Alevi-Bektashi Judaism

The Deer of Naphtali and the Lion of Judah.

The Deer of Naphtali and the Lion of Judah in a famous Alevi-Bektashi depiction.

Alevism and Bektashism are a major contemporary form of very ancient Crypto-Judaism as currently existing primarily in Turkey, Kurdistan, Northern Cyprus, Bulgaria and Greater Albania but also elsewhere in the region and more lately in Western Europe as well and in particular so in Germany. The following book is the first overview of Alevi-Bektashi Judaism (more specifically largely focusing on Zaza Kurdish Alevism) in any language and took several years of compiling and verifying information using journalistic methods

1. Intro
> Alevi-Bektashi Judaism
2. Hereditary Priests
3. Personal Religious Status
4. Life Rites
5. Ritual Fire
6. Animal Sacrifice
7. Metaphysics
8. Gender
9. Prayers, Blessings and Dancing
10. Morality
11. Ritual Objects
12. Exotericism and Esotericism
13. Organization
14. Calendar
> Crypto-Jewish Culture of Anatolia
15. Historical Context
16. Tree and Wood
17. Rocks and Stones
18. Water
19. Days
20. Nights and the Moon
21. Mourning in Bereavement
22. Amulets
23. Animals
24. Bread
25. Reverse Discourse
26. Nails
27. Shabbat
28. Hıdırellez (Israel)
29. Miscellaneous

1. Intro

Kizilbash (Safavid Alevi) soldier with Jewish hat as part of the military uniform.

Kizilbash (Safavid Alevi) soldier with Jewish hat as part of the military uniform.

Alevi-Bektashi (Alevi-Bektaşi) is a form of Crypto-Judaism (i.e. secret Judaism) primarily in Anatolia, Kurdistan/Zazaistan, Northern Cyprus, the Balkans and lately Germany but also elsewhere and form part of Priestly Judaism, a family of Crypto-Jewish denominations with a shared historical origin that are still led by hereditary priests as generally once in the land of Israel in Antiquity. Alevi-Bektashi are particularly closely related to Alawites, Druze, SamaritansYarsanis (including Kakayis and Shabaks) and Yezidis that are fellow Middle Eastern denominations of Priestly Judaism. The Dönmeh were originally rabbinic Jews who under the leadership of Sabbatai Zevi joined the Bektashi order, although so as to avoid Ottoman religious persecution outwardly claimed to have converted to Islam.

Medieval European Jewish hat in red.

Medieval European Jewish hat in red.

While maintaining a Muslim-style exoteric surface, most Alevis and Bektashis simply do not practice Islam at all. It is a common misconception that Alevi-Bektashi are somehow syncretistic when in fact Alevi-Bektashi Judaism is almost entirely, strictly and comprehensively Crypto-Judaism. Alevi-Bektashi more precisely constitute a paradoxically overt form of Esoteric Judaism as mostly based on Biblical Judaism with later historical influences from other forms of Crypto-Judaism and Judaism, including specifically from Rabbinic Judaism. Ancient Alevi-Bektashi historically developed into Hellenistic Judaism and still constitute Hellenistic Judaism together with Alawism, the Crypto-Judaism of the Alawite people.

Symbolic tree with 12 branches in Alevi Cemevi (literally meaning synagogue) esoterically symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel with the stem of the tree symbolizing the biblical Levite ancestors of Alevis who converted the Canaanites to what became the Israelite religion.

Symbolic tree with 12 branches in Alevi Cemevi (literally meaning synagogue) esoterically symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel with the stem of the tree symbolizing the biblical Levite ancestors of Alevis who converted the Canaanites to what became the Israelite religion.

Alevi-Bektashi and Priestly Judaism generally were once very widespread in the wider region having expanded throughout the ages until Islamic conquest in existing in parallel symbiosis with first Zoroastrianism, then Hellenism and later Christianity. However, even those Muslim or Christian populations (such as indigenous Anatolian Muslims) that still maintain Alevi-Bektashi folk culture despite their Bektashi (and Alevi) ancestors having involuntarily left Alevi-Bektashi religion do remain Crypto-Jewish as well. In most respects do indigenous Anatolians whether Alevis, Bektashis or indigenous Anatolian Muslim share the same Alevi-Bektashi folk culture as Alevi-Bektashi religion and Alevi-Bektashi folk culture are closely related indeed. However, Bektashis among Kurdish-speakers and Zazaki-speakers were persecuted by Ottoman religious imperialism to the point of extinction which meant that historically Alevis only and virtually no Bektashis remained in Kurdistan/Zazaistan. Most indigenous Anatolian Muslims are descended from more or less involuntarily Islamized Bektashis.

> Alevi-Bektashi Judaism

2. Hereditary Priests

Ottoman-era Alevi Dede blows the Alevi shofar.

Ottoman-era Alevi Dede of the Bektashi order blows the Alevi-Bektashi shofar.

Alevi-Bektashi are divided into three hereditary patrilineal classes; (1) Alevi Dedes, (2) Alevis and (3) Bektashis similar to the patrilineal division of rabbinic Jews into (1) Kohanim, (2) Levites and (3) Israelites. However, Alevi Dedes are further religiously subdivided into three types of priestly patrilineage, namely mürşit, pir and rehber. This is similar to the division of ancient Levites into three main groups, the Gershonites, the Kohathites and the Merarites as per the biblical narrative.

The collective class of Alevi Dedes is known in Turkish as ocakzades meaning sons of house. Alevi Dedes are religously considered Alevis in precisely the same way that rabbinically Jewish Kohanim are religiously considered Levites.

Jewish shofar

Jewish shofar

Alevis in being Levites do not marry Bektashis and this is a Crypto-Jewish ritual precaution so as to protect their ritual purity in what is preparation for future service in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. Alevi Dede families generally marry ordinary Alevis, but an Alevi Dede cannot marry an Alevi divorcee or visit a funeral and the precise same restrictions exist for Kohanim in Rabbinic Judaism. Alevis do not marry Bektashis due to the fact that Bektashism liberally accepts converts and an Alevi person is not supposed to marry a Bektashi just as a Kohen is not supposed to marry a convert to Rabbinic Judaism. Alevis can and sometimes marry Levites from the other denominations of Priestly Judaism, including Mandaeans who are all Levites. In Priestly Judaism generally, a member of the priestly caste (Levites) and a member of the non-priestly caste (non-Levites) are normally not allowed to marry each other, although initiation into the Levite tribe is possible for this purpose.

Alevi Dede on mountain pilgrimage.

Alevi Dede on mountain pilgrimage.

The Kohanim patrilineal priestly caste in Rabbinic Judaism still retains the ancient religious function of blessing the people (birkat hakohanim Priestly Prayer ceremony) as do Alevi Dedes individually in Alevism. Full-body prostration in Rabbinic Judaism has become increasingly rare despite full-body prostration having been an important feature of the historical Jewish religious worship on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Alevis do still prostrate when blessed by an Alevi Dede. Symbolic prostration by resting the head on the arm is however still performed during the daily Tachanun prayer in Rabbinic Judaism. An Alevi Dede must also be a mürebbi, meaning a moral guide, i.e. an Alevi rabbi.

Haredi Kohanim

Haredi Kohanim

Many religious terms in Alevism/Bektashism have dual etymologies, both an exoteric Muslim etymology and an esoteric Jewish etymology. The word Alevi is simply a form of the Hebrew name HaLevi which means the Levite or the Levitical and is also a common Jewish family name. Bektash comes from the Hebrew BeKodesh, literally in sacred meaning sanctified. While supposedly the word Dede comes from the homonymous word for grandfather in Arabic, the word Dede is actually esoterically derived from the Hebrew word Dod meaning uncle and its first person singular possessive mode is Dodi, i.e. my uncle. Also, Dod has the exact same Hebrew spelling as the name David, namely DWD. Both David and Dod mean beloved as in the famous pre-Shabbat rabbinically Jewish hymn Lekha dodi which means come my beloved in Hebrew. Alevis are also called Kizilbash which means redhead in Turkish which is a reference to King David who according to traditional interpretations of the biblical text had red hair, admoni in Hebrew, literally meaning a person who has earth-colored hair. An Alevi Dede cannot marry a widow of a male murder victim which is a reference to the way King David had Uriah the Hittite killed so as to be able to marry his wife Bathsheba.

Alevi Dede during Cem.

Alevi Dede during Cem.

The word Dodi (my Beloved, my Uncle) was originally apparently used by Alevis as an honorific title when approaching an Alevi Dede. This is a direct parallel to the word rabbi in rabbinic Judaism which originally had exactly the same function and literally means my Master in Hebrew. Just as dodi is a possessive form of the Hebrew dod, so is the designation rabbi originally a possessive form of the Hebrew rav. As hereditary priests (Hebrew kohanim) were originally the nobility in ancient Israel, the possessive reference Dodi is hence rather unsurprising as similar nominally emotional possessive terms were historically commonly used to approach nobility such as e.g. the English my Lord.

Italian statue of King David.

Italian statue of King David.

Also, Alevi Dedes are traditionally literally treated as beloved “kings” as Alevi commoners in sometimes prostrating in front of an Alevi Dede seemingly behaviorally imply that Alevi Dedes are “kings” in the Israelite tradition of the ancient King David. Alevis still kiss the hands of Alevi Dedes similar to how the hands of important Mizrahi rabbis are kissed by Mizrahi Jews. Genetic studies on the patrilineal descent of Alevi Dede families will be needed and it will be interesting to see how far patrilineal genetic descents of Alevi Dedes indeed go back in Jewish history and this should be compared with the respective haplogroups (genetic patrilineage) of Kohen families in both Judaism and Crypto-Judaism, including in the various denominations of Priestly Judaism. Dede also means Davidi (Hebrew for Davidic) thus almostly explicitly implying that Alevi Dedes and other Kohanim are patrilineally descended from the historical, polygamous King David rather than from the mythical Aaron the high priest.

Symbols of the 12 tribes of ancient Israel.

Symbols of the 12 tribes of ancient Israel.

The Turkish term Ocak for hereditary Alevi Dedes may possibly have the same Jewish esoteric etymological origins as the Druze name for its endogamous priestly Levite caste, namely the Arabic word Uqqal and the word Ocakzades which is Turkish for sons of house meaning the sons of Israel (Hebrew Bnei Israel, Arabic Bani Israil) of the House of David as Bani Israil is a common reference terms to Jews and Crypto-Jews in the cultural context of the civilization of Islamdom.

As each religious rabbinic Jew is supposed to be an adherent of one rabbi of her/his own liking and choice and subsequently follow that very rabbi’s specific religious instructions, so is an Alevi person likewise supposed to adhere to the instructions of one very specific Alevi Dede. Hence rural Alevis in Anatolia are supposed to adhere to the specific instructions of the Dede of her/his own village although sometimes a rural Alevi Dede is religiously responsible for more than one Alevi village. Alevis living in cities may adhere to  the Dede of her/his own village of origin, to an urban Alevi Dede with related tribal genealogy or to an Alevi Dede from the Bektashi order.

Alevi Dede leading Cem.

Alevi Dede leading Cem.

Similar to the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, the beards of Dedes are considered sacred and must therefore not be touched by hands of others. It is therefore common for Alevi Dedes to have long uncut beards similar to those of many Haredi (strictly Orthodox) Jewish men. Alevi Dedes also tend to cover their heads and have since the 20th century also tended to use conservative, traditional Ashkenazi clothing now primarily associated with Haredi Jews. Alevi gender equality relative to what tends to be the lesser degree of gender equality among religious Anatolian Muslims serves as an important Alevi identity marker, yet even so only Alevi males of Dede patrilineage may become Alevi Dedes. The religious status of Bat Kohen meaning in Hebrew Daughter of Kohen exists in Alevi Dede families as well and there are even historical cases where an Alevi Bat Kohen has served some of the local functions of the institution of Alevi Dedelik (“dedeship”). Alevi Dede patrilineages have genealogical scrolls similar to those of the fellow Para-Jewish Pashtun people who practice Pashtunwali Judaism.

Young Alevi Dede leading Cem.

Young Alevi Dede leading Cem.

Succession for Dedelik takes place through patrilineal selection and includes vital individual factors such as individual character. Succession is decided by the current Dede who educates and trains his own patrilineal successor (the most appropriate of his sons and if he has no son another male relative of the same patrilineage may be ordained), meaning that Dedelik is a kind of religious aristocracy in Alevi rural society as with the Sadducee Kohanim centered in the historical Temple in Jerusalem. Quite interestingly, the ancient Israelite practice of prophecy still exists among Alevi Dedes in Alevism.

3. Personal Religious Status

Important Alevi-Bektashi religious personalities depicted together with biblical Animal symbols representing four different Israelite tribes. The Lion of Judah and the Wolf of Benjamin from the Southern Kingdom of Judah and the Deer of Naphtali and the Serpent of Dan from the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Important Alevi-Bektashi religious personalities depicted together with biblical Animal symbols representing four different Israelite tribes. The Lion of Judah and the Wolf of Benjamin from the Southern Kingdom of Judah and the Deer of Naphtali and the Serpent of Dan from the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

From the perspective of Halakha (rabbinic law), Alevis are halakhically Jewish because Alevi mothers are Jewish and Alevis are likewise Levites because Alevi fathers are Levites as being born into Alevism requires being born from two Alevi parents. Thus have Alevis dual Jewish and Levite descent precisely as each and every Levite within rabbinic Jewry must have both a Jewish mother and a Levite father.

While nearly all Alevis in Anatolia are exoterically convinced that conversion into Alevism is not possible, this is not really accurate although conversion into Alevism in Anatolia is rare indeed and usually highly secretive, in part precisely because of this very exoteric belief among most Alevis. Alevism being Judaism is not racism and certainly does accept persons whom Alevi Dedes may deem to be sincere converts. By joining Bektashism almost anyone can become Jewish, similar to in Hellenistic Judaism as Alevi-Bektashi Judaism was known in Antiquity.

World headquarters of the Bektashi order in Tirana, Albania.

World headquarters of the Bektashi order in Tirana, Albania.

However as Alevis are Levites, tribal initiation into the Levite tribe is actually in a sense quite simple. The person who desires to become Alevi must first become accepted by an Alevi Dede who subsequently invites the person to participate in the Cem ceremonies, pronounced ‘Djem’. Through this very participation a Human person becomes both Jewish and Levite. While Bektashism will quickly accept almost any Human person, Alevism precisely as halakhic Rabbinic Judaism is usually far more selective and normally quite cautious with regard to acceptance of new converts.

Levites ritually wash the hands of Kohanim prior to the Priestly Blessing.

Levites ritually wash the hands of Kohanim prior to the Priestly Blessing.

While a rabbinically Jewish Kohen or an Alevi Dede is not supposed to marry a new convert, they are certainly free to marry descendants of converts to Rabbinic Judaism and Alevism respectively. In the case of an Alevi person and a rabbinic Jew who is not of Levite patrilineal descent, yet desiring to marry each other through an Alevi wedding ceremony, the rabbinic Jew must simply be invited to and subsequently participate in the Alevi Cem ceremonies and so join the Levite tribe. Members of Priestly Judaism may of course also marry each other or rabbinic Jews through a rabbinically Jewish wedding ceremony in Israel or elsewhere in the world.

Cemda, the Alevi-Bektashi vessel used for the ritual washing of hands.

Twelver Shi’a Muslims and Sunni Muslims are not accepted as Alevis although for political purposes so as to encourage Islamization of Alevi-Bektashi and Alawites those two Crypto-Jewish streams of Priestly Judaism were “officially recognized” by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as “Twelver Shi’a Muslims” despite certainly not practicing Twelver Shia Islam and this remains the official position of the Islamic Republic of Iran which is not exactly known for being especially careful with the truth in for instance publically encouraging Holocaust denial and officially promoting belief in Anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. The Islamist regime in the Islamic Republic of Iran is profoundly Anti-Semitic and hence views further Islamization of Crypto-Jewish communities in Islamdom as an important religious and geopolitical goal in and of itself and hence its support for the secular Alawite-dominated Syrian regime against Sunni Islamist Jihadists.

Famous Alevi-Bektashi poets.

Famous Alevi-Bektashi poets.

An Alevi person may in principle however be either Christian or Rabbinically Jewish yet remain fully Alevi. Alevis may in contrast never become Muslim in any normative sense of Islam while at the same time remaining Alevi. Marriage is not religiously possible with Muslims for Alevis, but is certainly mutually possible with Rabbinic Jews as endogamous Alevis and members of other denominations of Priestly Judaism remain Halakhically Jewish i.e. they are still considered Jewish in accordance with rabbinically Jewish law.

Alevis tend to hold favorable views of Christians and Rabbinic Jews, yet also tend to be critical of Islam and maintain a principled politico-religious opposition to so called “Arabian religion” which is after all what historical Islam is really supposed to have originally constituted in a normative sense of Islam although as it happens most elements of Sharia were actually historically imported from rabbinic Halakha. This also explains the seeming superficial similarities between Alevi-Bektashi and Islam. Also, Sufism emerged out of the Bektashi order and not vice versa.

Alevi victims of the 1993 Sivas massacre.

Alevi victims of the 1993 Sivas massacre.

