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Rug Motifs, Symbols & Meaning

There are so many different symbols and motifs found in Rugs and Kilims across the world, most of which date back hundreds of years but are still being used by carpet weavers today.  We thought it might be interesting to have a reference to these symbols together with their meanings so you can identify some of the motifs found in your own rugs.

ELIBELINDE - Hands on Hips

A stylised female figure derived from the Anatolian mother goddess figurines and used as a symbol of motherhood and fertility.

 

KOÇBOYNUZU - Ram's Horn

A crescent-shaped symbol of fertility, heroism, power and masculinity

 

BEREKET - Fertility

A kilim motif composed of elibelinde and koçboynuzu motifs arranged to include various protective symbols.  Stylised representations of multi-grained plants such as wheat, barley, pomegranate, poppy, melon, figs, grapes and mulberry are also used to indicate fertility.

 

INSAN - Human Figure

A stylised representation used to commemorate a person, to express the hope for having a child, or to imply the expectation of a baby.

 

SAÇBAĞI - Hair Band

A rug motif, evolved as a symbolic representation of the head ornament used by the bride in the wedding ceremonies, which indicates the desire to get married.

 

KÜPE - Earring

A kilim rug motif resembling the shape of an earring, an indispensable wedding present, used to express the desire for marriage.

 

BUKAĞI - Fetter

A cuff-shaped motif symbolising the continuity of the family union, the devotion of lovers and the hope that they should always stay together.

 

SANDIKLI - Chest

A motif which symbolises the trousseau chest of a young woman and stands for the desire to get married and having a child.  In some cases the motif symbolises death and a coffin.

 

K VE BIRLEŞIM - Love and Unison

A rug motif inherited from the Far East, generally known by the name of Ying-Yang and used to indicate the harmony between a man and a woman

 

YILDIZ - Star

A rug motif used to express happiness and fertility, based on the fact that the size pointed star, generally known as the Soloman's Seal, is used to symbolise the womb of the mother goddess figurines.  The star motifs with eight or more points are used on the Anatolian weaves.

 

IBRIK - Ewer

A motif stylised in the form of a water container, symbolising purity and purification and used also as a symbol of pregnancy. 

 

SU YOLU - Running Water

A theme indicating the importance of water in the life of mankind.  Motifs in the forms of meanders, clouds and even vases and ewers are all different expressions of the same theme.  The pattern of running water varies according to the material on which it is applied.  When carved on stone, it assumes an  angular shape, while it is curvilinear or triangular on weavings.

 

PITRAK - Burdock

A motif derived from a plant which is believed to be capable of warding off the evil eye.  The fact that the term "like a burdock" means full of flowers, account for the use of the motif as a symbol of abundance.

 

EL, PARMAK, TARAK - Hand, Finger, Comb

Rug motifs which are composed of five lines or five dots are based on the Anatolian belief that the number five, ie the number of fingers on a hand, serves as a protection against the evil eye.  The Hand motif is used against a spell or evil eye, where the comb motif is related to the protection of birth and marriage.

 

MUSKA - Amulet

A rug motif in the shape of written charms which are believed to have  magical and religious powers to protect the possessor from dangerous external factors and generally placed in triangular cases.

NAZARLIK - Evil Eye

A motif used to reduce the effect of the evil glance, which is believed to be a power possessed by some people that cause harm, injury, misfortune and even death

 

ĞOZ - Eye

A stylised eye motif derived from the belief the the best source to prevent the harms caused by the evil glance is the human eye itself.

 

HAÇ - Cross

A rug or kilim design motif which is used against the evil eye and believed to reduce the power of the evil glance by dividing it into four pieces.

 

ÇENGEL - Hook

A motif used against the evil eye.

 

YILAN - Snake

A theme which dates back to the earliest history of mankind.  The motive is used with protective purposes, while a black snake is the symbol of happiness and fertility.

EJDER - Dragon

A mythological theme where a winged creature stylised with feet of a lion and tail of a snake is believed to be the master of air and water, the cause of lunar eclipse, the guard of treasures and secret objects as well as the tree of life.  A related theme is the fight of the dragon and the Phoenix which is believed to produce fertile rains of spring and where the dragon is stylised as a cloud.

 

AKREP - Scorpion

A Kilim or Rug motif used as a protection against the scorpion, sometimes used to represent a dragon.

 

KURT AĞZI, KURT IZI - Wolf's Mouth, Wolf's Track

A motif used as a protection against the wolves, which is the primary threat for the cattle breeding nomadic and semi nomadic tribes.

CANAVAR AYAĞI - Monster's Feet

The local name for the motif which symbolise the dragon.

 

HAYAT AĞACI - Tree of Life

A theme which stands for the wish of immortality or the hope for life after death.  Stylisation of various plants, such as cypress, date, palm, pomegranate, fig, olive, wine, beech and oak, are used to symbolise the tree of life.

 

ÇIÇEK - Flower

A rug motif generally used on the borders of Kilims composed of stylised roses, carnations, tulips and hyacinths which resemble the garden of Eden.  The Tulip is also used to express the expectation of a son.

 

IM - Family Signs

Rug Motifs which stand for the names of various Turkish tribes.

 

KUŞ - Bird

A kilim, rug or carpet motif which is loaded with various meanings, ranging from good luck to bad luck; happiness, joy and love; the soul of the dead; women; longing; an expectation of news; power and strength.