Eighteen Stages of Service[1]

The soul of the Mevlevi Dergah (training center) is the kitchen (matbah). In the kitchen, the Head Cook Dede (Ashchi Dede; Ser-tabbah),[2] the Cauldron Dede (Kazanci Dede), the Internal Affairs Dervish, the person in charge of the house work in a dervish convent (icheri meydancisi) and the Dish-washing Dede (Bulashikchi Dede) are the primary educators (murebbis) of the dergah. The Head Cook’s task is to manage the expenses of the dergah; he is also responsible for the courtesy (edep/adab) and training (terbiye) of the souls. The Cauldron Dede is regarded as the assistant of the Head Cook Dede. The Khalif Dede trains the (nevniyaz) new initiates and newcomers to the kitchen; he teaches them about manners and behavior. The Dede of Internal Affairs (Meydanci Dede) is under the order of the Shaikh; he conveys the orders.

In Konya, there used to be the “Shams Zawiye” and the “Ateshbaz Zawiye,” and the sheikh of the “Shams Zawiye” was called the “Shams Dede” (Shams Dedesi). Those who were sheikhs at these two stations (smaller centers), used to come to the Mevlana Dergah on Fridays, sit on their places in the protocol during the sema ceremony (mukabele) and participate in the mukabele. When a sheikh was appointed to work somewhere, usually the “One Who Plays with Fire Dede” (Ateshbaz Dede) would convey his certificate of appointment (icazetname) to him. Because the dergah was also a home of music and a medresse of literature, the neyzenbashi and the kudumzenbashi and the mesnevihan had honored places among the high officers (erkan) of the dergah. They would teach and train the “ayin-hans” about the ritual that would be performed during the Mukabele and lead them in practicing it; they would train neyzens and teach them about the rhythms (usul). The Mesnevihan would teach about the Mesnevi to those that had a talent for it; he would teach them about the language and literature, give them lessons in Sufism (tasavvuf) and give diplomas (icazets) to those who had matured and in this way he would give an icazet (formal paper and permission) for them to give explanations and commentaries about the Mesnevi. These dedes that we have listed were responsible people who took care of the spiritual and material service of the dergah and they were called “the dergah officers” (dergah zabitani).

There were eighteen kinds of services in the dergah; and those who performed these services were as follows:

  • Kazanci Dede, The Cauldron Dede: He was in charge of and responsible for the discipline, manners, and training of the souls. Like the Ashchibashi (Head Cook) he also had a separate “post”; i.e. he had a revered position.
  • Halife Dede, The Khalif Dede: He taught about the path and manners to those who were new in the kitchen and he would train them.
  • Dishari Meydancisi, The Exterior Court Person: The dervish who was in charge of things outside of the dergah. In Konya, he would convey the orders of the tarikatchi (the head of the Order) and in other places the orders of the Ashchibashi to the dedes in the cells.
  • Chamashirji Dede, The Laundry Dede: he would wash the laundry of the dedes and the souls (canlar: dervishes) or have them washed, and he would oversee while they were doing it.
  • Ab-rizji Dede, The Basin Dede: he would look after the cleanliness of the toilets, shadirvan (reservoir of water with faucets at the sides for ablution) and the faucets.
  • Sherbetchi, The Sherbetman: he would prepare the sherbet of the one who would enter the dervish cell; and when the dedes came to visit the matbah (kitchen), he would make sherbet and give it to them.
  • Bulashikchi, The Dishwasher: he would look after the dishes and their cleanliness; he would wash them or have them washed.
  • Dolapchi, The Cupboardman: he also would look after the dishes and pots, and he would have the pots re-tinned if they needed to be.
  • Pazarji, The Bazaarman: In the morning, he would go to the bazaar with a basket, buy the things that were needed, and bring them back to the tekke.
  • Somatchi, The Tableman: he would prepare the table and cover it; he would sweep the floor or have it swept.
  • Ich Meydancisi, The Interior Court Person; The dervish of internal affairs—the dervish in charge of the housework within the dergah: he would prepare coffee for the souls in the matbah/kitchen and on Fridays, when the dedes came to visit the kitchen, he would make coffee and present it to them.
  • Ich Kandilcisi, The Interior Candleman: he would clean, prepare, “awaken”, “put to rest” or “turn into a secret” the oil lamps or candlesticks.
  • Tahmischi, The Roaster and Grinder of coffee: he would break the coffee beans into powder by pounding or hammering (dövmek); he would grind the coffee for the kitchen and the dedes.
  • Yatakchi, The Bedperson: he would spread out the beds of the souls, and he would take them away and roll them up.
  • The Exterior Candleperson: he would take care of the oil lamps, candlesticks, and candles outside the tekke.
  • The Sweeper, The Broomperson: he would sweep the garden and the surroundings or he would have it swept; he would take care of the general cleanliness.
  • The Lightman, The Lamp-person: he would inspect the oil lamps and the candlesticks of the kitchen (matbah) and he was regarded as the assistant of the turbedar (the one who takes care of the turbe : tomb).
  • The Footman: He would do foot service; he would bring or take away things as was necessary. When someone had put aside his clothing and accepted dervishhood (ikrar vermek), this was the first service with which he would begin.

If there were many souls living in the dergah, one or two assistants were given to those who were serving and these were called refik (friend). If the number of the souls were few, one person would perform two or three services.

Visitors (Zuwwar)

“Guests” or “pilgrims,” those who came to see or to watch the Mevlevi Mukabele and to listen to the Mevlevi Music and who wanted to receive spiritual grace (feyz) or to learn about it, were called zuwwar which means “the visitors.” . . . Nobody was sent away as long as he or she was cleanly dressed and followed the rules of manners (adab), because, as Shaikh Galip says:

Those who come to the khaniqah of the saints (awliya)
are all invited to joy, Galip.
Beware! Don’t focus on their outside (zahir), you will err—
they wouldn’t come, if they didn’t have permission.[3]



[1] Excerpted from Mevlevi Customs and Practice compiled by Abdulbaki Golpinarli. Unpublished manuscript translated by Refik Algan and Camille and Kabir Helminski with assistance from Aliye Sarmasik, Saeid Rahmanpanah, and Emily Fisk.

[2] Ser-tabbah; Ashchibashi (Turkish) The Chief Cook.  The head of the officers of the dergah is the ashchibashi.  The service of this person is not cooking food, as one may think by looking at the name; this word is a metaphor.  The Ashchibashi is the person who spiritually cooks and matures the souls and the dervishes.  The spiritual order of the dergah belongs to him. The sheikh is a representative, and the educator (murebbi) is the Ashchi Dede (the Head Cook Dede).

[3] Mevlevi Customs and Manners, op.cit., p.