An excerpt straight from the Selvedge 82, The Lace Issue...
Known throughout the Western world as ‘Whirling Dervishes’, people of the Mevlevi Order take a unique approach to meditation. As guides leading Sufi Muslim ascetics down spiritual paths, the Mevlevi have a global reputation for their extreme poverty and austerity; a lifestyle intended to help Mevlevi people to desert their egos, and reach God. Taking part in religious ceremonies, they will often put their bodies through rigorous exercise in an attempt to reach a state of spiritual ecstasy – the most common of which has caused them to be known as the ‘Whirling Dervishes’.
During rituals known as Sama, the Mevlevi will often sing, play instruments, recite poetry, pray and dance while dressed in dramatic, symbolic attire. They choose to perform their dhikr (an Islamic devotional act) through a rare form of twirling, whirling dance. This Sama is said to represent a mystical journey of humans’ spiritual ascent through mind and love, eventually arriving at nirvana. As the dancers turn their bodies, they are said to be representing a turn to a greater truth.
Instantly recognisable for their traditional garb, the Mevlevi wear conical caps known as sikkes during Sama rituals. Usually made from felt, these hats are moulded to fit the wearers’ heads and are paired with woollen, shirt-like cloaks known as hirkas. This garment represents a person’s worldly life, and is ritualistically cast off during these whirling ceremonies, symbolising the wearer’s approach to divinity.
You can read this article in full in Selvedge 82, The Lace Issue.