Have you ever been confronted with a problem, challenge, or dilemma with which you could not cope?
Most of us have, and in such circumstances, many of us will often turn to others for guidance or look for some shortcut to the answer.
In many countries throughout the world, fortune-telling is a big business that is an important part of the social fabric.
People in Istanbul have always yearned to know the unknown, to discover the mystery of the cosmic world, and learn what the future holds in advance, so that they could command their destiny or even change it, if necessary.
The fear of the future and the unknown and curiosity, which is the root of this fear, are inseparable parts of human nature.
These feelings bring to the fore such questions as: Who am I and what will I become? Who will I marry? Will I have a child? Such major questions push people to look for answers, and in Turkey one of the most common ways that people try to find the answers is through fortune-telling—a method that gives hope and promises much for the future.
The practice of fortune-telling can be traced back to 4000 BC in Egypt, Babylon, and China in the form of palm readings and astrology. This should come as no surprise, given how curious human beings are by nature. Fortune tellers exist because people have an intrinsic need to know the unknown, solve the mysteries of the future, and bring an end to their troubles.
Fortune-telling has long played an important role in Turkish culture. Even after the conversion to Islam, which deems fortune telling sinful, Turks continued to practice and value fortune-telling. In fact, a müneccimbaşı (the head of fortune tellers) was kept in the Ottoman palaces to cater to the Sultans’ desires of knowing what the future holds.
With such a long history, fortune-telling comes in many forms and has developed considerably over the years.
Today, the options range from water, tea, and coffee, to kurşun dökme (lead pouring), chamomile, and palm reading. The most traditional and widespread of these forms are kahve falı (the reading of fortune through the coffee cup) and kurşun dökme (the pouring of lead in water).
It all comes back to coffee dregs
Drinking Turkish coffee is an intrinsic and inseparable part of Turkish culture and, in many ways, it is like a ritual that goes hand in hand with heartfelt conversations with friends. Often, this sense of ritual makes kahve falı all the more enthralling.
It’s not just “professional” fortune-tellers that practice kahve falı, and this method of fortune-telling is not always done with the serious intention of learning about thefuture. In fact, many women know how to read kahve falı and most certainly have had their fortune told in this way.
The root of this type of fortune-telling supposedly dates back to the Ottoman period when Arab nannies lived with wealthy Istanbul families, bringing the kahve falı with them, and it has changed very little from its original version.
First, the coffee is drunk (with the dregs left in the cup). The fincan is then turned over on its plate and then swirled around three times while muttering “Neyse halim, çıksın falım” (May the fortune show what my circumstances hold.). Once the cup has cooled, it is turned over and the fortune is read based on the various shapes that the dregs have taken.
Kill two birds with one stone
Many people believe that the evil eye can cast a spell on the object of its gaze: a much-loved vase can break unexpectedly or a beloved piece of jewelry can get lost. When such things happen, Turks believe that the source of these misfortunes is nazar—something that occurs when the evil eye is on someone.
It is believed that when nazar is upon you, your health and possessions are in danger. In order to free oneself from nazar and rid oneself of the effects of it, people use a method called kurşun dökme.
The procedure goes like this: the kurşuncu (the person taking the nazar off you) heats up the kurşun (lead) over the stove. She then sits you down, covers you up with a blanket, and pours the kurşun in a bowl of water, causing the water to splatter and the kurşun to take various shapes and forms.
Although I had been very curious about kurşun dökme for quite some time, I had my first personal experience just recently. I had expected the kurşuncu to be an old, traditional, and conservative lady, probably because all my prior knowledge was based on Turkish films. Yet, I found the real experience to be far from how it’s represented in the movies.
The kurşuncu (a young and warm lady that I found through word of mouth) didn’t speak of nazar or the evil eye. Instead, to my great surprise, she spoke of chakras and energies. She explained that we all carry bad energies and the sources of such energies could be other people (people with evil eyes) or ourselves. She reassured me that the kurşun dökme takes the bad energies out of the body while also balancing the chakras.
The pouring of the lead in the pot is repeated several times to take the bad energy out of each major chakra and the future is predicted based on the form and shape that the lead takes. Ridding oneself of bad energies and getting a glimpse of the future in one sitting… can it get better than that?
Many people completely disregard fortune telling as hokus pocus nonsense. However, it is big business, and takes Istanbul tourism to the next level with the possibility of insights into the years to come.
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