Tag Archives: turkey

Evil Eye Talisman

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has kept an Evil Eye talisman hanging from the rear-view mirror of her car. During a celebration for my mother’s birthday, I pulled my grandmother aside and asked her the Evil Eye’s significance, following which she explained:

“Many years ago, two of my friends spent some time in Turkey. When they came home, they brought me an Evil Eye as a gift. All over Turkey, they put them outside of their door or inside of the car, and it is meant to ward off spirits by scaring them away. The superstition is that you cannot throw it away after someone gives it to you, that would be like inviting the evil spirits in. I have been in my car before and had people stop me and give me praise for keeping the Evil Eye visible, then show me where they keep theirs.”

I was somewhat familiar with the superstition surrounding the Evil Eye before talking with my grandmother, and knew that belief in the protection offered by one was prevalent in Greece. Hearing that her Evil Eye is from Turkey and that many other Americans have commented on the object (the informant, my grandmother, is from northern California), leads me to believe that this superstition is present in a great deal of cultures. Offering the object to someone as a gift encourages them to engage in the superstition surrounding it, because the object will remind the receiver of the giver while also supposedly serving as protection. Even if the owner of the Evil Eye does not necessarily have a deep-rooted belief in spirits, the object is significant in that it can offer a sense of comfort for the owner to suppress any worries that the spirits do exist, without the owner having to do anything more than keep the talisman somewhere close by. I myself am considering asking my grandmother for one to keep in my car, just in case.

Turkish Marchen and the Nasreddin Hoca

Informant C is 20 year old and studies Journalism. She is half Turkish and speaks Turkish as well. Her mom is Turkish and is from the Eastern Turkey area, about 200 miles west of Syria. Her entire family is scattered over Turkey and have resided in Turkey for many generations. Many of them are involved in agriculture.

So a lot of fairy tales were actually made to teach kids lessons and to scare them, Turkish folklore is very much in that vein. It’s very much a country where the society is built upon kids being pretty obedient. They don’t have very much independence really even in college, especially if you’re a girl. You live in your parents home really until you get married or you move in with a different family member. It’s a pretty restricted society for kids. So a lot of stories tend to be kind of negative and ‘You shouldn’t do this’. And Gypsies are a big thing in Turkey. Any story that teaches kids a lesson, in these stories there’s usually this interesting character, they call her a hoca which is like a teacher. There’s always this like old man who will impart some wisdom on to the kids. And the guy always appears to be really stupid and then he turns out to be the smartest one. The Nasreddin Hoca is the guys name and he appears in a bunch of stories, and Nasreddin is his name and Hoca means teacher. So one day Nasreddin’s neighbor asked him, ‘Teacher do you have any 40 year old vinegar?’ ‘Yes I do’ answered Nasreddin ‘Can I have some I need some to make an ointment’ said the neighbor. Nareddin answered, ‘No you can’t have any. If I gave my 40 year old vinegar to just anyone I wouldn’t have had it for 40 years would I?’ So this is kind of a joke but kind of not, and they just tell these stories to people.

 

Analysis:

Informant C tells here about how in Turkey they use fairy tales to teach lessons to children and how to behave. In this story the neighbor asks for some vinegar but gets turned away. Although this story may seem harsh, it effectively teaches children that you have to be prepared in case something goes wrong and you can’t always rely on strangers to help you through. This story may reflect the values of self sufficiency and hard work in Turkey, and the importance of teaching children these values.

For this story and other Nasreddin Hoca stories see

Stories from Nasreddin Hoca. (2005, January 1). Retrieved April 30, 2015, from http://www.sivrihisar.net/stories.htm

Turkish Marriage Ritual

Informant C is 20 year old and studies Journalism. She is half Turkish and speaks Turkish as well. Her mom is Turkish and is from the Eastern Turkey area, about 200 miles west of Syria. Her entire family is scattered over Turkey and have resided in Turkey for many generations. Many of them are involved in agriculture.

So every region of Turkey kind of has its own folklore and I like the Black Sea’s folklore and there’s a region called Trabzon in it. Its kind of seen as the more wild and I don’t want to say less domesticated, but there’s just not as many people living up there. We have some relatives that live near Trabzon and there’s this really famous town named Çarşıbaşı. And when someone gets married to test to see if the marriage is a good idea, they come to the house and you know how like in some places you have to carry the bride over the threshold, there’s this vine that you break into 3 pieces and you plant them into the ground. And if they sprout that means the marriage is going to be successful and if they don’t you’re kind of doomed. People in Turkey are very into agricultural rituals, folklore, and even mysticism.

