Virtual encounters with Hızır and other Muslim saints

Dreaming and healing at local pilgrimage sites in Hatay, Turkey

  • Jens Kreinath


Healing, in conjunction with dream and vision requests at sacred sites, is a well-documented phenomenon in Turkey and the Middle East, and plays a major role in local Muslim traditions. This article presents an ethnographic account of dreaming and healing traditions, focusing on the worship of Hızır and Şeyh Yusuf el-Hekim commonly practised at pilgrimage sites in Hatay, Turkey. It demonstrates how Muslims and Christians visit these pilgrimage sites for the purpose of both vows and dream-quests. I argue that visits to local pilgrimage sites – including dreaming and healing as key elements of these visits – lead to a virtual encounter with the saint and a ritual transformation of agency for the worshipper. In reference to the work of Bakhtin, I utilize the concept of the chronotope to analyze oral traditions about Muslim saints and the interrelatedness between temporal and spatial dimensions of visits to these pilgrimage sites. I link this approach with Kapferer’s concept of virtuality to account for the personal testimonies of those who visited these sites and experienced virtual encounters with Muslim saints through dreaming and healing. In conclusion, I present details from one of my own experiences at a site and discuss how this changed my relationships with my interlocutors.