June 21, 2010
The Queen of Anatolia
by Joy Stocke and Angie Brenner (Excerpted from the Memoir, Anatolian Days & Nights)
“Everything we see in the world is the creative work of women.”
Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, Founder of the Republic of Turkey
Cybele – Mother Goddess of Anatolia (Turkey)
Courtesy of the Anatolian Civilizations Museum, Ankara, Turkey
The little girl’s voice vibrates in the chill morning air. In a navy-blue woolen dress and brown tights bunched at her ankles, she tentatively crosses the courtyard, tears shining on her cheeks. “An-neh!”
A woman breaks from a group of mothers standing at the ticket booth. In a storm-grey headscarf and black, double-breasted, ankle-length coat, she hurries toward her daughter scolding her indulgently before scooping her into her arms to kiss away the tears.
The call of a lost child seeking her an-neh, her mother, seems a fitting welcome to Ankara, home of the Anatolian Civilizations Museum, which holds one of the world’s greatest collections of sculpture and art dedicated to the mother goddess. Long before the rise of Judaism, Christianity and Islam people worshipped the Great Mother who had many names: Artemis, Aphrodite, Cybele, Diana. The Greeks named the land now called Turkey, Anatolia, in honor of her incarnation as Anat, goddess of the rising sun. And from that goddess, the word Anne – Mother – entered the Turkish vocabulary.
I have loved the goddess in her incarnation as the Virgin Mary since I was a child and credit my Catholic upbringing for my affection. At Sunday Mass, I often sat in a pew near a niche that contained her statue, her marble body robed in a sea-blue cloak, her rosy-cheeked son Jesus sitting on her lap. While the priest went through the rituals of the Mass, I smiled back at her, because surely the kind and compassionate smile on her face was put there for me.
“I’m so sorry about your son,” I would whisper, trying to imagine what it was like to be told you will bear the son of God and that one day you would watch him nailed to a cross and tortured to death. On the first of May, with the other girls of the parish, I would dressed in white to celebrate her, laying roses on the altar and singing, “Salve Regina, Hail to the Queen.”
Angie’s interest in the mother goddess followed a different path. Raised Protestant by a Catholic mother and Dutch Reform father, Angie asked questions that were never fully answered. For instance, outside of the birth story of Jesus, why was Mary ignored?
When we began traveling to the Mediterranean region, we discovered that Mary has a long line of ancestresses, goddesses who, for good and ill, held sway over the mortals in their midst.
Byzantine Icon, Virgin Mary
And so, on a morning in May, far from Ankara in Central Turkey, we find ourselves on a shaded hill near the town of Ephesus in front of a Byzantine house made of stone. Tradition says that Meryemanna, Mother Mary, the Blessed Virgin, spent the final years of her life here.
To thousands of pilgrims, it makes no difference that the house was built three centuries after Mary’s death. Or that it wasn’t discovered until the nineteenth century when a bedridden German woman, who had never visited Turkey, saw it in a vision.
Inspired by the German woman’s description of a house constructed of stone blocks with rounded arches, a priest from the nearby port city of Izmir traveled to Ephesus and found an abandoned house nestled in a pine grove overlooking the Aegean Sea. In 1967, Pope John Paul VI canonized the house as the official residence of Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, and as her final resting place.
Does it really matter whether the house belonged to the Virgin Mary or not? Muslims as well as Christians make pilgrimages there to honor her. Inside her house, inscriptions from the Q’uran flow across the walls in Arabic calligraphy. Following a tradition stretching back to their nomadic and shamanistic past, Muslim worshippers tie white strips of cloth to a tree near her house so their prayers may be answered.
In 451 CE, the Council of Chalcedon awarded Mary Christianity’s highest honor, the title of Airoparthenos, Ever-Virgin, one who never had intercourse in order to conceive her son.
Her foremothers would have been shocked. In their time, procreation was held as a mystery of greatest importance in the endless cycle of renewal and birth. A goddess could mother hundreds of children and still be called a virgin.
