OLD FEARS IN TURKISH CULTURE

Vampire in Turkish Culture: Blood Drinking Extraordinary Creatures in Turkish Culture with Reference to Turkish World Narratives and Beliefs

Vampire is an imagination of extraordinary creature that is specifically drinking blood. Vampire is a naming of this imagination that belongs the European cultures. The origin of the blood drinking extraordinary creature imaginations is very ancient and there are narratives and beliefs in so many cultures in the world. In Turkish culture, there are imaginations that drink blood and have extraordinary features, too. In this verbal notice, the vampire imaginations in Turkish culture has been researched. First, the meaning of word “vampire”, its mythic concept and how it’s been used as a term is explained and definition of vampire has been created. Then, with reference to Turkish world narratives and beliefs, information about Obur, Yalmavuz and Yek/Yek İçkek and the other creatures that fit to this definition have been took place. In this part, some creatures like Albastı, Cadı, Dev and Emegen that are different beings but have some features that fit to vampire definition has been researched. As a result, structural features of this creatures in Turkish culture has been determined.

The Oldest One “Yek”: An Ancient Vampire/Demon From Turkish Culture
     Supernatural beings like vampires or demons attract a great deal of our attention. So how do we define these beings? Of course, there are many studies on this . As you can guess, as a Turkish researcher, I pursued the possibility of the existence of such vampiric beings in Turkish culture. Thus, my main aim in this artictle is to study the oldest vampire/demon concept in Turkish culture. I will leave other vampire/demon concepts of Turkish culture like Obur or Yalmavuz for a another time.
     Vampires and demons also point out an interactive world of creatures. As you all know, vampire is a supernatural creature which drinks blood. It exists in almost every culture in the world. Vampire concepts such as Lamashtu, Lilith and Striga are ancient. What is the oldest vampire/demon in Turkish culture then? Let’s answer this question.

YEK     Yek is a demon that is mentioned in the Old Turkish dictionaries and the oldest Turkish texts. “Yek” finds place in the Middle Age dictionaries, one of the oldest Turkish dictionaries Divânü Lugâti’t-Türk (around first years of 11th century) and some of the Buddhist Uygur texts (8th to 10th cc).
     According to the knowledge from Divânü Lugâti’t-Türk, the word “yek” means “devil, satan”. Also, Jean Paul Roux kindly gives us hints that yek means “demon, devil, satan, iblis” in Old Turkish. The word “yek” is actually derived from the verb “yemek (to eat)” and, as you can guess, it has cannibalism in its nature. In an Arabic-Kıpçak dictionary, it’s also a dangerous creature in the form of powerful winds that accompany dust clouds.

     The word “yek” is explained as “fairy, satan, devil, iblis” in dictionaries about Old Turkish. Also it means “obur” and while this denotation means “someone or something that eats a lot, appetent, glutton”, it’s also the name for a type of vampire in Turkish culture. So, if you are a person who loves eating much and someone bullies you about that, just remember that you may be a vampire incognito. In old Turkish texts the word “yek” takes place in the form of “yek içkek” which is a name for another vampire type In Karaçay-Malkar and Kazak Turkish, this word appears in the form of “cek” and means demon, devil, satan, as well. Altay Turks have “cek” word in their language and this word means glutton, appetent; also it’s one of the epithet of Erlik the arch-devil. Imagine, the arch-devil, the prime antagonist of the Turkish beliefs, i mean pre-Islamic, Islamic and the other beliefs of different Turkish tribes around the world, actually carries vampiric features! This fact itself alone can show how important of a figure the vampires are for Turkish myths. In old Turkish, the word “yek” is used as the general denotation of evil spirits in the nature.

