Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

“The Zar Tales”, Chapter VIII

September 24, 2014
"The Zar Tales", published by, 2010

“The Zar Tales”, published by, 2010


Mayor Nageesh called to the women clustered around the door. Four entered and seeing Shakira lying in a black, formless heap, uttered loud cries. The chief Mullah raised his voice over the women moans and admonished them sharply.

“She is not dead. She has just swooned. Do not be stupid women. Take her to her house and attend her there. Do not let her out of your sight. I command you in the name of the Ankara Authorities to do this.”

The four women, Leila amongst them, gathered up Shakira from the floor and carried her from the room. Other village women stood outside and their cries rose up like a flock of startled birds. They quickly carried Shakira home and lay her down on the bed, chaffing her wrists and putting wet cloths on her brow. She revived and looked around in confusion. Trying to sit up, she was kept from doing so by hands holding her down. The women’s soft murmurs sounded like the clucking of worried hens to her ears. Then, within a moment’s revival, she remembered why she had swooned, and fell back stunned, too shocked even for the mercy of tears.

The women’s sound became like a hive of bees to her ears, irritating, annoying and she tried to cut out the noise by tightly squeezing her eyes. Then the tears came, and they rolled down her face in a steady stream. Seeing her distress, the others close to her started their own moans and tears and before long, like a nursery where one baby starts to cry, all the women were giving vent to their own personal grief.

Aiiiiiyeee! Our beloved Sheikha is to be taken from us. Our days of laughter are over. The blessings of the Zar are to be crushed into the dust. Our tears and wails are for all women, for our future is doomed!

Word passed quickly throughout the village as to the Sheikha’s sentence. There was shock and disbelief, and even those men who didn’t like the fact that their women disappeared to Shakira’s house to smoke and drink and laugh, were distressed at the severity of the sentence.

Ten years!

That evening, when the Mullahs left for the long trip back over the mountain and through the valleys and forests, the men gathered. They talked amongst themselves, sharing the hookah, the sweet scent of their tobacco rising amongst their soft babble like vaporous ghosts.

This did not portend well for their village, what the mullahs had done this day. No, it was not good at all! Their women would make lives more difficult until time had quieted and dulled the emotions.

Aiyee! Allah! In your greatness, could you not have done something else here? Could you not think farther down the road to what the men now would suffer? Ah, the fury of the women would be subtle, but constant.

Each man thought of how his life would suffer. The silence, at other times welcome from the babble of women, would be heavy with accusation. First there would be tasteless dishes, then angry words, then no comfort in bed from their heavy thighs and perfumed hands. No, all they could expect were turned backs and mouths of bitterness. The men would be punished along with Shakira, and though her sentence was long, theirs would be heavy, compounded by each house and by each torment that an angry wife could conceive.

They talked through the soft summer evening, each afraid to go home. They knew what they would face. They even talked about recalling the Mullahs and protesting the sentence on the Sheikha, for now, Shakira seemed to become even their Sheikha, not only the women’s. It was funny how things worked, but something deep in the fabric of the village had been disturbed. And now, their lives would be made less comfortable because of it. But what could they do? They had never questioned the authority of the Mullahs nor those in religious power.

Ah! Allah! Restore the peace to our lives! Restore our mundane routine with our wives! Give us back the solitude we threw to the winds when we complained of our women’s frolicking with our Shakira Sheikha!

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2010-2014

“The Zar Tales”, Chapters IV and V.

September 13, 2014
"The Zar Tales", published by, 2010

“The Zar Tales”, published by, 2010


Mr. Mazud Nageesh sat at his desk, pondering the information before him. His wife Leila, attending the Zar ritual at Sheikha Shakira’s house was a further complication.

Ah! Women and their issues certainly screwed a peaceful life! They were essential to men’s comfort, and they continued the bloodlines, but by Allah’s Exalted Name in Paradise…they troubled a peaceful man!

Mr. Nageesh thought through his options. If he ignored the activity of the women, winked at their Zars, his own leadership of the village could be called into question and he could be removed from office. Things could go worse than that for him.

Then, there was his marriage. Leila had been a good if stubborn wife for over thirty years. The man was supposed to rule the house, but any man married that long knew who actually ruled. It was always the women who had real power. At his age he longed for peace and quiet, and if at times he walked on eggshells around the women of his household, well, it was only because he was a wise man.

