Iranians seek guidance from ancient poetry of Hafez

Women visit the tomb of Hafez (Hafezieh), a 14th century poet, in Shiraz on May 12, 2024. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

When Iranians worry about life’s big questions, many seek answers in the works and wisdoms of Persia’s most revered poet, Hafez — sometimes with the help of a parakeet.

Retired housewife Mitra, 61, had questions about whether her son married the right woman, so she went to the tomb of Iran’s beloved 14th-century bard in the southern city of Shiraz.

Seeking guidance, she visited a fortune-teller there, one of many who offer advice with the help of Hafez’s collected works, a book of odes known as the Divan.

After sharing her concern, Mitra watched anxiously as the fortune-teller thumbed through the thick tome, opened it on a random page and pointed his finger at one verse.

He read it out and then explained its metaphors and mystical insights. Mitra’s face lit up — the message was positive, and domestic harmony lay ahead.

“I finally did the consultation today for my son, because I had doubts on whether his marriage was a good decision,” she said in the garden of the Hafez mausoleum.

After the nod of approval for her daughter-in-law from within Iran’s ancient lyrical treasure trove, she said: “I finally regained hope”.

Some Iranian fortune-tellers, known as falgir, offer a special service to truly randomise the selection of the all-important Hafez verse.

Chirpy parakeets known as “love birds” hop across stacks of colourful envelopes that contain his enigmatic poems and pick one out with their tiny beaks.