Iranian folklore

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Iranian folklore, including jokes, folktales, games, folklore heroes and beliefs, is sophisticated and complex.

Talisman for warding off co-wife, undated. Harvard Library



"Dāstān" in Persian means "fable, fiction, story, tale". The genre to which they refer may go back to ancient Iran. It was a widely popular and folkloric form of story-telling: Dastan-tellers (narrators) tend to tell their tile in coffee houses. They told tales of heroic romance and adventure, stories about gallant princes and their encounters with evil kings, enemy champions, demons, magicians,Jinns, divine creatures, tricky Robin Hood-like persons (called ayyārs), and beautiful princesses who might be human or of the Pari ("fairy") race.

Oral legends and tales

  • Boz boz Gandhi "Suger goat" or Shangol o Mangol o Habeh-e-Angur , compare to The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids
  • Maah pishoni "(the girl with)Moon(sign)in her brow"
  • Sarma Pirezan "the old woman’s cold" :A ten- or seven-day period in the month of Esfand, that is believed that there was an old woman whose camels were not impregnated by the end of the winter, and as camels only mate during the cold, she went to Moses or, according to other versions, to the Prophet Moḥammad and asked for an extension of the cold winter days so that her camels might be covered. Her wish was granted, and that is why this period is called sarmā-ye pīr zan or bard al-ʿajūz.[13]
  • Nāranj o toranj (The bitter orange and the bergamot)
  • Auntie Cockroach and Mr. Mouse;
  • Kadu qelqelehzan, Rolling pumpkin ;


  • Karkadann
    The Nightmare in European folklore is similar to Iranian "Bakhtak"
  • Davaal paa (Persian: دووال پا ‎‎) "lasso-leg creature"
  • Aal [14]
  • Bakhtak (Persian: بختک ‎‎)"Nightmare" A ghost or an evil creature that cause Sleep paralysis[15]
  • Genie " elf, goblin"
  • Div, "Daeva", demon, monster,fiend, often confused with Ghoul(orge, ghoul) and jinn in both folk and literary traditions, expresses not only the idea of demon, but also that of ogre, giant, and even Satan.[16]
  • Ghoul, Ghoul-e-biabani (Monster of desert),designation of a frightening creature in the Perso-Arabic lore. It is a hideous monster with a feline head, forked tongue, hairy skin, and deformed legs that resemble the limp and skinny legs of a prematurely born infant.[17]
  • Martyaxwar A legendary creature similar to the sphinx.
  • Peri
  • Zār (Persian: زآر‎‎) A ritual in some of the south coastal Iranian provinces that is a kind of spiritual "trance" dance. In some cases it can go for a long time,until the dancer drops down of exhaustion [18]
  • Takam "The king of goats", a male goat, in the folklore of Azarbaijan.
  • Shahmaran ,shah (king) of the snakes .

Folklore games

Physical games
  • Amo Zangirbaff (Uncle chain-weaver)
  • Attal Mattal Totuleh
  • Ghayyem Moshak
  • Gorgam be Hava
  • Alak Dolak
  • Ye Ghol Do Ghol
  • Bikh divari
  • Ghapp bazi "knucklebone Playing"
  • Khar polis "Donkey-Cop"
  • Aftaab Mahtab "Sunshine Moonlight"
  • Laylay or Ganiyeh [19]
folklore Card games
folklore Verbal games
  • Moshereh (Poetry Game):Every side has to answer the other side with a poem beginning with the last word of the previous poem (Compare with Urdu Mushaira).
  • Ye Morgh Darm ("I have a hen" game)
other folklore games

Traditional ceremonies

folklore Nowruz traditional characters
folklore religious ceremonies
other folklore traditions
  • Taarof
  • Nāz-O-Niyāz, (lit.coquetry and supplication), An Iranian tradition in love, that is a game between lover and beloved which the beloved hurts her lover by coquetry (Naz) and the lover's response is (Niyaz) that is supplication and insistence in love.[31][32]