But Leila was at the zar, and playing her tamboura. It would not be possible to ignore her presence at Sheikha Shakira’s house. Perhaps there was a way around the behavior of the women, but at this time, he didn’t know what it was. The situation was like a sour pickle and however he held his mouth, it would be bitter.

There didn’t seem any way out. Sighing deeply, he resolved to contact the proper authorities in the nearest city for guidance. But he would sit on it for a while, think of some options, and as long as he did something, what was the reasoning to rush? Better to run into a lion’s mouth where religion and women were concerned than mess with the authorities.

Ah! Allah the Merciful! What was the difference between lions, women and religion? You got chewed up all ways!


Leila caught wind of her husband’s plans. It was easy, for thirty years of marriage gave sharp insight into the workings of any married man if you were paying even a little attention. A few questions, a few mumbled responses, a bit of shouting and Leila had her answers. Her stupid husband would meddle in women’s affairs for the sake of his position and now only grief and trouble would follow.

Ah! Allah listen to the women’s plight! Even if you are a Man-God.

Perhaps cousin Shakira was right. Perhaps Goddess Nut was where she should take her concerns. Allah seemed to be doing right well by the men, and the women’s suffering didn’t abate.

Leila went to Shakira and together they sat and drank sweet mint tea, Shakira pouring it high into the pot three times so it would foam properly.

“So, this is what I know, cousin, though it took a bit of work to learn Mazud’s plans.”

Leila sipped her mint tea, her eyes looking at Shakira’s face over the rim of her tiny glass.

Shakira’s concern was obvious, her brows crinkling with concentration. Shakira called upon Nut silently, for she was needed to address all women’s concerns.

Mother Nut? Help us!

“Leila”, began Shakira, addressing her cousin in a lowered voice. “Who has he talked to? Is it anyone local?”

“Ah….from what I could get from him, and what I heard through the wall when he spoke on the phone in his office, he first talked to the old mullah, that ancient fart in the next district, what is his name? Imam Kaleel? Yes, that is his name. He is half blind with age and clinging to life. Allah push him over the cliff.”

They both laughed. Allah could at times be reasonable.

“Then the Imam will go to others for advice.” Shakira sipped her tea, deep in thought.

Yes, there would be trouble, no doubt about it. The zars would be too much of a target for the men to resist. This would have to be addressed, and soon.

“Well, cousin”. Leila’s voice cut into Shakira’s thoughts. “What do you propose? Surely there is something we can do? It is too good a thing to lose to the men. What should we do?”

“Let me think a while, Leila. Let me think.”

Shakira knew how important this was. The zars must continue. But how? The mullahs had supreme power, but the women needed the zars for so many reasons. Things were worked out in the zars. Health was restored by the zars. Her precious Ali had come to her at a zar. Shakira shook her head to clear her thoughts.

Ah! Mother Nut! Come to me at night in my dreams! Come to me with some answers!

The Goddess Nut did speak to Shakira. She came to her in a dream but her answer was not in the form she expected. In her dream, a smiling Nut spread herself over Shakira, caressing her with her sweet breath, dripping the milk of her breasts into Shakira’s mouth, and perfuming her skin with the scent of her hair. Nut rubbed her strong limbs on Shakira’s and made her sound her joy cry in her sleep! Shakira awoke suddenly, thinking of Ali and his lovemaking! Ah! Ali was no where to be found, but Shakira was given a vision by her dream. Still, her holy place felt a faint sweet ache left over from her sleep, and she knew then Nut had visited her. She knew Nut was wise and would lead her in this troubling time. She would turn to Ali and confide in him.

So she did. As soon as she saw him, she decided to throw it all at his feet and implore his advice and help. Even though he was spirit, he still was a man, and men sometimes were wise in these issues. Well, at least she hoped Ali would know what to do.

But first she would make an effort to appeal to him. Ali, like any man, liked the efforts of a woman attempting to please. He may only be spirit, but he still was enough of a man to remember the old ways.

So Shakira made a sweet feast of stuffed dates, and Turkish delight candies, and sugared almonds and candied fruits and golden raisins stuck together in a rich nougat and roasted her best beans for coffee. She washed her long hair and rinsed in rosewater, and dried it in the sun on the roof of her house, where it sparkled like gems in the sunshine. She rubbed almond oil into her heated skin on the roof, and rubbed some into her bush of black hair beneath. She hennaed the palms of her hands with designs and the tops of her feet, and dressed in a white, embroidered cotton gown that was fine enough to show the dark rings of her nipples beneath. But just for good measure, she also applied the brick red henna to her nipples first to make sure that they looked like two eyes looking seductively out at Ali from beneath the thin lawn fabric. Ah! If this didn’t make his ney rise from his loins, then all the art in Persia was dead, along with its manhood!