Alevis and Bektashis as rabbinic Jews generally oppose religious imperialism i.e. the desire and striving for one’s own religion’s future world domination – support for which is after all a defining historical feature and common historical denominator between Muslim civilization and Christian civilization, but certainly not for Alevi-Bektashi Judaism or for Rabbinic Judaism. Contemporary Alevis also tend to privately and personally identify with modern Israel to some degree or another.

There are restrictions on a previously unmarried man marrying a divorcee in Alevism and in particular so if he is an Alevi Dede, something that is considered extremely improper and is indeed very similar to marriage between a Kohen and divorcee in Rabbinic Judaism which is similarly possible yet here too traditionally very much frowned upon and in theory forbidden although not completely so in actual practice. Such marriage is thus in theory and in practice religiously possible in both traditions, yet even so considered highly improper.

Jewish sandek

Jewish sandek

It is also not considered acceptable for an Alevi man to marry the daughter of his own Sandek (Hebrew for companion of child which refers to the adult male who holds the boy on his lap during brit milah, Jewish circumcision) which is comparable to restrictions on marriage to a daughter of a Kohen (Hebrew Bat Kohen) who similarly is not supposed to marry a male who has converted to Judaism. As a further similar restriction in Alevism it is also not considered proper to marry the son or the daughter of a couple that has entered a state of Alevi Spiritual Brotherhood (Müsahiplik, manevi kardeslik in Turkish) with one’s own parents. Spiritual Brotherhood is known as chavruta in Rabbinic Judaism and means companionship and friendship in Aramaic.

European artistic rendition of Ruth.

European artistic rendition of Ruth.

In all these cases is there a sense of adoption as this is how the “original” conversion to Judaism in the biblical Book of Ruth is certainly conceived of in Judaism as the Moabite Ruth is in effect “adopted” by her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi whom she thus decides to join fate and faith with. Converts to Rabbinic Judaism are thus religiously considered as adoptees of Sarah the matriarch and Abraham the patriarch. Religious personal status in Alevism is however primarily by descent just as in Rabbinic Judaism and conversion into the religion is certainly not encouraged in most cases and is often (but not necessarily so) severely restricted in both Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism.

It is also quite possible that the plate left for the prophet Elijah at the ritual meal during the first pilgrimage festival in the spring in both Alevism (Hizir Cemi) and Rabbinic Judaism (Pesach/Passover) was originally in ancient times actually intended for the purpose of adoptive initiation of converts, since Elijah’s plate is a particularly important example of Judaism’s waiting for and indeed welcoming of the other which is a central theme in Jewish ethics.

Chair of Elijah, used during Brit Milah, the Jewish ceremony of circumcision.

Chair of Elijah, used during Brit Milah, the Jewish ceremony of circumcision.

Alevis who convert to normative Islam (whether to Sunni Islam or to Shi’a Islam) are considered ethnic, national and religious defectors by fellow Alevis as Rabbinic Judaism generally takes the same view of any rabbinic Jew who converts to Islam or to Christianity. Opposition to religious exogamy (intermarriage) and severely restricted access to conversion thus exists in both Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism; the restricted access to conversion largely being a historical response to persecution on the part of religious imperialism against both Jewish religious communities.

The very first page in the Babylonian Talmud.

The very first page in the Babylonian Talmud.

Both Alevis and Rabbinic Jews have however unlike Islam abolished polygyny (i.e. one male being married to several females) which as a practice was historically accepted in Biblical Judaism. The fact that Alevis have abolished polygyny serves as an important identity marker for Anatolian Alevis in distinguishing themselves from Crypto-Bektashi Anatolian rural Muslims. While the rabbinical abolition of biblically permitted polygyny was promulgated by Rabbeinu Gershom (Gershom ben Judah born in 960 CE) who lived in the western German city of Mainz, it remains unclear however whether Alevism abolished polygyny due to being inspired by Ashkenazi Rabbinic Judaism in the Balkans, as a culturally flexible concession to fit into Byzantine Christian civilization or so as to prevent male Alevi intermarriage with Muslim women under Islamic rule that could potentially have triggered anti-Alevi persecution by Muslims.

Early 8th century Byzantine Empire.

Early 8th century Byzantine Empire.

Alevis and members of other branches of Priestly Judaism remain completely halakhically Jewish from a rabbinically Jewish point of view for the simple reason that they are neither Muslim nor Christian, although during the Byzantine period Anatolian Hellenistic Judaism (Alevi-Bektashi) and Hellenistic Christianity were so profoundly demographically intertwined to the degree that the two religions came to encompass most of the population of historical Anatolia. Most of those Anatolians who were later more or less involuntarily converted to Islam during Islamic rule remained Jewish as Crypto-Bektashi Anatolian Muslims in retaining a rural Alevi-Bektashi folk culture still culturally shared by most indigenous Anatolian Muslims with indigenous Alevis and Bektashis in Anatolia. Bektashis of dual Bektashi parentage are also halakhically Jewish under rabbinic law although recent converts to Bektashism are technically not considered so as long as they also remain Muslim.

Cem in Cemevi with twelve sun rays esoterically symbolizing the twelve tribes of ancient Israel.

Cem in Cemevi with twelve sun rays esoterically symbolizing the twelve tribes of ancient Israel.

While in principle conversion to endogamous Alevism is possible by invitation to participate in Cem, the possibility of conversion is not generally acknowledged by most Alevis who incorrectly tend to believe that conversion to Alevism is not possible at all. In practice, the primary venue for conversion into Alevi-Bektashi Judaism remains Bektashism as Bektashis warmly welcomes conversion into Bektashism and especially reconversion by Islamized Crypto-Jews. Even Anatolian Bektashis consider themselves ‘Alevis’ in a religious sense although most Alevis will not recognize Bektashis as Alevis and certainly not so in the sense of being eligible for marriage with Alevis.

Entrance to a Bektashi building in Albania.

Entrance to a Bektashi building in Albania.

Generally, being accepted by endogamous Alevism as Alevi requires being born with two Alevi parents. A non-Alevi person may however become secretly initiated into Alevism even without his/her own knowledge by being invited to participate in an Alevi Cem celebration. This is how Kizilbash Alevis hosted American missionaries in 19th century Anatolia who instead of converting their Alevi hosts to Christianity, were themselves to their great surprise and without their own prior knowledge actually converted into Alevism by becoming invited to participate in and subsequently participating in at the time highly secretive nocturnal celebration of Cem.

The very existence of Romani Alevis in Anatolia is living evidence of converts being accepted into Alevism as the ancestors of Romani Alevis were at some point in history converted to Alevism. There are also Alevi families that still carry Mizrahi/Sephardi family names, this having resulted from rabbinically Jewish males being accepted into Alevism when marrying Alevi females.

King Jehu of Israel prostrates in front of King Shalmaneser III of Assyria.

King Jehu of Israel prostrates in front of King Shalmaneser III of Assyria.

Alevis and members of other denominations of Priestly Judaism are from the rabbinic halakhic point of view considered to have the halakhic status of tinok shenishba, meaning a religiously innocent so called captive infant which in the context of Rabbinic Judaism means that as long as individual members of Priestly Judaism remain unaware of themselves actually being Israelite (meaning Jewish), they also logically remain bound by Israelite law that already existed prior to the Assyrian deportations but are expected to adhere by Halakha (rabbinic religious law) only once they become aware of themselves being Jewish/Israelite.

The descent of Levites and Kohanim is still counted patrilineally. European depiction of a High Priest (Kohen Gadol i.e. Grand Kohen) of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The descent of Levites and Kohanim is still counted patrilineally. European depiction of a High Priest (Kohen Gadol i.e. Grand Kohen) of the Temple in Jerusalem.

This means that a gentile woman who marries an Alevi man plus their joint children in marriage would all be considered halakhically Jewish from a rabbinic point of view since according to Israelite law as per prior to the Assyrian deportation a non-Israelite woman who married an Israelite became Israelite herself as did their common children in marriage. This is so despite the fact that halakhic Rabbinic Judaism generally does not otherwise recognize patrilineal descent for the purpose of recognizing someone as Jewish as per religious personal status in a contemporary societal context.

While a person with one Alevi parent and one non-Alevi parent is generally not considered Alevi by Alevis; that person may actually become Alevi by becoming invited to participate in and subsequently participate in Cem. A gentile may also convert into Rabbinic Judaism and subsequently become fully Alevi by marrying an Alevi by birth and participating in Alevi Cem as Alevism of course accepts Jews as Jews, including sincere converts to Rabbinic Judaism. However, an Alevi person who converts to Islam or Christianity although remaining fully Jewish is then subsequently technically treated as non-Jewish for nearly all religious purposes by Rabbinic Judaism.

4. Life Rites

Ashkenazi Upsherin

Ashkenazi Upsherin

There is the institution of the sandek in both Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism, meaning that an adult male community member is given the honor of holding the boy in his lap during circumcision. The sandek is known as kirve in Alevism. Name-giving ceremonies of infants are also held in both Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism. In the Alevi ceremony, the name is whispered into the ear of the infant and then there are festivities. Traditional Alevi sons do not have their hair cut until circumcision at age seven, meaning at the eight year rather than the eight day.  Such ritual cutting of hair is known as Upsherin among certain Haredi Ashkenazi communities and the hair of sons in the rabbinically Jewish communities where this is practiced is cut at the age of three for all sons in these communities.

Alevi boy

In Anatolian folk culture it is considered good luck for a father to carry hair from his son in his pocket. There is also a similar tradition (bisk ceremony) among the Yezidis, another denomination of Priestly Judaism and is considered as a ceremony of initation. This involves cutting two or three hair locks from a 7-11 months old baby boy although historically this was hair was handed over to hereditary Yezidi priests when the boy was 40 days old. It may be that this Jewish tradition was a sacrificial one in Antiquity, whereby parents offered pieces of hair from their sons for to the hereditary priests for the purpose of temple sacrifice. This may have been religiously instituted by ancient Judaism as a religious substitute for pre-Israelite child sacrifice. The fact that this practice pertains only to firstborn boys in Alevism may indicate that that this religious cutting of hair freed firstborn boys from service in the Temple in Jerusalem. In fact, the practice of freeing firstborn boys from the obligation of temple service exists even today in Judaism in the form of parents giving coins to kohanim, Jewish hereditary priests through the Pidyon haBen ceremony.

Pidyon haBen ceremony

Pidyon haBen ceremony

Mothers are considered sacred in Alevism as are human females generally in Rabbinic Judaism. Yet for Alevism this also implies monogamy and gender equality as also in non-Orthodox contemporary modern Rabbinic Judaism whose rabbis tend to view ancient Hellenistic Judaism as in some ways a religious model and historical guide although this was not traditionally the case in Rabbinic Judaism in pre-modern times.

The matchmaking process is secret in both Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism and is usually managed by an older married woman intermediary who in both forms of Judaism carries strictly private messages between the man and the woman thus potentially interested in marrying each other. The pre-marriage process in both traditions is considered highly confidential and information received through this process may not be shared by the unmarried man or by the unmarried woman with anyone else other than their respective closest family.

Alevi Erusin (ritual betrothal in Judaism) including ritual consumption of wine (as in Rabbinic Erusin), butter & honey (symbolizing the land of milk and honey, a metaphor for Israel) as well as bread which is indeed otherwise ritually consumed in Rabbinic Judaism. There is exchange of coins and rings as in Rabbinic Judaism. A ceramic vessel is crushed and is subsequently stepped upon by the fiancé. During both Alevi weddings and rabbinically Jewish weddings, a glass vessel is crushed by the groom. The crushing of a glass vessel also exists in Anatolian folk culture, although Crypto-Bektashi indigenous Anatolian Muslim grooms perform this only after arriving home from wedding. Erusin is today performed as part of the wedding in Rabbinic Judaism while it is still a separate ceremony in both time and space in Alevism.

European depiction of Eve picking an apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Etz haDa’at Tov vaRa).

As comparable to the particularly famous apple-eating in the biblical Book of Genesis (Hebrew Bereshit, meaning “Beginning”) – during Zaza Alevi weddings in the Dersim (Tuncel) region the bride and the groom each consumes their half of one for this purpose bisected apple. The two parts of the apple symbolize the male and the female aspects of God and the world, the sacred reunion of those two sides in marriage and esoterically the messianic hope for such reunion between Overt Israel and Secret Israel. The consumption of the two halves of the bisected apple is thus in remembrance of the creation myth of Adam and Eve and their famous jointly decided embrace of esoteric divine knowledge to the inclusion of sexuality by eating the purposely “forbidden” and hence of course attractive fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The consumption of the apple is thus also literally the “Beginning” of married life as preceding the subsequent consummation of marriage.

As in Rabbinic Judaism two wedding witnesses are required for performing a wedding in Alevism. Alevi wedding couples drink a sugar-flavored drink and the officiating Dede declares the two married. Something sweet is then eaten. Subsequently as in Rabbinic Judaism grape juice is ritually consumed by the married two, although in Rabbinic Judaism grape juice usually takes the shape of grape wine. As with the Shabbat and other holiday Kiddush blessing over wine in Rabbinic Judaism; it is in Alevism and Bektashism the grape juice that is religiously required and not the alcohol per se. The Alevi wedding consumption of apple, sweets and grape juice is comparable to rabbinically Jewish consumption of apple, honey, wine and pomegranate during Rosh Hashanah (literally “Head of the Year”), the rabbinically Jewish New Year. Alevis believe that the coming of the next year symbolizes the anniversary of the creation of the world and also hence the creation of Adam and Eve. It is thus not exactly coincidental that apples are eaten on Rosh Hashanah considering the significant importance ascribed to so called ‘forbidden fruit’ i.e. in part also symbolically sexualized apple-eating in the Book of Genesis therefore also symbolizing the consummation of previously “forbidden fruit” so to speak through consummation of Alevi marriage.

Studying in pairs of chavruta in yeshiva.

Studying in pairs of chavruta in yeshiva.

While women participate in Cem without segregation as they do in the Passover Seder; for Alevis to participate in Cem they should (strictly speaking) be married with another Alevi person and have entered Spiritual Brotherhood (Müsahiplik, manevi kardeslik in Turkish) with another Alevi married couple. This expresses a common Israelite origin historically comparable to the practice of Chavruta in Rabbinic Judaism in which traditionally two males studying Jewish scripture together develop personal ties as close as or even closer than even between husband and wife. Just as yeshiva (Talmudically Jewish religious seminary) study really is not possible without engaging in chavruta study with at least one study partner so is Alevi Cem strictly speaking not possible without Alevi Spiritual Brotherhood, the exception to this rule being initiation of non-Alevi converts to Alevism by inviting them to participate in Cem.

Medieval European depiction of David and Jonathan embracing each other.

Medieval European depiction of David and Jonathan embracing each other.

This may also in part be the origin of the common Muslim libel in Anatolia alleging that Alevis as a matter of ceremonial protocol engage in sexual orgies during Cem, namely the-blow-out-the-candle-lights libel (Turkish mum söndü). While Müsahiplik is supposed to be derived from the Arabic word Sahib meaning “companion”, it may rather be esoterically intended as a reference to Moses (Musa in Turkish) and his companionship with his brother Aaron, who in biblical exoteric historiography was the first Israelite high priest. It is thus possible that Müsahiplik was referred to as Moisesphilia in Byzantine times. It would likely also further refer to the companionship between David and Jonathan as narrated in the Hebrew Bible as this famous relationship is likely be the religious origin of both chavruta study in Rabbinic Judaism and Müsahiplik in Alevism.

Ketubah, the Jewish marital contract.

Ketubah, the Jewish marital contract.

In rural Anatolia for both Muslims and Bektashis rural marriage is typically patrilocal; meaning that villages of even different ethnicities and exogamous sects exchange brides and the bride generally moves to the groom’s village. Bektashi villages may exchange brides with Crypto-Alevi Muslim villages with the Sunni Muslim bride hence moving to the Bektashi village thus being converted to Bektashism while a Bektashi bride moving to a Crypto-Alevi Muslim village correspondingly becomes part of Sunni Islam. Alevi villages do instead practice tribal endogamy, meaning that marriage is preferably entered into within the local tribal unit, which apparently reflects ancient Israelite marriage practices. Inter-Alevi tribal exogamy is however permitted (although considered less preferable) and Bektashi Alevis and Kurdish/Zaza Alevis may also marry each other yet not regular Bektashis due to the particularly welcoming contemporary attitude of Bektashism towards conversion into Bektashism. While Bektashism has always existed even outside specifically Bektashi rural villages with the same hierarchic organization as Sufi orders, including in cities of Anatolia and the Balkans, today most Alevis (both Turkish-speaking Bektashi Alevis and Kurdish/Zaza Alevis) now live in cities of Anatolia and Germany where Alevi cultural centers are the new centers of both community and religious worship.

It was necessary to pass four gates in order to enter the Temple in Jerusalem. Miniature reconstruction of the Second Temple.

It was necessary to pass four gates in order to enter the Temple in Jerusalem. Miniature reconstruction of the Second Temple.