Modernity, however, can be deceptive; and in this case even comforting. In a secular Muslim Republic, Turkish children evoke her name hundreds of thousands of times a day whenever they call for their anne.
House of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus, Turkey, ephesusguide.com
Joy E. Stocke is Editor in Chief of Wild River Review. The essay above is an excerpt from the memoir, Anatolian Days & Nights, A Love Affair with Turkey, co-written with Angie Brenner to be published in 2011.
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November 6, 2009
On and Off the Road in Turkey: Fort Hood, A Soldier’s Story
By Angie Brenner and Joy Stocke
Photo by Angie Brenner
We wake just before sunrise in the heart of Anatolia to hear the morning call to prayer from the village’s small mosque. While our internet connection waxes and wanes, we’ve connected long enough to learn the news from Foot Hood, Texas about Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an army psychiatrist born in Virginia who was about to deploy to Iraq. While the details and motive are still being determined, the news that he shot and killed twelve soldiers brings to mind a conversation we had two nights ago with Apo, young man we met here.
Apo spoke of his life, friends and family who live in the Adana region further south on the Mediterranean Sea where his father raises cows, and grows crops of beets, carrots, potatoes beside orchards of lemon and oranges. ”I will return in two years to help him. From our house you only see fields,” he says and smiles.
He mentions a friend whom he met during his mandatory two-year military service and who will join him later that night, which leads us to ask more questions. Other Turkish friends and acquaintances have had military jobs from baklava baker to pigeon keeper (one friend boasted of having his men build a swimming pool for him on the base), so we never know what career opportunity the Turkish army might create.
But Apo’s army work was not what we would have expected from such a gentle person.
“My eyesight was very, very good,” he says. “So, they gave me the job of look-out person and gun operator in the turret of a tank.”
Apo says that he was stationed in the far eastern city of Van, which we know from previous travels to be a hot bed for the PKK (a Kurdish separatist group considered a terrorist organization). In Van, the government and army are very heavy-handed with any suspects. Then Apo tells us a story:
Near Hakkri along the border with Iran, his troop encountered a village known to have sheltered PKK insurgents. One man ran out of a house with a gun and was told to stop or be shot. Apo was directed by his captain to shoot the man if he didn’t stop running.
“He said that if this man lived and killed one of our men, it would be my fault,” says Apo. “I was so scared, and kept yelling for the man to stop. I pulled up my gun to shoot and just then he put up his arms in the air like this.” Apo held up his own arms in the surrender position.
“You can not imagine how I felt. I asked him, ‘Why did you not stop? I would have killed you, and how do you think I would feel?’ I even hit him because I was so mad that he made me come so close to killing him. And can you believe it, he apologized to me.”
Apo spent several weeks after this incident talking with army psychiatrists and had nightmares that lasted for the following six months. But it was his last remark that seemed to sum up what happens to soldiers stressed by having to witness or engage in acts we find impossible to understand.
Apo stood on our doorstep and smiled softly. “When my last day in the army came, I woke up and said, “Today, the sun rises only for me.”
Angie Brenner is the West Coast Editor of Wild River Review. Joy Stocke is editor in chief of Wild River Review. You can follow their travels and musings about Turkey at: Anatolian Days and Nights.com
May 12, 2009
Editor’s Note: During research for our book Anatolian Days and Nights Angie Brenner and I spent time in southeastern Turkey where one of that country’s worse massacres occurred early in May. In many ways Turkey, a secular Muslim Republic, is a beacon for stability in the region. What follows is an account from Turkey’s Daily paper, Hurriyet, and a response from a teacher and friend who lives in Mardin.
Carnage during an engagement ceremony in southeastern Anatolia has ignited debate over Turkey’s village guard system, part of a controversial militia force that patrols the rocky hillsides in the region and is paid by the state.
According to unconfirmed reports, the assailants who claimed the lives of 44 people including three pregnant women in Bilge village, near the city of Mardin, were part of this system.