     One of the oldest Turkish texts that belong Uygur Turkish (8th to 10th cc), has descriptions of the hell in detail; creatures in it and what kind of punishments there are for sinners. It also contains the demons called Yek, who are a kind of hellhound, demon of the hell; they throw the sinner people, who fell down into the hell, to the boilers and they are monsters that have got stern and sullen faces.
     There is “yek” in an another old text Çaştani İlig Beg (The Story of Çaştani Bey, 8th to 10th cc) that belongs to Uygur Turkish, too. Çaştani Bey, the hero of the story, fight againts these demons that send sickness to his people and harm them; he saves his people.
In this text the demons that called “yek” are demons/monsters that wait at the crossroad, eat human flesh and drink human blood, wrap the guts of humans to their bodies, horrible faced, shout with ugly voices, hold tridents and flags in their hands, in the shape of a black giant, with fire-colored and tressed and beautify their bodies with venomous snakes.
Based on the knowledge that we presently have, it can be said that yek is the oldest demon/spirit/vampire in Turkish folklore.
Seçkin SARPKAYA
Ege University, Institute for Turkish World Studies, Lecturer / PhD Student

YEK3

DRAGON


Dragon is a legendary powerful creature. In Turkish Mythology ,dragon stands for power and might in positive meaning. That supernatural creature  is named as universe , or the snake of the universe and snake.

            Dragon is typically scaled,fire spewing and has serpant traits. It has big claws and a long fire spewing tail. It is black and multi-headed creature which can fly and talk.

            Dragon has a huge body   and a very scary face ,its mouth is wide with lots of  sharp teeth and its eyes are very bright. Dragons are also big snakes described in smoke and chained by neck. They usually live in sky,water and mountains. By attacking,dragons break the order  set by human beings. Thus, they are the symbol  of chaos.    

dragon turk

ERLİK

Erlik is the symbol of bad in Turkish Shamanism and mythology. Turkish Shamanism gives the sementic explanation «bad» with the symbol of Erlik. Erlik is the source of «bad and dark deeds and the symbol of  devastation and disorder.

            It’s known as the beginning of the bad souls in Altai Turks mythic descriptions. Erlik is equal to Devil and described as a monster in Shaman prays. It has got an athletic body and very dark eye brows and curly hair. His fork beard lenghtens to his knees. His moustache which is like a wild boar’s tooth is on his ears. His chin like a hammer and horns like tree roots. Erlik lives in a mud castle in the underworld.

ERLİK

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  KARABASAN

   It’s believed to be a demon or spirit which presses down on the chest and tries to kill people making them  breathless at nights. It fears people in dreams and steals  their souls. In mytic descriptions it has an unclear appearance.    Some says it is a very heavy male.

KARABASAN

 

CİN

In  Turkish Culture Gin is a very well known demon. It is fearful and bad in religious and mythological meaning. In Holy Quran ,there are eighteen suras (chapters) about gins (evil spirits). In Persian and Turkish Mythology those evil spirits are believed to live in a place called ‘’ Cinistan’’ behind Mount Kaf.

            They hurt people and give harm .They disguise as  goats,cats  or a human who has physically disorder. They are seen in bathrooms ,at mills, in graveyards or in  isolated places.CİN

HIBİLİK

Hıbilik is a bad spirit. It’s also known as Gıbilik. It is a tiny but very heavy male. He sits on the chest and suffocates people to  death. Whoever meets Hıbilik can’t move and become mute. It’s believed that if Hıbilik is caught  then the prosperity comes.

            In some stories, Hıbilik has a magic hat. If a man can steal that hat, becomes very rich.HIBILIK

OBUR

Glutton is a very well known type of vampire in Turkish Mythology. It is one of the mythical creatures  which  means  bad spirit ,gin,ghost,witch in different Turkish communities  but whereas  in Turkish  glutton means someone who eats much more than need and always hungry. Glutton is believed to  resurrect  after death or already a  bad spirit .

            In Turkish mythological stories ,glutton  is the enemy of humans by drinking their blood and life sources. It is a kind of supernatural  creature thought  related with  darkness ,night and fear. It disguises as a cat ,a dog or a beautiful girl.

obur

EMEGEN

Is a legendary monster in the mythology of Karachay-Malkar Turks. In the stories Emegens describe themselves as follows.

«We don’t wear like you. We live in dark cages. If anyone becomes sick, we make him eat human flesh and drink human blood. And we live around three hundred years.»

            Emegens are the enemy of humans. Blood drink and live longer. Therefore they are kind of vampires.EMEGEN

GULYABANİ

Gulyabani is described a humangous  ghoul with a long beard and  stick who wanders at night and scares people. But the some Turkish folks It’s always in female costume. According to the ancient Arabic rumours,  Gulyabani smells very bad covered with hair and his feet are reverse.

