The Spring Fairy

Sometime in February, there is always a very special day in Istanbul, when suddenly winter is over.

It smells quite different when you go out in the morning to get fresh bread from the corner shop and everything shines in fresh colors: the spirit of spring is back. My neighbors, whom I meet in the morning when I get bread, say „bugün cemre düştü“ every year on this special day. The cemre has come down today. Amazed by this statement, I ask what this is all about. While I’m waiting for the bread, the milkman, with a Samsun cigarette in the corner of his mouth, clatters with his voice like Tom Waits with his pitchers and sifts the milk. I have never seen the ashes of the cigarette fall into the milk. The cemre comes first into the air, then into the water and then to the ground, each at intervals of seven days, explains the milkman. Then it’s spring.

The Turkish weather forecast also speaks of cemre every year on that particular day in February; it does not seem to be the individual experience of my neighbors, but a very old meteorological knowledge. But who or what is cemre? According to folklorists, it is a mysterious, mythical creature that exists among the Turkic peoples. In some areas of Central Asia it is called imre or emire, in the Balkans it is named zemire. This spiritual being that initiates spring, moves from the air to the grounds. In some regions it is said that cemre can be seen in the rising, dancing lights at dusk or in the lukewarm dew that covers plants. Cemre means „warmth“ or „glow“ in Arabic, which is why even those who do not want to believe in a spirit do not have to deny the existence of cemre. Cemre is also a Turkish first name that can be translated as „anticipation of spring“.

Interestingly enough, on the basis of temperature tables from the past 60 years, Turkish meteorologists have discovered that the increase in warmth in February actually occurs every year in exactly three cycles, each about seven days apart. First the air warms up, then the water melt and finally the ground heats up. When will cemre come this year? It certainly will not take long. Look forward to a magical spring in Istanbul…

We thank E. Voswinckel for this enchanting guest post.

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