For Alevis there are four main stages or “Four Gates” of epistemological initiation into the spiritual path (yol in Turkish) of Alevism. The Four Gates are often described as “four gates, forty levels” or in Turkish as dört kapı kırk makam. The First Gate involves basic knowledge about Alevism and how it is different from any type of normative conception of Islam. The Second Gate is only for married Alevi couples and involves commitment to Spiritual Brotherhood and adherence to the intellectual leadership of a particular Alevi Dede. The Third Gate involves greater knowledge about the esoteric nature of Alevism and it is traditionally only very few who are given access to the Fourth Gate including knowledge about the Israelite/Judaic nature and historical origin of Alevism although it is longer possible to keep such esoteric matters truly secret in a dictatorship with technologically advanced domestic espionage intelligence services such as under Kemalist and later AKP Islamist dictatorship in Anatolia. There is also an increasing degree of Anti-Semitic incitement against Alevis in pro-AKP Turkish mass media accusing Alevis of their being Jewish and also of engaging in various imaginary “Jewish conspiracies”.

An Alevi who becomes Muslim leaves Aleviness (Turkish Alevilik). However a person may still be excommunicated and declared düşkün (Turkish for shunned) on account of adultery, divorce, gossip, murder and theft, i.e. mostly for not adhering to the biblical Ten Commandments; yet otherwise actually still remain Alevi. Similar standards for excommunication are still upheld by many strictly Orthodox Jewish communities.

5. Ritual Fire

Jewish woman reciting blessing subsequent to lighting the Shabbat candles on Friday evening.

Jewish woman reciting blessing subsequent to lighting the Shabbat candles on Friday evening.

The most widespread Jewish practice among Sephardic Crypto-Jews is probably the lighting of candles by women on Friday evening. This is widespread among Alevis as well, although in many Alevi communities it is rather done on Thursday evening and this was changed and apparently so as to historically avoid persecution. However where it is done on Thursday evening, it is still referred to as Friday evening. Among Alevis it is not necessarily candles that are lit on “Friday evening” but could be any small fires.

Also, both Alevis and Rabbinic Jews bake unleavened matza bread over fire and is known as Miaze Xızıri in Zazaki, meaning the Matza of Asherah on Hizir Cemi, the Cem of Asherah in February which is followed by Hizir Orucu, the Fast of Asherah. A candelabrum is used by many Alevi communities in the celebration of Cem, reminiscent of the Menorah candelabrum and the Hanukkiah candelabrum in Rabbinic Judaism.

Alevi religious candle lighting during Birlik Cemi.

Alevi religious candle lighting during Birlik Cemi.

The Kohanim of the deported Israelite tribes became the official priesthood in the Median state and this naturally led to the Medes becoming part of Median Judaism. A fire festival was instituted to celebrate this transformational rescue and this is known as Newroz in Priestly Judaism and Lag baOmer in Rabbinic Judaism.

Lit candles during Birlik Cemi.

Lit candles during Birlik Cemi.

This is also the only context in Rabbinic Judaism where Animal sacrifice still occurs as part of the annual Lag baOmer pilgrimage to Mount Meron in northern Israel. Alevis refer to Newroz as Sultan Newroz which is a much more elaborate celebration than regular Newroz.

The Alevi Sultan Newroz exoterically celebrates three rescues, the rescue of Noah and the ark from the Great Flood, the rescue of Isaac from imminent sacrifice and the rescue of Yosef from the well. These three mythological rescues as mentioned together refer to the historical rescue of the Israelite tribes by the Medes.

6. Animal Sacrifice

Facility for the ritual washing of hands (netilat yadayim) near the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Facility for the ritual washing of hands (netilat yadayim) near the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

As orthoprax rabbinic Jews cannot eat food prepared by means of heating in non-observant kitchens so was it once considered taboo among Alevis to eat food prepared by non-Alevis. Alevi parents bless their children after the end of fasting as is done by Jewish fathers on Shabbat in Rabbinic Judaism. Hands are washed before meals in both Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism or to be more specific, among rabbinic Jews prior to eating bread. Hands are held on the wooden table while blessing the food and this is comparable to the way that the wooden rollers of torah scrolls are held while blessing the Torah.

Mount Meron (Har Meron) in the Galilee.

Mount Meron (Har Meron) in the Galilee.

Alevis engage in ritual Animal sacrifice of kosher Animal species as in ancient Israelite religion with similar methods to Jewish Shechitah slaughter and Islamic Halal slaughter although in Alevism the sacrificial Animals must be male. The seasonal celebrations of Cem and some other celebrations of Cem typically include Pascal sacrifice of Sheep similar to as in ancient Israelite religion and contemporary Samaritan Judaism although non-seasonal Cem is today often but not necessarily celebrated without Sheep sacrifice. While the ancient Jewish paschal sacrifice pertained to a male Lamb, the Alevi sacrificial male Sheep must have reached adulthood, symbolizing probably the absence of Israelite temples since being historically destroyed. Israelite Animal sacrifice still exists of course so to speak in Rabbinic Judaism in the form ritual slaughter, known as Shechitah in Hebrew as well as in the annual Lag baOmer pilgrimage to Mount Meron in the Galilee.

Jewish shechita

Jewish shechita

Alevism sacrifices kosher Animal species and Alevism maintains a particularly prominent social taboo on consumption of meat from Pigs and Rabbits/Hares as under ancient biblical Jewish law. The prohibition on eating Rabbits and Hares is especially strong for distinguishing Alevi identity from identities of Anatolian Muslims, most of whom are descended from involuntarily Islamized Christian Bektashis. This is similar indeed to how Haredi Jews sometimes refer to non-Haredi rabbinic Jews as “rabbit-eaters”. In both cases are the non-eating of meat from Rabbits considered as an important semiotic marker between the hereditary community of the faithful and those who have become self-excommunicated so to speak due to being unduly influenced by religious imperialism.

Charity is as in ancient Israel performed through Animal sacrifice and other donations (known in English as tithe in the context of Biblical Judaism) to Alevi Dedes. Food of different kinds is thus brought to Cem as tithe in the form of food as was once brought to Israelite temple in Jerusalem.

Jewish Kapparot

Jewish Kapparot

Roosters and Turkeys are sacrificed at religious shrines in ways often identical to the rabbinically Jewish, yet religiously highly controversial ceremony of Kapparot where Hens are extremely cruelly sacrificed by waving the Bird in the air and in the process often breaking the bones of the Bird. Alevi Kapparot and rabbinically Jewish Kapparot have very similar religious purposes. While rabbinic Jews who practice Kapparot semiotically externalize their own sins onto a sacrificial living Bird that is subsequently ritually slaughtered, Alevis who practice Kapparot name the Bird Gabriel, the name of an angel.

Samaritans praying on Mount Gerizim.

Samaritans praying on Mount Gerizim.

While in Biblical Judaism in ancient Canaanite Israel there was more than one regional temple, Alevis still engage in Animal sacrifice at sacred mountains as once on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem as do of course still Samaritans on Mount Gerizim; Samaritans in fact constituting the most archaic and least secretive of all the denomination of Priestly Judaism. As with Abraham’s sacrifice of a Ram (male Sheep) instead of his son Isaac and the sacrifice of the male Pascal Lamb, Alevis religiously sacrifice male Animals, primarily Sheep.

7. Metaphysics

The Budapest tomb of Ottoman Bektashi poet Gül Baba who died in 1541.

The Budapest tomb of Ottoman Bektashi poet Gül Baba who died in 1541.

Both Alevi-Bektashi Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism believe in transmigration of souls. Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism are both also religiously “performative” in the sense of not metaphysically privileging ontology (worldview); meaning that personal behavior and the performance of traditional practices are generally considered even more important than religious belief which in both streams is seen as stemming and growing from appropriate personal religious behavior. Religious belief in both Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism hence springs from religious practice and not vice versa as so famously in Christianity. Similarly in both Alevi and rabbinic traditions, descent is also considered more important than creed for determining their denominational group membership status with the exception of forbidden religious conversion to religious imperialism.

Both Bektashism and Rabbinic Judaism are explicitly non-literalist religious traditions, considering religious scripture to be esoteric literature with many possible interpretations. Specifically Alevi-Bektashi scripture are known as the Buyruks (singular Buyruk), meaning beyarok, in green; practically meaning merely superficially hidden in the guise of Islam although the word Buyruk exoterically in Turkish means adept. Thus, the Buyruks are esoterically the very envelope of the Torah, the abode of the Torah. Both lively religious discussion and uninhibited religious humor (even joking about God) are highly valued in Rabbinic Judaism as well as in Alevi-Bektashi Judaism.

The book Sha'ar Hagilgulim (Gate of Reincarnations) by rabbi Hayyim Vital (1542–1620) contains teachings of rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572).

The book Sha’ar Hagilgulim (Gate of Reincarnations) by rabbi Hayyim Vital (1542–1620) contains teachings of rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572).

There exists religious numerology in Alevism and Bektashism which is at least in part derived from the Crypto-Jewish sect of Hurufiyya as there is of course numerology (gematria) in Rabbinic Judaism as well. The Alevi notion of 72 or 73 nations refers to a famous Hadith referring to 72 or 73 different ancient Jewish sects reflecting the ancient diversity of Jewish denominations and peoples, the even today still existing tremendous diversity of Crypto-Jewish peoples and denominations worldwide and especially so in Islamdom where most Crypto-Jewish communities still remain extremely secretive about their status as Jews which is usually traditionally known if at all, only by a select initiated few in the respective community. There is a corresponding notion in Rabbinic Judaism of “70 Noahide nations” faithful to the seven Noahide commandments. Numbers 3, 5, 7, 12 and 40 are considered sacred in Alevism.

Alevis consider themselves to be part of one nation, yet nationhood outside of the Chinese/Sinitic historical context is an ancient Jewish and Hebrew Biblical conception. Alevis also as of course rabbinic Jews consider themselves to be God’s chosen people. Peoplehood love (Ahavat Israel in Hebrew) is also crucially required among both Alevis and rabbinic Jews.

Bukharan Jews in Samarkand in the early 20th century.

Bukharan Jews in Samarkand in the early 20th century.

The Alevi seemingly dogmatic adherence to certain doctrinal tenets of Islam is actually doctrinal adherence to tenets of Judaism, constituting historical similarities embodying common origins, as Islam itself like Christianity historically mostly emerged out of historical Judaism as is acknowledged even in Islam in the sense of Islam recognizing pre-Islamic Judaism as “pre-Muhammad Islam”. There are similarly and in comparable ways also three-way similarities between Alevism, Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. Thus, similarities between Alevism on the one hand and Christianity or Islam on the other are mostly due to Jewish/Crypto-Jewish influences on these other religions whose origins lie most in historical Judaism.

Jewish plate with the Hebrew word

Jewish plate with the Hebrew word “zokhreinu”, meaning “remember us”.

Many similarities between Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism may thus seem difficult to discern (and are mostly not mentioned here) as these have been historically incorporated from Jewish Halakha into Islamic Sharia (both two corpuses of religious law literally meaning “path”) and similarly from Alevi-Bektashi Judaism into Sufism. For instance, Islam and Rabbinic Judaism have very similar burial practices (such as washing the corpse and burying the dead in white) and very similar standards for ritual slaughter of Animals (the point being that Muslims recognize Jewish religious slaughter as religiously valid) yet no informed person would question that Judaism is far older and much more archaic than Islam and the same is obviously true with regard to various evolved Alevi customs such as e.g. religious dancing and religious singing that largely constitute Sufism. Obviously, Priestly Judaism generally and Alevi-Bektashi Judaism specifically are similarly far older and much more archaic than Sufism. Sufism is simply for the most part globally a form of Bektashism for non-Jews although there are obviously many, many Crypto-Jewish adherents of Sufism.

The Talmud is based on Jewish Oral Law.

The Talmud is based on Jewish Oral Law.

As historically in Rabbinic Judaism there is an important distinction between Written Law and Oral Law. There is thus also a religious division of labor between Alevism and Bektashism so that Bektashism maintains written religious literature that is also used by Bektashi Alevis while non-Bektashi Alevis tend to epistemologically limit themselves to the transmission of Alevi Oral law. Public Torah reading existed in Alevism up until the 19th century.

There is a view in Rabbinic Judaism that the Third Temple in messianic times will come down from heaven and land on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Many Alevis similarly believe that the Third Temple has already been constructed in heaven. Obviously for believers in this idea, if the temple is to come down from heaven, it would logically make sense if the Temple had already been constructed in heaven prior to its descent onto Mount Moriah.

Judaism and Crypto-Judaism are fundamentally about ensuring ethnic, national and religious survival until and beyond the coming of the expected mashiach (messiah). The exterior exoteric lifestyles of Judaism and Crypto-Judaism such as Alevism often stand in sharp contrast to the shared common interior, i.e. Esoteric Judaism. There is in fact tremendous difference between the religious interior and religious exterior and this gap is even more pronounced in Rabbinic Judaism than in Alevism which is far more open about its being esoteric. Yet Esoteric Judaism brings Rabbinic Judaism and Priestly Judaism together.

8. Gender

Bacı women

Bacı women

Alevis often express pride in having a relatively greater degree of gender equality than have usually rural Anatolian Muslims; yet hereditary priesthood is nevertheless one thing still exclusively limited to Alevi men of priestly patrilineage and of course precisely so as in Rabbinic Judaism.

In Rabbinic Judaism, the moon symbolizes the female aspect of God as human menstruation and the moon follows roughly a 30-day monthly schedule. Various star/sun symbols are also used by Alevis and Bektashis and especially so on tombstones and as choreographically enacted Semah during Cem. Both rabbinic Judaism and Alevism consider females to be symbolically impure during menstruation. Both religious traditions prohibit sexual marital relations while females are menstruating.

Rosette of Inanna

Rosette of Inanna

It is clear in this context that the seal/shield/star/sun in question is an ancient fertility symbol, namely the Sumerian Rosette of Inanna. This variously designed symbol (c.f. the Star of Venus) is hence basically a depiction of the female sexual organ as manually outstretched by multiple fingers in celebration of female fertility. This makes sense as Judaism has its roots in Sumerian religion which embraced female sexuality in its temples where ritual sex was performed. Indeed, the female aspect of God (Shekhina) is important in historical Hellenistic Judaism, in contemporary Alevism and also in rabbinically Jewish mysticism. In fact, varying forms of this Sumerian fertility symbol happens to indeed be particularly well-represented in the respective Israeli, Druze, Kurdish and Alawite flags. Yet, the historical memory of these ancient Sumerian rituals may still have contributed to the common libel against Alevis and Bektashis which falsely claims that Alevis and Bektashis engage in incest and heterosexual orgies.

From Bektashi village which is a holy city in Alevi-Bektashi Judaism and the most important destination for Alevi and Bektashi pilgrimage.

From Bektashi village which is a holy city in Alevi-Bektashi Judaism and the most important destination for Alevi and Bektashi pilgrimage.

“Ali” in Alevi-Bektashi Judaism is merely an Arabized form of the Hebrew name Eli (spelled ayin-lamed-yud in Hebrew), the biblical high priest whose name means “spiritual ascent”. Another spelling of the name Eli (spelled alef-lamed-yud in Hebrew) means “My God”, meaning the God of Israel – the God of Jacob which is also a short form of several different Hebrew names such as Elijah/Eliahu, Elimelech and Elisha. Significantly, Elisheva was the wife of Aaron (the first high priest and brother of Moses) according the biblical narrative and hence the exoteric emphasis on “Ali” implicitly also signifying the bi-gendered nature of God in Esoteric Judaism as Alevis sometimes exoterically claim that Ali and Muhammad are two sides of the same divine personality. The female version of the Arabic name Ali is Aliyah which in Hebrew means spiritual ascent to Torah reading, pilgrimage to the temple and immigration to the land of Israel. Aliyah as a process of movement in space and time also symbolizes the female aspect of God and indeed the embrace of the Shekhinah (the equivalent name in Arabic is Sakina), the divine presence. Mothers are considered sacred in Alevism as are human females generally in principle regarded in Rabbinic Judaism.

Some of the many Alevi versions of the Rosette of Inanna as depicted on an Alevi tomb.

Some of the many Alevi versions of the Rosette of Inanna as depicted on an Alevi tomb.

On the festival of Hıdırellez, the meeting under a rose tree of Hizir (Asherah) and Elijah (El) is celebrated symbolizing union between man and woman. This also signifies the future historical unification of the nation of Israel; the Female Hind (female adult deer) of Naphtali with the Male Lion of Judah as unified through the Dove of Land.

Two versions of the Rosette of Inanna at the historical Jewish site of Masada in southern Israel.

Two versions of the Rosette of Inanna at the historical Jewish site of Masada in southern Israel.

Alevi females are generally not restricted by Alevi males from participation in modern society in terms of the absence of restrictions on female individual choices as regards education and employment although Alevi women also do live within the broader framework of the much broader regional social paradigm of honor and shame which by the way is also represented in the Hebrew Bible although not really so among contemporary rabbinic Jewry. The fact that an Alevi woman cannot religiously marry a non-Alevi man and Alevi stigmatization of divorce represents of course significant religious restrictions on the sexual and marital choices of Alevi women which as in Rabbinic Judaism is designed to ensure group survival until and beyond the Messianic Era for all time. Alevi women are however generally free to dress as they personally prefer. Alevi society does not really experience much gender segregation and worship in Cem is inclusive of women and gender-integrated except for the fact that the first and the second of the 12 services are reserved for male Alevi hereditary priests. While Rabbinic Judaism is traditionally highly patriarchal, a husband is obliged to provide unlimited amounts of sexual services to his wife that she may thus request from him during the weeks of the month that she is not considered ritually impure (Hebrew Niddah) on account of menstruation.

Rosettes of Inannna at an Alevi gravestone.

