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Female Head Snake in Kurdish Mythology: Shahmaran

Written by Loya Demir

Shahmaran is a mythical creature from the folklore of the Kurdish people in Eastern and Southern Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. It’s one of the most prominent Kurdish Mythologies. Due to its antiquity, there are many variations of the same story among the Kurds and other Middle Eastern people. Shahmaran is the queen of the serpents. A Shahmaran is often depicted as a wise and benign woman with the features of a woman above the waist and those of a serpent below the waist. In Kurdish folklore, she is a wisdom goddess to protect secrets.

The legend of Shahmaran in Kars and Iğdır Plain, on the other side of the Aras River (Çeme Erez), the cradle of civilization at the foot of Mount Ararat (Ağrı), is the symbol of these regions. The importance and feature of the Shahmaran are the symbols of abundance. Young girls, who are still going to get married in many Kurdish settlements, handcraft this mythological legend of abundance and happiness, the Sahmeran painting.

It is also said that a young hunter living near the Melekli district of the Iğdır Plain, at the foot of Mount Ararat, fell into a well one day while hunting in the plain. The snakes in the well blindfold the young hunter and take the young man, the queen of snakes, to the big well where Shahmaran is located and bring him before Shahmaran. According to what is told, no living thing falls into the well where the snakes are found and are brought before Şahmeran can survive. Seeing the handsomeness of the young hunter, Şahmaran falls in love with the young hunter. She can't bear to kill the young hunter. Ganja says we did not spare the life of anyone who saw our place and learned our secret. But I will spare your life, but I will not leave you. He says I want you to stay with me and live with me. Then the young hunter has to accept this situation of the helpless Şahmaran, and they start living with Şahmaran.

Realizing that the young hunter is getting more and more unhappy with each passing day, Şahmaran feels very sorry for the young hunter. Unable to stand this situation, Şahmaran said to the youth one day, "I will release you, I will free you, but on the condition that you do not tell my secret and my secret, especially to Mirza Bey. If they hear and learn our secret and our place, they will not let us live in this land.” The young hunter is very happy about this situation, and Shahmarana swears that he will not tell anyone his secrets about Shahmara having a love for him. Learning that the young man disappeared for a long time and reappeared, the ruthless Mirza calls the young hunter to his side. He asks why he is missing, but no matter how hard he tries, he cannot get a word from the young hunter's mouth. Suspicious of the situation, Mirza Bey orders his men to follow the young hunter constantly. Because Mirza Bey is an old and sick person, Mirza Bey's Priests said that if Shahmaran's brain was boiled and eaten, his illness would be cured, and he would remain young forever in order to get rid of his illness and be young again. Again, according to rumors, whoever kills Şahmeran or boils his brain and drinks his water will have the beauty, wealth, intelligence, and grace of Şahmeran. After a while, the hunter, who goes hunting in the plain, goes to the well where Şahmaran is located to visit Şahmaran. Secretly following the young hunter, Mirza's men surrounded the well and killed all the snakes. Şahmaran and the young hunter are brought before Mirza Bey. Shahmaran tells Mirza that the primary source of her mind, beauty, and elegance is in her tail, not in her head, on the condition that she does not kill the young hunter. She says and turns to the young hunter, I loved you so much, I spared your life, but I told them that they would not let love and beauty live in this land. The head of the Shahmaran is cut off. While Mirza bey, who drank the poisonous tail's juice, died on the spot, the young hunter who drank the juice of the Shahmaran's head acquired the intelligence and elegance of the Shahmaran.

  1. 403 forbidden. (n.d.). 403 Forbidden.

  2. Stuni, H. Q. (2023, June 16). Shahmaran: Kurdish mythology. Kurdaily.

  3. Şahmaran Efsanesi/Efsaneler/milliyet blog. (n.d.).


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