Daily mythology: Şahmaran


Şahmaran is the queen of snakes. She is all-knowing, beautiful, and leads with grace. People in East-Turkey, in Iraq and in Iran admire her up to nowadays. Along the legend Cemşap, a poor woodseller from Taurus one day went to the wood for honey with his friends. They found a cave. While his friends went for more honey he explored the cave and finds a beautiful garden full of snakes. Their queen is Şahmaran. He falls in love with her and stays for many years in that subterranean garden. But he’s longing for his family and wants to see it again. Şahmaran allows it, under the condition not to tell anyone about the garden and her. But when the sultan gets ill his Vizier says, that only eating Şahmaran could cure him. Cemşab betrays her, and the wise Şahmaran says: “make me boil in an earthenware dish. Let the sultan eat my meat and make vizier drink my boiled water.”. The sultan gets healthy and the vizier dies. Cemşab himself is promoted vizier. The snakes though, learning that theit queen has been killed, invade Tarsus.

Up to today Şahmaran is to be seen as an image on the walls, bringing luck and wisdom. I saw several ones, one in a small café in Sazköy (“saz” = reed). Şahmaran is just one of the rich bestiary of our phantasy (these hybrid creatures are often seen today as monsters in online-fantasy-games). We have the persian Simurg, we have Vogel Gryf and Basilisk, we have the jewish Ziz and the tartarian Zilant (not difficult to recognize our word “yılan” for snake), the official arm of Kazan, not to talk about Chimera, Phoenix, Sphinx, Turkish Konrul or Kurdish Simir. Nearly everywhere these beings are sitting – changed to stone – on our buildings. In much fairytales and legends they appear. In Grimms collection alone we find their appearance and motives in plenty of places, let’s only mention “Die weisse Schlange”, “Vogel Gryf”, “Des Teufels Grossmutter” “Das Meerhȁschen”….


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