

Evil Eye

Main Piece. 

Informant: Yeah so in Turkey the evil eye, which is called I’m blanking on the name, it’ll come back to me. But it’s like yeah, it’s a form of protection. It protects you from you know, the evil but like more specific cases like if someone is like bad-mouthing you like talking behind your back that people in Turkey believe that if you have like an evil eye in your house or in your car or anything like it’ll protect you from-from things like that. You know it comes in different colors. It’s it’s-it’s supposed to be hung. Yeah, like in your car. People have bracelets rings they get tattoos of it. But in your home a lot of like Turkish like bazaars like the markets. They will hang it so they make like they put them in like birdhouses to like they put the evil eye design in like different like domestic objects, so that you can hang it it always has to be hanging that’s that’s something I mean, I guess like via tattoo then. I don’t know how that counts. But but in terms of like the jewelry or like the object itself, it has to be hanging because it like hangs like over you. So you want to hang it like above a door or like the entrance to your home like you walk in and it’s right there. 

Informants Relationship to the Piece. 

My informant was taught this by her parents and recalled a story of the time her mother had given her an evil eye for her car. 

Informant: When I first got my license, I was going to drive for the first time by myself in a car. She had me hang an evil eye chain on the front mirror as like protection and then when I got in a car accident, she actually was like ‘It’s because that was in your car and it protected you’, because I didn’t have any injuries. And it’s really crazy how people believe it. But my mom believes in it very much so and because of that, it’s like yeah, it’s really been passed on to me where I have one hanging right there (she points to her wall where she has a small evil eye chain-hung”

Context: 

The informant is one of my friends, a 20-year-old Turkish-American theatre major at the University of Southern California. I was told this as we were hanging out in her room after I asked her about some superstitions she believes in. 

Analysis:

I definitely grew up seeing a lot of my friends wear an evil eye and seeing vendors who sold jewelry that contained the symbol, but I never really knew what it meant, other than being a pretty symbol. I think it’s interesting how the main purpose of the evil eye is to protect you from people bad-mouthing you behind your back, but for my informants’ family it’s become a catch-all symbol for protection, especially for their children as they begin to leave the house and become more independent, the evil eye becomes a way for the parents to keep an “eye” on their children.

Pomegranate for New Years

Main Piece:

Informant: We crack a pomegranate on New Year’s Eve, or like as soon as it like midnight again, I don’t know why, like if I asked my mom she’d be like like this just something we have to do. I’m like, okay, cool. Yeah, like I’d guess pomegranates are a symbol of life and like a new beginning kind of which is why you crack it like, you know, at midnight for the new year. But no, she takes it very seriously too. So like, for example, this past New-New Years. It was just me my mom, my sister. My dad was at work and yeah, so we watched the ball drop in Times Square. And then my mom had a pomegranate ready, like a full one, like you don’t touch it at all. And what you do is you go to your front porch or like the entrance to your house or like, wherever you want something that’s like, again, like an entry. I feel like in Turkey that that’s a lot of important like entrances of like, you know, you start something new, so you want to do it at an entrance of your life or something like symbolizes, you know, like when you walk into your home, it’s not something new. It’s a new year. So anyways, we go to our front porch and you’ve just like hold the, the pomegranate the full thing in your hand and you just drop it and you have to have a crack if it doesn’t crack, you know, you just keep going. And then and then it’s like okay, yay. Like now the new year has officially begun. So for her it didn’t it doesn’t start till then and then you you know, clean up the shells. And as many of the seeds that didn’t touch that like the seeds that are still in the pomegranate. Obviously, you throw the ones that touch the ground out and then you eat the seeds.

Relationship to the piece:

“If we don’t do it, then it doesn’t feel like the start of a new year. It doesn’t feel like the past is behind us. Like something it just kind of like commemorates a new beginning and if we don’t do it, it’s like we’re still in the old year. Kind of thing.”

Context: 

The informant is one of my friends, a 20 year old Turkish American theatre major at the University of Southern California. I was told this as we were hanging out in her room after I asked her about some of the traditions she grew up with. 

Analysis:

I’d never heard of this tradition, but I feel like a lot of traditions surrounding the new year have to do with inviting in what you want for the New Year, but for my informant, this tradition is about welcoming in the New Year. Breaking the pomegranate is like breaking open the new year and then you have to ingest what’s been broken, you’re literally taking in the New Year. I also think it’s interesting how, for many children of immigrants we follow traditions because our parents tell us to, rather than doing it because we know exactly what it means. We just know that certain holidays don’t feel right if we don’t follow these traditions. 

Fortune Telling From a Cup of Turkish Coffee

When my friend first read my fortune out of a cooled cup of Turkish coffee, I was told that he saw angels, tigers and trails in my future. He’d been using a Wikipedia article to help him read our fortunes, but he seemed excite to be sharing this experience with me and my other friend, who had never had our fortunes read in this way before.

