Yada Taşı and Its Use in the Russo-Ottoman War of the Late Eighteenth Century
Keywords: Turkish Culture, Yada Taşı, Eighteenth Century, Russo-Ottoman War
Employment of the stone known to Turks as yada taşı today denotes the making of a kind of magic with the yada taşı in order to make it rain. A great deal of information concerning the use of this stone by the Turks is known from sources recording from earliest times up to the eighteenth century the creation of rain, snow and hail and the making of storms and floods. This stone, however, is more widely known as a "rain-stone" due to its powers to make it rain. In Arabic sources it is referred to as hacer-i metar, hacerü'l-metar and hanerü'l-berd while in Persian works it is called seng-i yede, seng-i metar, büzürk mühre and in Mongolian it is identified as bezoar, dzada yağmurlu. Various Turkic dialects and vernaculars exhibit variations on the word yada, hence: yat, yet, yada, yade, yeda, yede; cada, ced, ceda, cede, cata, cay and sata. The action of making rain is signified by yada yapma and the one who performs the action of rainmaking is known as yadacı or, sometimes, yağmurcu. A number of different views have been expressed regarding the origin of the rain-stone. One view has it that this stone was presented by the Great God (Ulu Tanrı) to Noah, following the Deluge, as a gift for Yafes, the person regarded as the progenitor of the Turks. Through time, it was handed down to his Turkic descendants. According to others, this stone was a product of mines located on the distant Chinese border. Still other sources declare that the stone was found on a mountain in the land of the Turks. In fact, it is recorded that those who passed through the valley in the vicinity of this mountain bound the feet of their beasts with fleece and other soft materials, so as to prevent their hooves from striking against the stones as they passed, which would have otherwise resulted in the downpour of rain, snow, or hail or the creation of a storm or flood. Just as there are those who declare that the source of the rain-stone is the land of the Karluk Turks, there are also those who state that its source must be sought in mountains where the wind is constant and at those spots where lightning struck. Moreover, there are those who claim that the stone was formed in the stomachs of animals like horses, oxen, bears, wolves, dogs, ducks, geese, and eagles, and others who say that it is produced by a large bird with redfeathered wings called a sürhab, inhabiting the frontiers of China. Finally, claims have been stated to the effect that it is found in the stomachs of female sheep or that it is found on the head of a male kaban, a species of wild pig. An eighteenth-century physician named Şaban Şifâî placed this stone among the class of mineral and organic stones and which he termed hacer-i berf ü bârân u tûfan (i.e., the 'rain-, snow-, and flood-stone'). As to the form of this stone, which may be of any color, it is usually described as spherical or close to spherical, of the size of a hazelnut or of the shape and size of an egg or the size of a pheasant's (Phasianus colchicus) egg. Accounts vary in stating how the rain-stone is handled in order to make rain. Generally, it is stated that only the Turks are capable of doing this because only they are privy to knowledge of how this is done. But the soundest tradition is that related by one of Tûsû's physicians. In this version, the rainmaker rubs together two rain-stones after first submerging them in a vessel of water. This is followed by sprinkling around the area water taken from the vessel with the cupped palm of the hand. At the same time, prayers are delivered and entreaties directed to God. This act is repeated without interruption seven times. And at the conclusion of this ritual, it will rain. The rain-stone was employed not only to make rain, but also to disperse clouds, to create blizzards and icy blasts of wind and storms, to bring floods of rain, snow, hail and fog, to produce thunder and lightning, and also to dispel the heat in the summer when setting off on a journey. The use of this stone was frequently utilized as a weapon against the enemy during warfare. The most recent occasion took place during the Russo-Ottoman war of 1768-74. The cause of the rout suffered by the Ottoman forces at Hotin (Xotyn) during this war was the flood created by the Kalmukh Turks, who were allied with the Russians.