Symbols in Oriental Rugs

Colors play a major role in conveying the story of a rug. Green, for instance, is the color of the Prophet Mohammed, and it is used sparingly, as it is least likely to be stepped on. It represents hope, renewal, spring and life. Others are as follows:

Red: wealth, courage, beauty, luck, joy or faith

White: purity and cleanliness

Blue: the afterlife, solitude and truth

Black: mourning or destruction

Brown: fertility

Yellow: power and glory, joy, the sun

Orange: devotion, piety, humility

Symbols in Oriental rugs can be found in various iterations in rugs from many locations, including Persian, Turkish, Indian and others. The primary symbols include:

  • Ram horns: a symbol of male fertility, strength, bravery
  • Herati: mahi flower, fish, good luck
  • Boteh (paisley): seed of life, fertility, eternal life, pregnancy
  • Elibelinde (hands on hips): Anatolian symbol of the mother goddess, mother with child in womb, fertility, abundance
  • Tree of Life: symbol common in many religions, reminds us of our desire to become divine, symbol of the afterlife and immortality, hope, heaven, eternal paradise
  • Dragon: wisdom, power, guardians of the tree of life, good fortune
  • Stars and Crosses: protective motifs, found in rugs of varying origins, offer protection against evil, catastrophes or ill will. Connotes happiness.
  • Mihrab: paradise gateway
  • Camel: strength, endurance, blessing
  • Peony: rank and wealth
  • Lotus: immortality, rebirth
  • Lily: spirituality, purity
  • Gul (gol): sun, moon, stars
  • Ying Yang: balance, harmony
  • Amulets: Often (but not always) triangular in shape, sometimes in center medallion, intended to rid the user of evil spirits.
  • Birds: Whether it’s a phoenix, an eagle, a peacock or a dove, most birds symbolize good luck, power, happiness and love. Some birds, however, such as ravens and owls, mean bad luck and death.