Ali sat on the low bed, in his usual position, hovering a few inches from the Turkish rug. He smoked his hookah, and the apple- dried tobacco floated out through the piping. Since Ali was mostly spirit, it circled in his lungs, visible to the eyes of Shakira. When Ali was pleased or aroused, he shimmered with a golden gleam, and Shakira did not fail to notice his interest. Ali never touched the food offered him, for he did not live on such substance of mortals. But his eyes widened when he saw Shakira standing before him, and she saw that he was pleased. Her nipples hardened and ached and seem to stretch their now reddened buds towards him sitting before her.

“Ya Habibi”, began Shakira, settling herself on a mound of pillows next to Ali. “There is talk amongst our mayor and men about the women’s zars. I have heard the old Iman Kaleel has been consulted by Mayor Nageesh.”

Shakira took a bite of a stuffed date, and looked at Ali siting next to her. Ah! He was handsome this morning, with his robes sparkling in gold dust and the sweet smell of the tobacco surrounding his head like a vaporous crown.

Ali continued to puff on his hookah, his face dissolving in the smoke. He did not look at Shakira, but with eyes half closed, seemed lost in his own thoughts. He did not immediately answer her, but continued to pull languidly on his pipe.

“It is more than just Imam Kaleel who has knowledge of what you women do.” Ali blew out a long plume of smoke.

“News has rolled like a stone from a hill down to the valley. Now the mullahs in the district know what goes on here, for your Mayor Nageesh is out to protect his good name.”

Shakira was surprised, but then again, Ali was spirit and would be able to gather information unseen. That was a definite advantage over mortals. He didn’t stand with his ear to the wall like Leila. She also knew Ali would not share how he obtained this knowledge. He was a spirit of mystery, after all.

And a man.


Shakira’s voice was sweet as mashed dates and cut through Ali’s smoke seductively.

“What do you think I should do? What should we women do to protect ourselves?”

Shakira could see a smile forming on Ali’s lips, even through the smoke. His smile broadened, but still he did not look at her.

“Ah, women! They do not change much through the centuries. They dig holes in the ground and complain when they fall in.”

He blew out a long stream of smoke, obscuring his face completely. Shakira could sense his mirth, for his spirit-body vibrated with his silent laughter.

“You should have asked my advice before you held your zars and I would have told you my opinion.”

Shakira’s mood changed from cajoling to anger.

Just like a man! Hah! He doesn’t remember the role his own zar played in his past. I could have left him in stupid Aya’s womb and he would still be unhappy.

Demon Ali must have sensed her thoughts for he changed his position slightly, and laid down the hose from the hookah.

“Look, Shakira. You have involved yourself and the others in a dangerous thing. The mullahs have cracked down all over the country on zars. This you well knew. Your rebellion against the men has been too open. Had you been smarter, you would not be so worried now.”

Shakira exploded.

“Alright, Mighty Zar! I have played the foolish woman and now you have your satisfaction! Your wisdom is more than my own, though I am called Sheikha. What can I do to make you help me?

“Ah! You want my help? All you had to do is ask.” Ali the Demon vibrated with laughter.

“I am asking, Ali, I am begging for your help. I am lost which way to go. I am lost.”

Now Ali the Demon turned to look at Shakira propped up on the rich colored cushions beneath him. His eyes softened and he folded his arms across his chest and golden stardust rose from his movements. His voice was serious but still a hint of laughter was there as he spoke in low tones to this woman.

“You and the others do nothing. Tell them to be obedient wives to their husbands. Tell them to act sweetly and talk in pleasing, melodious tones and not to challenge them. Tell them to act as white doves and bring honor to their house. I will do the rest.”

Shakira, being an intelligent and curious woman, could not resist. “What Ali, do you plan on doing?” As soon as the words left her mouth, she realized her mistake.

Ali the Demon’s eyes grew dark, and his face scowled with thunder. Shakira had never seen him in such a state, and shrunk back on her pillows. Her heart thumped as if she had seen a horrible jinn in the black of night, and sweat rose on her skin in fright.

