Semantic Processing in the Henna Night Ritual: Associations, Ideologies, Transformations


MILLI FOLKLOR, no.125, pp.163-176, 2020 (Journal Indexed in AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: Issue: 125
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Title of Journal : MILLI FOLKLOR
  • Page Numbers: pp.163-176


Rites of passage take place with the broad participation of the community in order to ensure that people can access the new situation, new life and new identity by getting out of the situation they are in. The henna night ritual is a part of marriage ceremonies in the transitional periods in Turkish culture. Henna night is a ritual for the official announcement of marriage before the wedding by applying henna on the hands and feet of the bride and in some places of groom too, in a one or two of nights before the wedding. Henna night essentially brings to mind the ritual performed by the community of women first. The bride is at the center of the ritual. There is the solidarity of the group, which has come together with the sadness of leaving the parents' home, the excitement and joy of the new marriage, and the complex feelings of the anxiety about the new life. The henna night, where the mentioned emotional solidarity is displayed consecutively in the system of events and narratives, is an interesting folklore event in terms of the transformation of women's identity. In addition, this ritual provides a social sharing environment that strengthens, entertains, keeps traditional knowledge alive and places it in cultural memory. Like every folklore performance, henna night has a unique stereotyped structure, verbal texture within the structure and different context features that enable the performance to be variant. Based on structural linguistics data, it is a kind of unique language. The fact that a written text carries explicit or implicit links with other texts implies intertextuality and on the other hand, the communication process completed between the transmitter and the receiver in a certain period of time also carries interdiscourse relationships. In this perspective, henna night has an intertextual / interdiscourse mechanism in terms of repetition, re-enactment, emulation, and different performative actions in different contexts in order to convey specific messages to the participants within the set of actions that reflect tradition, beliefs, norms and with its unique structure. In this article, the text of henna night is structurally analysed in three sections: the beginning, which is accompanied by cheerful, rhythmic traditional dance music, the henna application where the rhythm of music falls and the emotional intensity increases, the marriage is fixed, and the ending in which concentrated emotions are solved and the rhythm of music rises again. Musical, verbal and behavioral tracks, accompanied by both religious and secular references as the determinants of performance attitude, change the context of the ritual according to the social and religious tendencies of the group and diversify the structure of each section of the structure that forms the main body. Therefore, the discourse unit set forth in this section becomes the determinant of the bodily expressions of the bride and in some places of the groom, who is the ritual subject, and gains tangibility, produces ideological units and cultural indicators. Within the scope of this study, the henna night ritual has been examined through the henna night performance observed in Ankara / Nallihan and Ankara / cankaya and examples from written sources as well.