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Roots of Turkish Tribal Art
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Motifs and Their Meanings
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The Language of Carpets:
Motifs and Their Meaning


In a culture where women are often restricted to their houses, carpets become a place to express their feelings and dreams. Every motif, handed down over generations, is carefully woven into the carpets. Part of the joy of looking at carpets is decoding the heartful messages woven into them.

Marriage, Birth, and Fertility:
Hands on Hips - Based on the Mother Goddess. This motif is usually used only when the weaver has given birth to a boy to express the pride of the mother.
Ram's Horn - Expresses fertiliy, heroism and power.
Fertility - These are often stylized versions of wheat and pomegranate, which symbolizes fertility.
Hair Band - Expresses the yearning of a young woman to get married. Young village girls typically keep their hair long until marriage.
Earrings - Because it is a traditional marriage present, this motif represents a girl's desire to get married.
Chest - Representing the dowry chest, this motif expresses a girl's yearning to get married.
Ying&Yang - Expresses love and unity.
Star - Represents happiness.

Protection of life, land, and possessions:
Burdock - This motif is based on a plant with burrs, which is believed to ward away evil. At our wedding, my mother and aunts kept this plant burning throughout the ceremony.
Comb - Represents the weaver's desire to get married, as well as the wish to keep evil away from marriage and birth.
Amulet - Many people wear amulets with small scrolls of paper inside them to ward away evil.
Eye/Evil Eye - This motif is believed to keep away the Evil Eye.
Cross - The cross is believed to keep away evil by splitting it into four and reduce its power.

Motifs for the Protection of Life, Land, and Possessions

Tree of Life

Strength and Power/Longevity:
Birds of Prey


Marriage, Birth, and Fertility Motifs

Essentials of life:
Running Water - Also expresses the wish for life to continue smoothly, like the running water.

Essentials of Life Motifs

Protection of life:
Dragon - Dragons are mythical creatures with beaks, wings, and lion's feet. They are believed to be the ruler of the sky. They are also the protector of treasures and sacred objects, such as the Tree of Life.
Scorpion - In a similar way to the Evil Eye motif, weaving a scorpion into a carpet is believed to keep real scorpions away.
Wolf Mouth - Many people who make carpets, make their livelihood by herding sheep and goats. Wolves are dreaded animals, which can wipe out entire herds in mintues. Therefore, by weaving wolf motifs into the carepts, people try to keep wolves away.

Motif for the Protection of Life

Eastern Turkey Malatya Kilim
Carpet ID: HYA405. Price: $350 USD

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