Rosettes of Inannna at an Alevi gravestone.

Marital sexual intercourse and commercial exchange among Alevis is however avoided on Friday and Saturday in apparent esoteric reverence for the Jewish Shabbat. Friday/Saturday is also the traditional day of rest in Anatolian folk culture which means that Shabbat as the day of rest was once obviously once respected in Anatolian culture prior to Christianization and later Islamization.

9. Prayers, Blessings and Dancing

Bowing the upper part of the body during Sufi Dhikr.

Bowing the upper part of the body during Sufi Dhikr.

Prayer through religious dancing and religious music is important in both Alevi-Bektashi Judaism and in Rabbinic Judaism and this is also the historical origin of Sufi dhikr. While in Rabbinic Judaism, during prayer it is common to ecstatically slightly move one’s upper body as King David is described in the Hebrew Bible as dancing while praying – in Alevism gender-integrated ceremonial dancing (Semah from Hebrew Sameach i.e. happy) during Cem is in itself considered prayer. Semah choreographically performs various sun/star symbols, including the Jewish Magen David (the Shield of David).

Alevi Semah dance performs various star/sun symbols, meaning the Rosette of Inanna. Here is the Magen David (Shield of David) performed by six dancers.

Alevi Semah dance performs various star/sun symbols, meaning the Rosette of Inanna. Here is the Magen David (Shield of David) performed by six dancers.

Religious dancing in Rabbinic Judaism also has the character of prayer by means of bodily movements. While in Alevism, ceremonial religious dancing is gender-integrated, in Rabbinic Judaism it is considered an important commandment (mitzvah) for wedding guests to please the bride by dancing at her wedding. In Rabbinic Judaism, Jews dance with Torah scrolls on the eighth day (Shemini Atzeret or Eight day of Assembly) of the Sukkot pilgrimage festival and this is known as Simchat Torah meaning rejoicing with the Torah. King David and his clan is biblically referred to as using different string instruments made of cypress wood and Alevis prominently religiously use the saz/bağlama lute during Cem.

Alevi morning prayer

Alevi morning prayer

Prayer in both Rabbinic Judaism and Alevi-Bektashi Judaism is determined by sunrise and sunset. Alevis thus pray the informal Alevi equivalents of Shacharit (morning prayer before sunrise) and Ma’ariv (evening prayer after sunset) both as of rabbinic tradition being historically performed instead of Temple sacrifice whose performance became impossible after historical Temples in the land of Israel were destroyed. The timing of the performance of these two daily prayers in Alevism is thus determined by the timing of the daily appearance and disappearance of the sun, as indeed in Rabbinic Judaism. Words used in daily prayers are individually chosen in Alevism, something which makes perfect sense as standard rabbinically Jewish prayers were historically devised much later than the Assyrian deportation. Weekend prayers and daily prayers generally take place at home.

Jewish Kiddush cup

Jewish Kiddush cup

There is an Alevi New Moon prayer parallel in Rabbinic Judaism to the Rosh Chodesh (Hebrew for “head of month”) prayer insertion and the Kiddush Levanah (“moon sanctification”) prayer. On Thursday night of the eve of the Alevi Shabbat Alevis drink grape juice similar to in Kiddush (meaning holy in Hebrew) in Rabbinic Judaism on Friday night’s eve with either grape juice or grape wine.

Both Alevi Dedes and rabbinic Jews engage in performance of blessings as pertaining to many different aspects of life and indeed members of both forms of Judaism kiss doorposts (for rabbinic Jews a mezuzah affixed to the doorpost is touched with fingertips that are then kissed) although in Samaritan Judaism the mezuzah is rather a text written above the door and for the Yezidis a serpent ornament near the door is used.

Historic Alevi grave on sacred Alevi mountain.

Historic Alevi grave on sacred Alevi mountain.

Children, family, food, home, house, illness, infertility, problem and water drops are all specifically blessed by Dedes in Alevism as comparable to the really many different specific blessings in Rabbinic Judaism that are prominent in and sanctifying so many different aspects of life in both synagogue liturgy and private religious life for observant rabbinic Jews.

The grave of famous singing rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.

The grave of famous singing rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.

While in Israelite/Canaanite religion in ancient Israel there was more than one regional temple, Alevis still engage in religious, highly ritualized Animal sacrifice at holy mountains as once on Mount Moriah (Temple Mount, Hebrew Har habeit) in Jerusalem as do still Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, Samaritans in fact constituting the most ancient and most conservative denomination of Priestly Judaism. Similar to as in ancient Israel, Alevis engage in aliyah ba’regel (Hebrew for “ascension by foot” in performing Temple pilgrimage) in making the pilgrimage by foot up to sacred Mountains.

Jewish Kohanim covered in tallitot (prayer shawls) bless the people near the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Jewish Kohanim covered in tallitot (prayer shawls) bless the people near the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Both Alevi Dedes and Kohanim bless the people during religious service. The Priestly Blessing (Birkat hakohanim) remains the privilege of the Kohanim hereditary priests in Rabbinic Judaism and in Alevism all blessings are performed by the Alevi Dede kohanim, including blessing the people. Indeed the two first pairs of blessings during the Torah reading are still reserved for Kohanim and Levites respectively, constituting the two patrilineal hereditary priestly castes in Rabbinic Judaism. Symbolically parallel to the holding the two wooden handles of the Torah scroll with both hands during the recital of blessings for Torah reading, Alevis are also supposed to keep their hands on the wooden table when the served food is blessed as prior to eating a meal.

10. Morality

The ten commandments in Hebrew from 1768.

The ten commandments in Hebrew from 1768.

Alevi morality is crucially founded upon the Ten Commandments, although most Alevis are unaware of this being the case. These are the basic pillars of Alevi morality and infringement may be punished with excommunication. Thus, like Haredi Jews, Alevis are a community of morals, meaning that a person who deviates from this morality in practice distances herself/himself from that moral community.

Although in theory everyone in the religious community is eligible for ritual honorary tasks in Alevism as well as Haredi Judaism; honorary tasks are in practice often limited to persons considered as adhering to the Ten Commandments; although neither Alevism nor Haredi Rabbinic Judaism explicitly mentions the decalogue as a unified concept in this regard.

However, while in both Alevism and Haredi Judaism the keeping of the Ten Commandments is in practice the yardstick for religious self-exclusion from the ethno-religious community, the Decalogue is also not specifically referred to as a single unit when it comes to issues of excommunication.

11. Ritual Objects

Alevis and Bektashis have ritual objects that also exist in Rabbinic Judaism. These are especially used as part of Cem. Cemda is used for ritual cleaning of hands and feet. Ritual hand washing is still important in Rabbinic Judaism prior to eating meals involving bread.

Tzitziot (ritual fringes) on Alevi Tallit Katan.

Tzitziot (ritual fringes) on Alevi Tallit Katan.

Religious fringes (tzitzit) are used by both men and women during Semah. Some Alevi/Bektashi men wear tzitzit in almost the exact style that Orthodox Jewish males where the tzitzit of the tallit katan is typically worn under the shirt. Candelabras with varying numbers of branches are used during Cem comparbly to the Menorah and the Hanukkiah.

Jewish man wearing Tallit Katan.

Jewish man wearing Tallit Katan.

A ritual broom is used for symbolic housecleaning during Cem, comparable to the ritual housecleaning (looking for hametz) before Pesach in Rabbinic Judaism. There is also use of the shofar (a Ram’s horn used as ritual musical instrument in Rabbinic Judaism) among Alevis.

The çevşen triangular amulet is three Jewish symbols in one ritual object as symbolized of course by the three corners. Esoterically the çevşen functions as (1) as an Alevi mezuzah case, (2) a hand tefillin used to point towards the heart (as does the tefillin of the arm) as well as half a Star of David (Hebrew Magen David, literally the Shield of David).

Jewish Tallit Katan

Jewish Tallit Katan

Among the Crypto-Bektasi Anatolian Muslims, it is known as the muskah and typically contains some kind of Islamic scriptural text similar to the way that a tefillin or a mezuzah contains a Jewish scriptural parchment. The çevşen like the muskah is built to contain a scriptural parchment (as do both mezuzah and tefillin), although nowadays the çevşen tends to be empty.

Alevi wedding rings (and especially so in the older Alevi generations) have motifs of intertwined serpents. The serpent is the symbol of the tribe of Dan, one of the Ten Tribes deported by Assyria. This relates to the intertwined semiotic serpents of Shabbat challah bread and the Havdalah candle that is lit at the end of Shabbat on Saturday evenings. Havdalah means separation in Hebrew as referring to separation between Shabbat and the coming new week; wedding rings are however yet another form ritual separation as between the prior state of being unmarried (as with Shabbat with much less obligations) and the coming new life as married persons.

12. Exotericism and Esotericism

The two fruits of Judah and Israel as depicted on an Alevi gravestone.

The two fruits of Judah and Israel as depicted on an Alevi gravestone.

While prominently having shared Israelite historical origins; Rabbinic Judaism and Priestly Judaism share a common Esoteric Judaism interior to both major historical streams in Judaism and which views the two as two main branches and even two main fruits of the same tree (the tree of life of the nation of Israel as also symbolized by candelabras with multiple branches in both Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism), although these are certainly not the only branches considering the tremendous ethnic, cultural and religious diversity of Crypto-Jewish peoples/communities worldwide.

Haji Bektashi Veli (HaYah BeKodesh Ve’Eli), the religious personality after which Bektashism is supposedly named is often depicted with multiple biblical Animal symbols, namely the Lion of Judah, the Gazelle/Hind of Naphtali and the Dove of Land, the latter signifying that the earthly unification of rabbinic Jewry and priestly Jewry will be territorial since there is no sense of course for Crypto-Jewish peoples in total numbering in the many hundreds of millions with their own majority lands not uniting rather than to impossibly all immigrate to geographically miniscule Levantine Israel. In the Talmud there is however the notion of a giant Lion and a giant Deer in the proverbial forest of “Bei Ilai”, the interesting difference being with the depiction of Haji Bektashi Veli that the Lion and the Deer are here depicted as miniature Animals rather than as giant Animals as they are described in the Talmud.

Haji Bektashi Veli (HaYah BeKodesh Ve'Eli) with the miniature Deer and the miniature Lion.

Haji Bektashi Veli (HaYah BeKodesh Ve’Eli) with the miniature Deer and the miniature Lion.

The Tree of Life or Etz Chaim in Hebrew (an ancient Israelite/Jewish symbol of the nation of Israel) is sometimes depicted on Alevi tombstones as having two main branches and even two main fruits as in some ancient Israelite depictions. Some Alevi gravestones also closely resemble the carefully carved frames of the foundational stones of the Western wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Religious love lyrics are also traditionally composed within both Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism as with the biblical lyrics of King David.

Some Alevi and/or Bektashi men and women still use some forms of ritual fringes (Hebrew tzitzit) at least during the Semah Alevi carefully choreographed religious dance ceremony forming part of Cem. While among rabbinic Jews the tzitzit is highly gendered and is even considered a potent symbol of male Jewish sexuality among Haredi Jews; religious fringes tend to be highly gendered among those Alevis and Bektashis who use them during Semah and Cem generally.

Lion of Judah and Mikveh with sacred water in Bektashi village.

Lion of Judah and Mikveh with sacred water in Bektashi village.

“The shield of David” (Hebrew Magen David) is commonly known as “the Star of David” among Westerners, yet is known and widely used as “King Solomon’s Seal” among Alevis and Bektashis and among Anatolians generally in both Alevi, Bektashi and Anatolian Muslim houses of worship. However, in the context of cemeteries this very symbol is specifically only used in non-Muslim cemeteries. The Star of David and the Lion of Judah are frequently depicted in Bektashi houses of worship and Elijah is exoterically considered “lion” although the lion is of course rather the Lion of Judah. There is also the famous Lion-shaped fountain in Bektashi village, a village named after Haji Bektashi Veli, the religious personality after which Bektashism is ostensibly named.

Medieval Mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) in Catalonia.

Medieval Mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) in Catalonia.

While Cem is ostensibly supposed to celebrate Mohammad’s nocturnal descent into heaven towards Jerusalem on the horse Buraq; the actual meaning refers to the horse-driven ascent of the Prophet Elijah although apparently this carried a parallel exoteric Christian meaning during the Byzantine era.

The ancient medieval Jewish hat is considered to have originated in Mesopotamia but was even so worn in both Islamdom and Christendom in medieval times. It developed further whereby something else was often wrapped around the core hat. In Europe this developed into the Ashkenazi religious hat shtreimel (fur wrapped around the core headcovering) and in the Middle East the Jewish hat as used by the Kizilbash (Turkish for “readhead”) Alevi warriors was similarly added to by wrapping textile around it in thus later giving rise to one of two historically common and socially dominant forms of what later became the Ottoman fez due to Bektashi military prominence within the Ottoman Empire until 1826. Similarly, the religious hat worn by the Sephardi chief rabbi in Israel has the same kind of design with a core hat and textile wrapped around it. Religious officials of certain Aramean (now almost entirely Judeo-Christian) churches in the Fertile Crescent wear religious hats with quite similar structural design as compared to that officially hat worn by the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel based on the same principle of a core hat with something wrapped around it.

Jewish red string worn around the wrist.

Jewish red string worn around the wrist.

Interestingly, priestly castes among the Samaritans and the Druze (another denomination of Priestly Judaism) still use the red Ottoman fez as a religious head covering indicating indeed its Jewish cultural semiotic origins as associated with the otherwise exoterically by rabbis considered “mysterious” Biblical commandment of the “red heifer” or parah adumah in Hebrew. Some Druze hereditary priests use another almost entirely white fez with a small red ritual thread fringe on the top thus actually esoterically fulfilling this “mysterious” Biblical commandment. The red fringe is also practiced in Jewish Kabbalah where a red string may be worn around the arm near the hand.

Tahtacı Alevi women wearing red headbands, red belts as well as female Alevi tzitziot.

Tahtacı Alevi women wearing red headbands, red belts as well as female Alevi tzitziot.

Hasidic Judaism (Hebrew chassidut) historically developed out the Sabbatean movement. When the Sabbatean Messiah Sabbatai Zevi was forced by the Ottoman authorities to leave Rabbinic Judaism he opted to join Bektashism rather than Islam. This led to a Bektashi turn in the historical development Sabbateanism in Poland in the sense that Hasidic Judaism in some ways developed into the Crypto-Bektashi branch of Rabbinic Judaism. This includes religious dancing, the Tish ritual meal and religiously sanctioned alcoholic intoxication at other days of the year than the Purim holiday.

13. Organization

Veliyettin Ulusoy, the current Alevi Dede Postniş, the Posek and Kohen Gadol of all Alevis.

Veliyettin Ulusoy, the current Alevi Dede Postniş, the Posek and Kohen Gadol of all Alevis.

Alevi Dedes have a hierarchy headed by a hereditary Kohen Gadol (Grand Priest) as in ancient Israel. The Alevi Kohen Gadol is known as Postniş which is most likely esoterically derived from the Hebrew word posek, which means decisor of Jewish law. Poskim (plural of posek) in Rabbinic Judaism are religious legislators, very prominent rabbis invested with the power to determine what really constitutes contemporary Halakhah, similar in fact to the role of the Alevi Postniş.

The Bektashi order is also hierarchically organized and became the organizational model for all Sufi orders as Sufism developed out of Bektashism. A non-hereditary priest in the Bektashi order is known as a Baba.

Sabbatai Zevi in Ottoman captivity.

Sabbatai Zevi in Ottoman captivity.

The Dönmeh were originally Rabbinic Jews who were led by their Messiah Sabbatai Zevi into the Bektashi Order, yet still maintain their own distinctive, yet highly secretive religious community.

The Ahi (Hebrew My Brother) organization is associated with the Bektashi order and organizes male professionals throughout the cities of Anatolia. The women’s branch is known as known as Bacı (Hebrew Bati meaning My Daughter). These two ancient organizations formally maintain their Roman/Byzantine names Ahiyan-ı Rum (Hebrew Acheinu of Rome, Our Brother of the Roman Empire) and Bacıyan-ı Rum (Hebrew Bateinu of Rome, Our Daughter of the Roman Empire). The Ahi and Bacı  organizations are documented since the 13th century CE but could be far older than that.

Bacı

Bacı

Since most Alevis no longer as once live in isolated villages of rural Anatolia but have rather been urbanized in the cities of Anatolia and Germany, new Alevi organizations were founded that established Alevi cultural centers in cities as the new loci of Alevi religious organization. National organizations have been established in European countries that bring together Alevi congregations from different cities in the same country.

The Alevi-Bektashi candelabrum (3 lamps) and the Jewish Menorah candelabrum (7 lamps) in a Masonic lodge.

The Alevi-Bektashi candelabrum (3 lamps) and the Jewish Menorah candelabrum (7 lamps) in a Masonic lodge.

The Bektashi Order operates openly in countries with major Bektashi populations and secretly in other countries. It has been suggested that there are close ties between Freemasonry and the Bektashi Order, something that is not implausible considering that Freemasonry (as Sufism) has its root within Bektashism. Contemporary ceremonies of the Bektashi order are also important in the Jerrahi, Khalwati and Rifa’i sufi orders although Sufism generally is ultimately derived from Bektashism itself.

14. Calendar

Initiation into the Bektashi Order of man (far left) and woman.