Turkish coffee is very dense. It’s more like espresso than coffee, and because of this one only consumes a shot-glass or specialized tiny coffee mug. The person drinking Turkish coffee leaves a small layer of coffee grounds in the bottom of the cup and turns the cup over on a saucer to cool. The grounds may slide down the sides of the cup as they cool and solidify, which the reader then uses to tell the drinker’s fortune.

*

“This is very embedded in the Turkish culture. So it’s not something that you learn somewhere else, it’s around you all the time. You know, you grow up with your mom, your grandma, you know, the aunts and the ladies on the balconies, everyone does it. ” The speaker said as we sat in the Nuka Turkish Cafe in Westwood months after that initial reading in our home. He mentioned that shapes in a coffee mug might look like numbers or scenery.

“There are places in Turkey where you would go to visit like an actual medium. Well, those are self-proclaimed mediums. But the interesting thing is, I’ve been to certain mediums that would have incredibly accurate fortunetelling. Like, they will give you a lot of information about your past and your future. And very often, I’ve met people and I have had friends who have these professional medium fortune telling them, like their fortune telling actually becomes true in the future. And so it’s an interesting thing. And I really don’t know that side of it that well. It’s very supernatural. And I just feel like some people actually do have that supernatural talent to be able to use this. “

The speaker added that Turkish mediums also use tarot and palmistry to tell fortunes, and that this tradition is quite old. “The Turkish army that my father is, is a part of has an insignia on it that says before Christ, 200 something. It’s a 2200 years old army.” He added that before Christianity, many Turkish tribes practiced paganism. “

“We have a Turkish idiom that says, “Don’t believe in this fortune telling. But like, don’t live without it… it’s an integral and cultural part of our lives. But we also live in a society where, you know, we are aware that fortune telling is not a very scientific method… So it’s, it’s more of a fun sport at this point than actual people believing in it. It’s more it’s more fun than it’s taken like serious.”

*

The speaker was happy that we had come to visit him in the Nuka Cafe, and he pretended to be annoyed that I was recording his thoughts about fortune telling. When I asked him where he first saw fortune telling, he mentioned that much like a baby doesn’t remember their first steps, he doesn’t remember where he first encountered this tradition. Another friend mentioned that the speaker’s past fortune came true, and later that day he read another cup of Turkish coffee. He told our third friend that he saw a world map and a wedding.

This is important to me because much like the speaker, I enjoy fortune-telling tools but don’t really believe in them… unless something else changes my mind about their accuracy. I first came across the idea of fortune-telling from tea or coffee in the movie Coraline, and I showed the speaker the section of the film that includes fortune-telling after we had done the first reading in the house. I enjoyed having my fortune read and will not believe it while simultaneously “keeping it in mind.”

This seems to be a largely female craft. The speaker is interested in Turkish folklore and could not remember the meanings of symbols he described to us the first time he performed this tradition using Wikipedia notes.

Double-Cross Blunt and Other Shaped Blunts

This friend knows a lot about marijuana, and on Halloween (a few days after his birthday) he made a double-cross blunt or a large blunt with two smaller blunts inserted at the far end. The goal is that the smoker will get two friends to light all ends of the blunt so that the smoker gets an initial rush of smoke. This rush of smoke is more powerful than smoking a single blunt, and the idea was first shared in the movie Pineapple Express.

“Basically, it’s this guy, who’s a process server. That’s Seth Rogen, by the way. And then this is James Franco… And then there’s Danny McBride, who’s read and he’s this kind of comedic in the movie. But in the beginning of the movie, when Dale when Seth Rogen picks up his weed from James Franco. James Franco goes, Oh, Bro, I got this sweet Pineapple Express. And you know, like, Oh, they said the name of the movie. But he’s like, Oh, I who am I gonna smoke this cross joint with? I need two people. Because you need three lighters to light the joint. You need to light all three tips. I needed somebody to light the first two tips on the double cross joint and then like the other two for me as I lifted the front.”

There is no religious association with the blunt.

The speaker continued to explain that there are all sorts of shaped blunts (note: a blunt is not the same as a joint). There are turkey-shaped blunts and tarantula blunts (the legs or ‘feathers’ are additional blunts).

When asked what this double-cross blunt meant to him, the speaker said, “You’re smoking with two boys, or whoever’s there. But like, you’re just chilling out. You’re having a good time you’re smoking.”

*

I know that this piece was important to the speaker and he was very proud of his double-cross blunt. I do not smoke but it is interesting to see that there is an art to creating blunts and edibles (this speaker also creates cannabis butter from sativa which he then uses to make very strong edibles.) Because this speaker has knowledge of weed, I respect him more than were he just a regular ‘stoner.’

In this example, the speaker learned about the cross blunt from the film Pineapple Express, but this tradition is seen in other online weed forums and even Pinterest boards. Lighting the blunt is a group activity because the speaker cannot light all ends of the blunt at once. Adding the double cross shows that the speaker has improved the movie’s version of the blunt, and it allows for multiplicity and variation.