Fears, Hopes, and Dreams: The Talismanic Shirts of Murād iii

In: Arabica
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  • 1 Yale University

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There is much evidence that Ottoman Turks were interested in talismans and magic. However, this area has not yet been studied in depth. A few recent studies present information about material artifacts, but without deep analysis of the use of talismans and magic among Ottoman Sufis. The present study examines talismanic shirts prepared for the Ottoman sultans, in particular the shirts of Murād iii (r. 982/1574-1003/1595), who was a devout disciple of a Ḫalwatī master, Šuǧāʿ Dede. After a brief introduction to talismanic shirts prepared for Ottoman sultans, I analyze the motifs, symbols, and divine words on the talismanic shirts produced for Murād iii. I also explore what insights can be gained when his shirts are read together with his dream letters that he sent to his spiritual master. Intertextual reading of significant symbols on Sulṭān Murād’s shirts, when taken in conjunction with his letters, demonstrates that his shirts are infused with a more complex meaning than is evident at first glance.

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