Ok, we all agree Moroccan rugs are beautiful. The materials, the colors, the craftsmanship, the shapes! The reasons are endless but did you know there are meanings behind every design in the rugs? If you ever take a moment to peruse some of Soukie’s products, you will see symbols woven into every rug. Some are concentric, some geometric, some simple, and others very complicated. The common element behind each design is they all convey important cultural messages that have been passed through countless generations.
The Berber tribes of western Africa and northern Egypt boast a lineage that predates recorded history- over 30,000 years ago. Weaving symbols into their rugs and mats turned an environmental necessity into a vehicle for recording the histories of each weaver. Tribes from differing climates wove rugs according to their needs- thick pile rugs for the snowy Atlas Mountains, flat weaves for the baking Moroccan desert sun. Along with this came a proliferation of symbols and patterns unique to each tribe.
Although the explicit meaning behind each tapestry is really known only to the weaver, there are many symbols that carry a common thread between them.
Olive Tree: Strength. Berber name is azemmur, derived from tazmat, meaning strength.
Tree: Life, happiness, fertility, knowledge.
Ouarida: (flower) Protection, diamond shape is protection from the evil eye.
Hammer: Power of nature and man’s creative power. Represents that which allows man to create.
Lion’s Paw: Strength & protection
Axe: Tool to attack evil forces, destruction & lightning, rain & fertility.
Ship: Water, strength, blessings, and wisdom.
Moon: Femininity, change, fertility, the cycle of life.
Anchor: Solidity, continuity, faith, balance and lucidity.
Arrow: Cosmic projection, lightning, male energy & fertility.
Crescent: change, revival, birth, death, & the resurrection of the full moon
Diamond: Womanhood, fertility. Associated with the snake and represents the union of opposites.
…and these are only a few of the multitudes of symbols woven into Moroccan rugs. Using this knowledge, and the context of the symbols placed together, the rug pictured below goes from a textile work of art to a veritable textbook of cultural information.
The diamond shape in the middle could represent female fertility, perhaps even birth, to male and female children, shown by the male and female symbols within the diamond. The rug is bordered and surrounded by distinctly male designs, with many female X-shaped symbols as well, perhaps representing a supporting community and family members. This added dimension makes this rug into a small piece of history, with a story full of life, love, and adventure behind it. Comment below if you have a Soukie piece you’d like to research with us!