Characters in jokes

A depiction of Molla Nasr al din


Cheshm Nazar
  • Ajîl-e Moshkel-goshâ "The problem-solving nuts" of Chaharshanbe Suri[33][34]
  • Cheshm Nazar (چشم نظر)and Nazar Ghorboni (نظرقربونی): That is a pendant or gemstone or likewise that is used as necklace to protect its owner from Evil eye.[35] Compare with Nazar (amulet).
  • Cheshm-Zakhm (lit. "a blow by the eye"), the evil eye (Chashm also occurs alone with the same meaning; cf. Chashm-e bad, Chashm-e Shūr, Chashm-e hasūd "envious eye"; nazar zadan or chashm zadan "to inflict with the evil eye"; Middle Persian duščašmīh or sūr-čašmīh), the supposed power of an individual to cause harm, even illness or death, to another person (or animals and other possessions) merely by looking at him or complimenting him.[36] Dried capsules of Esfand (Peganum harmala)(known in Persian as اسپند espænd or اسفنددانه esfænd-dāneh) mixed with other ingredients are placed onto red hot charcoal, where they explode with little popping noises, releasing a fragrant smoke that is wafted around the head of those afflicted by or exposed to the gaze of strangers. As this is done, an ancient prayer is recited. This prayer is said by Muslims as well as by Zoroastrians.[36][37]
  • fāl gereftan (Divination),Many varieties of divination are attested in Persian folk practice. They include interpretation of objects which appear haphazardly, interpretation of involuntary bodily actions (sneezing, twitching, itches, etc.), observing animal behavior, divining by playing cards (fāl-e waraq) or chick-peas (fāl-e noḵod), bibliomancy (e.g., fāl-e Hafez), divination by means of mirrors and lenses (āʾīna-bīnī), observation of the liver of a slain animal (jegar-bīnī), divination by means of the flame of a lamp, etc.[27]
Mirror and Candles in Iranian Wedding Ceremony
  • Mirror and Candles, in Iranian wedding tradition, it is customary to buy a silver mirror and two candles and place it in the wedding Sofra (a piece of cloth that is spread on the floor, and on which dishes of food and the traditional items of wedding such as Quran are placed ) and the first thing that the bridegroom sees in the mirror should be the reflection of his wife-to-be.Not only Muslims, but also Iranian Jews and Zoroastrians observe the custom of offering sofras to various holy figures.[38]
  • "Mirror and Quran", when buying a new home, it is customary to place a mirror and a Quran in front of it as the first thing that enters the new house.[39]
  • "Patience Stone", is a Persian popular folktale. In the tale, a patient stone, the most empathetic of listeners, absorbs the sorrows and pains of the person who confides in it.[40]It is said that when the stone can no longer contain the pain it harbors, it bursts into pieces.[40]

Music, Dance and Performing Arts

  • Naghali and Pardeh dari, That is narrating of important stories from the Iranian fables, myths and epics which have remained from ancient times with special tone, feelings and expression. In this play, one person both narrates and plays all the roles.Pardeh dari is a special kind of Naghali which is done mostly in the streets.There is a hanging picture on which some scenes of a story are printed. The pardeh dar (story-teller) narrates the story with a demonstration of the scenes. This kind of narration is used for epics as well as religious stories.[41] Many naqhāls in the Safavid period specialized in single, though extensive stories; they were accordingly known as Shahname khan, Amīr Ḥamze khan, and the like.[42]

