Creating a Ritual of Food: Food Cult in the Alevi Belief System
This paper will discuss food cult in the Alevi belief system and rituals and belief practices formed around this cult. Within Alevi communities, food offered at rituals are called lokma and this food is considered sacred. Therefore, many food-centered ritual practices are performed during process passed from getting food for ritual to eating it. Ritual food is a part of the sacred for Alevi individuals, moreover, food appears as a precondition for performing ritual. This explains the necessity of sacrificing an animal in order to perform the cem ritual. Traditional rituals of Alevi communities are formed around bringing for prayer, preparing and consuming food and drinks such as lokma, salt, dem (alcoholic drink), etc. For that reason, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that rituals within the Alevi belief system are formed around sharing lokma. Thus, an analysis of the Alevi rituals that excludes food and drinks produces problematical hypotheses.
This paper will analyze food and sacred drinks offered at rituals performed by Alevi communities considering importance given to food, ritual meals, belief hierarchy formed around food, ritual meanings given to food and drinks, preparation and presentation of food and drinks. The first part of the paper explains how food and drinks became a part of ritual within the Alevi belief system, and the second part puts forth the differences in ritual meals by ocaks and regions. This analysis is grounded only on the examples of rituals that we attended in Ankara, Çankırı, Kırıkkale, Çorum, Afyonkarahisar, Isparta, Eskişehir, Denizli, Aydın, Manisa, Izmir, Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Istanbul, Tekirdağ in Turkey, Didymoteicho Rousa in Greece and Momchilgrad in Bulgaria, because the subject of food in Alevi communities, that cover large geographical areas, requires a larger study. In addition to data and analyses, the paper also includes photographs.