Posts Tagged ‘bellydancing’

The inners of “The Zar Tales”

October 21, 2009
A Zar ritual, photo by nicolas nilsson, in northern Africa

A Zar ritual, photo by nicolas nilsson, in northern Africa

Someone wrote and said it was rude not to talk a little about what was in “The Zar Tales”.  I guess I just was so tired when I posted the cover that I couldn’t think of what came next.  I’ve been pulling long hours on this book  because I wanted it to get it ready for Bill Penrose.  He is doing the real formatting and he is also publishing his own book right now…”Anne the Healer”.

Bill writes BIG books….real books.  Novels with complex plots and characters.  Next week, I think, I am doing more of an interview with Bill and his writing muse.  And more explanation on his newest book.

“The Zar Tales” is actually a collection of stories, two short stories, a few poems and a very short story, actually a ‘flasher’.  And a small novella.  The book all wraps up with an essay on Hyperarousal Trance.

They all are of one continuous theme: this issue of a Zar, or The Zar and the havoc a Zar wrecks on mortal life.

I explain this in the book….but a Zar is a couple of things.  First, it’s a ritual, a very old tradition in Africa, North Africa, Egypt and parts of the Middle East.  It’s NOT an exorcism, not in the way we in the West understand exorcism.  A Zar in these countries is a gathering of people who support and encourage and add to the proceedings of the ritual in various ways.  They can be drummers, chanters, participants, and other musicians.  They can lead and prepare the animal sacrifice, usually a goat or chicken.

In the functioning of a Zar ritual, a leader (called Sheikha in many countries….a wise woman) will ‘call out’ the Zar….who also just happens to be a demon…or djinn.  This Zar possesses married women (mostly) and actually has an important function in a repressive society.  A woman can not be held accountable for her behavior when she is under possession of a Zar.  In other words, she can sass her husband and blame it on the Zar.  As in: “The Zar made me say that.”

She can also ‘get things’ through the Zar.  “The Zar wants me to have that red shawl”…(The Zar demands it)

But beyond this, the Zar ritual is a very important mental health issue in these countries.  A woman dances out her possession in wild and wilder steps, movements in the ritual to the frenetic beat of drums and the wailing of neys (flutes) and the general singing and chanting and she collapses in exhaustion, and at this time it is thought the Zar leaves her body.  She has tossed her hair around and around and the Zar is hanging on to dear life there and POP! He flies off into the arms of the Sheikha, who herself is also in a trance.

The Sheikha ‘communicates’ with the Zar, negoiates new orders for the peace of the possessed….and the Zar (Spirit) is rejoined with the flesh of the possessed.

Everyone is happy.

One does not want a stray and homeless Zar scaring the children and the chickens.  And a goat will not do.

The Zar ritual can last up to 7 days, but usually it’s done in a day or overnight. In Cairo, there are “Zar houses” where rich Cairo matrons pay for a ritual, even though it is usually repressed by the government and the religious authorities.  Anyone, even tourists, can stop in a observe a Zar in progress, but you have to have connections to do so.

As to the mental health side of it, it is logical.  A woman, perhaps a young, married woman, is ‘possessed’.  She is away from her family, living within the household of her husband’s family, and she is a stranger.  Her status could be low.  But during the Zar ritual, all attention and care is taken that she and her fears are attended to.  Perhaps for the first time in her life she is the center of attention, and this seems to be enough to ‘heal’ what is hurting.

The Zar ritual is under attack in many countries because it harkens back to pagan rituals and goes against the present religious  beliefs.

My short novella, “The Zar Tale” speaks directly to this issue.  This tale is set in southeastern Turkey in the early 1980’s.  There a wise woman, a Sheikha, Shakira Arsan, is hauled in by the religious authorities and sentenced to 10 years in prison.  But the local Zars are long dead Berber warriors, and some how they have floated from Morocco and Algeria to Turkey and have taken up camp in these mountains…the Taurus mountains I think is where they reside.  Most of them are poets, and one, Emir is an especially bad poet but he keeps trying to rewrite the same 6 line verse for a 1000 years without much progress.  It’s not exactly ‘writer’s block’ that stops him…it’s the hashish that they all indulge in.

They become Zar-fruits and are pretty funny fellows…to a point.  They are also fierce warriors and out to revenge their ancient Gods and Goddesses.  In this case, Ammon and Isis.

Goes against the grain of the Mullahs, though.  I will have to put a warning somewhere because human cannibalism makes a bow here.  And bad Persian poetry.

There are seven pieces in this book….and most of them short ones. They all are of the main theme.

I had a lot of fun writing “The Zar Tale”  and the essay “Hyperarousal Trance and Creativity” explains some of the…..connections.

Mysticism inside and out.

Lady Nyo

Weird Prayers, Friends, Growth, Ego and John Ralston Saul.