            People say «Never stay away from others. It appears  in silent places ,in deserts and at the mountains slopes.»GULYABANİ

ŞAHMERAN

Shahmaran is a mythical creature. Shahmaran is known as the queen of the serpents(snakes). She is depicted as a wise intelligent woman having female features above the waist and a serpent below.Those supernatural creatures are wise and good-willed .They live in the underground  country called ‘’Meron’’ and heal the sick people.When Shahmaran dies it is said that her spirit will pass to her daughter.

When the Marans are aware that Shahmaran is killed by people then they will kill  the people knocking down the cities as well.That belief is common in the Mediterranean  town Tarsus and Southern East Region city  Mardin .In this region her legend is commonly evoked with her  image still depicted in embroidery ,fabrics and jewelry.  SAHMARAN 1

YALMAVUZ

Yalmavuz is a kind of dragon and witch in Turkish Mythology .It is mostly told  by Middle Asian Turks.

            Yalmavuz is a supernatural creature described as semi human and semi beast.It is often multi headed (with seven heads) and very strange,fierceful and scary creature. It eats human flesh .Yalmavuz ,which has multi spirits , is a typical vampire sucking blood  living in the cages or mountains.

YALMAVUZ

YELBEGEN

Yalpaghan is the dragon god of Altai and Turkish mythologies. He’s the king of all the dragons. He seems like a dragon with seven heads at any time and eats human flesh and It’s the enemy of horses. Yelbeghen is often multi headed (with 3,7 or 9 heads) It’s black or yellow. According to Altai people eclipse of the moon and sun happen because Yelbeghen eats them.

            According to the epics, Yelbeghen lives in dark  forest or in his country which has got ninety-nine corner. It eats snakes and frogs. It is capable of opening the blind’s eyes and  turning the disabled people who don’t have arms or legs in to abled position.

YELBEGEN

TEPEGÖZ(CYCLOPS)

Tepegöz is a legendary creature who has only one eye on his forehead. He’s an ogre that appears in the book of Dede Korkut, a famous epic story of the Oghuz Turks. His mother is a nymph and his father a shepherd. Tepegöz can be male or female. It has a magic ring. It’s said to live at Mount Kaf.

            The Sword cannot cut him, The arrow cannot kill him. Tepegöz’s skin is very hard. His weak side is his one eye on his forehead.

            Finally he was killed by a very wise hero named Basat.

TEPEGÖZ

 

From Azerbaijan

Narmin Ahmadova

Institute of Turkish World Studies, Ege University

Beliefs and narratives about demonic beings in Azerbaijani folklore

There are many beliefs and narratives abour demonic beings in Azerbaijani folklore. These beliefs and narratives show similiar aspects with Turks who live in Eastern Anatolia, Caucasia and Iran. The beliefs and entities which I will mention in this speech are also seen in this region or Turkish World with similiar or different names.

         In Azerbaijani and Eastern Anatolia, demonic beings are usually named as “bizden yeyler, kara iyeler.” These beings are considered as the spirits of nature and described as evil and scary.

         In this speech, I will mention first about demonic creatures in Azebaijani folklore, then current fears of Azerbaijani youth.

         Even today, it is forbidden to pass under some trees at night. As an example, it is believed that a being called Vurgun lives under fig trees. Vurgun attack to people who pass under or come closer to fig trees, puts them out or kills them. Similiar beliefs exist the same way in Turkey abour djinns.

         There are beliefs about a creature called Hortlak in Turkey. In Azerbaijan, the name of this being is Xortdan. Sinners transform into Xortdan when they die and they rise from their graves to hurt people. With this belief, it is aimed to prevent people to commit sins.

         There ara beliefs about a demonic entity in Azerbaijan named Kaftar. This entity is known throughout the Turkish World as cadı (witch), cazui or similiar names. Kaftar is a female sorcerer who eats human flesh. Old women who are known to commit many evil acts are called “kaftar” in some parts of Azerbaijan. Known as “kuşkaftar” among Daghistan Turks, this entity is an intimidation tool to prevent people from getting involved with things which are forbidden according to religion, such as magic. Kaftar and Kuşkaftar can be considered as vampires.