Initiation into the Bektashi Order of man (far left) and woman.

Alevi-Bektashi Judaism operates according to two calendars, on lunar and one solar which is quite comparable to Rabbinic Judaism which has a combined lunar-solar calendar. The following are the main events in the Alevi calendar. Also, certain events now follow the secular calendar.

Hıdırellez is a combination of the words Hizir and Elias which in turn refer to the main Canaanite deities of the Asherah and El. There are according to the Talmud four new years in Rabbinic Judaism. Hıdırellez is the esoteric Alevi New Year when unmarried men and women are supposed to meet each other as in the rabbinically Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah which commemorates the creation of Adam and Eve.

Apples are eaten during the main Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah which celebrates the creation of Adam and Eve. During Alevi weddings in Dersim in Zazaistan, an apple is bisected and the bride and the groom each consumes one half following upon the example of Adam and Eve in their shared discovery of sexuality.

Apples are eaten during the main Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah which celebrates the creation of Adam and Eve. During Alevi weddings in Dersim in Zazaistan, an apple is bisected and the bride and the groom each consumes one half following upon the example of Adam and Eve in their shared discovery of sexuality.

The three biblical pilgrimage festivals exist in Alevi-Bektashi Judaism as well. Passover (Pesach) is known as Hizir Cemi, the pilgrimage festival of Asherah. The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) is known as both Birlik Cemi and Abdelmusa Cemi. Finally the Feast of Booths (Sukkot) is known as Görgu Cemi. There is a concept of an inner Sukkah (a Sukkah of the mind) in Alevism, the Sukkah being the temporary outdoor home that observant Rabbinic Jews inhabit during the week of the festival of Sukkot in the fall.

During Hizir Cemi, an empty seat is left at the table for the prophet Elijah were he to suddenly turn up which not coincidentally is a custom at the Passover Seder as well. Passover is preceded by religiously mandated meticulous housecleaning as is seasonal Cem generally. Tikkun leil Shavuot is a night of study and discussion in Rabbinic Judaism and the Alevi-Bektashi equivalent within Görgü Cemi is Sohbet, meaning Sabbath (Hebrew Shabbat).

Khal Gagane (from Hebrew chagiganu meaning we celebrated) is the Alevi equivalent of the Jewish masquerade festival of Purim. In Khal Gagane celebrations there are usually two men dressed up as for masquerade but seem to also include elements of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, including being celebrated in the early winter. One of the men is dressed as a woman and the other is dressed as a man with a fake beard. They often enter homes of Alevi neighbors and the man with the fake beard symbolically and humorously beats up neighbors with a stick. This is a very joyous occasion reminiscent of how the defeat of Haman is celebrated during Purim. This Alevi symbolic beating is known as Malkot in Rabbinic Judaism which includes 39 symbolic beatings. While Malkot means lashes, it also means queens. Also Khal Gagane, as famously Purim involves quite generous and festive alcohol consumption.

Two Alevi men dressed as Mordechai and Esther for Khal Gagane with ‘Mordechai’ carrying the obligatory stick used for symbolic beating in thus symbolizing victory.

The Hebrew Bible contains a number of deliberate historiographical dislocations whereby one event is deliberately placed in a different historical context so as to obscure something yet make sure that it remains historically documented and exoterically memorized. The trio of Haman, Mordechai and his niece Esther of the Book of Esther exist in Alevism as well with Pir Sultan Abdal, his heroic daughter and the evil Pork Pasha. Actually these are exoteric stories that are rather about the historical trio of princess/queen Madane, her son Cyrus the Great and her wicked father, king Astyages of Media. The Alevi person with a fake beard hence symbolizes Cyrus (“Mordechai”) and the Alevi person dressed as a veiled woman symbolizes Madane (“Esther”). The disguise of the faces of both characters also seemingly imply their very secretive status.

Haredi Malkot symbolic beating prior to Yom Kippur.

Haredi Malkot symbolic beating prior to Yom Kippur.

Alevi Ashura (Asherah) celebrates Motzei Yom Kippur, meaning the evening after Yom Kippur (Day of Reconcilation) when the fast of Yom Kippur is broken. This comes after ten (or sometimes twelve) days constituting the Fast of Muharram. There are Ten Days of Repentance known in Hebrew as Aseret Yemei Teshuva between Rosh Hashanah (the main New Year in Rabbinic Judaism) and Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah was originally one day (which later became two days). The one original day of Rosh Hashanah, the one day of Yom Kippur and the Ten Days of Repentance are in total 12 days. The Ten Days of Repentance are a period of semi-mourning devoted to repentance, prayer and charity in Rabbinic Judaism. As the use of leather shoes is prohibited for Rabbinic Jews during the fast of Yom Kippur so is it likewise prohibited for Alevis to wear leather shoes during the Fast of Muharram.

Cooking Ashure with one species from each of the 12 tribes. Hellenistic Jewish depiction from the synagogue in Dura-Europos.

Cooking Ashure with one species from each of the 12 tribes. Hellenistic Jewish depiction from the synagogue in Dura-Europos.

On Alevi Ashure (i.e. Motzei Yom Kippur, the evening after Yom Kippur), a festive vegan meal composed of 12 species is cooked and consumed. The cooking is done by Alevi Dedes and the 12 species esoterically represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Yom Kippur (Day of Reconciliation) was originally about the reconciliation and unification of the 12 tribes. This was not a process of immigration from Egypt but rather one where the Levites who had returned from Egypt, converted the various peoples living in Canaan to the Levite religion which became Judaism. Once converted, these peoples were unified through an invented, imaginary genealogy where they were all said to be descended from the mythological Jacob (Hebrew Ya’akov) renamed Israel and his equally imaginary 12 sons. According to the Hebrew Bible there were actually 13 tribes because the description of the so called “12 tribes of Israel” is due to the Levite not being counted because the Levites were actually Crypto-Sumerian Atenist refugees from Egypt.

Median man

Median man

Sultan Newroz and Nevruz Cemi is the Alevi version of the fire festival Newroz which was instituted to commemorate the conversion of the Medes to the Judaism of the ten tribes and the establishment of the Median Empire. The equivalent fire springtime festival in Rabbinic Judaism is Lag baOmer which as Newroz is celebrated with bonfires.

Cem is the main religious service in Alevi-Bektashi Judaism. Cem simply means “day” as derived from the Hebrew Yom, meaning day. A Jewish holiday is referred to in Hebrew as Yom Tov, a good day or as Chag. Historically, Cem was derived from a Crypto-Jewish Eucharist of Byzantine times, but is actually an Alevi-Bektashi Haggadah with the recitation and singing of a long text, the length of a short book coupled with various ceremonies, including a ritual meal.

Dem, ritual consumption of red wine.

Dem, ritual consumption of red wine.

Cem contains a number of main elements. The Semah (Hebrew Sameach meaning Happy) dance whose choreography enacts various forms of the Rosette of Inanna, including the sun symbol of Magen David, the shield (star) of David. Dem (Hebrew Dam meaning blood referring to ritual consumption of red wine corresponding to Kiddush and Havdalah in Rabbinic Judaism), ritual reconciliation (similar to during the autumn holidays in Rabbinic Judaism) and Animal sacrifice of a Sheep. There is also ritual consumption of bread with salt as in Rabbinic Judaism. The 12 services (corresponding to the Passover Seder) offer various ritual honorary tasks, indeed 12 honorary tasks as in the Shabbat Saturday forenoon Torah reading in Synagogue. Historically was Alevi Cem celebrated at night and even outdoors in nature; both precautions so as to elude persecution by the Ottoman authorities. As in synagogue, prayer in Cemevi takes place both sitting and standing. The word Cemevi has the exact same meaning as Beit Knesset the Hebrew word for for synagogue – as both words literally mean house of assembly. There are four internal pillars inside some Cemevis as comparable to the four-corned Chuppah (wedding canopy) that is used in both Rabbinic Judaism and by indigenous Anatolians generally, whether Alevi, Bektashi or Muslim. The four internal pillars also not coincidentally exist in some synagogues as well.

Çerağ, cloth is soaked in olive olive and then put on fire giving an experience similar to that of the burning of the Havdalah candle.

Çerağ, cloth is soaked in olive olive and then put on fire giving an experience similar to that of the burning of the Havdalah candle.

There are also other cems, the Müsahiplik Cemi where Spiritual Brotherhood (Müsahiplik the Alevi equivalent of Chavruta) is formally entered into, the Koldan Kopla Cemi which is the Cem that formally officiates excommunication and İrşat Cemi which prepares and educates for Ikrar Cemi (the Cem of Reading from Hebrew Kriyat HaTorah, literally calling out the Torah, meaning public Torah reading), the Alevi Bar Mitzvah coming-of-age ceremony. It should be kept in mind that public Torah reading by Alevi Dedes existed as late as the 19th century CE.

Pilgrimage to sacred locations including sacred mountains and the yearly pilgrimage to the holy city of Bektashi village (Hacıbektâş) are important parts of Alevi-Bektashi Judaism. Animal sacrifice is often performed on the sacred mountains while on pilgrimage. In Rabbinic Judaism, Animal sacrifice is now only performed on Mount Meron in the Galilee during Lag baOmer as well as worldwide during Kapparot on the eve of Yom Kippur. Many Orthodox Jews in Israel still make the annual pilgrimage to Mount Meron during Lag ba’Omer.

> Crypto-Jewish Culture of Anatolia

15. Historical Context

Janissaries, the Ottoman Bektashi elite soldiers.

Janissaries, the Ottoman Bektashi elite soldiers.

Indigenous Anatolian Muslims (Turks, Dmilis Zazas/Kurds and many Kurdish-speaking Kurds) are descended from involuntarily Islamized Bektashis. Prior to Islamization most Anatolians were simultaneously Christian and Bektashi and a minority were Alevi as is still the case. Alevis were historically much more successful than Bektashis in surviving enforced Islamization and hence the apparent historical anomaly of there currently being far more Alevis (Levites, the priestly tribe) than Bektashis (Israelites, the non-priestly caste) in Anatolia. However, indigenous Anatolian Muslims still share with Alevis and Bektashis a common folk culture that includes many Crypto-Jewish aspects.

During the Byzantine era both Greek Judaism i.e. Hellenistic Judaism (most surviving contemporary parts of which is today known as Alevi-Bektashi) and Greek Christianity became in parallel and in relative symbiosis increasingly predominant with Hellenistic Judaism being the less prestigious middle layer of religion below the much more prestigious official Byzantine Christianity. Anatolian folk culture constituted however the lowest, least prestigious level of religious belief in Judeo-Christian Greek civilization of Byzantine Asia Minor. It was very common in Antiquity even for Jews to have more than one religion and this state of things continued in Anatolia through the medieval period under Byzantine rule where Bektashis were simultaneously Bektashis and Christians while Alevis were probably mostly Christian in name only.

Geographic distribution of majority Alevi/Bektashi communities in Anatolia.

Geographic distribution of majority Alevi/Bektashi communities in Anatolia.

Most Turkish-speaking Anatolians are descendants of Judeo-Christian Hellenist Greek-speaking indigenous Anatolians and certainly not to any great extent genetically descended from Central Asian colonists as per the official, yet patently false Kemalist nationalist narrative of the Republic of Turkey. Many Kurds are still Alevis and especially among North Zazaki-speaking (Dmili-speaking) Kurds/Zazas where the majority (about 60%) is Alevi. This is similar to the South Zazaki-speaking (Gorani-speaking) Kurds where similarly, the majority still adheres to Yarsanism, yet another denomination of Priestly Judaism.

Anatolian languages documented from the first millennium BCE.

Anatolian languages documented from the first millennium BCE.

Historically with the process of state-sponsored Islamization, Zazaki and Armenian were supplanted by Kurdish in Kurdistan much like Greek and Armenian were supplanted by Oghuz (Turkish) in Anatolia. Many Kurds practice other denominations of Priestly Judaism (Yarsanism and Yezidism) and many Muslim Kurds are similarly Crypto-Jewish in the sense of being descended from members of other denominations of Priestly Judaism than Alevism, denominations which like Alevism also became increasingly historically predominant throughout the Zoroastrian, Hellenistic and Christian eras prior to Islamic conquest. However, this means that their Kurdish folk culture albeit not being any less Crypto-Jewish is not Crypto-Bektashi as is that of most Islamized indigenous Anatolians (whether speaking Turkish, Zazaki or Kurdish) but rather that they are ethnically Crypto-Yezidis and Crypto-Yarsanis respectively as commonly expressed in secular Kurdish nationalism, including in the prominent solar symbol in the Kurdish flag. It should pointed out that the historically enforced Islamization left almost no Bektashis among Zazas/Kurds. The peoplehood designation Kurd is derived from Gorani (South Zazaki) rather than from the Kurdish language as is often presumed.

Nasreddin (a.k.a. Ahi Evren) was an important 13th century Anatolian humorist and the leader of the Ahi (meaning “My Brother” in Hebrew) Bektashi-associated fraternal organization. In Rabbinic Judaism, the expected Mashiach (Messiah) is expected to arrive riding on a Donkey.

Alevism, Alawism and Bektashism are Hellenistic denominations of Priestly Judaism alongside the non-Hellenistic fellow denominations of Priestly Judaism. Considering that the eastward extension of Crypto-Bektashi folk culture in Anatolia significantly overlaps the main geographic extension of Turkish-speakers in Anatolia, this section on folk culture (primarily as relating to taboos and beliefs currently considered superstitions) is concerned with Crypto-Jewish Anatolian folk customs in both Turkey and Kurdistan/Zazaistan although the main focus is on Crypto-Jewish customs in Crypto-Bektashi culture whether Kurdish-speaking, Turkish-speaking or Zazaki-speaking.

While not every custom in Anatolian folk culture is Crypto-Jewish, a great number of Anatolian folk customs are indeed so as indigenous Anatolian folk culture is very much closely associated with Alevism-Bektashi Judaism, yet rejected by surrounding Sunni Orthodoxy including most specifically so and in great detail by Turkey’s official Presidency of Religious Affairs (Turkish Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı) which traditionally promotes Orthodox Hanafi Sunni Islam only and is especially devoted to destroying Crypto-Jewish practices in Anatolian culture and religion in the rather familiar pattern of religious imperialism.

Historic Dönmeh 'mosque' in Thessaloniki.

Historic Dönmeh ‘mosque’ in Thessaloniki.

The historical diffusion of Priestly Judaism (including Alevism) to most of Turkey, Kurdistan/Zazaistan and Luristan and even beyond reached its peak prior to Islamic conquest which with the subsequent onslaught of the more or less enforced regime-sponsored Islamization meant the gradual historical contraction of Alevi-Bektashi Judaism specifically and Priestly Judaism generally with adherents of these forms of Crypto-Judaism becoming gradually and increasingly minoritized. However, Crypto-Jewish culture very much remains alive even among Islamized indigenous Anatolians who remain ethnically Crypto-Bektashi and so hence not only the indigenous Alevi and Bektashi minorities but also the indigenous Crypto-Bektashi Muslim plurality in Asia Minor very much remains culturally and ethnically Crypto-Jewish indeed and even very strongly so in the rural cultural context of Anatolia.

Beliefs in Anatolian folk culture are usually referred to by observers as mere “superstitions” and no real effort has been made to recontextualize and historicize the Anatolian belief system as a meaningful whole (comparable to e.g. Pashtunwali among the similarly Para-Jewish Pashtun people) with its own distinctive origins in terms of Anatolia’s own indigenous history of religion.

Haredi (strictly Orthodox) Jews and Alevis refer to their traditional customs as Torah and Töre respectively.

16. Tree and Wood

Wish tree in Anatolia.

Wish tree in Anatolia.

Both Alevis and Bektashis and their Crypto-Bektashi Anatolian Muslim neighbors who make up most of the remaining human population of Anatolia write wishes on cloth and tie the cloth onto sacred trees (“wish trees”) historically signifying the tree of life (Hebrew Etz chaim), an ancient Jewish symbol which thus implicitly signifies the deep roots and many branches of the branched-out wider Jewish nation. This is comparable to the insertion of wishes written on paper (Yiddish singular kvitel, plural kvitelach) in between the stones of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Personally written prayers inserted into the cracks of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.

Personally written prayers inserted into the cracks of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.

The Anatolian circling around a tree in a courtyard seven times corresponds to the seven circumambulations in synagogue on Hoshanah Rabbah (Aramaic Great supplication) carrying around and the arboreal Four Species (Hebrew arba minim) from four different trees including (a) one special kind of lemon (Hebrew etrog), one branch with fresh leaves from each of (b) a date palm (Hebrew lulav), (c) a myrtle tree (Hebrew hadass) and (d) a willow tree (Hebrew aravah). The Torah scroll which is rolled unto and kept in place by wooden items is usually removed from the Ark during the circumbulation.

The Jewish ritual swinging of the tree branches (in addition to the etrog citrus) which is performed during prayer on Sukkot still takes place in Alevism and in Anatolian folk culture. The ritual swinging of the four species is as integral to Rabbinically Jewish prayer during Sukkot as it is natural for some Alevis and Anatolians to ritually swinging branches of trees.

The Four Species

The Four Species

There is also traditionally the view in Anatolia that oak trees are not in a state of worship due to leaves not moving so much when subject to windy conditions. Trees are still considered sacred in at least parts of Anatolia although now more commonly surrounded by taboos originally apparently devised to protect the sacred trees from harm such as being cut down by non-owners as cutting down trees has historically been and is still a major environmental hazard in the arid Middle East.

