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Well-Known Kilim Motifs & Their Meanings II


The kilim is actually a success story that has withstood the passage of time. For centuries, kilims have told us the stories of those skilled hands who made them. But have you ever wondered the meanings behind the commonly used motifs on traditional Anatolian kilims? Did you know that there is a distinct message in each one of them if you look closely?


The motifs might have changed a little bit while being passed from one generation to another, however, they continue to express the same feelings even today. Here are some of the very well-known kilim motifs and the meanings behind them:


1- Earrings (Küpe): In Anatolia, earrings are an indispensible wedding gift. A young woman using this motif in carpets tries to express indirectly her desire to marry.


2- Star (Yıldız): The star motif is one of the most widely used motifs in carpets and kilims. It symbolizes justice and freedom. Moreover, it has astrological significance in many cultures. It is a motif much loved and used in Anatolia.


3- Burdock (Pıtrak): The burdock is a cotton-like prickly plant in rural areas that sticks to the fleece of animals (e.g. sheeps and goats) and people’s clothings as well. It is usually used as the main motif on grain sacks and symbolizes abundance. The burdock that appears on carpets and kilims is also a talismanic motif that fends off the evil eye and its gazes.


4- Tree of Life (Hayat Ağacı): The Tree of Life is the symbol of perpetually developing life ascending vertically into paradise. In a general sense, it stands for the universe existing within continual development and change. With its roots that dig into the bowels of the earth, it unites the three elements of the universe with the subterranean.


With its upper lower branches and trunk, it fuses the elements with the sky

With its upper branches, which reach into the light, it merges them with paradise. It provides the communication between the surface of the earth and paradise. Such trees as cypress, cedar, fig, olive, vine, palm, beech, pomegranate and oak symbolize the tree of life in different societies. 


The birds on the tree of life are birds of life, which will fly when the time comes. The cypress tree, the most common Tree of Life motif, is used as the symbol of longevity, endurance, goodness and beauty. Trees stands for life, beauty and eternity, the immorality of the universe and the earth’s axis. This motif symbolizes the search for immortality and the hope of life after death.


5- Bird (Kuş): While the bird motifs seen on Turkish carpets have various

meanings, in general, they stand for wisdom, benevolence, happiness and love. They are usually woven along with the Tree of Life. The peacock, seen on kilims from time to time, is the symbol of the sacred family hearth. In some carpets, the multi-headed bird figure called the “Simurg” expresses sacred values. The number of the values it represents is the same as the number of the bird’s heads. Birds like dove, pigeon and nightingale are thought to represent good fortune”

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