Village guards have aided the government forces and fought the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, since 1984 and have long been criticized for their alleged links with illegal activities in the region. According to official data from the Interior Ministry, the number of village guards is around 58,000, all of whom are men with a lower standard of pay and benefits than the police.
To: Angie Brenner
From: Mustafa Oludeniz
Greetings from Mardin,
What a perfect feeling to hear from you Angie.
First of all, the event took place near Mardin is the most terrible and horrible event We have ever seen and heard.
We certainly don’t accept and understand this kind of massacre on our grounds. The most important thing you should understand and know about these monsters is that they are the victims of uneducated life and are very, very poor.
I want to mean that they had some arguments about their valuable land. Because of that, they no longer agreed to share the land and that is where their money comes from.
The worst side of the event is the killers and the victims are relatives. They have the same surnames.
I believe we must invest in education not guns if we are to make change in our region.
April 14, 2009
by Angie Brenner
Biricek Dam, Southeastern Turkey
Last week, a reporter on National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed people in Turkey about their bid to join the European Union (EU), and the EU’s continued rejection of that bid. The wound, which has been festering for a half a century, was opened once again during President Obama’s recent visit to Turkey where he said that America would be in favor of Turkey joining the EU.
There were two comments from this news segment that caught my attention. One was the response by French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who immediately rejected the suggestion that Turkey should become part of the EU; and the second was a Turkish citizen who voiced the opinion of many by saying that Turkey shouldn’t try so hard to win favor with the EU because as he said, “We have everything we need here.”
While most of its citizens are Muslim, Turkey remains clearly a secular republic, thanks to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who founded the Republic in 1924. Did Sarkozy forget that the success of the Turkish Republic was partly based on its alignment with the French? Ataturk was greatly influenced by Europe, enough to change Turkey’s alphabet from Arabic to Roman, and adopt the French judicial system. Anyone who walks through Istanbul’s Beyolgu neighborhood cannot dismiss the French art deco architecture.
Being something of a Turkophile – I’ve traveled and written about the country for years, along with WRR Editor in Chief, Joy Stocke – I had to smile to myself at the proud comment by the Turkish man. Since 1959 ,Turkey has worked to formally establish itself with Europe; and, since 1987, has been in process to enter into the European Union, often to the complaints of its people.
“Why should we bow to Europe when they need us more then we need them?” is a common statement on the street. The “we have everything,” comment isn’t too far from the truth. From the Aegean, across the Anatolian heartland, and to the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Turkey has an abundance of food and water, two of the world’s most prized possessions. Has Europe turned a blind-eye to one of the world’s most ambitious water projects known as GAP, the Southeastern Anatolia Project, that establishes 22 dams on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and their tributaries?
Today, Turkey controls the taps to the water flowing into Syria and Iraq. A few years ago, Joy and I were invited to tour the Birecik Dam on the Euphrates River near Syria. The locations of dams unfortunately come at a high historical cost since the Birecik Dam has flooded ancient ruins. The Roman city of Zeugma, the ‘Turkish Pompeii’ with many exquisite mosaics, lies submerged. The shiny new turbines and concrete walls that hold back millions of gallons of water will help to irrigate fields of cotton in the volatile east. We’ve been to a similar sight on the Tigris River where the Ilusu Dam will cover the village of Hasankeyv and ancient ruins and control the flow of water directly into Baghdad.
NOTE: see the March issue of Smithsonian Magazine:
Hasankeyf - Tigris River, Southeastern Turkey
While the West frets over world oil resources, Turkey is quickly garnering control of water in the Near and Middle East. With deep Christian and Persian roots, Turkey has never been a country to be dismissed. How long can Europe and the West continue its prejudice against Turkey and at what future cost?
Angie Brenner is West Coast Editor for Wild River Review. Her book, Anatolian Days and Nights, chronicling her journeys through Turkey, will be published next year.