October 1, 2008

As my friends know, and readers of this blog,…. I have been writing my fingers off….but also preparing for the ‘birth’ of “A Seasoning of Lust”, my first published book. It’s a slight volume of poetry and short stories (not so slight, my editor has divided it into two volumes)…one for before Xmas publication and one for (hopefully) publication on Valentine’s Day. Seems appropriate for issues of ‘lust’.

I didn’t realize that when you start a blog, and IF you get some regular readers, you have a responsibility to keep writing your thoughts and experiences and what you think are some answers. Or people write private emails with these issues attached, their opinions and either you spend a LOT of time writing back (and I try to) or you present things here on the blog face. My friends, Mary, Rose, Phil, Malkinius, Pat, John, Carol, and others have made this really easy for me lately because they have taken up much of the work. Their writings have allowed me to noodle around with unrelated tasks and my own writing, and I thank them for it.

I make no bones about my own private journey lately. I am seeking answers to some issues. One of these issues is the inner spirit, the search for the Light inside.

People who know me know I was a Quaker for 12 years. I put that aside around 2001, and tried to become more ‘outward’…more worldly. Becoming a belly dancer five years ago was part of this…and I can now say that this activity is more of me than I would have ever believed in the beginning. It forms much of my outward behavior, and it’s not been without struggle to see the changes it has made in me mentally.

But there are other issues that have become just as important as being a dancer. This issue of my submission, something I thought lost or obscured in the past few months, has come roaring back, but with new concepts and a different understanding.

Perhaps the questions have become clearer, or I am more open and less resistant to what it means, but there is something different now in its issue.

The best way to describe is this: it is what exists inside me…and it IS what I AM…a deeply submissive woman that only responds to a powerfully dominant man. It’s this dynamic. I fought it before for lots of reasons, but now I understand more of what I am…and I am a mixture of dominance and submissive tendencies, but they all settle into this person that is ‘ok’. I am not challenged by what others think of me, and I am not challenged by my own doubts that I am a ‘proper’ submissive woman.

I respond to power because I am…fundamentally, a powerful woman. That is very much part of my submissive nature. I need a power equally or more opposite me to respond in the deepest submissive response. I make no apologies for this, thinking that I am not docile enough, or meek enough. I am when I need to be, and that needing to be becomes part of the response. It is rather a startling thing when it happens, but it has happened rarely as of yet. I await with great pleasure knowing that I am accepting of my nature now and aware of its potential.

What I am is the sum total of my deepest and truest nature. I am, simply, a woman who is finding herself and that nature, and I am inspecting that nature like a jewel in my hand: it reflects the beauty of diversity and talents and uniqueness and I am pleased to meet myself finally.

I am ok. And the belly dancing helps me get in touch with that sexual side of my deep femininity, which is a good thing! I am finally able to understand the integration of the parts of me. All these things have a purpose, they weren’t things to dismiss. They might make others uncomfortable, but they don’t make me so anymore. I won’t fit into most boxes of others making.

This morning, I got a phone call from a friend in India….Aman. He is one of the most gentle and generous men I have met. He is a fantastic poet, though too modest by far, but he’s like a Sufi dancer/poet…always full of such spiritual thoughts he leaks prayer and giggles like a boy. Perhaps in India you learn to be so and in doing so you divest yourself of all pompous and self-serving ego that we in the West seem to need to plumb up our images.

Ego. I have been through the ringer with my own and with that of others lately. It has left some wounds.

Aman knows my struggles and has been sending, unbeknownst to me, Prayers of Healing. LOL! They must be working because my mentality has improved and I laugh a lot more.

And damn if I don’t DANCE better, too. I find that I am lifted up on my feet in ways that I didn’t know before. All this inward and outward stuff going on without my conscious knowledge!

I am healing, and the damn ego is not so fiercely defensive. Believe me or not, it’s not so much in charge. I was so defensive, and another man whose ego was even stronger than mine, brought out a lot of my own issues…
Ego against Ego…and there seemed to be little growth in me at that time. There was growth, I just didn’t see it’s projection.

It’s all in how you perceive and how you sum up your experiences.

I have figured when I fight myself and others instead of allowing them to float over me like water, that my ego is trying to make sure IT stays in charge.

Ego tries to make us feel separate from the rest of humanity. Ego tries to make us feel flawed, broken and alone instead of part of humanity.

This is where John Ralston Saul comes in for me because he somehow makes me feel in a philosophical sense, connected with the rest of humanity.

I started out reading Saul for answers to the world’s globalism, etc. But something along the way happened with Saul. The outward answers I was seeking started to turn inward. Our qualities of being human can not exist in isolation. We become unbalanced when we do, or try to do so.

What started out as an exploration into the world’s issues and answers to world crisis became part, a very fundamental part….of an exploration into my own participation in that world. But moreso, not just my ‘self’ vis a vis that world, but a struggle for personal balance.

So…there is growth and change here and I am full of energy again.

And am very grateful for any prayers, weird or healing that Aman and others are throwing my way. I will throw them around too, because I am stronger now and I can share.

Lady Nyo -teela -Jane…all three with a similar purpose in life.

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