         Another demonic entitiy in Azerbaijan is Karabasan. It is also known as Karabasma, Karabastı or Karakura. It is a common demonic entity in the entire Turkish World. It hurts people in their sleep. It comes as a nightmare while people are sleeping and try to kill them. Karabasan is actually the symbol of nightmare and death, and the expression of fear of them.

         In Azerbaijan, there is a special entity who leads people astray and it’s called Gulyabani. Gulyabani appears as a tall, thin woman. Sometimes it is described as a man. It drives people insane and attacks people who travel at night. Gulyabani usually used for scaring children. It is said to the children who misbehave that Gulyabani will come and kidnap them.

         Just like Şubat Karısı of Turkey, there is Kuyu Kızı (Well Girl) in Azerbaijan. To prevent children from approaching wells, they are told “Kuyu Kızı will pull you into the well.” Another such creature in Azerbaijan is Ecinne. Misbehaving children are told “Ecinne will come and take you away.” Ecinne’s appearance is terrifying and it sometimes appears in an animal form.

         Azerbaijan’s counterpart of Turkey’s Al Karısı is a creature named Şeşe. Şeşe attacks to women who recently gave birth and wants to take away newly born babies at night. Şeşe tries to enter the new born babies’ houses and if it ever flies over a baby, that baby becomes purple and dies. In order to protect babies from Şeşe, people in Azerbaijan put evil eye talisman around the baby. In truth, Şeşe is the fear of new born baby’s sudden death.

         So what is the recent troubles and fears of the youth of Azerbaijan? Azerbaijan gained it’s independence after the collapse of Soviet Union in 90’s and it still has many unsolved problems. One of them is the low quality of education system. The reason beyond this problem is that young people don’t want to become teachers, because teacher’s salary in Azerbaijan is too low for life level. Teachers in secondary schools, high schools and the universities don’t want to improve themselves and because this, instead of teaching students, they prefer to be bribed by them.

         Students don’t have enough practical education during their university life and after the graduation, they have difficulties about finding a job since both private companies and govermental institutions don’t hire inexperienced people in the applied area. It is the sad truth that many educated people left the country because of financial crisis.

         Libraries in Azerbaijan are few in numbers. The books that we need are also few. Youth has many great fears and troubles in Azerbaijan such as teaching of a sport isn’t free, culturel centers aren’t numerous and youth aren’t encounraged to spend time there, freedom of speech doesn’t exists and there are no proper occupation for recreation. Lastly, due to the continuing financial crisis, the increase in suicide rate amoung young people is also among the facts that draw attention.

 

Mustafa Duman

(Research Assistant)

Department of Turkish Folklore

Institute of Turkish World Studies, Ege University

35100 Izmir – Turkey

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The Necessity of Evil:

Fictive Evil Characters as a Source of Fear and Their Functions

 I am going to talk about evil characters and their functions within the text and in respect to the individual and society.

I wish there was not any evil in the world but as a folklorist who has been studying on evil for six years, I have to say that evil is real, and also fear is real. So, we have to learn how to live with them. Therefore, I am going to mention how people have been living with them and benefiting from them.

In my opinion, evil characters have certain functions in terms of text and society. In fact, people has been utilizing evil characters to make money or for some other political reasons. So I am just going to examine how people have been doing this so far.

Evil characters’ functions might be classified under two major topics: the functionality within the text, and the functionality in respect to the individual and society.

And the first title might be classified under two subheadings: emphasizing heroic characteristics of the protagonist; making the fiction appealing and controlling the length of a narrative.

The second title could be classified under subheadings: educating the individual and society, contributing to economy and contributing to political benefits.

