Nazarlik, continued from page 1|
It is commonly believed that evil does not have a strong attention span.
Thus, we have those non color -related aspects of Nazarlik like long fringe
or dangles which reflect (as in Moroccan weavings), or the tiny mirrors
which are used in the weavings of the Uzbeks and their relatives in
Rajasthan - evil doesn't like to look at itself. It has been theorized that
many tribal and nomadic textiles have long fringe so that their movement can
distract evil intent, and thus divert the Nazar away from its intended
victim. One may see many examples of this in ceremonial kilims (such as for
a wedding). These wedding kilims are draped over the camel, and the bride
rides atop the animal, with long fringes dangling. The bride's hair
(especially if long and beautiful), veil and clothing are covered with
Nazarliks: Mostly in embroidery, beads and gold. The animal itself is
covered in specially constructed decorations which are used to deflect from
the bride any thoughts of envy or jealousy.
The former Sheikh Muzaffer of the Helvati-Jerrahi dervish order of Istanbul,
told of 3 shapes which attract and thus deflect the attention of the Nazar:
the circle, the triangle and the six pointed star. These shapes are common
in traditional tribal weavings, although the 20th Century has seen a
lessening of the usage of the six pointed star (perhaps more a political
statement than a shift in belief). It should be noted that Islamic
philosophy has created a coherent iconography of the meanings of the various
kinds of stars: 5 pointed, 6 pointed, 7 pointed, etc.
The triangle is a classic form for the repository of charms and amulets -
sometimes having written blessings, prayers, Hadith or portions from Koran
within. The upward -pointing triangle form symbolizes the Oneness of God
and when reversed, symbolizes the fertility of the earth. The six-pointed
star (the unification of the two triangles) means the Unity of God and
Calligraphy in weaving, embroidery and appliqué is also used as a form of
Nazarlik. Thus the name of God, and quotations from the Koran or Hadith, or
any of the traditional Sifat e Allah (the 99 Names of God) are used to ward
off evil intent. These may be found on such diverse house items as
Calligraphy spoons (to bless the kitchen and ward away evil) to inscriptions
on Shaffee Tas (ceremonial healing bowls), Koran bags, and amulet bags,
straw woven "fly palaces", horse blankets, baby cradle covers, animal
decorations which are hung in the home when not in use on the animal, and
strings of blue glass beads.
The usage of symbols and letters within a woven design is also a classic
form of Nazarlik. Names, dates and symbols are all used to commemorate and
protect. It should be noted that there is no 'H' nor 'S' in Arabic script,
Persian script nor in the written script of any other language of the Silk
Road peoples. Rather their usage symbolically represents Prosperity ('H' is
symbolic of an open sheep's pelt - meaning food, wool and wealth) and Power
('S' is symbolic of Wisdom - the dragon or great serpent).
Apparent contradictions abound: In the Konya region, a highly religious and
conservative area of central Anatolia, the locals find no apparent
contradiction between their formal Islam and their usage of a symbol of pre
Islamic shaministic times - Sha Miran, the Queen Goddess of the Snakes.
When asked, they merely state, "She is a nazarlik."
As discussed in my article on "Bags," (please see Turkotek.com - 1998, or
Sun Bow in Print on our web site) concealment is a classic aspect within the
whole belief system of Nazar and Nazarlik. Thus, things which are precious
and may generate envy are not show to the generality..
And finally a few words on fertility. Cowrie shells (trade goods from the
Indian Ocean) are classic items of value amongst nomadic peoples of Eurasia,
and may be found as far inland as Tibet. They symbolize fertility, and the
blessing of the Earth-Sea Mother, and are used to empower animal decorations
and wedding textiles. They are felt to be especially potent when placed on
breeding animals during mating season.
In conclusion, please note that these are but the first steps in a long
journey towards our understanding the inner mind of the traditional peoples
of the Silk Road. Inshallah! more work will be forthcoming, and will
illuminate this unexplored aspect of the ancient nomadic and tribal cultures
of the Silk Road.
Saul Yale Barodofsky
Sun Bow Trading Company
Charlottesville, Virginia - July, 2005
More images from the exhibition
We've been outfitting caravans |
from Downtown Charlottesville since 1978.