 

Analysis:

Here informant C tells about an agricultural ritual that predicts if a couple will have a successful marriage. Marriages are very important and the entire community always wants them to be successful and will often perform rituals to see if this will be so. Because the area is so agricultural it follows that their marriage ritual would also be agricultural. Rituals are also often performed at liminal moments, such as when a couple gets married.  Growing of the vine may symbolize growing of a marriage and with it, prosperity.  In this ritual like many others, we see an emphasis on the number 3.

Turkish Fortune Telling

Informant C is 20 year old and studies Journalism. She is half Turkish and speaks Turkish as well. Her mom is Turkish and is from the Eastern Turkey area, about 200 miles west of Syria. Her entire family is scattered over Turkey and have resided in Turkey for many generations. Many of them are involved in agriculture.

Fortune telling is actually a big deal in Turkey. They do it with Turkish coffee, which is really like fine ground black coffee and its very dark. You get in a little tiny cup and you have a saucer and you flip the cup over onto the saucer and all the little grounds trickle out of the cup and you can read the different things. My mom and my grandmother can do it really well, like everything my grandmother says comes true. She said that I’ll find a tall blonde guy whom I’ll really like, which is true, and then that there’s one class I’ll really like and one that I’ll have to work really hard in. And she said about water she said something you love like the ocean could turn dangerous for you but then it’ll come back and be really good for you. So me and my little brother were surfing over Presidents Day weekend and he actually got caught in a rip current which was kind of scary and luckily he got out but he’s like 14 so he’s pretty little. But then after all that happened we ended up having a really good day surfing and he actually just got his lifeguard certification which is really cool. And I kinda think a lot of it is made up but I don’t know I’m actually starting to believe in it a bit more. And my family really believes in it.

 

Analysis:

Informant C tells here of a traditional Turkish custom and folk belief that her family participates in. The fortune telling is an entertaining way to bring the community together and connect generations all over Turkey, while for many providing an insightful view into the future. H says she may have participated in the fortune telling just to bond with her grandmother and mother, but then she adds that she is starting to believe in it more.  For many, knowledge of the future is valuable, and something like the more chance based way the coffee grounds are running down the cup provide a good medium for this fortune telling.

Babies and the Moon

Informant C is 20 year old and studies Journalism. She is half Turkish and speaks Turkish as well. Her mom is Turkish and is from the Eastern Turkey area, about 200 miles west of Syria. Her entire family is scattered over Turkey and have resided in Turkey for many generations. Many of them are involved in agriculture.

People are very mystical about the moon. If there’s like a really really bright moon its considered really good luck especially in the country where you can see the stars and everything. So if the moon outshines the stars that means one of the best things that’s going to happen in your life is going to happen soon. The moon is so mysterious and unknown, and it probably represents something for everyone. So people in Turkey are also really fascinated with babies. And if like a really little baby is born, they’ll like put the baby on the shovel and put it out in the moonlight. And they say like ‘Make my baby stronger’ and it’s like a whole kill the baby or make him stronger. They think that the moon is like curing this baby, it is bizarre. It’s such a strange area. And another thing like if you put the back of a shovel in the moonlight and if it reflects a certain way then you’ll have this many more days of good crop. There’s so many things with the moon. They truly believe it and really do the shovel thing with the children.

 

Analysis: Here informant C tells about some of the rituals that involve the moon in Turkey. She says that the moon is mystical and mysterious and that inspires the large amount of folklore about it, as is also seen in other cultures. Also in Turkey, the people are prized for being strong and independent, which explains why the parents would want their babies to be big and strong, so they put them out under the moon. This is similar in some ways to older customs in Sparta where children were required to prove their strength from a young age.  She also talks about how the moon inspires some agricultural predictions about how the crop will be, since agriculture is so important for this area.

For more about Turkey’s Black Sea region and their folklore, including placing a baby on a shovel, see

Wise, L. (2013, February 23). Folklore and Superstitions of the Black Sea. Retrieved April 30, 2015, from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/social-studies-help/15017-superstitions-and-traditions-in-turkeys-black-sea-region/