Albanian folk beliefs

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History of Albania

Albanian folk beliefs (Albanian: Besimet popullore shqiptare) comprise the beliefs expressed in the customs, rituals, myths, legends and tales of the Albanian people. The elements of Albanian mythology are of Paleo-Balkanic origin and almost all of them are pagan.[1] Albanian folklore evolved over the centuries in a relative isolated tribal culture and society.[2] Albanian folk tales and legends have been orally transmitted down the generations and are still very much alive in the mountainous regions of Albania, Kosovo and western Macedonia, among the Arbëreshë in Italy and the Arvanites in Greece.[3][4] The main theme of Albanian myths and legends is the struggle between good and evil, and in Albanian narrative the good always wins.[3] Albanian narrative can be divided into two major groups: legends of metamorphosis and historical legends. Among the main bodies of Albanian folk poetry there are the Albanian Songs of the Frontier Warriors (Albanian: Këngë Kreshnikësh or Cikli i Kreshnikëve), the traditional cycle of Albanian epic songs.


The elements of Albanian mythology are of Paleo-Balkanic origin and almost all of them are pagan.[1] One of the sources from which Albanian folk beliefs evolved is the ancient Illyrian mythology,[5][6][7] showing also similarities with other Indo-European branches of the neighbouring traditions, such as the oral epics with the South Slavs and the folk tales with the Greeks.[8]

Albanian mythology inherited the Indo-European narrative epic genre about past warriors, a tradition shared with early Greece, classical India, early medieval England, medieval Germany and South Slavs;[9] morover Albanian folk beliefs retain the typical Indo-European tradition of the deities located on the highest and most inaccessible mountains (Mount Tomor),[10] the lightning and fire deities (Perendi, En and Vatër),[11] the Daughter of the Sun legend,[12] the Dragon legend (Drangue and Kulshedra), the Fates and Destiny (Bardha, Zana e malit, Ora and Fatit)[13] and the guard of the gates of the Underworld (the three-headed dog who never sleeps).[14]


Albanian folk tales were first recorded in the middle of the nineteenth century by European scholars such as Johann Georg von Hahn, the Austrian consul in Janina (Ioannina), Karl H. Reinhold and Giuseppe Pitrè. The next generation of scholars to take an interest in the collection of Albanian folk tales were primarily philologists, among them well-known Indo-European linguists concerned with recording and analysing a hitherto little known European language: Auguste Dozon, Jan Jarnik [cs], Gustav Meyer, Holger Pedersen, Gustav Weigand and August Leskien.

The nationalist movement in Albania in the second half of the nineteenth century, the Rilindja, gave rise to native collections of folklore material such as the 'Albanian Bee' (Albanike melissa/Belietta shqiptarë) by Thimi Mitko, the 'Albanian Spelling Book' (Albanikon alfavetarion/Avabatar arbëror) by the Arvanite Anastas Kullurioti and the 'Waves of the Sea' (Valët e Detit) by Spiro Dine. In the last thirty years, much field work has been done by the Institute of Folk Culture in Tirana and by the Institute of Albanian Studies in Prishtinë, which have published numerous collections of folk tales and legends. Unfortunately, very little of this substantial material has been translated into other languages.

Divine figures[edit]



  • Nuse mali (mountain nymphs)
  • Nuse uji (water nymphs)
  • Zana e ujit
  • Nusja Shapulicë
  • Cuca e Liqenit
  • Kshetë
  • Perria



Mythical beings[edit]


