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quickfire's guide to translating Traditional rug motifs

quickfire's guide to translating Traditional rug motifs

Quickfire’s guide to translating traditional rug motifs

 posted on Feb 17, 2012 by in Advice, Quickfire's Guides


Typical Traditional Rug Design with Large Center Medallion

They say that the many design rudiments on traditional rugs can unfold into a story.  In essence this is true, although the designs on a rug are more likely to symbolise a simple message of good will or celebration rather than an actual story. Because the ancient rug weavers were usually illiterate the messages woven into the rugs were reliant on symbols and motifs. I believe the woven motifs play like the lyrics of a song, sometimes they tell is a story, sometimes they’re just clever plays on words and others are simply words of love and devotion. Even today in the Middle East rugs are still a highly valued commodity and often given as gifts to newlyweds and new born babies and best not to forget they are used daily as prayer mats.


The basic colours of the rugs have meaning and start to tell the story. Red Rugs, probably the most popular colour as it represents enthusiasm and courage while also used to convey sorrow and tragedy. Orange and Terracotta Rugs symbolises humility while Blue Rugs are the colour of strength and authority Green Rugs, being a holy colour is therefore used in moderation and in areas where it’s less likely to be trodden upon, it means hope and life.

The symbols and motifs on the rug are a little more complex as they can be broken into as many as nineteen different  groups, these include Islamic Building, flower patterns, hunting patterns, all-over designs, geometrics and probably the most recognised the large central medallions designs, which are believed to inspired from the intricate designs on the domes of mosques.

Translating the design elements

While it is unlikely that you will ever gain enough knowledge to fully understand each element of the rug, here are a few common symbols found in traditional rugs and what they represent.  As with hand writing every weaver has their own unique traits and you will not find symbols on different rugs exactly alike.

    Star: Spirituality and Good Luck
    Diamond: Signifies woman when two diamonds are attached together this means a man and a woman.
    Comb: Cleanliness
    Lotus: Rebirth and Immortality.
    Dog: Protection, trust and defence
    Boteh: Flame and Universe
    Cross: Faith
    Ram’s Horn: Fertility, heroism and power
    Pomegranate: Fertility
    Iris: Religious Liberty
    Tree of Life: The direct path from Earth to Heaven.
When buying rugs on the Internet you don't have the ability touch and discuss the various qualities and features of the rug. Our blog is there to give you some of the advice and information that you may need before you complete your purchase. Please take you time to digest the information and if you can't find what you are looking for you can always give us a call on 0191 454 1972 during office hours.

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