Kilim Motifs


Indigo - Indigofera Tinctoria

Motifs are derived from symbols that were used in ages gone by to inform, communicate and to convey ideas. Over time, some of these signs merged with myths, acquired hidden significance and moved into the world of esoteric symbolism. In this context, their use may not be limited to decorative purposes. Due to the hidden forces they are believed to imply, their primary purpose may well be psychological rather than aesthetic. Here is a comprehensive list of commonly used motifs.

Please click on the links for variations of each motif and their meanings.

Hands on Hips – Elibelinde

Although the basic design is a stylized female, this pattern is known by various names in Anatolia. Some of which are gelin kiz, cocuklu kiz, aman kiz, karadoseme, seleser, kahkullu kiz, cengel, sarmal, cakmakli, eger kasi, turna katari. It is the symbol of motherhood and fertility.

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Ram’s Horn – Kocboynuzu

This motif is used as a symbol of fertility, heroism, power and masculinity. It is also called boynuzlu yanis, boynuzlu, koclu yanis, gozlu koc basi.

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Fertility – Bereket

Hands on hips and ram’s horn motifs used together denote a man and a woman. The fertility pattern is composed of two ‘elibelinde’ motifs indicating the female and two ‘kocboynuzu’ motifs indicating the male. The eye motif in the middle of the composition is used to protect the family against the evil eye.

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Hair Band – Sacbagi

Anatolian women express many of their feelings by their hair style. The newly married young women plait their hair and tie threads of different colors at the end of each plait called ‘belik’. Hair band motif indicates the desire to get married. If the woman uses some of her hair in weaving, she is trying to express her desire for immortality.

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Earrings- Kupe

Earrings are indispensable as a wedding present in Anatolia. A girl using this motif is trying to inform her family that she wants to get married.

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Fetter – Bukagi

Fetter is a sort of cuff placed on the front legs of horses to keep them from running away. The cuffs are connected to each other by a chain of 60 centimeters. It is also called ‘kostek’.

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Chest – Sandikli

This motif in general, symbolizes the trousseau chest of a young girl. Since the material in this chest is to be used in the husband’s house, the expectations and hopes of the young girl are reflected in the pieces she has woven, knitted and embroidered.

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Love and Unison, Ying-Yang – Ask ve Birlesim

This is a symbol of dualism, inherited from the Far-East and imported to Anatolia where it suggests the harmony between a man and a woman.

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Star – Yildiz

The star motif on an Anatolian weaving generally means happiness and does not imply heaven for which a cloud, a dragon or a phoenix is used in many works including miniatures and other textiles.
The six pointed star generally known as the Solomon’s Seal is being used in Anatolia since the time of the Phrygians who lived long before the time of Solomon.

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Running Water – Su Yolu

Since it has a great importance for mankind, the theme of running water is widely used on works of art. The pattern 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 weaves.

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Burdock – Pitrak

Burdock is a plant with burrs which stick to the clothing of people and the hair of animals. It is believed to be capable of warding off the evil eye. On the other hand, the fact that the term “like a burdock” means full of flowers, accounts for the use of this motif on flour bags as a symbol of abundance.

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Hand, Finger, Comb – El, Parmak, Tarak

The number of fingers on the hand, which is five, is used as a protection against evil eye.
In Anatolia the concepts of fertility and motherhood which implies birth are closely related. This relation can be traced back to Kybele and Virgin Mary. During the Islamic period it was symbolized by the name of “Mother Fatma” or “Mother Fadime”. The motif called “Hand of Mother Fadime” is widely used in Anatolian weaves.

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Amulet, Evil Eye – Muska, Nazarlik

It is believed that some people possess a power in their glance which causes harm, injury, misfortune and even death. Evil eyes are various objects that reduce the effect of evil glance, thus protecting the ones who carry them. Blue beads, wild mustard, garlic, sea shells, old coins, lead, mercury, the shell of a small turtle, silver and gold ‘Masallah’ motifs (inscription of the word meaning ‘God save him’ on gold or silver) are used with this purpose.

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Eye – Goz

The source of an evil glance is the human eye. It is believed that the harms it may cause can best be prevented again by a human eye. A diamond divided into four is quite a common representation of the eye as used on weaves. A triangle is a stylized form of the eye.
Some eye motifs are formed of squares and rectangles.

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Cross – Hac

Another motif used against evil eye is the cross formed of a vertical and horizontal line.
According to the Anatolian belief the cross reduces the power of the evil glance by dividing it into four pieces. The motif dates back far before Christianity. There are crosses in the wall painting of Catalhoyuk. A variation of the cross, known as swastika is also being used since very early times.

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Hook – Cengel

Another Anatolian motif used against evil eye is the hook. It is also called “cakmak”, “egri ala”, “balik” and “kucuk kara balik”.
The variation called “gonul cengeli” is mostly used on stockings and implies marriage.

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Snake – Yilan

The history of mankind is closely related with snakes. All the stories of existence include the theme of a serpent offering Eve the forbidden fruit. Black snake is the symbol of happiness and fertility.

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Dragon – Ejder

Dragon is a mythological creature whose feet are like the lion’s, whose tail is like a snake and who has wings. The Turks of Central Asia stylized the dragon with a beak, wings and a lion’s feet. The dragon is the master of air and water. The fight of the dragon and the Phoenix is believed to bring fertile rains of spring.

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Scorpion – Akrep

Due to their fear of its venom, people used to carry jewelry in the form of a scorpion or decorated with the tail of a scorpion in order to protect themselves against this animal. The scorpion motif used on weaves, illustrated below, seek the same purpose.

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Wolf’s Mouth, Wolf’s Track – Kurt Agzi, Kurt Izi

Kurt agzi, also known as dove tail, is a term used in joinery to indicate the triangular fittings connecting the corners of various woodwork. In this context, the motif expresses, like in the fetter motif, the wish for solidarity. But its use on weaves serves a different purpose.

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Tree of Life – Hayat Agaci

The tree is the common theme for all religions believing in a single god. Its fruit which is believed to bring immortality, is forbidden to all mortals when the serpent waiting the tree had convinced Eve to eat it. Mankind, unable to eat the fruit of immortality, put all their hopes on the life after death symbolized by a tree of life.

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Family Signs – Im

Throughout the history, Turks have used specific figures as a family sign. They have used their mark on their weaves as well as their grave stones.
Mogul historian Residuttin, in his book Cami-ut Tevarih and Kasgarli Mahmut in his dictionary Divanu Lugat-it-Turk state that each Oguz tribe had a different sign. Those tribes should have continued to use their sign even after migrating to Anatolia, because many of the weaves bear motifs similar to those signs.

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Bird – Kus

In Anatolia there is no other motif carrying so many different meanings than the bird motif. While birds like owls and ravens imply bad luck, doves, pigeons and nightingales are used to symbolize good luck. The Bird is the symbol of happiness, joy and love. It is the soul of the dead. It is longing, and expectation of news. It stands for power and strength. It is the imperial symbol of various states founded in Anatolia.

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