  • Angu (shapeless ghost who appears in dreams)
  • Avullushe (spirits that suffocate people with their breath)
  • Bariu i mirë (the good shepherd)
  • Baljoz (dark knight)
  • Bolla (dragon)
  • Bushi i kënetës (big bull of ponds and swamps)
  • Bushtra (bad omen-wishing female witch)
  • Dhampir (half-vampire, half-human)
  • Dhevështruesi (half human and half animal)
  • Dhamsutë (deaf and dumb mare)
  • Divi (ogre)
  • Ershaj (demonic snake that morphs into a Bolla)
  • Flama (restless evil ghost)
  • Gjysmagjeli
  • Gogol (bogeyman)
  • Hajnjeri (man eating giant)
  • Judi (ghost giant)
  • Kacamisri (similar to Tom Thumb)
  • Karkanxholl (werewolf)
  • Katallan (giant)
  • Katravesh
  • Kolivilor (demon similar to an incubus)
  • Kore (child eating demon)
  • Kukudh (plague demon)
  • Kuçedra (multi headed storm dragon)
  • Lamia (half snake, half woman)
  • Laura (shapeshifting swamp hag)
  • Ljubi (demoness)
  • Lugat (revenant)
  • Makth (nightmare ghost that suffocates people during sleep)
  • Mauthia
  • Pëlhurëza (veil ghost)
  • Rrqepta (similar to a beast)
  • Rusale (mermaid)
  • Shpirag
  • Shtriga (vampiric witch)
  • Stihi (demonic dragon)
  • Syqeni (the Doggy Eyed, a wizard)
  • Thopçi or Herri (gnome)
  • Three headed dog (Cerberus)
  • Vampir
  • Vurvolaka (vampiric ghoul)
  • Xhindi (jinn)

Sacred animals[edit]

Legendary heroes[edit]

List of folk tales, legends, songs and ballads[edit]

Folk tales[edit]

  • Marigo of the Forty Dragons
  • For the Love of a Dove
  • The Silver Tooth
  • The Snake Child
  • The Maiden who was Promised to the Sun
  • The Grateful Snake and the Magic Case
  • The Jealous Sisters
  • The Princess of China
  • The Foolish Youth and the Ring
  • The Barefaced Man and the Pasha's Brother
  • The Boy with No Name
  • Half Rooster
  • Gjizar the Nightingale
  • The Snake and the King's Daughter
  • The Bear and the Dervish
  • The King's Daughter and the Skull
  • The Stirrup Moor
  • The Tale of the Youth who Understood the Language of the Animals
  • The Maiden in the Box
  • The Girl who Became a Boy
  • The Shoes
  • The Youth and the Maiden with Stars on their Foreheads and Crescents on their Breasts
  • The Three Brothers and the Three Sisters
  • The Three Friends and the Earthly Beauty
  • The Scurfhead
  • The Boy and the Earthly Beauty
  • The Daughter of the Moon and Sun
  • The Serpent
  • The Skilful Brothers
  • The Tale of the Eagle


  • Aga Ymer of Ulcinj
  • Ali Dost Dede of Gjirokastra
  • Baba Tomor
  • Legends of Mujo and Halili
  • Gjergj Elez Alia
  • Sari Salltëk
  • Scanderbeg and Ballaban
  • Shega and Vllastar
  • The Lover’s Grave
  • Legend of Jabal-i Alhama
  • Princess Argjiro
  • The Legend of Rozafa
  • Revenge Taken on Kastrati – a Legend of the Triepshi Tribe
  • The Founding of the Kelmendi Tribe
  • The Founding of the Kastrati Tribe
  • The Founding of the Hoti and Triepshi Tribes

Songs and Ballads[edit]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Bonefoy 1993, p. 253.
  2. ^ Elsie 2001, pp. vii-viii.
  3. ^ a b Elsie 1994, p. i.
  4. ^ Elsie 2001, p. ix.
  5. ^ Stipčević 1977, p. 74.
  6. ^ West 2007, pp. 288.
  7. ^ Wilkes 1995, p. 280.
  8. ^ West 2007, pp. 19.
  9. ^ West 2007, p. 68.
  10. ^ West 2007, pp. 151.
  11. ^ West 2007, pp. 243, 266.
  12. ^ West 2007, p. 233.
  13. ^ West 2007, pp. 385–386.
  14. ^ West 2007, pp. 392.