I. Functionality in the Text

A. Emphasizing heroic characteristics of the protagonist

Firstly, the hero is the most essential component in any fictional work, so creating a plot must start with making a hero by using an antagonist against her/him. The power and features of the antagonist describe the hero’s deeds to deal with evil. If a villain is smart, then the hero must be smarter; if s/he is strong, then the hero must be stronger. Since the audience of a narrative generally does not pay attention to the antagonist, all her/his features are provided to emphasize the heroic characteristics that the protagonist has. For instance, in the famous epic, Oğuz Kağan (Oghuz Khan), who is the first hero known among Turkic epic heroes, fights against a monster (probably a rhinoceros) at the start of the narrative. At the start of the epic, Oğuz captures a deer and ties it to a tree. The next day, he sees that the deer is gone. The monster has eaten it. Then, he captures a bear and ties it to the same tree. After some time, he goes to see if the bear is still there, but he sees that the bear is also gone. This time, Oğuz stands on the same place where the deer and bear were taken. When the monster comes, Oğuz kills it, and beheads it with his knife (Bang and Rahmeti, 1936, pp. 12-13). This motif shows that Oğuz is not only strong but also smart. He utilizes two different kinds of animals before fighting against the monster to understand its strength. The monster, in this case, is just a figure that emphasizes Oğuz’s heroic characteristics. In fact, defeating a strong enemy at the start of a narrative is a motif that we can see in all Turkic epics.

B. Making the fiction appealing, and controlling the length of a narrative

Struggling with a problem or a deficiency is one of the basic motifs in any genre of narrative. In fact, it is almost impossible to find a narrative which does not include a fight between good and evil. As Verena Kast (1992), who studies evil characters and their functions in fairy tales, expresses, “The starting point for most fairy tales is a situation of deficiency. The fruit of a special tree is stolen, there is no princess in the land, or the queen is unable to have children” (p. 19). This situation is accepted as a problem which requires a solution. Also, in the context of narratives, some moral deficiencies and negative actions, such as unfairness, death or war, are problems that the hero must deal with. Since the problem requires a solution, and in the sense of a narrative, a solution means a fight, these kinds of moral or physical deficiencies make a narrative interesting. Furthermore, a narrative is composed of episodes which include a finished event. Because a fight or a struggle is a finished event (in some narratives a fight lasts for more than one episode), dealing with an antagonist creates a new episode. In this case, the antagonist makes a narrative flexible; the story teller can designate how long a narrative will be by using the villain. Kast also claims that a deficiency and its compensation provide the maturing of a story and augmentation of the number of episodes. For this, it is necessary to face the evil and struggle with it. When the progress of a fictional work stops, evil arises. The function of this situation is to add new episodes (Kast, 1992, pp. 19-20). To give an example, in Turkish classical literature one of the most well-known epics, called Köroğlu (Koroghlu=son of the blind man), has different versions that are told by several story tellers. The Behcet Mahir version is the most sizable one as it is composed of 24 chapters, and in each chapter Köroğlu struggles with several antagonists (Kaplan; Akalın; Bali, 1973). Compared to other versions, Behcet Mahir’s version is both the longest and most famous. As evidenced in this example, evil characters are essential in making a work appealing as well as determining its length.

  1. Functionality in terms of the individual and society
    1. Educating the individual and society

To educate people is one of the most important functions of literature. Antagonists are useful to show people what proper decorum is, by highlighting particular qualities of the protagonists. In the sense of the education of the individual and society through literature, Colin McGinn’s ideas are significant: he claims that the fictional work is more effective than philosophical texts in showing people the difference between good and evil. According to McGinn, “The deadness and vapidity often alleged against academic moral philosophy would not be felt if it took more seriously the role of fiction in moral discourse. For moral experience lives by the story” (McGinn, 2003, p. 176). Therefore, it could be claimed that a literary discourse is more useful and effective than philosophical discourse in terms of the education of the individual and society. For example, in most literature, evil characters are punished because of their behaviors which are considered intolerable such as rape, murder, or treason. On the other hand, the protagonist’s good behavior is rewarded. Therefore, the answers to the questions, “What is good behavior?”, “What happens if someone has intolerable behavior?” and “What are the cultural norms of the public?” can be understood through an examination of the antagonists.

