Local names and meaning of motifs used on Anatolian Yagcibedir carpets

by Didem Atis
Translated by Hakan
Albayrak 7 May 2004

The history of Anatolian weaving art traces back to 6000 B.C. When the Central Asian tribes – who brought along the rug weaving art arrived to Anatolia, they found a rich cultural inheritance which had existed since the old Anatolian civilizations. The tribes located in the Bergama region of Western Anatolia, combined the existing local art with Seljukian art and synthesized new products at Ottoman times. This affect can be seen the on Yuntdag, Kozak and Yagcibedir carpets, which are subcategories of Bergama carpets weaved in that region.

The Yagcibedir carpets have been produced by the “Yayci Yoruks”-tribes living around Balikesir, Sindirgi, Bigadic. This region, as its geographical location, was included in Bergama Kingdom (129 B.C.), Byzantine Empire (1204), Anatolian Seljuks (1077-1308), and Karesi State (1296-1341) Ottoman Empire and lastly Turkish Republic.

The region was very near to commercial centers so it was invaded many times in history. The carpets taking the commercial way to the West became very popular and most of them are now parts of private collections.

The main difference between Yagcibedir carpets and other Anatolian carpets are that Yagcibedir carpets have colors limited to red, indigo blue and white. The warp, weft and piles are all wool. The oldest known piece was made in 17th Century and is now kept at Turk and Islam Art Museum in Istanbul. The size is 122 x 171 cm. and the knot density 35 x 35 knots per square decimetre. Beside the dominance of white background color there are indigo blue, white and yellow colors. The second oldest piece made in 18th Century, has a size of 120×138 cm with a knot density at 27×38 knots per square decimetre. The double mihrabs ( niches ) indicates that 18th Century carpet styles are still weaved in similar surface scheme.

As indicated above, not only the surface scheme but also the motifs kept the continuity for centuries. Regarding mankind prehistoric times, the pictures on walls were not made for decorative purposes but to keep themselves from malice, to show their superiority and to affect their enemies. Affected by Shamanism, the Oguz tribes which lived in Central Asia used some symbols that indicated their tribal origin. For example, the Gulhan tribe used hawk motifs and the Ayhan tribe used eagle motifs as their tribal signs. Similarly, Seljukians used the double headed eagles as state symbol.

The symbolized forms are seen on handmade carpets too as in all other fine arts. Similar to other Anatolian rugs all emotions and feelings are expressed by symbols on Yagcibedir carpets as well. In fact, the symbolic motifs are a way of communication. However, this way can be used by only people who know the meaning of the motifs. The local names and the meanings of the motifs that were determined by these studies can be listed as below:

Mihrab (niche): Mihrab on the background has Stairs and lasts with Ram’s Horn motifs. The local wavers called the Mihrap as “Stairs of Life” and Ram’s Horn as “Oreke=Distaff”. The Ram’s Horn symbolizes the woman and the man who are joined with the marriage; the Stairs symbolizes their resistance to malice and the vertical lines and the second line at the end symbolizes that even if the couple gets separated, they will meet again after death.
Gunes (The Sun): Generally it is located at the center of the background of the carpet and symbolizes the husband of the weaver woman. In some villages this motif is called as “Cadir=Tent” as well. This is due to symbolic continuity of the nomadic life in past to present time. There exists a crescent-star in middle of Tent and it symbolizes their Turkic origin.
Mühr-ü Süleyman (Solomon’s seal): Sometimes it is locally called as “Haci Huseyin Elmasi =Hadji Husein Apple” too. It is made for good luck. Frequency of presence of that motif on the rug indicates that the weaver has some stress, sadness or someone from family is ill.
Kocabas (Big Head): It looks like “Hands on Hip” motif and symbolizes the expression of the weaver’s wish for marriage.
Kartal (Eagle): This motif has always been the symbol of power and force. It has the same meaning on Yagcibedir rugs too and also symbolizes a man from the family, like husband, father or a lover.
Hayat Agaci (Tree of Life): Locally it is named as “Yonca Dali=Clover Branch” too and it symbolizes the resistance against malice and hope of a life after death.
Lokum/Karagoz (Turkish Delight): Being on almost borders of the most carpets this motif symbolizes that in old times the mothers wrapped Turkish delight with a gauze and used as nipples to silence their crying babies. It also symbolizes the innocence, purity and first ten years of human life.
Deve Boynu/Egri Boyun (Camel Neck): This motif is used on borders symmetrically and it express the teenage period which is one of the stages of human life. It symbolizes the happy and cheerful days of young people.
Kucuk Su (Little Water): It is generally located on just middle of the borders and symbolizes the maturity of people at the age of 30-40.
Tirnak (Nail): It is always on most interior of border lines and symbolizes the old age and death.
Heybe Suyu (Saddlebag Water): It is seen on men’s dowry carpets and symbolizes the power, bravery and fearless of man. A Saddlebag with these motifs express the superiority of that man.
The acquiring of accumulations of centuries shows up itself by symbolic ways in carpet weaving art too as in all other fine arts.

The study on Yagcibedir rugs showed that unfortunately the weavers have forgotten their roots over years. This is caused by the commercial rug dealers that have modified the rugs at looms. So – inserting motifs from other regions has resulted in a slowly loss of traditional characteristics of Yagcibedir carpets.

Didem Atis




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