Sema is the first thing, which occurs in one’s mind when he means “Mevlevilik” the way of life style of Mevlevis. It means, “to hear” in any dictionary. When we take it as a term, it means to move in ecstasy while listening to the musical tunes and whirl around himself in ecstasy. Sema was executed by a reason of religious enthusiasm and Islamic mysticism without obeying any rule during the time of Hazreti Mevlana. Then beginning with the time of Sultan Veled and Ulu Arif Çelebi, it was executed in a complete discipline, was put into a tight order until the time of Pir Adil Çelebi. During this period, executing the Sema became possible to learn and to teach. Thus, Sema perfonmances reached to the latest formation in the XV. Century. Later on Nati Sherif was added in the XVII. Century.
Sema symbolically states the formation of the Universe, to come to the life of humanity in the Universe, the love of human to Allah and to act in love of Allah, to perceive his worship and to incline towards to be the perfect man.
Mutrip and semasens (Dervishes) take place in the semahane (Sema Place) after greeting the Sheikh’s Post: then the Sheikh enters into the semahane; he greets mutrip team and semazens, and sits down on his post.
The saz group (group of musicians) of the mutrip, consist of Nays (The Reed Flutes played in Mevlevi Music). Mostly rebabs , kanuns and tamburs (all Turkish classical musical instruments) are also added to this group. There is neyzenbaşı as a chief nay players and there is a kudümzen başı who conducts the orchestra with a tambourine with cymbals and the other one with a tambourine without cymbals that is called “Bendir”.
Sema ceremony begins with “Na’t I Sherif”. Nat’I sheriff is a poem of Hazreti Mevlana which praises Hazreti Muhammed (peace be upon him) who is the most sacred creature and was caused to be creatured of Universe. The compositor “Itri” whose name was Buhurizade Mustafa Efendi, composed this Nat in the XVII. Century in the maqam (tune) of Rast. The Na’t han reads this on foot and without saz (orchestra).
Kudüm beatings follow the Na’t that represents the command of the Great Creator Allah about the existence; it means “be” or “exist”. According to the Islamic belief, Allah created first the human body as spiritless, then Allah blow upon the body from his soul and made human body alive.
Ney taksim (Ney perfonmace) which is done after the Na’t, represents this heavenly blow.
After the Nay perfonmance which is an instrumental improvisation the peshrev (the best known for of long rhythmic music) begins, the chief and the semazens come to the Sema square whirling from the right to left in a circle. They go around three times and it is called “Devri Veledi” Veledi Period.
An imaginary supposed line between the door of Semahane and the red post against it, divides the semahane into two equal circles. This line is called “Hattı Istiwa” is accepted as sacred by Mevlevi and it is never stepped on.
The fourth scene is Sultan Veled Age. This is a circular walk of semazens who greet each other three times with a peshrev. This form is a greeting of secret soul to human soul. The semazen who comes to the post level from the right side of the sema square, passes to the opposite side without stepping on the Hatt-I Istiwa and without turning his back to the post. Thus he comes face to face with semazen who follows after him. These two dervishes bow down at the same time and greet each other. This greeting is called “Mukabele”.
The Dervish who comes to the point where Hatt-i istiwa cuts across the Sema Square, greets again bowing and goes on walking without stepping on the Hatt-i Istiwa.
Devr-I Veled (Veled’s period) is completed at the end of the third Scene when the Sheikh takes place on the post. Under the guidance of the Sheikh the spiritual trainer, these periods symbolize Mutlak Hakikat (Absolute Belief), knowing the religious information as “Ilm-el Yaqin- Certain Knowledge of Allah and religious life” sees as a “Aynel Yaqin- with certaint” and “Haqqal Yaqin symbolizes to reach to Allah.
Kudümzenbaşı warns the end of the Devr-i Veled with the beatings and Neyzenbaşı makes a short perfonmance with the instrument and the “ayin” begins to be performed.
The semazen takes his black cloak off and borns to the spiritual vision binds his arm in front of him. Thus he becomes the witness of the unity of Allah.
The semazens kiss the Sheikh’s hands one by one and get his permission and then they begin to sema.
Sema is composed of four parts. Each part has the name “Salam”. Sema is conducted by the semazenbaşı. He conducts the whirling of the semazens and supplies a good order.
1. Salam (greeting), perception of someone’s worship.
2. Salam, to feel amazement to the greatness and might of Allah.
3. Salam, convertment of this amazement feeling into love of Allah.
4. Salam, to return to the duty of worship at the creation.
Because the highest and the greatest adobe in islam, is the worship with the beginning of Salam IV., The postnişin sheikh too. Joins to sema without taking his cloak off and without opening his hands he begins to sema. Whirling, he comes into the middle of the sema square from the post and by whirling again returns to his post. This is called “Post Sema’i”
When the sheikh takes place on his post the last taksim finishes and one chapter from Quran, that is ashri sherif, is read. Sema ceremony finishes with last prayers, with “Hu” cry (cries) which is the name of Allah and with last greet. After the sheikh’s post and leave the semahane.