Ali saw her fear, could smell it with his sharpened senses, and curbed his anger as well as he could.

“Woman, it is enough for you to know I will fix what you have broken. It is not for you to question what I do. I am not your husband, but you apply the same advice here as you tell the other women. Now, I desire soft music and the perfume of your body in my nostrils and my ney within your woman’s bush. I will play the flute and you will dance for me. But you take off that gown. I prefer to see your skin glisten with your almond oil, and to see your flesh roll in the morning light. This is what you will do for me and I will take care of your mess. But ask me not again my plans. You would not want to know. Have faith in your beloved.”

Ah! Shakira knew a strong and determined man when she heard one. And since she had no power against the mullahs, she was glad to leave it to Ali. There are times when a man is a necessity in life, and this was a prime example. He might be spirit, but there was enough man in that spirit to hide behind.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009-2014. “The Zar Tales” published by, 2009

“The Zar Tales”, Chapter Two

August 31, 2014

Zar Dancer

A Woman possessed by a Zar……


Chapter II.


Of course there had to be a snake in this paradise.  It was the village mayor. He was not happy with the power Shakira had.  For Shakira was a Sheikha, a ‘wise woman’, trained from her mother’s line in the responsibilities of such a position.  Shakira was consulted by the women over many issues. Marriages, birth names, the problems women had over their troublesome men, all these and much more came to Shakira.  She was wise, and known for her sensible opinion.  She had power in her own right.

And this was irksome to the mayor.   Not enough issues came to his desk.  He was a man, and in this world, a man was the one to consult, not a woman!

No, the mayor was up against a force of nature disobedient to the natural order of life. And besides, he heard the women were having too much fun in the opinion of some of the husbands.  There was talk they were planning to meet and drink and smoke and drum and laugh till late at night, but that was just a whispered rumor.  Ah, life was not in the proper order at all!

He, by the authority of his office, would have to make inquiries into this matter.  The women were showing their heels and who knew what would happen next?  Perhaps they would roll their eyes at the Imam!  Perhaps the women would refuse next to go to the mosque!  Who knows with women?  They could create all sorts of mischief, and he, the mayor, would be called to account for it.  Ah!  He owed it to the men, his brothers under the sun,  to find out what was going on.  He owed it to his own reputation and his position in the village to investigate all rumors.  Perhaps if he put his foot down now, his own wife of many years would quiet her voice and heel to his command like a good Muslim wife.  But he had his doubts.  His wife, after all, was related to Shakira.  Ah! That clan stretched back into time, and making his own wife obey was like telling the wind not to blow.  It was the blood of Shakira that made ill in his own house.  Or, at least, it had a part in his problems. 

Well, whatever to come, he owed it to Allah, the one God!  And He was a Man! He would agree with the mayor. That was the natural Order of things.

So the mayor, whose name was Mr. Nageesh, heard that on a certain Friday, when the men were at mosque chanting their prayers, the women were making their way to Shakira’s house.   Mayor Nageesh sent a young boy, not more than twelve, to count those entering the house and see if he could hear anything of their plans.  This young boy lurked in the shadows of a doorway and watched.  At least twelve women had entered the house, some with bundles concealed under their dresses.  What they were carrying was not clear to the boy, but the sound of drumming and laughter and even the sound of suspicious clinking of bottles could be heard from this house after dark.  Worse, the women stayed there for hours. The sound of their ruckus was shameful, even the men could hear it through their snoring.

A Zar!  The women were holding a Zar! What else could it be?   Ah, this was very bad, very, very bad, for the Zar was now illegal. Everyone knew it was banned as pagan by the illustrious council of religious men in the cities.  This would be the end of his office if word of this spread beyond this village.  It was sure to reach the ears of the district and then he would have his hands full.  Or, he thought with a shiver….they could have his head.  It had happened before.  Allah have mercy!


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014



“The Zar Tales”, Chapter One

August 28, 2014



In 2010 I published the novella, “The Zar Tales” with  It started out as a short story, but had it’s own ideas.  That happens when the characters have more life than was supposed.  The writer loses control and some times that isn’t a bad thing.  This is dedicated to my dear friend of many years, Bill Penrose, who is an excellent writer and believed in my own undeveloped abilities as a writer.

