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.
Lotus: Rebirth and Immortality.
Dog: Protection, trust and defence
Boteh: Flame and Universe
Ram’s Horn: Fertility, heroism and power
Iris: Religious Liberty
Tree of Life: The direct path from Earth to Heaven.