‘Healing bowls’ shed light on Turkish medical folklore
Healing bowls, which were used for centuries in the search for healing in Anatolian folk medicine before the development of modern medicine and combine the health benefits and relaxing properties of water with prayer, shed light on Turkish medical folklore as rare items.
Since ancient civilizations, an important mission was attributed to water and prayer in the search for healing. Healing bowls are believed to have emerged as a method of combating diseases whose cause was not known and diagnosis could not be found in the regions where medicine did not develop.
The main purpose of using a healing bowl was the belief that sick humans and animals would be cured by drinking water from these bowls.
Although the origins of these healing bowls are traced back to the origin of Islam, the finds show that they date back to late antiquity, the Arameans, who lived around Northern Mesopotamia and Syria in the 1st millennium B.C.
Healing bowls, the Islamic examples of which date from the 12th century to the 20th century, appear in various shapes and forms. Most of them are made of copper, bronze and brass, although rare examples of terracotta, ceramics and porcelain are also seen.
Decorated with sacred and understandable texts, such as verses and prayers, which are believed to have a protective and healing effect, the bowls were also decorated with talismans, numbers, symbols, planets and zodiac depictions. It is seen that various rituals were applied in the use of bowls according to the beliefs of each region.
Healing bowls are still in use in some countries today but have lost their widespread use in Turkey. They can be found in a collection, antique shops, museums, or exhibitions.
Collector Haluk Perk has been collecting archaeological artifacts and the ones from ancient and ethnographic periods for nearly 30 years. Healing bowls also have an important place in his collection, which includes artworks related to the history of Anatolian medicine. Perk holds more than 100 healing bowls from various eras, obtained from antique dealers or auctions.
Speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency, Perk explained that human beings tend to seek healing, relaxation and protection from the evil eye and that healing bowls were used as traditional medicine.
He said that there are terracotta healing bowls dating back to the 1st millennium B.C. in his collection, but they could not read what is written on them.
“In our collection, there are bowls from the Seljuk period in the 12th century, called henna bowls in the literature. When we read the texts in these, we saw phrases in the sense of ‘May it bring happiness, abundance and healing to the person who uses it.’ We concluded that these bowls, which are shallow and have a flat bottom, were produced for healing purposes. Later, we saw more oval-shaped bowls dating to the 14th and 15th centuries, which may belong to the Mamluk period. When we read the writings on them, we saw much more clearly that they were produced for medical purposes, such as scorpion bites, dog bites and rabies, etc. Then, we saw the Islamic healing bowls with a core or flat bottom, which were very common in the Ottoman period and the Islamic geography,” he said, adding that they had different uses.
Stating that not everyone was able to use these healing bowls, Perk said, “Assuming that there were no educated clergy in the early periods, we can say that the healing bowls were used by more respected people who developed themselves in the religious sense in different regions. There was also a ritual of using these bowls. Rituals changed according to the practices, purpose of use or diseases of the people.”
Perk added that these bowls are still produced in Iran and that their widespread use continues in societies that cannot reach physicians and medicine enough.