November 7, 2008
by Angie Brenner
After Barack Obama’s victory Tuesday night, I asked some friends about their reactions to the news. Their words remind me how close we all are and the influence American values have across the globe:
“I guess this is a revolution. A part of the American history of racism and slavery finished two days ago. America has proven that it is a free country where anyone can be anything.
Bush is history, but a history of wounds that will be very hard to be recovered by Obama, but he will because he has been given the chance by this change.
Americans will have their honor back and probably Obama will travel to Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. It is big thing – like the Romans. America showed something deep from her heart and now America will send people to the rest of the world that is better then sending troops.
The Turkish people are so happy about it and whoever you speak to here we are just so happy.
Namik Safyurek, Kalkan, Turkey
“As I send this, we are watching a program on Barack Obama. Such great news; congratulations to you all. We feel inspired by all the positive approaches to the problems we all have.
Buzz off Bush! Welcome Obama.”
Joan and Roger Porter-Butler, Cornwall, England
Yes! what a celebration. I feel a deep sense of relief, joy, excitement and HOPE for this new order that is arising, an order that will hopefully bring greater consciousness and global connectedness, a deeper and more meaningful way of thinking and living for humanity. Obama really was chosen. I do believe this in my heart. He is a man of integrity, so needed in the USA., in the world. YIPEE!
Marina Sarles, Freeport, Bahamas
October 20, 2008
By Angie Brenner
“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot, dry, Santa Anas that comes down through the mountain passes and curls your hair and makes your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that, every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband’s necks. Anything can happen.”
- Raymond Chandler
The winds have finally stilled this morning. For five days they blew, relentlessly, from the east. They are the dreaded desert winds that form in the cold California deserts between October and March and clear pollution and more often fan fiery flames. In France, they are the Mistral; Italy has the Sirocco winds and Egypt the Khamsin. Australia is more straightforward and simply calls them The Desert Winds. A natural phenomena that we learn to live with, or do we?
With air humidity in single digits, skin dries, it seems, from the inside out. I only have to look at a piece of paper caught in the air and watch the edges curl and brown to understand how moisture is sucked slowly out of my pores. Fingers and feet crack and bleed, noses can be blown with a chisel, hair crackles with electricity. There’s not enough Lubriderm in the world to soothe the skin during a full Santa Ana.
The wind whips the oak branches and scrapes against the roof keeping sleep at bay – day after day. This unceasing monster is what must have helped to create myths of underworld spirits. By day three, I felt like the goddess Medea ready for revenge and death. My hair wildly unmanageable, every face crease deepened, REM sleep deprived, I could only throw covers over my head – my version of the underworld – and wait out the beast. I’ve read accounts of people experiencing the 1930s dust bowl and never being the same. These witchy winds carry positive ions that cause and enhance depression, anxiety, and exhaustion.
On day four I thought I was dying. My stomach churned, head pounded, chest burned and clenched. Earlier, I was asked whether the wind drove me crazy because of the eminent, and very real, threat of fires. I passed it off. “No,” I said. “I really don’t think about this unless it actually happens.” I’m not one to worry in advance. But at 11:00pm, I searched the Internet for clues as to my remarkable, unpredictable condition. Indigestion? Heartburn? These seemed unlikely considering my bland diet of yogurt and soup that day.
Then there was the word that popped up as a possible cause to my symptoms: stress. Maybe I wasn’t so immune to anticipated disaster as I thought. After several evacuations from my home during past Santa Ana wind fires, and watching friend’s and neighbor’s homes burn to the ground, perhaps my subconscious is more in tune with reality than my mind.
When everything around you is crashing and blowing, denial is often a lovely place in which to dwell. Yet, my body is asking for more out of me. Perhaps it is time to get together my emergency disaster kit – just in case. Maybe being prepared for the worst would calm unknown fears that harbor in the body. And maybe, I need to high-tail it to the Pacific Coast for a quick dose of negative ions.
Angie Brenner is West Coast Editor for Wild River Review. She is completing a book about Turkey where she finds relief in the local hamams.
The Steamy Side of Istanbul
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