Kilim motifs and what they mean – Part 2

Well overdue I know, but part 2 is finally here.  Thanks to ‘A’ for prompting me to get into gear!

Continuing on from part 1 a look at some common Anatolian motifs found in kilims (and carpets for that matter).

Star: Generally thought to mean happiness.  Although some believe it to represent the womb, hence it could also be a fertility motif.

star motif

IMG_4252 IMG_4259

Running water: Since all life is dependent upon water, it is a widely used motif thought to represent life.  It is interesting to note that what we call ‘borders’, weavers call them ‘springs’ or ‘streams’.






Hand, finger, comb: Protection of marriage and birth from the evil eye (other people’s jealousies and ill wishes).  During the Islamic period, the use of a 5 fingers or hand motif was used to represent ‘hand of Fatma’ (Mother fatdime).hand



The comb motif is thought to be woven when expressing a desire to get married and give birth and wishing also for protection for these events.


Muska: (Amulet) A triangular motif, supposed to have magical properties, derived from the shape of a pouch used to carry Koranic inscriptions or religious or shamanistic relics.




Muskas are still in use today carrying koranic inscriptions usually on a leather necklace.muska

Eye: Again, a protection motif to ward off other people’s ‘evil’ glances.  Can come in various forms depending on the region.





Cross: Protection yet again.  It is thought that the cross, in its various forms divides the evil into smaller parts.  The motif has been in long use prior to Christianity.






Tree of Life: The tree is the common theme for all religions believing in one God. In all 3 religious scriptures (Torah, Bible and Quran) the fruit which is believed to bring immortality, is forbidden to all mortals when the serpent (Satan) convinced Adam and 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.





Bird: No other motif has so many varied meanings as the bird motif to the Anatolian weavers. Bad luck, good luck, the symbol of happiness, joy and love. But also the soul of the dead. It is longing, and expectation of news. It can also stand for power and strength.





Part of the appeal of kilims for me, is the mystery.  What makes a motif a comb and not a bird, or a bird and not a hand? Who knows? We would have to ask the weaver/s and lets face it the probability of that ever occurring is next to Buckley’s and Nunn.  So we are left to imagine on our own, or discuss with friends…

“I wonder what that little triangle-line-squiggle-thing means?”

While not an exhaustive list, part 1 and 2 have covered most of the common Anatolian motifs.  Continuing on our language of the kilim journey, next we will look at some of the design features of Anatolian kilims.


If anyone has any photos are stories that they wish to share about their kilims, I would LOVE to hear them.  You can send pics to

Wishing peace and blessings to all in this new year.


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2 Responses to Kilim motifs and what they mean – Part 2

  1. Pingback: Kilim motifs and what they mean – Part 1 | nomadicsonblog

  2. krisehrman says:

    Thank you so much for your explanations and photo’s. Love your blog, read every entry

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