  1. Contributing to the economy

There is a strong relationship between economy and social togetherness: economic welfare helps build togetherness, and social solidarity provides opportunity for economic progress. How the antagonist contributes to economy and social togetherness is mostly relevant to the media. Some characters from narratives have become essential figures in contemporary media. For instance, the Halloween celebration/festival is based on a Celtic myth in which people try to defeat devils. Since the 19th century, it has been celebrated in North America. In the US, people spend nearly 7 billion dollars every year on Halloween-related festivities, and 2.5 billion dollars of this total are spent on costumes (Adamczyk, 2015), which tend to be scary costumes such as vampires, Frankenstein’s monster, witches, or other creatures. In short, evil characters underline both Halloween and the costumes worn to celebrate it, and that provides an economic circulation. Another example is the legend of the vampire. The legend is dated to the 15-16th centuries, and rooted in bloodsucker monster “vampires”. Since the legend emerged, numerous books and movies have been created about vampires. In recent years, vampire movies have had huge box office totals. For instance, the box office from the Twilight movies totaled more than 3 billion dollars (the-numbers.com, 27.3.2016). As it is understood from these examples, the antagonist which has been updated in modern times can contribute to the economy.

  1. Contributing to political benefits

Throughout history, many political leaders have demonized or villainized adversaries to create enemies for the purpose of rallying allies against them and empower control over the adversaries. In doing this, evil characters may be created by leaders for those who are influenced. For example, if a country (X) wants to fight against another country (Y) that has valuable natural resources, the leaders in country X may start to create propaganda ın medıa such as movies to shape public opinion ın favor of a war. According to the scholar Philip Cole, the border between fictional work and narratives of the real world can be made unclear, so it is possible that people might not distinguish an imaginary fear from a real one. (Cole, 2006, 101-102). In this context, Cole’s claims support this assumption: “The boundary between fiction and reality is blurred, or rather our awareness of where that boundary lies is blurred, and everyday life itself is framed within the fictional constructs of our imagination or the imagination of our political and cultural leaders.” (p. 101). To give an example of political propaganda in a major motion picture; many critiques of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), directed by Don Siegel, ıdentıfy the fılm as an allegoric work which supports anti-communist propaganda during the Cold War period (Dodd, 2014; Sanders, 2008, 55-72; Wood 2001). In fact, we can also see this process of making enemies in epics which are based on historical events. Therefore, the antagonist in narratives tends to show people who the enemy is.

As a result of my attempting to show how people have been benefiting from fictive evil characters, I wanted to take an attention to who the real evil is: people who see the evil as an instrument to make money or some other reasons or people who do not have any sympathy to others. If we answer this question, we will win the war against the evil.

References

Adamczyk, A. (Oct. 20, 2015). Americans will spend nearly $7 billion on Halloween this year. Time. http://time.com/money/4069887/halloween-spending-costumes-candy/

Audi R. (Edt.) (1999). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (Second Edition). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bang, W. & Rahmeti, G. R. (1936). Oğuz Kağan Destanı. İstanbul: Burhaneddin Basımevi.

Box office history of Twilight movies, (27.03.2016). http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/franchise/Twilight#tab=summary

Cole, P. (2006). The Myth of Evil. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd.

Dodd, M. (2014, August 31). Safe scares: How 9/11 caused the American horror remake trend (Part One). http://themissingslate.com/2014/08/31/safe-scares-how-911-caused-the-american-horror-remake-trend-part-one/#.VARTBvldUgs

Kaplan, M.; Akalın, M. & Bali M. (1973). Köroğlu Destanı. Anlt. Behçet Mahir. Ankara: Ankara Üniversitesi Yayınları.

Kast, V. (1992). How fairy tales deal with evil: Thematic approaches to the fairy tale as a dynamic process. In Mario Jacoby, Verena Kast and Ingrid Riedel eds. Witches, Ogres, and the Devil’s Daughter: Encounters with Evil in Fairy Tales. Boston and London: Shambhala Publications, pp. 16– 39.

McGinn, C. (2003). Ethics, Evil, and Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sanders, S. M. (2008). Picturing paranoia: Interpreting invasion of the body snatchers. In Steven M. Sanders eds. The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film. Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, pp. 55-72.

Wood, D. (2001, May 1). Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) (Review). BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2001/05/01/invasion_of_the_body_snatchers_1956_review.shtml

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