Ask Mehmet: Rags tied on bushes

  • Published
  • By Mehmet Birbiri
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: Ask Mehmet is a forum for people to ask questions about the local area, as well as the outer confines of the region and the country as a whole. To submit a question, send an e-mail with the subject "Ask Mehmet" to Then, look for an answer to the question on the 39th Air Base Wing's official website at and Incirlik Air Base's Facebook page.

Question: Mehmet, on a trip to Heaven and Hell, I saw rags tied onto the bushes around and along the pathway down to Heaven. What are these for and who put them there?

Answer: Before anybody misundertands let me point out that Heaven and Hell is a site close to Castle by the Sea after passing Mersin. Why that site is called in such an interesting name? That's another Ask Mehmet question.

You see those rags are not solely at Heaven and Hell, but also on trees and bushes on the windows and walls of the tombs where holy people are buried in various places in Turkey.

Tying rags onto trees and bushes is a reflection or continuation of an old tradition-belief of the Turks. The roots of that tradition go back to shamanism, the Turks' religion before Islam. The Turks started to become Muslim in the eight century A.D., and Islam was founded in the seventh century.

Shamanism was a polytheistic religion, the belief in more than one god. The shamans used to worship spirits of natural things, such as the sun, moon, sky, big rivers, big mountains and big trees.

The trees and bushes you see with rags tied on are considered to be sacred trees and bushes that can grant requests. People tie rags on those bushes for various reasons, but they all want their wishes to become true. People who are away from their loved ones tie a rag with the wish of being reunited soon. Brides who are having difficulty in having children tie their rags in a shape of a cradle with the wish of having a baby. Others who wish to have a house, who have health problems, and any who wish for some good thing to happen can tie those rags onto bushes and trees.

During hıdrellez festivities, a very similar tradition is performed. Hıdrellez is the 40th day after spring equinox (May 6, popularly considered as the beginning of summer.) On that day many people go to fields and parks to picnic, play games, and jump over camp fires. At the end of the day, people write their wishes on a piece of paper and bury them underneath a rose bush. Some people write their wishes on a piece of paper and throw it into river or stream expecting their wish to happen and pass through any obstacle smoothly like the water that carries it.

Adana Municipality held a festival in May of this year for the handicapped people, and as a part of the festival they had a wish tree. The handicapped wrote their wishes on a piece of paper. and tied them onto the branches of that tree. The mayor of Adana collected those wishes and said he would try to make those wishes become true.