A Study of Symbolism and Dreams In Maraşlı
Talking about dreams is like talking about movies, since the cinema uses the language of dreams; years can pass in a second, and you can hop from one place to another. It’s a language made of image. And in the real cinema, every object and every light means something, as in a dream.
Throughout the first 10 episodes, Maraşlı showed us some beautiful dream sequences but the one on episode 9 was on another level for me. The episode had an important revelation in the finale. We have started a new period on Celal’s quest for truth, and it has become more challenging for many reasons. The dream sequence in the 9th episode reflected some of his concerns but we’ll get to that. To try to understand this dream sequence we need to know more about the symbolism on the show and to do that we need to take a look at how and when these symbols were first presented.
Before I talk about what I think the stag means in Maraşlı, I want to briefly touch upon why the stag is an important animal in Turkish history. Of course the stag has different associations with mythology and spirituality in many cultures, but this is an Anatolian story. That’s why I have to mention first the Hittites Empire and where they lived, The Kingdom of Hattusa which is in north central Anatolia and their history leads back to 1600–1178 BC. They had a polytheistic religion and maybe thousands of gods and goddesses most of which were inspired from other religions or civilizations.
It is known that one of these Gods was a stag. This deity is considered to have protective characteristics because in Hittite art it is always presented in a position where other animals are behind it or on it. Later this figurine was used in a monument in Ankara (which I have passed by every day for 6 years while I was studying at the Ankara University in Sıhhiye). The Monument is still standing and it’s called Hittite Sun Course. Some also call it the Sun Disk.
The stag in mythology is usually said to symbolize “the soul of the hero” that goes on an adventure. According to Jungian psychology this soul can also be called “anima” which is the feminine part of a man’s personality. The stag is also associated with reincarnation because of its antlers, since they have the ability to grow again. Because of its antlers it’s also connected to trees and especially the tree of life. It is considered sacred, especially in Anatolian folklore, it’s considered a trio with the mahatma/saint (evliya) and the tree. Almost always it symbolizes a spiritual growth and improvement in the character.
We first met the stag in the first episode when Hilal (the lady in the grey room) asked Celal about his recurring dream. He said that in his dream he was alone in the forest and there was a stag. Then she asked how he felt in the dream and he said that he felt sad. When asked if it was male or female he said it was male.
There is an important detail here. Because in Turkish we don’t have a specific name for male deer like “stag”. We have “geyik” and we have “erkek geyik”(stag) or “dişi geyik”(female deer/doe). So he was asked to specify it was male. Also many times the stag and Celal’s face are shown consecutively, this tells us the stag symbolizes Celal’s soul, or his subconscious. He feels sad when he dreams of the stag because his subconscious or maybe inner voice is trying to tell him terrible things are going happen. So for me the stag is a part of him serving him in different ways on this journey.
In the second episode Celal dreams of the stag again. He is in the forest running, it’s raining, the stag calls to him, Celal reaches out but the stag disappears. Again in this episode we see the drawing of the stag that has been done by the officer in the grey room. The episode ends with the stag drawing and Maraşlı’s face in the grey room one after the other. As if to say again that they are each other. Celal is trying to reach his soul, or his inner voice to make sure the path he chose is right but he can’t reach the stag and he reaches out his hand in vain.
The stag in the forest is in the midst of mist and calls out vocally to Celal, as his guide, but Celal is not yet at the level to understand his message.
In the third episode again he dreams of the stag but in a different setting. This time in his dream, he wakes up, gets up, goes outside of his house and when he turns the corner he sees the stag as a mural but it’s moving towards him. On the mural other than the stag we can see the word “Gerçeğe (To The Truth)”. It is made clear at this point that the stag is Celal’s inner guide who is trying to lead him to the truth. Celal as the hero of this story has his path carved out for him. Throughout this journey the stag will be his companion and his inner guide or his inner wisdom. We can think of this as his journey to spiritual maturity.
Until the fifth episode the stag is a part of Celal’s dreams. This changes in the fifth episode when we notice Celal watching a documentary about deer. This looks like a coincidence but then his phone rings and it’s Mahur. They have a very meaningful conversation and towards the end of this conversation Mahur says something interesting. She says she thinks Celal has a side of him that is hidden. From Celal’s expression we can understand that this worries him. As the viewer even at this point we know -from interrogation room scenes- that he’s not honest with Mahur. After they hang up, he closes his eyes and we get the same expression he had in the mountain house on the balcony. It becomes harder for Celal to shut up his inner voice.
In the sixth episode Celal is dreaming again, he is in the forest but he is alone this time. The stag is not there. Sometimes as in the third episode where he sees the stag in the mural, Celal has a dream within a dream. Here, he’s sleeping and he wakes up to himself on TV. We recognize that this is him on the second episode nightmare. This was where he reached out to the stag but it disappeared. Only, this time he just sees himself. He’s surprised to watch himself on the TV and then he wakes up on the couch. So Celal is dreaming about his dream. This inception concept is very interesting. It allows us to understand how much Celal analyzes himself and his decisions and his reality. He is leading a double life. He has to lie to Mahur and Türels. Even us as the viewers don’t know how much about his life is true and how much is made up.
In the same episode he also has a nightmare where he is chasing someone. We can’t see who it is but it’s a man. Most of Celal’s dreams are very intuitive, meaning that they serve as foreshadowing of events that will take place. We haven’t yet met this man and will probably meet him in the future.
