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What is Your Oriental Rug Really Saying?

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What is Your Oriental Rug Really Saying?

Oriental Rugs and the Stories They Tell

History of Oriental Rugs 

What is your Oriental Rug really saying? They speak to us in many ways. Through ancient symbols and designs, from the wearer's hands, into our homes. The weavers are sharing stories, giving us a glimpse into their lives, their hopes, their beliefs.

Identifying oriental rug patterns

Part of the charm of Oriental & Persian Rugs, is their mystique, the fables and tales that so many of them are based on. This is how they become so beautiful, romantic and charming.
Learning the meaning of some of the symbols and designs let us better understand what the weaver is trying to tell us. The names of certain patterns or designs come from the city, village or tribe of a weaver where a pattern was first woven or traded.
One of the most common motifs on an Oriental Rug is a central medallion. Some people believe that this design is inspired by the weaver's religious nature, and is meant to represent the artwork and pattern from the dome of a mosque. A medallion in a Persian or Oriental Rug is also believed to represent the "all seeing eye", a protection of sorts that hinder or defeats "the evil eye".
Other common designs are fauna and floral. Flower designs are representative of Paradise. They are a sign of rebirth and fertility, but each flower has its own meaning.
For example:
Lily- purity
Lotus- rebirth
Peony- power
Hyacinth-regeneration
Pomegranate- fertility
Rose, white- innocence
Rose, red- passion and mystery
Cypress tree- life after death
The Tree of Life- wishing you a direct path
from earth to paradise, also the truth
wisdom and understanding,
Another design found often in rugs, are animals. Animals on rugs are sometimes called "hunting rugs". These are powerful symbols, often meant to offer strength.
The elephant footprint is a very popular symbol, usually used exclusively by the "Turkeman" tribe, although it can be found in some Balouchi Rugs.
It is said the elephant footprint is a wish of strength and was often weaved by the wives whose husbands were away on long trade journey's. This was a message of hope that their husbands' footsteps would be as strong and powerful as an elephant.
Here are some other animal meanings:
Ram head- virility and protection
Camel- happiness, wealth
Eagle- good fortune
Peacock- beauty, pride
Roosters- courage
Lion- victory
Deer- well being
Dragon- Emperor
Phoenix- empress
Dog- protector
Horse- speed
Stag- long life
Snake- keeper of wisdom
Duck- faithful marriage
In Persian culture, fish is said to have an important meaning. They are Persian rug symbols of prosperity and are often times given as a new years gift to offer you hope for a prosperous year. The fish design is also thought to represent infinity, this is meant if there is a group of fish, rendering in four directions. Ultimately if you are given a fish, someone is wishing for you infinite prosperity.
Patterns and symbols in the history of Oriental Rugs were often chosen for a belief, and to hope for you, life-enhancing attributes.
Even the colours in rugs have meaning. In the ancient Orient, certain colours were chosen in order to activate a particular spiritual feeling or to alleviate and help the symptoms of sickness and disease.
Here are some colours and what they represent:
Brown- fertility
Gold- power, wealth
Black- mourning (usually only used as an outline)
White- purity, cleanliness
Yellow- the sun, joy of life
Orange- humility and piety
Blue- the power of force, solitude, peace in the afterlife
Red- beauty, wealth, courage, luck, joy
GREEN - a very special colour, considered the colour of the prophet, only used sparingly. Green represents, hope, spring, life, renewal
Other symbols commonly found:
Amulet- thwarts the evil eye
Boteh-flame, universe
Jug- purification
Comb- cleanliness
Cross- faith
One diamond- A woman
Two diamonds- a man and a woman
Hand- prayer
Star- spirituality, good luck
mihrab- gateway to paradise
Many of these designs and motifs and symbols come from ancient times. They have articulated to us some profound beliefs or hopes of a tribal weaver. Many remain today and are time honoured traditions, passed from one weaving generation to the next.
Whatever the design of a rug, it always speaks to us "beauty".

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  • Tanya Shea
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