A goddess by many names
One of the most important symbolic motifs woven into rugs and kilims throughout Turkey and Central Asia and my absolute favorite design is Elibelinde, also known as Cybele or 'Hands on Hips', or 'The Mother Earth Goddess'.
Because a goddess can never have too many names, she is also rather regally referred to as 'The Goddess of Anatolia'.
Representing a mother goddess figure,sometimes depicted with a child in her womb, she is an ancient Anatolian symbol of motherhood, female strength, fertility,and abundance. Believed to date to neolithic times this symbol is still woven into the modern Turkish rugs and kilims of today.
A young woman weaver can sometimes weave a stylized figurine of herself,her family or a member of her family into her carpets and kilims and this symbolically represents the weaver’s hopes,desires or even the expectation of a child.
In Turkish villages of recent times this same motif also represents the mother Umay or Ak and is modified in order to represent the sacred wedding between earth and sky.This powerful 'goddess' motif is often stylized in form,though occasionally and rarely she appears as clearly as the depiction at the top of the page which I recently saw unusually on the borders of a 19thC Anatolian kilim. Although the kilim owner wouldn't let me take a photo of the whole kilim he graciously allowed me to take a photo of her woven so clearly in all her ancient glory. Just stunning !
I started to fall in love with the Goddess symbol firstly in vintage handwoven kilims where she was often represented in a pure graphic style with a clarity of design that was and is just so timeless. So many of the motifs used in flatwoven kilims and carpets have a meaning so each piece has its' own unique and to some extent hidden story of the weavers wishes,hopes and dreams.For me this makes 'the mother earth goddess' design even more powerful as her appearance is not just as a motif but represents the very real emotions of the weaver.
I particularly love the fact that she appears so often and uncompromisingly in the weavings of groups where men often held the outer show of power.
Owning a carpet or kilim means not only having a beautiful handwoven work of art with harmonious colours and vibrant designs with which to decorate your house, but most importantly it is the story of the weavers life - one that was rich in ancient skills and traditions and one that is very much starting to vanish in the face of ever increasing modernity.
P.S I couldn't resist including this picture of 'the grumpy goddesses'as I refer to them.Obviously this Kurdish weaver had more than divinity on her mind!