An anthropological analysis popular belief on Kurdish Alevis in Turkey

Hiroki Wakamatsu
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Based on the Ocak (Religious oriented household), Alevi people has practiced various form of saint venerations and religious rituals in Varto sub-province in Eastern Anatolia for a long time. These saint veneration and religious rituals have a function which structures the relationship between Alevis themselves and strengthens their awareness of Alevi identity. These religious practices are divided into two categories. First one is rituals practiced by villagers and organized by Seyit (religious authority of Alevis who is descended from the Prophet’s family) and his Rehber (religious guide who is appointed by Seyit) like weddings, funerals, circumcision, Nevruz (spring festival) and Cem rituals (the most important Alevi religious practice). The former is well known in the media broadcasted and published by Alevi cultural associations based on the big cities. Even non-Alevi outsiders can participate in these religious rituals. Concerning these religious practices, we can access to a lot of previous studies.

However, the latter is completely kept secret for outsiders. People practice these rituals and religious practices only within their village communities. They are different from the former practices which are practiced as a popular belief. Even villagers cannot participate in these religious practices in some case. In other word, if he or she is not a member of Ocak as a ritual group, he or she cannot participate in these rituals. At the same time, if Seyit who is descended from the Prophet family does not organize the ritual, participants cannot have Keramet (miracles).

In this paper, I introduce the case of saint veneration as a popular belief in the village communities in Varto sub-province. Then I analyze the current social situation around Alevism in Kurdish community from the view point of Cultural Anthropology.

Keywords: Kurdish Alevis, Alevism, Popular Beliefs, Saint Veneration, Cultural Anthropology

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