Lady Nyo

Shakira is Sheikha, Wise Woman, leader of the Zar ritual and general organizer of the women  and  women’s issues.  Previously, Ali the Demon has jumped from young Aya to the arms of Shakira, a middle-aged woman. (“A Turkish Tale of A Zar”)  Zars have been outlawed in most Islamic countries since 1983 as pagan worship.  However, it flourishes in rural areas and also in some big cities.  It is considered part of ‘women’s religion’ by the officials and yet it continues in spite of being outlawed.  It is one of the main mental health outlets for women in these countries.  Possession by a Zar usually is a woman’s way of sassing her husband and expressing her unhappiness with marriage and her life.




Shakira, wise woman, daughter of the veil, Sheikha to the village like her mother and grandmother before her…. stood before the window of her small stone house. She could see to the village pump and watch dark clad women like so many black crows, fill their water jugs each morning and again in the afternoon. 

It was still early in the morning, but a sultry wind blew in from the south.  It would be no different than any other day of the season, for the rains would not return until late fall.

Mixing the humble mashed chickpeas, oil and garlic, she prepared the day’s humus. Not a task to try her powers, but one that fed her, important enough. The flat bread was already cooked, the yogurt curdling in the heavy glass jars sitting outside in the sun. 

 She wondered where Ali had gone so early this morning.  Probably lurking around with other Zars on the mountain, playing at knucklebones. 

“Shakira! Have you enough water this morning?  I will draw you some if not.”

A woman walked by the window, her black dress and head scarf no different from any of the other middle aged women.   Except for her voice and that limp from a club foot, she would not be distinguished from any other black robed woman.

“I have enough, Leila, enough for this morning.  Later I will go draw more.”

Leila was Shakira’s relative, their families as mixed as a bowl of wheat and barley. Not much had changed in this mountain village in centuries, except the convenience of electricity, a central, motorized village pump and a few motor cars that brought dignitaries from the far flung cities once a year.   New was old by the time it got to their village, for they were isolated in the mountains of eastern Turkey. 

Shakira’s Ali was a Zar, a demon who came to Shakira for a man’s comfort up under her dress.  He was young, younger than middle-aged Shakira, but he only appeared young. Ali was at least a thousand years old. He was killed by one of his tribesman around the age of thirty. Shakira knew very little about his circumstances, because Ali did not talk.  It was a man’s prerogative to keep secrets, and Ali, though a Zar, was once a man. 

Shakira first saw Ali when he appeared before her a shimmering, golden ghost at the Zar ritual a year ago. She struck a deal with the handsome devil and Ali was glad to jump into the welcoming and much more experienced arms of Shakira.  He had more room to sleep than in the womb of Aya, the young women he formerly possessed. He liked the strong thighs and women’s quarters of Shakira.

At times, when the weather was cooled by breezes blown down from the mountain, Shakira would close her door and draw the curtain over her front window.  In the other room serving as her bedroom she could watch the constellations revolve in the sky from a small window cut high in the wall.  There she would hope to entertain Ali, dancing the slow, sensuous movements, caught in the moonlight from that window. 

“Come, my Habibi, come and comfort me,” Shakira would call out, her eyes closing in expectation, her voice shaking with her need.  And Ali would magically appear, materializing in the room, glowing like a golden shower of tiny stardust. 

 Ali would then sit on her bed, hovering as demons do, a few inches from the woven wool covering.  He would smoke his hookah and his eyes would sparkle through the stardust  as he watched Shakira, now naked, seduce him with her dance.

“My Habibi, I dance for you, I dance with my limbs and my heart and my soul.  Do you like what you see, my dearest?” 

We must remember that Ali was a Zar, a Spirit, and there wasn’t much of flesh on him…or of him.

Somehow Ali would answer her, but not in words.  He would speak into her heart, into her soul and Shakira always heard this unspoken language.

“You are my heart’s delight, my beautiful and wise Shakira.  Your movements would inspire the dead to rise and dance in the streets, so lovely are you to my eyes.” 

 Shakira’s body was mature and ripe, her skin the color of turkish coffee filled to the brim with rich cream.  Her hair was still black as the night, with just a few strands of silver, and when she danced, freed of the day’s covering, it swung in waves down her back to her full, muscular buttocks.  Her belly was rounded and jiggled when she laughed, not like the slim, flat bellied girls like Aya before her baby, but full like the clay jugs made to carry the precious water from the village well.  Her hips were strong and fleshed out like ripe fruit from a sacred and ancient olive tree.  

