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Founded by the philosopher Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi in the 13th century, the ritual is a serious religious one performed by priests in a prayer trance. Mevlevi believed that during the dance the soul was released from earthly ties, and able to freely and jubilantly commune with the divine.
During the ceremony, the dervishes turn independently, shoulder to shoulder, both around their own axis and around other dervishes, representing the earth revolving on its own axis while orbiting the sun or possibly God.
In the Middle East it is believed that the dervish is in prayer and that his body becomes open to receive the energy of God. The Turkish Sultans often consulted the Dervishes in difficult times. Their spinning created a relaxing and hypnotic effect in which the Sultans could search for guidance.
Dervish literally means "doorway" and is thought to be an entrance from this material world to the spiritual, heavenly world. During this solemn religious ceremony it is believed that the power of the Heavens enters into the upward extended right palm and passes through the body and leaves the lower, turned-down left palm to then enter into the Earth. The dervish does not retain the power nor is he to direct it. He accepts that he is the true instrument of God and therefore he does not question the power that comes and leaves him.