The New Year of the Trees (Hebrew Tu bishvat or Rosh hashana la’ilanot) is celebrated in Rabbinic Judaism and is nowadays mostly celebrated as the official Israeli Arbor Day with official ceremonies in many Israeli locations involving the planting of tree saplings. There is actually a biblical commandment for Jews to plant species of trees with edible fruit upon returning to the land of Israel whether returning from exile or returning to the land of Israel from travels abroad.

The Tree of Life of Jewish Kabbalah.

The Tree of Life of Jewish Kabbalah.

When you come to the Land and you plant any food tree, you shall surely block its fruit [from use]; it shall be blocked from you [from use] for three years, not to be eaten.

Leviticus 19:23

The mystical tree of life (Hebrew Etz chaim) is considered eminently magic and most centrally so in Kabbalah (rabbinically Jewish mysticism) as are trees quite pervasively regarded in Anatolian folk culture. It is customary in both Anatolian culture and in Rabbinic Judaism to plant trees in honor and memory of a dear demised person and Anatolian culture does not permit the cutting down of trees on graveyards. It is thus customary in Anatolian culture to plant species of trees at the head-side of the grave while in contemporary modern Israel trees are nowadays often planted in someone’s honor and memory at places other than the cemetery itself.

Modern reconstruction of the golden Menorah of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Modern reconstruction of the golden Menorah of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The number seven (as in the above described arboreal circumambulations) represents in Judaism the number of lamps in the six-branched Menorah candelabrum in the Temple in Jerusalem which was powered with high quality olive oil as olives are also importantly considered sacred in Anatolian folk culture. The original seven-lamp Menorah candelabrum of the Temple in Jerusalem, also regarded as signifying Moses’ burning bush is in itself a symbolic olive tree symbol signifying the very diversity embodied by the manifold historical branches of the eternal sacred nation of Israel as well as obviously the seven days of the creation of the world as narrated in the biblical Book of Genesis (Hebrew Sefer Bereshit) as corresponding to the number of days in the week. The original golden Menorah candelabrum in the Temple with the burning high quality olive oil on top of its Seven lamps was in itself apparently that “great supplication” (Hoshanah Rabbah), a symbolic olive tree indeed. The Jewish nation is even biblically described both as a Menorah and as a diverse, yet damaged olive tree with wonderful fruits.

The Knesset Menorah.

The Knesset Menorah.

A leafy olive-tree fair with goodly fruit, has the Lord called your name; to the sound of a great tumult, He has kindled fire upon it, and they have broken its branches.

Jeremiah 11:16

Just as there are restrictions on cutting branches of productive fruit-bearing planted trees (i.e. from trees species having edible fruits) in Rabbinic Judaism, so are there restrictions on cutting branches of olive trees in Anatolian folk culture, including in the three days prior to major festivals when healthy tree branches are not supposed to be cut. This is comparable to the three year prohibition on eating the first fruits (Hebrew Orlah) of planted trees in the Diaspora and 4 years in the land of Israel. Furthermore, Anatolian culture does not permit the cutting down of trees at graveyards and at sites of traditional pilgrimage.

Ripe walnut

Ripe walnut

Walnut trees are considered as essentially “books of life” in the sense that walnut trees are considered as “recording” the secrets of humans appearing around it. This means that when the walnut tree is cut down so does its secrets come out and spread. During the Kurdish festival of Pir Shalyar however, walnuts are instead distributed to every home and bread made of wheat and walnuts are eaten.

Rabbinic Jews tend to dress shrines and holy items in cloth which is also done in Anatolian folk culture. Trees near religious shrines may also be dressed in cloth such as rags in Anatolian folk culture and trees may be used as wish trees with written wishes affixed to the tree. There are many taboos pertaining to specific species of of trees in Anatolian folk culture implicitly reflecting the diversity of different species of trees as also mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and the importance apparently held by trees and wood in ancient Israelite culture in the land of Israel as existing in an arid part of the world where trees enable sedentary lifestyles.

Pomegrenates as Rosettes of Inanna.

Pomegrenates as Rosettes of Inanna.

E.g. the pomegranate (which is harvested from the pomegranate tree) has special religious sacred status in both Rabbinic Judaism and Anatolian folk culture. Indeed, the Torah scrolls in Overt Judaism are kept in place, held up and rolled during synagogue reading by means of two wooden sticks, each wooden stick having two usually wooden handles affixed to two wooden rollers. Also “Hizir” (Asherah) and Elijah (El) are supposed to meet annually under a rose tree as according to narratives of Alevism and Bektashism. This “arborocentrism” is apparently a Crypto-Bektashi remnant of tree-centered religious worship in earlier eras of Alevi-Bektashi Judaism specifically and Priestly Judaism generally.

Canaanite deity El

Canaanite deity El

In Anatolia, the first hair cut from a boy is kept for good luck in the father’s pocket. This is comparable to the ritual cutting of the first hair from boys among rabbinic Jews at the age of 3 where the ceremony is known as Upsherin (Yiddish for “shearing off”). However, in Alevism, the hair of Alevi boys is not cut until circumcision at the eight year (age seven) corresponding to Jewish circumcision at the eight day. This may be related to the laws of the first fruits (Hebrew Orlah) in Rabbinic Judaism where the first three years of fruit/seed from planted trees with edible fruits/seeds in the land of Israel cannot be harvested and eaten.

Judaism worships El, who was considered the main deity in the Canaanite pantheon and whose name is also found in the name Isra-el which is a combination of the names Asherah and El. Asherah was worshipped as trees and wooden poles (Hebrew asherim). Asherah is known in Rabbinic Judaism as Shekhinah, the female dimension of God a.k.a. the divine presence. There are even today Asherah poles in Alevism.

Wooden rollers of a Torah scroll.

Wooden rollers of a Torah scroll.

Yet even Torah scrolls are thus rolled around two asherim in the form of wooden poles and usually other wooden parts (rollers, handles) as used for navigating in the reading in the Torah in synagogue. What is peculiar about the pair of asherim of any Torah scroll is the rabbinical silence on this matter. While other religious matters are subject to intense scrutiny and deliberation in the Talmud, the Torah wooden paraphernalia are not commented on – a seeming omission which is of course is highly deliberate. This retains the Canaanite tree cult in the sense of the arboreal residual esoteric sanctum sanctorum so to speak of the Torah scrolls.

Ezekiel as depicted by Michelangelo.

Ezekiel as depicted by Michelangelo.

The wooden sword is a symbol of peace in Anatolian culture although wooden swords are certainly not exclusive to Anatolian culture in e.g. existing in the lore of Afghan rabbinic Jews and are used by children during the Jewish fire festival of Lag baOmer that is the rabbinically Jewish equivalent of Newroz. However, the wooden swords of Anatolian culture are apparently a barely disguised reference to the wooden sticks (Hebrew atzei chaim, trees of life) onto which Torah scrolls are wrapped and rolled around in Overt Judaism in reference to the biblical conception of the wooden stick of Judah and the wooden stick of Joseph whose prophetic joining together as per Ezekiel (37:16-17) symbolizes the future national, political unification of Jewry and Crypto-Jewry through Jewish eschatology.

Alevi Asherah pole with affixed written wishes on an Alevi sacred mountain.

“And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write upon it, ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel his companions’; and take one stick and write upon it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.’   And bring them close, one to the other into one stick, and they shall be one in your hand.

The Anatolian wooden sword and the Jewish wooden Torah sticks both symbolize the staff of Moses which according to the Hebrew Bible was turned into a snake, an ancient fertility symbol representing both “the seed of Israel” (Hebrew Zerah Israel) and the tribe of Dan, one of the Israelite tribes that were permanently deported by Assyria.

17. Rocks and Stones

Jewish graves in Israel with small stones added by visitors.

Jewish graves in Israel with small stones added by visitors.

There is a practice in Anatolian folk culture generally to place so called “wish stones” on tombs, very similar indeed to the Jewish practice of placing small pieces of stone on Jewish tomb stones. Also, on Alevi sacred mountains, stones have at least historically been left by visitors around the graves of important Alevi religious personalities and cloth with written wishes can also be tied to such stones as comparable indeed with the practice of putting wish notes into the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Haredi Jews in traditional Ashkenazi clothes. Similar clothes are often worn

Haredi Jews in traditional Ashkenazi clothes. Similar clothes are often worn
by Alevi Dedes.

It is considered unacceptable in Anatolian folk culture to remove stones and soil from cemeteries just as the small stones typically piled up on tombs of rabbinic Jews are not supposed to be removed by visitors. Many Haredi (strictly Orthodox) rabbinic Jews in Israel correspondingly believe that no archeological digging or construction of roads or buildings (which typically involve removal of both stones and soil) must take place where historical Jewish graves could be located so as not harm the buried skeletal remains of historically demised Jews as such potential harm to skeletal remains could according to this particular perspective actually in many individual cases physically prevent the expected ultimate resurrection (Hebrew techiat hametim) of individual Jews who demised throughout the ages by causing harm to their physical remains. In parallel, it is also traditionally considered inappropriate in Anatolian folk culture to place flower arrangements on graves as is traditionally indeed the view in Rabbinic Judaism as well.

Horns from sacrificed Goats have been collected on a rock situated on the slopes of a sacred Alevi mountain.

Horns from sacrificed Goats have been collected on a rock situated on the slopes of a sacred Alevi mountain.

Praying toward stones as do some Bektashis, including in the Balkans; throwing stones into water to induce rain corresponds to the rabbinically Jewish Tashlikh ceremony which externalizes sin by semiotically disposing of accumulated sins into a lake, river or ocean. The Kurdish practice of Bûke barane envisions the rain as a bride whom to welcome (symbolized by a children’s doll which is sung for and poured water over) comparable to the rabbinically Jewish practice of welcoming “the Shabbat bride” i.e. the welcoming or the coming of Shabbat by means of liturgical singing. There are also prayers in Anatolian folk culture so as to encourage the fall of rain as there are indeed in Rabbinic Judaism.

It is customary in Anatolian folk culture to kiss the wall of a shrine, comparable to the kissing of the stones of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. 40 stones picked in different locations are used in the bath of forty, symbolizing the forty years of proverbial wandering in the Sinai desert.

18. Water

Roman bath

Roman bath

As part of the historical process of Islamization, the immersion in a pool as part of the Roman bath in Anatolia was eliminated in what instead became known as the Turkish bath. This is logical as part of the process of Islamization as such immersion was intrinsic to both Hellenistic Judaism (ritual bath, mikveh) and Hellenistic Christianity (baptism) in the Byzantine Empire. The Alevi practice of blessing and wishing good luck by means of spreading drops of water as performed by Alevi Dedes occurs however much more generally in Anatolian culture and is not just done by Alevi Dedes. While this dispersion of water drops would seem to be a remnant of Christian baptism as traditionally performed symbolically on infants in Christianity; Christian baptism (both adult immersion and infant symbolic baptism with drops of water) evolved from Jewish ritual bathing, including apparently also this symbolic ritual bathing. As complete immersion was mostly removed under Muslim rule, blessings through dispersion of water drops hence seemingly became a culturally acceptable substitute for ritual immersion in surviving under the religious imperialism of Islamic rule.

The sacred Munzur River in the Zaza Alevi Dersim (Tunceli) region.

The sacred Munzur River in the Zaza Alevi Dersim (Tunceli) region.

Ritual bathing is however practiced prior to harvest and by an Anatolian bride just prior to her wedding (both practices as it happens being related to transmission of different kinds of “seed”), thus comparable to the ritual immersion in a mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) of a bride prior to her wedding as in accordance with Rabbinic Judaism. Also, the ritual act of breaking a glass by the groom which is performed at rabbinically Jewish weddings, often at the end of the wedding, is also performed in Anatolian folk culture by the groom, albeit at home after the wedding celebration itself is concluded. In Alevism however, this can still be done during the wedding itself as in Rabbinic Judaism. Jewish ritual bathing may take place in a river (or a lake, an ocean or a mikveh) and some Alevis do bath in a river before Cem.

European depiction of the Sumerian-Biblical myth of the Great Flood.

European depiction of the Sumerian-Biblical myth of the Great Flood.

The “bath of forty” (Turkish Kırk banyosu) washing ceremony involving forty movements of water is conducted for the Anatolian infant forty days after birth, hence semiotically symbolizing the last forty days and forty nights during the proverbial Great Flood as narrated in the Book of Genesis between finding ground and opening the ark. Forty stones collected from forty different locations are dropped into the baby bath. The mother and the baby is not supposed to leave home for forty days after her child’s birth and this is apparently a most ancient form of temporal ritual impurity of married women as seen in different forms in Ethiopian Judaism where women lived in separate huts during menstruation, Rabbinic Judaism (sexual abstention) and Samaritan Judaism which has exceptionally strict rules for married women’s ritual impurity during menstruation. There is thus unsurprisingly an idea in Anatolia that something can be achieved if verbally repeated 40 times. After the end of the forty days, the infant is dressed in new clothes and is introduced to its grandparents and this grandparental reception of the baby bath ceremony (Turkish Kırk uçurma evi). Anatolian Muslim children are formally accorded first names by imams following upon the Alevi custom of an Alevi Dede naming a child by whispering the name into the ear of the child. Also according to Rabbinic Judaism, Moses remained for forty days on Mount Sinai when receiving the Torah from God.

Tashlikh ceremony

Tashlikh ceremony

When someone dies in Anatolian folk culture it is customary for neighbors to pour out all water kept in their own homes, which is in some ways akin to Tashlikh in the sense of creating a clean slate by externalizing sins into water. Also, stones are thrown into water in Anatolia in a ceremony comparable to the rabbinically Jewish Tashlikh ritual of semiotically leaving one’s sins in a lake, river or ocean.

There is a taboo in Anatolian folk culture against boiling water without simultaneously using the boiling water for preparing food and it is not considered acceptable to put a knife into boiling water. Both taboos would seem to be imposed by Muslim religious imperialism against what may likely have historically been Alevi koshering practices as rabbinic Jews do make kitchen utensils kosher through immersion in boiling water. This would make sense as historically Alevis would not eat food prepared by non-Alevis, similar indeed to the rabbincally Jewish practice among ritually observant rabbinical Jews of not eating food prepared in a non-kosher kitchen.

The food certification label of the Orthodox Union (OU), a major Modern Orthodox Jewish organization in the United States.

The food certification label of the Orthodox Union (OU), a major Modern Orthodox Jewish organization in the United States.

There is generally a belief in Anatolian folk culture connecting iron and/or knives with rainy weather. There is also a practice in Anatolian folk culture of throwing or leaving knives in the garden or throwing a knife onto the roof as magical acts pertaining to rainy weather; including for halting rain, halting hailing, in response to lightning flashes and in response to thunder – the latter involves thrusting a knife into the ground in the garden which is also a custom in Rabbinic Judaism that is mentioned in the Talmud and done even today for the purpose of partially koshering a knife. Also, in Anatolian folk culture, a knife may be left on a trivet so as to stop the rain, seeming like a remnant of some kind of ancient koshering by rain with symbolic, but not actual immersion. It is similarly possible in Rabbinic Judaism to kosher a kitchen item through immersion into directly collected rain water.

The Jordan River

The Jordan River

While water is considered dangerous during the night in Anatolian folk culture, there is however a mostly positive view of daytime rain in the sense that such rain is not considered dangerous as is rain during the night. While both sleeping near fountains and engaging in nocturnal bathing in lakes are considered highly magically dangerous, bathing in a river before sunrise is in contrast considered healthy. Water tends to be considered dangerous if either “non-natural” (i.e. used at home) or nocturnal. Indeed, there is a comparable distinction in Rabbinic Judaism between natural water (i.e. natural water resources such as rain and rivers) and other forms of water which according to Halakha (Jewish law) in contrast cannot be used for the purpose of religious ritual bodily immersion of persons and kitchen utensils. The narratives of the Great Flood and the Egyptian Exodus are actually rather ambiguous in the view of water as simultaneously both dangerous and redemptive.

Pool of Siloam in the City of David in Jerusalem.

Pool of Siloam in the City of David in Jerusalem.

In the Temple in Jerusalem there was a practice during the biblical pilgrimage festival of Sukkot of pouring water onto the altar, a ceremony which is known in Hebrew as Nisuch haMayim, or “water drawing”; a procedure which also included wine sacrifice known in English as wine libation. The water was drawn from the Siloam pool (Hebrew Breikhat Hashiloah) in Jerusalem as historically fed by the Gihon Spring and was preceded by a nightlong celebration in each of the Chol haMoed (i.e. intermediary) days of the Sukkot pilgrimage festival, a celebration which in its contemporary form is known in Hebrew as Simchat Beit Hashoeivah. Thus, the water did not become considered ceremonially appropriate until at the end of the night.

19. Days

Israeli Jewish children playing with fire on Lag ba'Omer, the festive 33rd day of the Jewish counting of the Omer between the pilgrimage festivals Passover and Shavuot.

Israeli Jewish children playing with fire on Lag ba’Omer, the festive 33rd day of the Jewish counting of the Omer between the pilgrimage festivals Passover and Shavuot.

