The Poker

Mehmet Demirci
4 minutes

In May 1993, I attended the International Khoja Ahmed Yesevî Symposium organized by Erciyes University in Kayseri. Afterwards, they showed us around a few neighboring provinces and districts. One of the places we visited was the Hacı Bektaş-i Velî Complex. A beautiful place that smells of history, smells of spirit, smells of spirituality.

At one point, I wandered around the neighborhood and noticed an old, mysterious-looking mulberry tree in the garden. The traces of centuries can be seen on its thick body, like the face of an old, old man. I asked an official: What is this tree, is there anything special about it? dedim. The man became excited, his eyes smiled, and he replied: “This tree is a burnt branch that was thrown from the Ahmad Yassawî hearth in Khorasan. It fell here and then flourished. Finding this sign, Hacı Bektaş settled here, opened a hearth and established his lodge. This tree has been alive ever since.”

I immediately remembered that famous story: Ahmad Yassawi had commissioned Haci Bektash in Anatolia, and one of the virtuous men who was there took a piece of wood from the fire that was burning in the center and threw it towards the country of Rum, that is, towards Anatolia, and it was a branch of a mulberry tree, and it fell in Suluca Karahöyük, in the place that would later become the Haci Bektash tekke. The Vilâyetnâme says: “That tree is still standing, the upper end is burnt.”

So this tree was that tree. Even though it was a legend, it was impossible not to get excited. I used to have knowledge of it (ilme’l-yakîn), but now when I see it in person (ayne’l-yakîn), I am moved. It is important not to pass them off as myths, epics and tales. They are rooted in history and draw their inspiration from it. Epics and legends are histories seen with the eyes of the people, heard with the spirit of the people, and told in the imagination of the people.

Although historians say that Haci Bektash lived long after Ahmet Yesevi, this is the general acceptance of the people.

In Kubbealtı Lügati, the word “Köseği” is defined as follows: “1. a stick of wood or iron used for stirring fire; 2. a piece of wood with one end burnt, a file.”

In our story, poker is the second meaning of the word, also called “eğsi”. According to the explanation given by the dictionary, it was used in “Old Turkish”.

Now that we have moved to a settled culture and civilization, the days of lighting a fire in the square and gathering around it to chat are long gone. Especially throwing a mulberry branch, which was burning in the fire, up to the sky and forward to show targeting is only found in our tales and legends.

When TRT Television was a single channel, I remember a program whose name I have forgotten. In the credits there was a scene like the one in our myth: I was impressed by the image of a tree branch that was thrown into the air and like a kind of missile, it broke through the atmosphere and fire emanated from its tip.


Hacı Bektaş Veli (d.1271), whose real name was Muhammad, came to Anatolia from the Khorasan region. He received his Sufi education from Lokman Perende, a disciple of Ahmet Yesevi. After Sivas, Amasya, Kırşehir and Kayseri, he came to Suluca Karahöyük, now known as Hacı Bektaş. The mausoleum of Hacı Bektaş, whose life we do not have enough information about, is in our district named after him.

Bektashism, attributed to Hacı Bektaş Velî, is one of the largest tariqats widespread in Anatolia and Rumelia and was the first tariqat founded in Anatolia. During the Ottoman period, due to its close relationship with the Janissary army, it operated in far-flung areas such as Egypt, Bagdad, the Balkans and Crimea, and in a wide geography.

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