See also

Further reading

  • Naqib-al-Mamalek, Mohammad-Ali (1961). Mahjub, M. J., ed. Amir Arsalan-e Rumi. Tehran.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Gelpke, R. (1965). Amir Arsalan: Liebe und Abenteuer des Amir Arsalan. Zurich.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Pritchett, Frances W., ed. (1991). The romance tradition in Urdu: Adventures from the Dastan of Amir Hamzah. New York: Columbia University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Daniel, Elton L. (2006). Culture and customs of Iran. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-32053-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Omidsalar, Mahmud (2005). "Magic in literature and folklore in the Islamic period".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. Encyclopedia Iranica, "SAMAK-E ʿAYYĀR" by Marina Gaillard
  2. Encyclopaedia Iranica (article by M. Omidsalar)
  3. "Ya'qub-i Laith Saffari". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2007-07-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Download the book in Persian
  5.[dead link] tarsusi]
  6. HANAWAY, WILLIAM L. "ĀBĀN DOKHT". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2009-01-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Dastan-e Amir Hamzah or Amir Hamza, extended version
  8. The Adventures Of Amir Hamza
  9. HANAWAY, WILLIAM L. "ESKANDAR-NĀMA". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2009-01-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Yūsofī, Ḡolām-Ḥosayn. "ČEHEL ṬŪṬĪ". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2009-01-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Davis, Richard. "Greece ix. Greek and Persian Romances". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2015-09-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. T. Hägg and B. Utas, The Virgin and her Lover: Fragments of an Ancient Greek Novel and a Persian Epic Poem (Leiden: Brill, 2003).
  13. Omidsalar, Mahmoud. "ČELLA In Persian Folklore". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2011-12-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. The placenta was cut and immediately it was poked with a pin or a needle to frighten bad spirits such as ‘Al’. These spirits were closely associated with death of the baby or the mother or anything else that could go wrong at this time. Zoroastrians believed in a number of such dark spirits attacking the mother and the newborn and ‘Al’ resembles the ancient spirits [1].
  15. see also Persian Wikipedia page about Bakhtak
  16. Omidsalar, Mahmoud. "DĪV". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2011-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Omidsalar, Mahmoud and Teresa P. "ḠUL". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2011-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. See also Persian Wikipedia page about Zaar ritual in Iran
  19. Iranian folklore games ( In Persian)
  20. How to play Hokm
  21. Encyclopedia Iranica, "CARD GAMES(ganjafa-bāzī, waraq-bāzī)" by Mahdi Roschanzamir
  22. Ganjafa(In Persian)
  23. About Âs Nas
  24. Jacoby,Morehead, Oswald,Albert. "poker Origin and spread". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-01-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>:

    Poker is virtually indistinguishable from an older Persian game called as nas, a four-hand game played with a 20-card pack, five cards dealt to each player. This coincidence led some students of games to call poker a derivative of as nas, but this theory has been discredited.

  25. Krasnowolska, Anna. "KUSA". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2009-03-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. HITCHINS, KEITH. "Part v. KURDISH (SUNNI)". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2009-03-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. 27.0 27.1 OMIDSALAR, MAHMOUD. "DIVINATION". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2009-04-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Chelkowski, Peter. "THE PASSION (TA'ZIA) OF HOSAYN". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2008-01-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Calmard, J. "'AZAÚDAÚRÈ". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2008-01-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. MARZOLPH, ULRICH. "FOLKLORE STUDIES". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2008-01-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>:

    "As a result, some topics, especially those of religious relevance (such as the Ta'zieh; see Homayun, 1989; Idem, 1976; Idem, 1998; cf. Waklian, 1991) are prioritized"

  31. Orsatti, Paola. "ḴOSROW O ŠIRIN". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2011-02-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. C.-H. de Fouchécour, “Nâz o niyâz, ou l’amour et l’Orient,” Luqmân 5/2, 1989, pp. 77-86
  33. Serving different kinds of pastry and nuts known as Ajîleh Moshkel Goshâ (lit. The problem-solving nuts) is the Chahârshanbe Sûrî way of giving thanks for the previous year's health and happiness, while exchanging any remaining paleness and evil for the warmth and vibrancy of the fire. [2]
  34. دنیای مجازی یا فاجعه مجازی در ایران - قاشق زنی، آجيل مشکل گشا، پريدن از روی آتش، فالگوش ايستادن
  35. M.Moin:A Persian Dictionary, 3rd edition, Page 4752(In Persian)
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  37. اسفند Great Islamic Encyclopedia (In Persian)
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  39. "Quran in Iranian traditions (In Persian)". Retrieved 2011-03-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. 40.0 40.1 HABIBI, FARANGUIS. "SYNGUÉ SABUR: PIERRE DE PATIENCE". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved March 13, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  42. HANAWAY, WILLIAM L. "DĀSTĀN-SARĀʾĪ (storytelling)". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 2009-01-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links