Surviving the "dark night" with the "rising of the sun": when the Monarch dies
Yelçe, Zeynep Nevin (2016) Surviving the "dark night" with the "rising of the sun": when the Monarch dies. In: 12th Global Conference Care, Loss and the End of Life, Budapest, Hungary (Accepted/In Press)
Aiming at a better understanding of the various collective mechanisms involved in accepting the loss of a sovereign figure associated with the order of the universe, this paper investigates the expressions of collective grief upon the death of the monarch in the sixteenth-century Ottoman context. Contemporary narrative sources reveal a strong sense of simultaneous grief and joy, fostered by the loss of one sovereign and the arrival of another one. Ottoman chronicles convey a sense of heavy grief and mourning through uncontrolled behaviour consisting of laments, wailing and violent acts of grief such as tearing one’s clothes, beating one’s chest, throwing soil. Similar modes of mourning are observed in various times, places, and cultures. Whether one is talking about the public reaction in Nicomedia to the death of Constantine or the laments upon the death of the legendary hero Beyrek in the Oghuz epics or the death of an Ottoman sultan, exaggerated reactions to a leader’s and/or hero’s death also point at a disruption in the order of things felt by those left behind feeling diminished, lost and devoid of direction. Yet this sense of grief, caused by loss and the implication of partial destruction of the social equilibrium, had to be removed to give way to the sense of a new beginning, or restoring of order. As such, the new monarch is hailed as the rising sun that shall lighten the way and bring things back to order. Acted through collective rites such as the funeral and accession rituals, this transition finds expression in the simultaneous employment of antithetical concepts such as fire/water, grief/joy, and night/day in narrative accounts. Often identified with the death and rebirth of nature, the transitory phase in between each reign is marked with a sense of loss and regaining of not only a sovereign figure, but also of the order of the world and thus the well-being of the society as a collective identity and the subject as an individual.
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