Hafez, Saaghi & Meykadeh!

by masoudA

I was reading Hafez. Came across a poem in which Hafez has walked into the local bar (meykhaneh - house of wine) - the gorgeous lady bartender (Saaghi) has approached him - and Hafez has no money. In the poem Hafez describes his swinging thoughts and moods so beautifully and masterfully. In every line this great philosopher explores the struggles between righteousness vs. the beautiful eyes of Saaghi and the inviting scent of wine. In the poem Hafez starts with a description of his first glance at Saghi’s eyes, then he proceeds to the need not to compromise his good name and reputation, He then thinks about selling his robe, before praying for a do-gooder to appear. At the end he is ready to jump the cliff at any cost, advising the listeners not to judge him until they get a glimpse of Eshghe Saaghi.

On a lighter note – I wonder if meykhanehs of the era provided additional services?!! Hafez urges towards Saaghi are a bit stronger than just visual pleasure.


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by Nur-i-Azal on

There were, and still are. And these guys were using better stuff than alaf...


Well... there must have been some visual & sensual experiences

by Hovakhshatare on

and alaf was not even illegal then.


Fana' is sexual

by Nur-i-Azal on

Hafiz isn't the only figure in mystical literature that describes the high stages of the spiritual Path in sexual and erotic terms. There are Arab Sufi poets that often get even more explicit than Hafiz like Ibn al-Farid and Ibn 'Arabi. Ibn 'Arabi even goes so far in one of his greatest books, the Bezels of Wisdom (fusus al-hikam), to say that the highest realization of the Divine for the gnostic ('arif) is during sexual intercourse!

Now the Saqi is obviously the appearance (tajalli) of the Divine to the heart of the gnostic ('arif), and such an experience is often literally as intense if not more intense than the meeting of this-wordly physical lovers. Wine (mey) is spiritual love or the ecstatsy of such an intense spiritual attraction (jazbeh) that it is both erotic/sexual and trans-erotic/hyper-sexual at the same time: an experience which takes you out of yourself like at the height of orgasm. The robe represents his physical body, especially the material passions and senses. The jumping off the cliff means to jump off the cliff of the rational senses and into the super-rational plane of vision and synaesthetic feeling which to ordinary reason is simply an act of insanity because it is incomprehensible. So this is why he says that he shouldn't be judged because unless one is standing in his state of ecstatic spiritual attraction of such intensity and so seeing things from his plane of vision there is no way for one to know the state Hafiz is describing. As for the plunge itself: it is the state of fana' (annihilation in the Divine).

These mystical states (ahval) BTW are extremely real and there are tried and true methods and techniques to get to them. They are extremely dangerous to the non-adept without a Guide, which is why this Tradtion insists on having a spiritual Guide (pir/murshid), but nonetheless they are very real and one can attain them.

Whether the tavern girls of the this-wordly meykadeh (tavern) in Hafiz' time were being used for purposes beyond just serving wine, is speculative, but also quite probable. Sex and prostitution have been around as long as we have, and they have been the same pretty much across all cultures. See my comments about sacred prostitution as well and about the cult of the One Woman in this blog. Note that in Hafiz sexual and erotic language are not just simple metaphors.  This is where conservative interpretors of Hafiz have it all wrong. They are rather transparent and amphibolous symbols that both convey and point to the thing-itself and what is beyond that thing simultaneously.