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[Tidbits] The Clock and the Whirling Dervishes


Perception and reality are not always synchronous concepts one with
the other. In fact. if one looks at the world around us it is almost
always perception that hold power over truth and not the other way
around. Which bring me–via a most powerful sequence of logical
thinking–to just what it was that I thought a Whirling Dervish was.
I suspect this upcoming conclusion stems from having devoured too
many comic books in my youth … hence my email moniker of Namor.
Anyone out there remember the Sub Mariner? Anyway. to me a Whirling
Dervish was a creature who spun around at incredible speed skimming
madly across the desert sands like a maelstrom in a pique of fury.

Yeah. Well. That was my perception. But it ain’t so folks. Nope. What
a Whirling Dervish is. is a religious order of Turkish monks known as
the Mevlevi Dervishes and known to us in the land of the free and the
brave as Whirling Dervishes. They were quite an intellectual group
excelling in the arts as well the making of clocks. Now to what
purpose. to what avail you may well ask. does a monk. whirling or
stationary. have to immerse himself in the mechanical skills required
to make a clock? It’s really quite clear you know. The Muslims were
required to pray five times daily and the Turks were fully aware of
the difficulty of telling time in order to determine just exactly
when to pray,

Before the clock. before the advent of the Ottoman Empire … unique
systems had to be devised in order to ascertain just when it was time
to pray. The first prayer at dawn was performed when a man could see
his neighbor on the horizon. The second prayer was at noon at the
point when the sun was just beginning its decline. The third was
mid-afternoon. The fourth was in the evening, which could be
determined when a man shot some arrows and could still see where they
fell. A bit like Longfellow’s poem: I shot an arrow into the air/It
fell to earth, I knew not where… And the fifth was a bit after

Needing a bit more reliable system a water clock came along. This was
nothing more than a bowl with markings on its side to denote the
passage of time. filled with water with a hole in the bottom. As the
water trickled out to new low levels. the markings on the bowl told
the approximate hour of the day. This methodology was a tad
inconvenient as it required an enormous amount of attention to keep
the thing working. Of course if the local cat got his whiskers into
the bowl the whole mechanism wasn’t worth the water it was filled

And so along came the clockmakers of the Ottomans. the Mevlevi
Dervishes included. They were beautiful artifacts… often gifts
given to the Sultans in order to curry favor. As happenstance would
have it. I have an image of such a clock. >From the descriptions I’ve
read. I think it was made by one Shahiz. first name unknown. It is a
magnificent work of art. It has filigree work with rubies and
emeralds and diamonds with a border of blue enamel and more.

When it comes to the Ottoman Empire there is not enough space on all
the parchment of the world to allow all that needs to be said. to be
said. So. to partially quote ol’ Cyrano… as I end the refrain…

You know the rest. The visit to the image. also known as the viewing
experience. You know where to go. Home page. Scroll down. Left side. [Tidbits]. Click.
And there for your pleasure will be a picture of a clock which now
resides in the Topkape Palace Museum in Istanbul.

And there ya have it. That’s it for this week folks. Catch you all
next week. Benjamin Mark