Kosovo Dervishes pierce their mouths in celebration of spring


Prizren (Kosovo) (AFP)

Like every spring, the Dervishes in Kosovo on Thursday celebrated the beginning of the season by dancing and pushing skewers into their mouths in a quest for heavenly salvation.

Considered as a mystic sect by their fellow Muslims, some 60 Dervishes gathered in the southern city of Prizren for a centuries-old celebration of the spring equinox festival of "Sultan Nevruz".

Dressed in black and white waistcoats and flat hats, the Dervishes start the ceremony by chanting and bobbing their heads, slowly upping the tempo of the prayer from a deep murmur into a full-throated howl, praying for their past sins to be pardoned.

The crescendo mounts for two hours until the Dervishes, including a few children, are swaying in a state of mystical ecstasy, when the skewers appear.

Shejh Adrihusein Shehu, a leader of the mystical order, coats 15-centimetre long needles with his saliva, piercing one side of the mouths of three junior Dervishes, signalling others to begin piercing themselves.

Driven by the rhythm of kettledrums and tambourines, the entranced worshippers sway in a semi-conscious state, repeating their calls to "Allah" over and over.

While 95 percent of Kosovo's 1.8 million inhabitants are Muslim, only a tiny fraction -- a few thousands -- are Dervishes.