The counting of the 45 days in each of the three winter calendar periods (totaling 135 days) is followed by the counting of a warmer spring period of another 45 days, in total 180 days. This is comparable to the Jewish Omer counting of the 49 days between the first day of the pilgrimage festival of Passover (Pesach) and the first day of the pilgrimage festival of Shavuot but also to the Talmudic view that there are actually four New Year’s occasions during the span of a year.

There is an elaborate numerical system of countdown of days in Anatolia, reminiscent of the numerical naming of weekdays in Hebrew as used in the famous story of creation of the biblical Book of Genesis with Sunday known as Day One (Hebrew Yom Rishon), Monday as Day Two (Hebrew Yom Sheni) and so on in the intermediary days with the Friday known as Day Six (Hebrew Yom Shishi) and Saturday of course known as Shabbat, the Day of Rest. The Kurdish cyclical festival of Pir Shalyar is initiated on the 40th day counting from the formal beginning of the winter and which is subsequently celebrated in cycles of three weeks each.

Table set for Shabbat dinner in Jewish home.

Table set for Shabbat dinner in Jewish home.

A day is considered to begin at sunset rather than at sunrise in Anatolian culture as indeed in Rabbinic Judaism. Thursday is known as “Friday Night” (the Alevi Shabbat starts on Thursday night’s eve). Working, housecleaning, sowing, washing a newborn child, throwing dust and the cutting of nails on Fridays as well as knitting and the washing of clothes on Saturday are forbidden reflecting the Jewish taboo against doing household work on Shabbat. A child born on a Friday is expected to become wise while a child born late on Friday night is expected to become wealthy.

There are in Anatolian culture taboos associated with work on Tuesday (Day Three in the Hebrew week). It is therefore possible that there were originally two taboo days in the seven-day week in ancient Israelite culture, namely both Saturday (Day Seven) and Tuesday (Day Three). Clothes are not washed on Tuesdays, clothes washed on a Tuesday cannot be worn, work tasks are not initiated on Tuesdays, children born on Tuesdays may become killers, weddings are not held on Tuesdays, a job started on a Monday goes slowly, one must not set out on a Tuesday and no fields are sown on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. As a comparison is Wednesday the Yezidi sabbath; Yezidism being a denomination of Priestly Judaism that is historically related to Alevi-Bektashi Judaism. In Anatolia it is not considered appropriate to eat as the sun goes down while in Rabbinic Judaism eating on Shabbat eve takes place after the end of daylight on Fridays; i.e. after sunset.

20. Nights and the Moon

The moon during lunar eclipse.

The moon during lunar eclipse.

Remnants of moon worship still remains in Rabbinic Judaism in the form of celebrating the new month (Hebrew Rosh Chodesh, literally head of the month) as part of regular prayer services as well as the recitation of Kiddush Levana (Hebrew for Moon Sanctification). In Rabbinic Judaism, Rosh Chodesh is considered the women’s holiday. Anatolian culture welcomes the moon as a female entity, similar to the welcoming of the Shabbat as the Shabbat bride in Rabbinic Judaism. Therefore, in order to worship the moon as part of the female aspect of God – it was necessary to perform religious services during the night. This led to the night being sacralized in Anatolian culture and considered sacred time with a number of activities not permitted as during daylight on Fridays, Tuesdays and festivals. Alevi Cem was performed during the night in Ottoman times.

Jewish woman praying at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Jewish woman praying at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Certain household work typically done by females is not permitted during nights including the sweeping of floors, taking a spider, throwing out ashes outdoors, cleaning the front door, doing laundry or passing a place where nocturnal laundry is done. Handiworks are not done, nails are not cut and baby underwear cannot be hanged following afternoon prayers. Orthodox Jewish women to varying still abstain from labor on Rosh Chodesh, including often various types of household labor.

The Anatolian cultural taboo against disposing of ashes during the night is comparable to the biblically prescribed practice of a hereditary priest taking out ashes from the Temple in Jerusalem, notably not during the night but only in the morning following upon the night. As obviously the ashes from the Temple sacrifice in Jerusalem and presumably in other Israelite temples were considered sacred it certainly makes sense that Anatolian folk culture does not permit stepping on or urinating on ashes. The Anatolian notion of not sleeping by the ashes is also consistent with the biblical notion of a Kohen hereditary priest staying up during the night in the Temple in Jerusalem and only disposing of the ashes at the end of the night in the morning. Anatolian folk culture also does not allow mixing ashes with water which certainly preserves the integrity of what was no doubt a sacred matter in Israelite Temple practices considering that the ashes were derived from the Temple’s practice of Animal sacrifice.

Alevi candle lighting on mountain pilgrimage.

Alevi candle lighting on mountain pilgrimage.

The Alevi Cem was traditionally under Islamic rule celebrated at night under great secrecy in rural areas, so as to avoid persecution on the part of Muslim imperialists. The nocturnal Cem service became severely stigmatized in Anatolian Muslim society and falsely associated with religiously forbidden sexual activities, namely the-blow-out-the-candles-libel (Turkish mum söndü) which falsely accuses Alevis of commonly engaging in heterosexual group sex and incest.

Anatolian Islam has instituted five “holy nights”, known as Kandil involving exposing domes of mosques to light (and historically so through oil lamps) as this is indeed functionally comparable to the way that major hanukkiot (Hebrew plural for hanukkiah, the Jewish candelabrum with nine candles) are affixed to rooftops in Rabbinic Judaism. Also, the large golden Menorah candelabrum in the Temple in Jerusalem was fueled precisely by olive oil. In Rabbinic Judaism there is also an annual night of study known as Tikkun Leil Shavuot as well as an often nocturnal prayer section known as Selichot.

Jewish Hanukkiah candelabrum

Jewish Hanukkiah candelabrum

There is mostly a very positive conception of the moon in Anatolian folk culture and the coming of new moon (i.e. Rosh Chodesh in Rabbinic Judaism) is honored by sowing and harvesting prior to the emergence of the full moon. Teeth are not extracted and trees are not cut down prior to the new moon when the moon is invisible. It is also not permitted to enter or leave forests and heights when there is no moon. Babies born on full moon are considered as born with luck and a good future. Girls born during full moon are expected to become beautiful and charismatic with shining skin when they grow up. Also, seeding during the old moon is considered as bringing great harvest. Negative perceptions of the moon in Anatolian folk culture relate to not properly respecting the moon which is unsurprising as the reception of the moon is central indeed to rabbinically Jewish moon-related worship.

Although Rabbinic Judaism does not share the negative view of the night as commonly experienced in much of Anatolian folk culture, still both Shabbat and holidays begin and end with end of the day and the coming of the night and so the distinction between daytime and nighttime remains highly important in Rabbinic Judaism as well.

21. Mourning in Bereavement

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

There are each five overlapping periods of receding degrees of mourning in both Rabbinic Judaism and Anatolian folk culture. These five periods are in Rabbinic Judaism (1) the first two-three days, (2) the first three days (3) the first seven days after bereavement, (4) the first 30 days after demise and in the case of a demised parent (5) the first year after demise.

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

The five stages of mourning in Anatolian folk culture folk culture are (1) three days, (2) seven days, (3) forty days (4), fifty-second days and the (5) first year or two first years after bereavement. These are seen in Anatolian folk culture as marking the five stages in the personal process of mourning which is seen as representing different stages of the journey of the demised and similarly in Rabbinic Judaism the five stages of mourning are seen as distinctive steps of the spiritual ascent of the soul of the demised.

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

It is customary in both Anatolian culture and Rabbinic Judaism to bring food and prepared meals for relatives of the demised to the demised person’s home during the three-day period in Anatolian culture and during the seven-day period in Rabbinic Judaism. No food is cooked in the home of the demised during the first 2-3 days of bereavement.

The spirit of the demised is considered as returning to visit her/his former home seven days after the demise. It is customary in parts of Anatolia for mourning males not to shave for about 1-2 weeks after demise similar to the rabbinically Jewish prohibition on male shaving during the first 30 days of mourning. One must not look at nails during funeral in Anatolia while in Judaism tools such as scissors must not be used to trim the nails during the 30 days of mourning.

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

Mourning persons in Anatolian culture desist from both social activities and the wearing of new clothing for a period of mourning varying between 40 days and 2 years. This is similar to Rabbinic Judaism where social/public/cultural activities, the wearing of new clothes and the cutting of one’s hair is restricted for one year for those mourning a parent and for 30 days for those mourning another relative. There are also restrictions on shaving for some time while mourning in Rabbinic Judaism although strictly speaking this restriction is for a full year. In Anatolian folk culture however, the period of mourning is instead longer if the deceased is a young person. It is customary to pay visits to the bereaved in the home of the demised person. This takes place for seven days in Rabbinic Judaism and for a comparable period in Anatolian culture. The washing of clothes, cleaning of the house or bringing in water is not done before burial in Anatolian culture while in Rabbinic Judaism Jews are released from normal everyday demands (i.e. s/he is no bound by positive commandments).

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

In Anatolian culture, memorial candles are lit near tombs, candles are lit for seven nights at the place where the dead body is washed and candles are also lit at the home of the demised. Yet in Anatolian folk culture, a candle may also be lit for a newborn or a mother that has recently given birth. Also, lights are not turned off for three days in the house where the body was washed. Rabbinic Judaism prescribes the lighting of five memorial candles at the home of the demised person, candles which are kept burning for the seven-day Shiva (Hebrew for “seven”) grieving period and candle-lighting on each anniversary of bereavement is required for those who lost a parent in Rabbinic Judaism. It is considered acceptable for a mourner to cry out in grief in Anatolian culture, something that is accepted under Jewish Law (Hebrew Halakha meaning path) but not under Islamic Law (Arabic Sharia also meaning path).

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

Alevi scapesheep grave statue.

If a burial takes place during the day of a neighbor’s wedding, then musical instruments are not used at the wedding and permission must be sought from neighboring bereaved relatives in a village for use of musical instruments on weddings during other days of local bereavement. Interestingly, musical instruments were used in the Temple in Jerusalem during prayer services on Shabbat, yet the use of musical instruments on Shabbat anywhere else than in the Temple is traditionally completely prohibited in Rabbinic Judaism.

Alevi scapesheep grave statues in snow.

Alevi scapesheep grave statues in snow.

It is customary in Rabbinic Judaism to cover mirrors (and pictures) in the home during the first seven days of mourning. In Anatolian folk culture there is a similar approach towards mirrors as looking into the mirror in the evening is considered as shortening one’s life and looking in the mirror is considered highly inappropriate during the night. A mirror that gets broken is considered as bringing bad luck to the home for seven years.

22. Amulets

Alevi woman kissing doorpost when entering Cemevi compound.

Alevi woman kissing doorpost when entering Cemevi compound.

The Anatolian kissing of the doorpost at the entrance of a holy space is comparable to the kissing of the mezuzah (a piece of sacred text parchment usually contained in a decorative case) affixed to doorposts of buildings in Rabbinic Judaism. There are a number of taboos with regard to the doorway and the threshold of a house or room in Anatolia in the sense of constituting remnants of the ancient Israelite/Judaic custom of the mezuzah which in Samaritan Judaism actually takes the form of a written text above the door and in Yezidi Judaism takes the form of a symbolic serpent affixed to or near the doorpost.

Mezuzah affixed to doorpost.

Mezuzah affixed to doorpost.

The blue anti-evil-eye amulet (Turkish nazar boncuğu) commonly used in Anatolia is often put on doorposts and hence essentially used in the ‘magical’ sense that many traditional Mizrahi rabbinical Jews also think of the mezuzot (plural of mezuzah) that they affix to their own doorposts, in addition to the mezuzah of course traditionally considered constituting a halakhically binding religious commandment in Rabbinic Judaism. Since the mezuzah is originally a serpent symbol (Hebrew nehash nehoshet or copper Serpent) it is understandable that it developed into a hypnotic staring eye in Anatolia considering the intense, even hypnotizing gaze of snakes. Biblically, the copper Serpent is attributed to Moses while in the Wilderness who it is said to have put a copper Serpent on top of a pole so as to medically treat Israelites bitten by “seraphim”, supposedly snakes. Also according to biblical narrative, the Copper Serpent of Moses was kept in the sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem until removed under orders from King Hezekiah.

Nazar

Nazar

It is customary in Anatolia to wear the triangular Muska amulet (from merger of Hebrew mezuzah with Arabic nuskhah for amulet) which contains a short sacred text, thus functionally similar indeed to the mezuzah as well. In Islamdom, Crypto-Jews often barely disguise appearance of the Star of David (Hebrew Magen David, Shield of David) and as the six-pointed symbol basically may be interpreted as two triangles overlaid onto one another, the Muska Triangle is however a barely disguised Mezuzah in the shape of barely disguised Shield of David. Furthermore, it is essentially used as a symbolic tefillin in the sense as it is placed on the right hand and moved towards the heart, comparable to the arm-tefillin (Hebrew tefillin shel yad) which points to the heart. Also, this çevşen may be made from leather and is thus three Jewish symbols in one ritual obeject. While originally like the Muskah among Crypto-Bektashi Anatolian Muslims, the çevşen must have contained a scriptural or otherwise devotional text, likely the Shema Israel text parchment put into in mezuzot.

23. Animals

Not only is the Hebrew Bible a virtual inventory of many different trees as richly reflected in arboreal taboos of Anatolian folk culture but so is the Hebrew Bible also a virtual inventory of many different kinds of Animals as well.

Lion of Judah, Deer of Naphtali, Serpent of Dan and Wolf of Benjamin.

Lion of Judah, Deer of Naphtali, Serpent of Dan and Wolf of Benjamin.

Many different kinds of Animals are associated with good luck and misfortune respectively in Anatolian folk culture which is quite comparable to Rabbinic Judaism which following upon Biblical Judaism distinguishes between ritually pure Animals and ritually impure Animals. The Lion of Judah, the Deer of Naphtali, the Wolf of Benjamin, the Serpent of Dan and the Donkey of Issachar are however prominent symbolic Animals in the context of Israelite and Jewish culture in the sense of representing different ancient Israelite tribes and are for this reason symbolically important in Alevi-Bektashi Judaism and Crypto-Jewish Anatolian culture as well.

Bektashi depiction riding the Lion of Judah while carrying the Serpent of Dan in hand.

Bektashi depiction riding the Lion of Judah while carrying the Serpent of Dan in hand.

Sacrificed Animals are considered ritually sacred in Anatolian culture and their bones must therefore not be broken but must instead be buried along with the blood. This is probably the origin of the surviving rabbinically Jewish practice of having a skeletal item from a Sheep on the Pesach Seder plate. Some Alevis have tombstones erected in the form of scapegoat Sheep and hence semiotically therefore apparently offering absolution from sins that have been accumulated throughout life.

Sacrifice of Sheep during Cem.

Sacrifice of Sheep during Cem.

The howling of a Wolf is associated with rain, cold weather and snow as with the winter weather in much of the Benjamin tribal area (the Wolf is a symbol of the tribe of Benjamin) with its often snowy winters, a region in northern Judea which is nowadays known in Modern Hebrew as Mateh Binyamin. Yet while the symbolism of Wolves is positive, this is not so with the respective symbolisms of the genetically closely related Dogs and Jackals that are both associated with bad luck.

Logotype of the Binyamin Regional Council in northern Judea.

Logotype of the Binyamin Regional Council in northern Judea.

Hares/Rabbits are associated with bad luck in Anatolian folk culture as the meat of Hares/Rabbits is considered forbidden as food to both Alevis/Bektashis and rabbinic Jews. Although Alevis regard the Hare/Rabbit as a semiotic limit between Alevis & Bektashis on the one hand and Crypto-Bektashi indigenous Anatolian Muslims on the other, the fact is that the Hare/Rabbit is a cultural taboo among both demographic categories. It is thus considered indicative of future misfortune if either one’s path or one’s car’s path is crossed by a Hare/Rabbit. The traditional Anatolian custom is to go back when one’s path is crossed by a Hare/Rabbit so as to therefore avoid the otherwise ensuing misfortune.

The Dove of Land unifying the Deer of Naphtali and the Lion of Judah.

The Dove of Land unifying the Deer of Naphtali and the Lion of Judah.

The Pigeon/Dove is a symbol of Alevi-Bektashi Judaism as it is not permitted in Anatolian folk culture to kill a Dove or a Pigeon. The Crow/Raven and the Dove are mentioned together in the Book of Genesis yet the Crow/Raven is sacred in its semiotic absence and hence not considered as bringing good luck while being present in a pre-Messianic era where esoterically speaking the broader nation of Israel still remains territorially non-united.

The Hind/Deer/Gazelle, the symbol of the tribe of Naphtali is associated with human female fertility in Anatolian folk culture and it is thus assumed that a woman who observes a menstruating hind will not be able to give birth for seven years. This apparently corresponds to the fact that the tribe of Naphtali was the sixth of the tribes of ancient biblical Israel and the number seven honorary task in Cem celebration as esoteric Alevi-Bektashi Judaism counts Joseph as being counted before Reuben among the ancient Israelite fraternal tribes; something which in this context indeed makes the tribe of Naphtali counted as the proper seventh tribe and hence the giving of the second honorary task during the Alevi 12 services to a Rehber; a symbolic Reuben no less.

Jewish tefillin are symbolic serpents.

Jewish tefillin are symbolic serpents.