Shakira had some vanity about her, and since Ali had appeared and taken up residence, she rubbed scented oils into her skin.  In the dim light of the oil lamp, Shakira’s skin rolled and wavered like watered silk.  She raised her strong and muscled limbs above her head, snapping her fingers like zils to her humming.  Her breasts swayed and pushed themselves out proudly, and if they sagged a bit with age, Ali didn’t mind.  She was a woman after all, and the scent of her body and the oils rubbed in her skin put him in a narcotic trance.  Her dark eyes rolled back in her head as her shoulders rolled forward, and her hips gyrated in the age-old movements of seduction. 

Ali was enchanted.  Their nights were filled with  strange lust and if Shakira woke in her bed alone, she was not deserted.  Ali had climbed into her woman’s garden to sleep, folding himself and resting in the warmth below her womb.  She would rub her belly, and say: “Good morning, dearest”, smile and start her day. Some mornings she would feel Ali rush out of her like a warm fart and disappear into the day, off to converse and argue with other Zars around their mountain village.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014

The Courage of Malala Yousafzai and the Cowardice of the Taliban…and something more.

October 11, 2012

Reading the NYTimes this morning, there is an article stating that Malala is starting to recover, even standing with help. That is good news.

The bad news is that some people in Pakistan are ‘doubting’ that this shooting of a 14 year old child was ‘real’. Some are stating that Malala was a ‘dupe’ of America, an agent, and so forth. Of course, the Taliban is saying that “Malala deserves what he got, and they will continue to attempt to kill her, PLUS she wore tons of makeup”. These ‘men’ are beyond civilization. If this thinking represents Muslim religious beliefs, they set world sympapthy back 1000 years, which is what they are trying to do to their countries.

Also, “the moment of outrage” has passed on this Malala issue. Well, whether this is because Pakistanis really think that this attempted murder of one of their own children doesn’t matter, or those who are expressing this sentiment are just cowards and afraid of the Taliban, so be it.

I say this, as a mother who has her only son serving in the military: Withdraw all aid and support from Pakistan. Withdraw all troops in the region. Let these backward people fight it out for themselves. Pakistan is the base of the Taliban. Let the Pakistani people feel the full brunt of their brutality, as they have been, but without the support of the world’s people. One more dead US soldier isn’t worth it. These people treat their camels better than the women in their countries.

Lady Nyo, October 20, 2012

(“Sea Eagle”, Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor, 2001)

This week we read of the attempted killing of a 14 year old girl in Pakistan by the Taliban, an out-spoken young woman who has dedicated her young life to the continued education of girls in Pakistan. So far they didn’t succeed in their attempted murder of this courageous young woman, and hopefully they won’t get another chance. That remains to be seen. Politics in Pakistan are full of corruption and opportunism. The Taliban have said that if she survives, they will make another attempt on her life.

For years, Malala would hide her school books under her bed when the Taliban swept through her neighborhood. To be found with books, to be found reading (to be able to even read was a threat to the Taliban!) or watching television, could have been a death sentence.

Though our cultures and ages are wide apart, I have the utmost respect for this young woman struggling to obtain an education in a part of the world where girls and women are denied the most basic human rights. Over a short few years, Malala has become a spokeswoman, at the tender age of 11, for education for girls. She has drawn the attention of a vicious group of extremists in her support of this issue. Her struggle for an education (she wants to be a doctor) goes straight to my heart. When I was growing up, my mother wasn’t ‘keen’ on my going to college: as she said, a college education was necessary for my two younger brothers, but I would probably just get married. They would be the bread winners for their future families. When I dropped out after only one semester, she was happy. At least I could be a secretary and support myself. That, apparently, was the sum total of what she thought was my potential. I had other plans, but they didn’t materialize for years.

I did go back to college, years later, and majored in psychology, quite a change from that one semester of music at Westminster Choir College. However, life got in the way of finishing college. I put my education aside during my first marriage where I worked to support my husband so he could finish college. He left me the week I was seriously injured and couldn’t support him. This was at the end of a 13 year marriage. I didn’t know how good life would become after the divorce.

Over the years life has been amazing, or at least I have actualized aspects of a life I would never have imagined. But a higher education should never be denied by either a short-sighted parent or a terrorist organization. It is obvious human potentialities can be broken by either. Both represent rank ignorance.

This young woman has suffered enormously, but she has also opened eyes around the world and the outrage people are expressing is righteous.