In the 9th episode we witness one of the most interesting dream sequences we encounter on the show. Celal’s dreams are getting more and more vivid. He is once again in the forest, first he is lying on the grass. Mahur is a bit far away, she is also lying on the grass. In the beginning of the dream the music is very peaceful. We see Mahur standing up and smiling and Celal is walking towards her. The dream is in black and white but Mahur’s coat is the only thing in color and it’s red. I think that anyone who watched Shindler’s List recognized this scene, it’s probably a foreshadowing to the next episode when Mahur is going to be shot.
In this dream for the first time we see the stag surrounded by deer. We hear gunshot and some soldiers are chasing someone. A flock of birds fly off the trees signaling peace has left this land. We see the tip of a black umbrella.
In the scene you can see above we see the stag surrounded by deer. This is a first, up until that he was always alone. We don’t know if they’re male or female. However we know that he’s not the lone wolf he was before. Episode 7 and 8 were building blocks in MahCel love and the stag was not present. But in episode 9 when their love starts, suddenly in his dream the stag is not alone anymore. He also feels that she is in danger and he needs to protect her. But he feels that he won’t be able to protect her.
10th episode includes a dream that becomes reality. In this dream Celal is in the grey room, Hilal tells him, you’re lying and you fell in love. Then Mahur comes. She starts describing what happened to Celal, but later we find out it’s what will exactly happen. She says, “we’re in the car, they’ve surrounded us, I’m afraid”. Celal tells her not to be afraid because he’s with her. Mahur says she hears them but can’t see them. They hug. They kiss but Celal’s hand comes up with blood and he understands that she has been shot. Mahur says, “you’re lying and my death will be because of you”.
For me the tragedy in this story is that Celal has to use someone innocent as Mahur as a means to find out the crimes of her father. So he already feels guilty for using her. Mahur’s decision to leave Istanbul has triggered something in Celal. He had to confront his feelings for her, however wrong they may be.
Once again, we are looking at a perfectly shot and acted out dream sequence. When we only see Mahur on the screen, the scene is black and white, when they’re together its colored. Mahur’s presence is angelic but also she seems hurt and at the end of the dream she’s also physically hurt as well. Since this is a dream Maraşlı has more freedom to touch her but even in the dream, it’s Mahur who initiates the kiss because Celal feels he has no right to do it. The events in the dream take place exactly the way Mahur describes Celal. Once again this is Celal’s subconscious or his intuition. Unfortunately it’s not in his power to stop it.
The stag makes an appearance on episode 11 as well. When Celal is waiting for Mahur in the hospital and he is at his lowest, this time he’s not dreaming but he still sees the stag looking at him. The stag in the middle of some mist has an etheral presence. This shot once again convinced me the stag is Celal’s driving force, his soul or his inner guidance. The stag is not there only to warn him but also to accompany and motivate him on his path.
I have to say, since the beginning of the show, the symbolism of the stag has reminded me of a movie I love and I definitely would recommend to everyone. I can’t prove the writer has watched it or took inspiration from it but those who will watch it will agree with me when I say, it’s really possible that he did.
The movie is called On Body and Soul. I don’t want to give away too much but it’s about a love story between a man and a woman who meet each other in dreams where they see themselves as a stag and deer before they meet in real life as a coincidence. It’s a 2017 Hungarian drama and has won the Golden Bear in 67th Berlin International Film Festival. It’s one of the reasons that I thought the stag is Celal’s soul as soon as I saw it for the first time.
The Hidden Meaning Behind Numbers
Usually Celal wakes up from his dreams by his alarm which is set to 6:55. I was curious why these numbers were chosen, because it could have been easily 7:00 right? The meaning of 655 is interesting. I believe numbers don’t just serve us for mathematics. Each number is a symbol and they mean different things. Pythagoreans (6th century BC) came up with this idea that numbers apart from being mathematical symbols, they also carry spiritual significance. If we look at the number 6, just like the 6th sense, refers to intuition and clairvoyance. When we look at number 5, it is number of adventure and it’s also connected to life changes. Seeing repetitive numbers is called synchronicity.
Interestingly enough there are also angel numbers which is part of numerology. According to angel numbers each number is connected to a frequency beyond its numeric value. That’s why when people keep seeing the same numbers it’s seen as if their guardian angels are sending them signals. So 655 what does it mean? It’s first and most important message is to beware of people who are close to us because they may betray us. Considering Maraşlı’s journey so far all the meaning these numbers carry seem so fitting to me. His dreams are full of warning for him and this number/s tell him once again that he should be careful and big changes are coming.
Dear reader, thank you for reading this far. I tried to keep this short but it got out of hand! There are some things I couldn’t cover in this piece but I’m hoping we will get to them in the future. On my next piece, I’ll go back to music and poetry. How do you find the show so far? If you enjoyed this piece make sure you share it to share the love and tell me what you think on Twitter, I’m @edsavaseri there. Thank you for the love and support I get for these articles, they really encourage me to write more. Have a great day wherever you are in the world right now. Sending you peace and light from a cold Istanbul night.
*To learn more about Hittites visit the Anatolian Civilisations Museum in Ankara virtually here.
*If you’re curious about Ankara’s Sun Disk Monument, read here.