Snakes are considering sacred and usually in most Anatolian cultural contexts considered as bringing good luck although the Judaic cultural ambiguity as regards Snakes is seen as early as in the Book of Genesis. The Serpent is also a symbol of the Israelite tribe of Dan which resided in ancient biblical times in the current Tel Aviv metropolitan area, nowadays known in Modern Hebrew as Gush Dan. The Serpent is also prominently considered sacred in Yezidism, a non-Hellenistic branch of Priestly Judaism. Alevism considers Black Snakes to be sacred and killing them is not permitted. Snakes are considered as bringing rain in Anatolian culture and this may be associated with the humid weather and more common rainfall in the Dan tribal area in the current Tel Aviv metropolitan area known in Hebrew as Gush Dan, the Bloc of Dan. In the present older generations in the Alevi community, motifs of intertwined serpents used to be a popular motif on wedding rings. Of course, the intertwined serpents esoterically symbolize the future unification of the nation of Israel. The motif of intertwined serpents is found in the rabbinically Jewish braided Havdalah candle that is lit at the end of Shabbat at Saturday evening, in the braided Shabbat Challah bread and Tefillin are also symbolic Serpents.

Alevi-Bektashi head tefillin in Alevi-Bektashi religious art. A serpent is held in hand.

Alevi-Bektashi head tefillin in Alevi-Bektashi religious art. A serpent is held in hand.

Serpent fire sacrifice still takes place through the extremely abusive practice of throwing a living snake into a fire. This is of particularly ancient, even pre-Israelite origin considering that there was a serpent cult in Canaanite religion and this apparently still exists in some form in Yezidism. Another form of serpent sacrifice takes place by killing a snake and throwing it into waters, a practice which is believed to bring rain. Obviously, there is a certain logocentric binary practice at play here in Anatolian folk culture of either sacrificing a living snake in fire or else sacrificing a snake by otherwise killing it and only afterwards disposing of its body into what is known in Rabbinical Judaism as “living water”, a ritual sacrifice which is expected to bring rain and floods in Anatolian culture. Rain is thus considered magically induced by serpent sacrifice through either fire or water.

Shahmaran (Yah Maran)

Shahmaran (Yah Maran)

The relationship between the Serpent and Eve in the biblical Book of Genesis (Sefer Bereshit) is depicted in Kurdish folk culture as Shahmaran (ostensibly Kurdish meaning King of Snakes) as a hybrid creature both woman and snake. This depiction may also be influenced by Byzantine Christian rule as such artistic depiction of the Serpent of the Book of Genesis appeared in European medieval art as well. This is nevertheless now a biblical depiction of fertility without Christian references in a non-Christian Crypto-Jewish culture. After all, Humans and many other Animals procreate through the physical combination of woman and human Phallus. Shahmaran has a different esoteric etymology as Maran is Aramaic means “our master” and is among Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews and Haredi Jewish used to refer to very prominent rabbis considered most highly respected and Shah in Alevi-Bektashi Judaism means Yah, a reference to the God of Israel. Shahmaran therefore means Yah Our Master referring to the transgender God of Esoteric Judaism.

Pharaonic serpent headgear

Pharaonic serpent headgear

Roosters and Turkeys are sacrificed at religious shrines in Anatolian culture, in ways closely parallel to the highly controversial and extremely abusive Kapparot ceremony in Rabbinic Judaism. Sacrifice of non-human Animals is not limited to Alevism but takes place as well during Anatolian Muslim holidays in Anatolia in excess of Islamic obligations.

While Donkeys, being non-kosher Animals are usually not kept or used by Alevis, the Donkey is the symbol of the Israelite tribe of Issachar (one of the Ten Tribes deported by Assyria) and Donkeys thus appear on Alevi tomb stones. The Donkey is also a messianic symbol in Judaism as it is believed that the expected mashiach (messiah) will ultimately arrive riding on a Donkey. The Donkey as appearing on Alevi gravestones are therefore symbols of hoped for eschatological redemption.

24. Bread

The braided Shabbat Challah bread are symbolic serpents.

The braided Shabbat Challah bread are symbolic serpents.

Biblical law requires farmers in the land of Israel to leave the harvest of the corner (Hebrew Pe’ah) of the field for the benefit of the poor while Anatolian folk culture believes that someone who sleeps by the edge of a field becomes paralyzed. There is baking, eating and sharing of ritual bread in Anatolian folk culture, the equivalents of which in Rabbinic Judaism are the Shabbat Challah bread and the Passover Matza bread as consumed with salt. Many Zaza Alevis still bake and eat Matza bread, known as miaze xızıri in Zazaki, i.e. the Matza of Asherah. Bread is not thrown away in Anatolian folk culture and even making sure that breadcrumbs do not fall on the floor is considered as bringing luck and fertility.

Alevi unleavened Matza bread in Dersim (Tunceli) region.

Alevi unleavened Matza bread in Dersim (Tunceli) region.

Bread may be ritually waved for magical purposes, including releasing a perjurer from perjury by circulating the bread around her/his head, in which case the bread is given to a Dog. Also, bread may be circulated over a wound and subsequently thrown into a graveyard or given to a Dog. Similarly, salt (which is ritually prominently used together with the Shabbat challah in Rabbinic Judaism and for salting kosher meat) or a coin (which is a common ritual supplement in Rabbinic Judaism) may be circulated around the head of a person who survived an accident so as to prevent recurrence of further accidents. The Alevi custom is comparable to Birkat Hagomel, a blessing recited e.g. after having survived an accident or recovered from serious illness. Using money as ritual substitutes is also practiced in Rabbinic Judaism, including by performing Kapparot with coins (or flowers) rather than a Hen, either of which is also waved around one’s own head.

Alevi unleavened Matza bread in Dersim (Tunceli) region.

Alevi unleavened Matza bread in Dersim (Tunceli) region.

Bread baskets and yeast substance are not transferred from one home to another and salt, dairy products and spices are not taken out of the home at night. Judaism of course is famous for its restrictions on consumption of dairy products (prohibition on mixing Meat and Milk). Comparable to the prohibition in Rabbinic Judaism on eating “the first fruit” (Hebrew Orlah), it is believed in Anatolia that a married man who eats the first bread from the first flour from a certain mill will end up losing his wife, apparently the reverse scenario as compared to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden subsequent to the famous eating of forbidden fruit in Bereshit (Book of Genesis). The original biblical commandment of the Challah only applied biblically inside the land of Israel and it therefore very much makes sense comparably speaking that a piece of bread is taken out of the mouth of someone about to leave Anatolia. Bread is divided using hands and fingers and not by using a knife. This is comparable to how many household heads in Rabbinic Judaism use hands and fingers to divide the challah bread before handing it out to the other dinner participants at the Shabbat meal.

25. Reverse Discourse

Fire is considered sacred in Alevi-Bektashi Judaism, yet fire is often considered hellish and evil among rural Anatolian Muslims.

Fire is considered sacred in Alevi-Bektashi Judaism, yet fire is often considered hellish and evil among rural Anatolian Muslims.

Anatolian culture among Muslims developed taboos around things traditionally considered sacred in ancient Priestly Judaism. Views on fire are therefore important among Alevis/Bektashis and Crypto-Bektashi Anatolian Muslims alike. While Alevis/Bektashis tend to hold favorable religious views with regard to fire which is considered sacred; traditional rural Crypto-Bektashi Muslims tend to hold unfavorable views with regard to fire, boiling water and ash and especially so in the context of the kitchen, constituting thus a kind of binary logocentrism between Alevis and Bektashis on the one hand and involuntarily Islamized Crypto-Bektashi Anatolian Sunni Muslims on the other.

Nazar tree

Nazar tree

This is a cultural reversal structurally similar to how in Anatolian culture originally Israelite veneration of sacred trees developed into “dangerous” tree taboos whereby resting, sleeping or living under various kinds of trees became considered as “hazardous” (including demonically/diabolically so), as bringing “bad luck”, an “unhappy fate” and sleepiness. Rabbinically Jewish folk culture and Anatolian folk culture are indeed also similar (albeit not uniquely or exclusively so) in the sense of living in fear of antagonistic spirits that could be provoked by unwisely breaking various cultural taboos. This may be seen as a cultural remnant of the repressed pantheons of proto-Israelite polytheistic religion.

26. Nails

The braided Havdalah candle is another serpent symbol in Rabbinic Judaism.

The braided Havdalah candle is another serpent symbol in Rabbinic Judaism.

In Anatolian folk culture there is the custom that fingernails and toenails should not be cut simultaneously, while in Rabbinic Judaism fingernails and toenails should not be clipped on the same day. There are even special rules as for in what order to cut fingernails in Rabbinic Judaism. In both Anatolian folk culture and Rabbinic Judaism, nail clippings must not be dropped onto the floor/ground and must not be stepped on. There is the view in Anatolian folk culture that the wrong kind of situation of cutting nails brings bad luck while in Rabbinic Judaism there is the view that leaving nail clippings on the floor could lead to miscarriage for a pregnant woman passing by the nail clippings lying on the floor.

The Havdalah ceremony of extinguishing a braided Havdalah candle in wine concludes Shabbat on Saturday evening. Alevis and Bektashis are often and falsely so accused by Muslims of engaging in heterosexual group sex after the corresponding moment in the Cem ceremonies.

The Havdalah ceremony of extinguishing a braided Havdalah candle in wine concludes Shabbat on Saturday evening. Alevis and Bektashis are often and falsely so accused by Muslims of engaging in heterosexual group sex after the corresponding moment in the Cem ceremonies.

In Rabbinic Judaism, there is a custom of looking at one’s nails during the Havdalah ceremony (which literally means “separation” in Hebrew) that formally concludes the Shabbat and separates holiday from regular weekday. Prior to a rabbinically Jewish funeral as part of the cleaning and preparation of the body for burial, the nails of the deceased are trimmed while in Anatolian folk culture there is instead a taboo against looking at nails during funeral which is interesting as the funeral indeed constitutes separation from the dead.

Lighting three candles during Cem.

Lighting three candles during Cem.

In Rabbinic Judaism, nails must not be cut during Shabbat (which begins on Friday evening) while in Anatolian folk culture one must not cut nails during the night and especially not on Friday evening. The Talmud states that “the righteous bury their nails, the pious burn them, and the wicked carelessly discard them.” In Anatolian folk culture however, nail clippings must be neither carelessly disposed of, nor burned.

27. Shabbat

Jewish memorial candles

Jewish memorial candles

While in Anatolian folk culture the day of rest is clearly Friday/Saturday (i.e. Shabbat) where much household work is disallowed, for Alevis however, Shabbat is now treated as a day of mourning. Thus during Friday Night evening prayers many Alevis cry while praying and apparently so in esoteric mourning of the loss of certain aspects Shabbat as Friday Night Shabbat candle lighting in many Alevi communities was moved to Thursday night so as to avoid persecution and being identified as Jewish.

Alevi woman hugging Asherah pole.

Alevi woman hugging Asherah pole.

Furthermore, sexual intercourse is prohibited during Shabbat as during days of fasting in both Alevism and Rabbinic Judaism. Fasting in Rabbinic Judaism is mostly associated with the mourning of events in Jewish history. Alevism has however retained the Jewish prohibition on commercial transactions during Shabbat (Friday/Saturday). However, in practice the combination of the prohibition on much female household work during Shabbat as coupled with the Alevi prohibition on commercial transactions on Shabbat means that Shabbat is actually upheld to a very significant degree by Alevis who also observe the requirements of Anatolian folk culture, i.e. Alevi-Bektashi folk religion. However, in practice Anatolian Shabbat is something kept by women primarily as most of the existing prohibitions on performing certain activities during the Anatolian Shabbat relate to women specially. This is not surprising as women play highly important and active roles in upholding Shabbat in Rabbinical Judaism, including lighting the Shabbat candles on the eve of Friday night.

28. Hıdırellez (Israel)

The green fingers on the right hand of Haji Bektash Veli (HaYah BeKodesh Ve’Eli) symbolizing Asherah/Inanna, the female aspect of God. The right hand symbolizes Benjamin (which means right hand) and is therefore in remembrance of Jerusalem which in ancient Israel was part of he Benjamin tribal area.

The festival of Hıdırellez is celebrated on May 6 and the name is composed of two distinctive parts, namely Hizir meaning Asherah and Elias (Elijah) meaning El. Thus Hıdırellez simply means Israel which likewise is a combination of the names of the two Canaanite deities Asherah and El.

The two are said to meet annually on the Hıdırellez festival under a rose tree. Hıdırellez celebrates the unity of the female and male aspects of God. Hıdırellez is thus the meeting of El and Asherah as also symbolized by the meeting of King David and Queen Saba. The Muslim etymology of Hizir is al Khidr, meaning “green”, albeit here esoterically referring to the Jewish practice of decorating homes and synagogues with greenery at the time of the Jewish pilgrimage festival of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) which is celebrated at about the same time of the year as Hıdırellez. In Hıdırellez however, notes containing written and/or drawn wishes are rather tied to trees and shrubs.

Hand of Inanna

Hand of Inanna

In the Balkans, Hıdırellez is widely known and celebrated as Durdevdan which exoterically means Saint George’s Day in Serbian but whose esoteric Crypto-Jewish etymology is Duvdevan, meaning cherry in Hebrew as referring to cherry bloom in the spring.

The appearance of two messianic figures is a theme that exists in both Rabbinic Judaism (mashiach ben Yosef and mashiach ben David) and Twelver Shia Islam (the Hidden Imam and Issa as Jesus is known in Muslim Arabic). However, in Hıdırellez these two Messianic personalities symbolize the unity of the male side and the female side in God.

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom

The main New Year in Rabbinic Judaism (there are four according to the Talmud) is known as Rosh Hashanah and celebrates the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve and similarly Hıdırellez is an annual event for unmarried persons to meet and fall in love. The main New Year of Priestly Judaism is therefore not Newroz as is indeed widely believed but rather Hıdırellez. Newroz instead esoterically celebrates the emergence of the Median Empire and the increasing conversion of the Medes to Judaism by the kohanim of the Israelite tribes deported from ancient Israel to and near what is now Kurdistan.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill].

Psalms 137:5

29. Miscellaneous

Israeli Haredi politician Eli Yishai kissing the hand of the late prominent Israeli rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Israeli Haredi politician Eli Yishai kissing the hand of the late prominent Israeli rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

It is common to kiss the hands of the elderly in Anatolian folk culture as it is indeed mandated in the Babylonian Talmud to kiss the hands of one’s parents although this is not upheld by Ashkenazi Jews. Mizrahi rabbinic Jews also kiss the hands of prominent rabbinical leaders. It is also common in Anatolia to seek prayers from holy men as is done in Rabbinic Judaism. The biblical custom of the Levirate (the custom of a brother in law marrying the widow of his recently demised brother) is still part of Anatolian culture generally among both Alevis/Bektashis and Muslims. It is customary for rabbinic Jews returning to the land of Israel to kiss the ground upon arrival and the same custom exists in Anatolia where people kiss the ground after having been away from either country or home region.

Egyptian goddess Isis with early head tefillin and red headband.

Egyptian goddess Isis with early head tefillin and red headband.

The Hanafi school of Sunni Islam that predominates among Turkish-speaking Anatolian Muslims considers circumcision as highly recommended but not as obligatory; yet the taboo against non-circumcision of boys among indigenous Anatolians whether Alevi, Bektashi or Crypto-Bektashi Muslim is literally as extremely strong as in Rabbinic Judaism where it is considered absolutely obligatory even when the parents are not themselves otherwise in any significant way considered by themselves or by others as religiously observant. Rather than originally at the eight day, circumcision is now performed at the eight year (i.e. age seven) in Anatolia.

The Anatolian practice of wearing a red ribbon-headwrap (Turkish lohusa tacı) is seemingly the remnant of an ancient Canaanite practice that in Anatolian culture is still practiced subsequent to a woman giving birth. The Jewish head leather straps; i.e. the head phylactery (Hebrew Tefillin shel rosh) is similarly a remnant of this ancient Canaanite custom. This is also worn by Alevis on some occasions to emphasize Kizilbash (redhead) Alevi identity.

Yah Asherah (Ya Xizir). From PKK promotional material intended to emphasize participation of Kurdish Alevi women in the PKK.

Yah Asherah (Ya Xizir). From PKK promotional material intended to emphasize participation of Kurdish Alevi women in the PKK.

Simple numerology is generally very common in Anatolian folk culture as is far more complex numerology in rabbinically Jewish culture and Bektashism. Numbers seven and forty are particularly important in both Anatolian folk culture and in Rabbinic Judaism.

There is a spectrum of various degrees of social excommunication in Anatolian folk culture and Alevism, a spectrum of degrees of excommunication which in Rabbinic Judaism is mostly known in Hebrew as Cherem.

The Chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy) is widely used in Anatolian culture.

The Chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy) is widely used in Anatolian culture.

Weddings are not performed in the period between the two Bayram festivities in Anatolia similar to the prohibition in Rabbinic Judaism on performing weddings in the period during the Counting of the Omer from the first day of Pesach to the first day of Shavuot.

Generally speaking, there is also structural similarity between Anatolian culture and rabbinically Jewish culture in the sense of there being a more general tension between huge numbers of severe taboos that would seem logically inexplicable as opposed to a general tendency in the direction of religious flexibility. Thus, while there is belief in upholding seemingly unexplicable taboos, there is also paradoxically so much room for laxity and adaption in religious practice.