These Taliban terrorists that tried to kill Malala were masked. This is such a mark of their cowardice. They shot other girls on the bus, but thankfully they survived. Their attempt to kill her will always stand as the sum total of their ‘humanity’. I know Muslims, and those I know would never approve of this barbarism. It is my deepest hope the world will continue to see these extremists for what they are: not part of humanity, but a perversion of it. To attack children is insane and shows how desperate they are.

I have been blessed to have this blog and to have published three books to date. I have been able to do this by the constant encouragement and support of my second husband of many years. I am working on two books, hopefully to be out in the world by March, 2013. The royalties for the second book, “The Zar Tales” I planned to go to a women’s group in Turkey, but I couldn’t make the proper connection for this. That book is about the oppression of women by religious extremists and I felt this was a good place for any royalty to land. One of the new books to be published this spring is “Tin Hinan”. Some of the chapters have been serialized on this blog, so those interested can look them up. I think any royalty of this book, of which chapters are being read daily around the world, could go to support the education of young girls and women in areas where these basic human rights are denied.

There is so much we can do to support these issues. We only have to think of the destruction of potential growth, and the very lives of children amongst these cultures. Of course as my own earlier years show, it doesn’t take religious fanaticism to sow doubt and despair about the future. It only takes a narrow- minded ignorance, and that seems to be around in spades, regardless the culture.

I am going to end this entry with a poem I wrote a few years ago about Benazir Bhutto. She lived a complicated life and the charges of corruption, personal and within her party and leadership, seems not to disappear. But she was a woman assassinated; another woman denied life because of ignorance, religious and political extremism.

Lady Nyo


A long white head scarf
Floats over the land,
A white eagle who
Peers down
Testing the currents
Spreading her wings
As a compassionate mother
Over her children.

Chased by dark mountain eagles
Fierce and violent,
Torn from her home,
Sent into exile,
She returns triumphant
The love of her land
Calls her back,
Ignoring the danger
The violence, the threats.

So much to do!
So much to embrace –
Ah! Our mother has returned!

A while head scarf,
Now stained with blood,
Floats over the land.
There– chaos and riots
Gunfire cracks the night apart
Hearts straining, weeping,
Wringing of hopeless hands
In the soot filled and smoky air.

Yet in the mountains
In the strong currents
Made by the warm thermals
Still flies the white eagle
Now splattered by blood
But given in sacrifice
To a far greater love.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009

Gallipoli, 1915

May 29, 2010

This was written three years ago, coming out of  a discussion about war in general.  Monday is Memorial Day in the US.  Our only child is now in the US Navy and we pray for the safety of all soldiers, regardless of nation.

Most of us know little about World War I, and I confess to be one. There were many campaigns and the reference of “Founding Myths” relates to this two-fold:  In Turkey, it was an overthrow of the old Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the independence of Turkey as a nation.  In Australia and New Zealand, it was the first conflict that they, a part of the British Empire, were involved in WWI.

In a campaign that lasted for  nine months, the casualties were horrific on both sides:  220,000 (50%) on the British forces side, 253,000 (60%) on the Turkish alliance side.

-Lady Nyo

Gallipoli, 1915

“Are you joining up, mate?”

“Why? It’s the Brit’s war”.

“Cause Aussies are part of the empire, ‘one for all’…you know the drill”.

Both young men soon in the trenches, barely eight meters from the enemy.

“Hasim, leave off the plowing, we all go to fight the British.”

“My wheat will not be planted in time for the rains.”

“Forget the planting…leave the plowing to the women.  If you don’t go, the infidels will take your fields… Once more our country will be invaded.”

Both young men crawled into their trenches, pushing past bodies bobbing like apples in the gore.

The slaughter was horrific.  New men replaced dying men. Then, within hour, they were dead, too.

The trenches filled with blood, guts, madness – a stinking circle of Hell serving all faiths, welcoming all comers.  Plenty of seating.

The Aussie mates and the Turkish farm boys didn’t last the night.  Their bodies, shoved aside by a seemingly endless supply, sank in the mud.

These were the “Founding Myths” of nations, claimed with pride by politicians who never saw the muck up close or personally.

Beautiful Gallipoli.

Turkish soil and streams nourished by the mixed fruit of the dead.

All Mothers, your children rest in the now gentle bosom of the land. They sleep as brothers. Your tears feed the oceans forever.

Jane Kohut-Bartels,

Copyright, 2007

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

%d bloggers like this: