Posted by Louis_Dubreuil on 10-08-2004 01:45 PM:

Hash Gul Story: Continuation

Recently I purchased a little Yomut rug with the "hash gul" design in order to complete the "hash gul family" in my collection. This rug is quite square and measures 106x92 cm.

Warps : white undyed wool . Knotting : symmetrical 29 Kn/dm x 65 Kn/dm = 1885 Kn/dm2 (quite fine). Colours: two reds, one orange, one deep blue and white .

The aspect of the rug and the great place made to the several borders, with the highly compressed border design on the small sides, all is speaking for a first half XX° age or later.

What is very intreresting on this rug is the design. For the ones who remember the thread I made on the subject of the hash gul, this gul has a high family resemblance to the other rugs and bags that had been displayed in this thread. There is, however, a substantial difference: the "S" shapes in the four cartouches are replaced by four hooks.

These hooks are attached to the dark line that outlines the "body" of the design. For understanding this design we must make abstraction of the colours that disturb the reading of the design.

It is possible to misread the design if we take the "cross" shape with the inward hooks for an individual motif. The cross shape is not closed and the red in it is just the field of the rug (the cross is a secondary shape that is put in the foreground by the colour). My schema shows clearly what is the basic device from which the whole design is made. One can see also the differences between the "S" hash gul and this hash gul that we can name "hooked hash gul".

When I made these schemas, the aspect of this hooked device puzzled me. The shape was vaguely remembering something. The angles, not really square, the shape of the hooks...All that was speaking "bird" for me.

In Jordan's book about Turkmen rugs I found the shape I was looking for: a Yomut ensi, with "eagle" design in the elem (page 147).

When we look at this "eagle" device we can see its curious and complicated structure with a central pole adorned by two triangles at the foot and at the head. We can see also the clearly drawn "S" shapes at the end of the "wings". We can see also at the side of the "eagle" another derivated device, put upside-dawn, with hooks that look like the hooks of the hooked hash gul.

On this schema I have tryed to see if with simple transformations it was possible to put in relation the "eagle" device and the hash gul. The first transformation is a simple mirror symmetry that is generalised in all the turkmen rug design. We obtain a skeleton that is easy to transform in the hash gul central structure, just by compression of the shape. This naked skeleton is next transformed in a "gul" shape, i.e. an "encapsulated" device that can take its autonomy in the field of a carpet.

To resume the process of my thinking: the hooked hash gul made me think of a stylised bird and I found a confirmation in comparing an ensi "eagle" device with the "S" hash gul. It is in my opinion not impossible to see in the hash gul design family a very stylised "bird" device.

In my last thread about this subject my last post was about a "proto hash gul" that I had found on the XV° century Crivelli star rug. This hash gul didn't have "S" in the cartouches. The addition of "S" or hooks in the cartouches can be made later even under the influence of Turkic embroideries (but we do not know is those embroideries are not made after the hash gul shape : like the egg and the hen problem...) or with the idea of the bird (again the hen...).

As for many basic designs that we can find all over the area of influence of the lineage of the Oguz tribes the hash gul is certainly made of several basic objects or traditions. Subject to be followed.

I have also some questions about the structure of this rug.

First: this rug has the "brittle warp" disease. I have seen it when I looked at the knots. Some warps are broken. I suppose this is caused by a too violent compression of the wefts by the comb (the rug lacks of suppleness).
Second: this rug is largely made with offset knotting. I don't know if this is rare. The design with numerous diagonal lines is certainly at the origin of this technique, I suppose.

What is funny is that the little red squares in the center of the guls are made also with offset knots: the number or warps is odd (7 warps in each quarter of the squares, and 8 lines of knots). So in each line of three knots (six warps) there is one warp that is let without knot. This nude warp is disposed randomly in a line but differently from a line to another. I suppose that the weaver was a bit skillful with a good experience in counting knots, as the hash gul design doesn't admit any mistake.

That's all folks. I am awaiting your commentaries about my " hash gul elucubrations".

Avec toutes mes amitiés


Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 10-08-2004 09:59 PM:

Offset knot = Yomud?

Bonjour Louis and All- Interesting that this previous discussion included a consideration of this same hash gul as used in Yomud and other Turkmen flatweaves. I've seen other examples of Yomud being described as containinmg numerous offset knots, and Marla Mallett discusses a relationship between offset knotting and Turkmen Tentband structure. Once again, association with the Yomud.

I suspect that the hash gul, given it's horizontil/vertical axis, comes about as close as possible to a proto gul/lattice spacial relationship as you can get. I've been working on a tentband Tree lattice theory myself,will see where it goes.- Dave

Posted by Vincent Keers on 10-09-2004 08:33 AM:


Maybe this helps?

So maybe the weaver worked on a daily basis with warp depression in the workshop.
But at home, she had level warps?
But the talim, the pattern, was fixed in her brain. So she had the same song, the same notes, but the rhythm was different.
To get perfect symmetry, there needs to be something in the precise centre.
(To get perfect symmetry, there needs to be emptiness in the centre?)
0 warp = no knot.

Fin enD

Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 10-09-2004 09:23 AM:


Bonjour Vincent

In each four little squares in the center of the motif, there are seven warps for the red. To fill the square the weaver has just three knots. Each knot takes two warps, so its remain one warp that is let nude. This nude warp is generally put in any of the seven possible place, without order. The rule is that the empty place is not under or over the empty place of the lower or upper line.
The warps are all in the same plane.
Here are closer pictures of the phenomenon.

Amicales salutations.

Posted by Vincent Keers on 10-09-2004 10:54 AM:

Hi Louis,

Yep, I understand.

If depressed she had to plan 9 (visible) lower and 9 (hidden) higher warps. (1 in the centre and 4 to the left and 4 to the right) = perfect symmetry in the square.
She now works with level warps.
Same amount of warps = 18. This leaves her no choice because there's nothing in the centre. The centre is between warp 8 and 9.
She can't use 8 or 9 because that would distord the symmetry. So she had to use the offset knots.

Not very difficult with level warps, only if your mind is set on depressed warps.
The symm. knot is out of the ordinary in this new rug. But maybe she worked with the symm. knot and depressed warps in the workshop?

Best regards,

Posted by Keers Vincent on 10-09-2004 07:10 PM:


I'll try again.

Made a few mistakes.
Level warps:
6 so the centre is warp 3+4 = 1 centre knot.
It shows 3 knots at the back.
So: 2+2+2 knot half's
Depressed warps:
6 so the centre is warp 3+4 = 1 centre knot.
It shows 3 knot half's at the back.
So: 1+1+1 knots half's
No problem here.

I seems as if I was inventing problems that are not.
But I do think it has to do with the transition from working with warp depression to working with level warps. The counting is different.
Most symmetry in rug design starts with 1 knot 3, 5, 7, 9 etc. knots.
With depressed warps its about the same.
With level warps its 2 warps, 6 warps, 10 warps, 14 warps, 18 warps.
Never 5 or 7 or 9.

Best regards,

Posted by Louis_Dubreuil on 10-12-2004 02:54 PM:

The bird hypothesis

The hash gul motif seems to be an old motif used since centuries among Turkish/Turkmen peoples. We can have a look at three great ancestors: the "Crivelli" rug from central Anatolia, XV° century (Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest)

the "animal carpet" from Anatolia, XIV° century (Metropolitan, NYC). From the Opie'sbook.

and the "Marby" carpet XV or XVI° century (in Opie's book)

What can we see in those rugs? In the field of the Crivelli we have an octagonal device that can make a good "proto hash gul". The four cartouches are only filled with little squares instead of "S" hooks. In the border of the animal carpet we can see octagonal shapes in which the cartouches are replaced by double hooks. The general outlook is the same. In the Marby rug we see two birds between the two halves of a geometric device. If we take away the birds and the central pole we obtain a symmetric figure from which it is simple to make a "hooked hash gul".

We have also a famous hash gul rug in the Bogolyubov book. This rug seems to be an ensi with the hash gul field and "eagles" in the elem.

What can we think of these pictures? All these rugs show hash guls or proto hash gul devices, or "hashguloid" shapes associated with birds (in the Crivelli's star, in the Marby, in the Bogolyubov's ensi) or with animals (The MET animal rug). We can deduce that there is certainly a symbolic link between hash gul shapes and birds/animals.

We can now examine a more recent weaving made by the Yomuds (late XIX° or XX° century).

It is a striped chuval with decorated brocated bands on a plain weave fabric.

The fact I find remarkable is that in this recent bag we can see (fig A, B and C in the schema below), with very little differences, the same devices as in the Crivelli (XV°) or in the MET animal rug border (XIV°).

For the making of a so ordinary and traditional bag we suppose the weaver didn't have under her eyes the "great ancestors". We can think on the contrary that those motives are part of the old decorative and symbolic estate of the tribe. This fact proves that there is a great permanency of the weaving language through the centuries.

When we look closer to these decorative/symbolic compositions we can also see how the bird symbol can be read.

If we take the animal carpet border and the hooked motif band of the Yomut bag, that are the same thing without any doubt, we can see either octagonal gul shapes, in which the hooked devices can be interpretated as "folded wings" or "totemic" motives with a central pole/body and laterally two "stretched wings". If we read the border or the band like a "cartoon" we can see alternatively symbolic birds fluttering wings (fig A and B on the schema below).

It is possible to see also in the "folded bird into the octagon" the figure of the bird's egg.

In the Yomut bag the third band is also interesting: we can see in it a rectilinear motif, displayed in three colours with a reciprocated pattern (fig D in the schema). This motif can also be seen as a bird or a dragon symbol. If it is a dragon the bag can be read as a "phoenix and dragon" cartoon.

To resume my "hash gul lucubration", my hypothesis is that this motif can be seen as a symbolic bird and maybe as the "egg form" of the symbolic bird (bird folded in an encapsulated/gul). This is a very old weaving motif. It's permanency through the ages proves that Turkmens are very attached to the animal symbol in there weavings and particularly to the bird/eagle. The high stylization of the decorative art of the Turkmens has a tendency to hide the real meaning of the shapes, but we can approach to the symbolic level simply using the analysis of the "weaving writing".

That's all folks.

Amicales salutations à tous et merci d'avoir la patience de lire mes élucubrations.


Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 10-12-2004 07:12 PM:

Symmetry vs. Symbolism

Greetings Louis and All- I do believe you are on to something here, these forms seem related, but as for myself I believe that the relationship is more of symmetry and how the pattern(s) are memorized/executed as opposed to any symbolic significance. Not to say there is no symbolic connection, but we seem to get into trouble when reading too much into these designs and patterns(I do at any rate ).

This link to theTextile Museum symmetry exhibit explains better than I the limitations of pattern imposed by symmetry.

Just to illustrate the process by which symmetries might evolve, via elaboration or simplification, into different patterns, lets start with your eagle symbol diagram, and more specifically, the "vase" based element to the left of the "eagle"

and compare it to this Yomud elem treatment. Note the "vase " base(or analog thereof) and lateral "branch" appendages.

Compare these to this "animal tree" element from a Tekke asmaylak,

and the overall ,symmetric relationship of the entire composition.

But let's not stop here,there are further possibilities, as in the vase and lateral appendages of the floral form in the Yomud band section pictured below-Dave

Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 10-13-2004 01:49 PM:


Bonsoir David

The motif in the "animal tree" asmalyk, the motif in the yomut elem and the one in the tent band are certainly "tree" symbol at the first reading. One can see also in this composite form with a trunk, a ("solar") head and arms at the basis an hybrid being between man an a tree. This is an old symbolic picture that can be found in several antique cultures, with shamanic religions. The figure made with two animals at the foot of a "sacred tree" is also an archetype that we can find in antique central asia cultures.
In the asmalik the most puzzling figure is the latice whith "winged" devices. There is an ambiguity : it could be either a vegetal reference (leaves) or an animal symbol (wings of a bird).
But we can see also one other thing in this latice : symbolized man figures with arms and legs stretched in a cross shape and linked together. I am making a research on this direction, trying to cross the reading of the lattice design in rugs with the Carpenter work on the "genealogic figures" in tribal art. That could be a good subject for a future salon.

For the study of the symetry I recommand (if you doesn't know this book) the reading of the book edited by Dorothy K. Washburn, and Donald W. Crowe "SYMETRY COMES OF AGES -THE ROLE OF PATTERN IN CULTURE" UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

Meilleures salutations

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 10-13-2004 08:49 PM:


Louis and All- yes, these design elements may resemble ancient symbols, but as geometric representations of flora and fauna, the carpet designs may well be no more than a simple rendering of plants and animals found in the weavers enviornment and may have no connection to aincent symbols or cultures. It is easy to make the leap as there are often, at least superficially, convincing simularities, but correlation in and by itself does not prove causation.Still,they could be ancient symbols...-Dave

Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 10-15-2004 12:05 PM:

symbols in rug design

Bonjour David

I think this could be a good salon subject.
I just take few lines to say that I do not follow you in the "naturalistic trail". Design on rugs can be anything but naturalistic rendering of "what the weavers see in their environnement" (I speak of tribal work). Did a Qasgai weaver ever see a lion? a shasahvan a dragon or a pnoenix? Do trees of life grow in the country? Do the sheep have two heads? Making a rug or a kilim or a clay pot is in the same time making an utilitary item and drawing a message for the other human beings ("you see how skillfull I am", "you see I am from your tribe", "you see I can make a good spouse"....) and a message for the obscure powers (against the evil eye, against the bad charm, to honor the gods and spirits, to honor the shaman ...).
Like other way of expression "decorative tribal arts" are a human language and like any human language there is in it a strong symbolic level : cultural symbolic level, unconscious collective level, unconscious individual level. And as any language this way of expression follows an historical evolution and can be studied with the same approach : semantics, etymology, regional variations....
As in any language rug or weaving motives, like words, have often origins that are now unknown for the user. You need to be a good scholar to know the original meening of sometimes very usual words that come from old saxon or nordic dialect....
The difficult is doubled for the weaving motives : the motive has a contemporary name that very often has nothing to do with either the original name or the original meaning of the motive. The weaver knows only the contemporain name that describe nothing more than the shape and is often the name of the object of which the shape is the closer. There can be also symbol transfer....
There is also the case of motives of which the contemporary names are only phonetic imitations of an old name in an other language with an other signification...
There is one thing that is very interesting in the study of the tribal motives : the permanence and the stability of the shapes is often more longer than the stability of the names of these shapes. For me this fact proves that the signification of these shapes are stronger and deeper than the spoken language and therefore certainly hardly linked with the symbolic/unconscious level of the human spirit.

We are into the field of ethnography and philology and it is a great field....

Meilleures salutations


Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 10-15-2004 05:35 PM:

Scientific Method?

Louis and All- It is fun to speculate upon the purported origins of these seeming symbols, but without evidence to the contrary, I believe that a simple interpretation, as in mere representations of trees and sheep, are preferable to arcane conjecture. There of course could be some connection, but geometric ornaments are ubiquitous, and there is the matter of proofs. We can speculate all we want, but without proofs we get nowhere. We may be delving into the fields of ethnography and philology, albeit some rather clumsy tinkering - Dave

Posted by Vincent Keers on 10-15-2004 07:16 PM:

Hi Louis,

The Qashqaï saw one, very important lion over and over. The lion with the rising sun behind his back. This was the Shah's Royal symbol.
The Shasavan (Lovers of the Shah) saw dragons and phoenix's all the time. They had to fight them from the east and the north.
And yes, some sheep are born with 2 heads or six legs etc. Nature can do strange things. So, maybe something to remember?

A quote and some in between () thinking.
"the permanence and the stability of the shapes is often more longer
(I: because the techniques are limited)
than the stability of the names of these shapes. (I: because humans, culture changes)
For me this fact proves that the signification of these shapes
(I: can change because a spoken language lives along with culture)
are stronger and deeper than the spoken language and therefore certainly hardly linked with the symbolic/unconscious level of the human spirit."

Must think about the Jacquard design.
Paisley? Boteh? Every culture has a tag on it. What does it mean? Many people, all over the world, liked and like it. So I think first there's the design, no meaning at all and different cultures give it different names.
Same designs can be found with eskimo's, vikings and aboriginals and on Dutch wooden shoes.
Don't think this has anything to do with hard wired, unconscious levels.

Best regards,

Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 10-17-2004 01:47 PM:

I see that my approach of rug design is not shared by Dave and Vincent. OK
We need proofs. There are lots of proofs. Field studies made by ethnologists among weaving peoples that have still nowdays a living weaving culture (e.g. Berbers, Turkish nomads) show that the making of a rug, a bag or a kilim is ruled by lots of magical practices and rites. One reason for that utilitary items as rugs (to cover the ground or to sleep), kilims (to divide the tent or to cover the ground), bags (to contain food, cloths) are so skillfully ornamented is that the motifs have also a magical value. This magical value is for protecting the family and the group against starvation, illness. As often those misfortunes are impredicable and due to causes that are out of the range of humans (drought, flood, lightnings and microbes..) they are put on the acount of the devil or of the bad eye and the ornaments on the objects are here for struggle against evil eye and misfortunes. This is one level of reading of the weaving art that is difficult to contest. Other levels are also well known : the old myths (dragon and phoenix by ex), the believes about the beyond (birds as soul carriers for ex)...
I don't know why there is a so great prejudice against ideas about trying to see in the rug design other things than sheep and flowers.

When you say Vincent, "first there is the design no meaning at all..." I think you are far from the human nature. Designs are the first drawn language of men : on the caves'walls, on pieces of bone, on leather...There is no language without meaning, the language is the main characteristic of humans. And it is proved by the works of great anthropologists that even early men had a very rich and symbolic language and that they were preoccupated like us by the beyond and other abstract things. Any language has several meanings for the same design/word : a descriptive meaning, a symbolic (often secret) meaning and an uncounscious one, and this even in primitives cultures.
At its begining the humanity was composed by little groups who have colonised progressively all the corners of the planet, by swarming like do the bees. Thoses groups have kept their culture and language whith them during all their migrations. This is visible when you study the myths in different parts of the world (you can have the same myths in south america than in laponia) and when you study the ancient and tribal design (see the works of Carpenter by exemple).
This is true that, in rug studies we are seriously lacking of searchings in the symbolic approach of the shapes ; this is not a reason to reject abruptly the "clumsy tinker's work" of those who are delving the subject.

Amicales salutations

Louis Dubreuil

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 10-19-2004 05:32 AM:


Louis and All- Be it by ten words or a thousand, restating your argument is reiteration, and discourse proceedes in a circular manner.

Amulets and evil eyes are fairly well understood, but this is not the same as reading your own interpretations of so called symbols into this hash gul. This is the verry thing which anthropologists try to stay away from,as we are from different cultures and one can never really,fully comprehend the "psychic life" of the other. It is easy to get carried away with this, witness the downfalls of Hyerdahl,Chagnon,and Mellaart.

Studies of the meaning of rug symbols should be gleaned from the weavers themselves, not research of the armchair variety.
This latter form of research may provide clues, suggest some avenues to explore, but any meaningful study of weaving symbols must center upon the meanings as attribuited by the weavers and entail studying these said peoples in the field.
Anything less is speculation and conjecture, the latter being the process by which test surveys in the mountains of South America become signpost for extraterrestrial visitors as in "The Charriots of the Gods"- Dave

Posted by Steve Price on 10-19-2004 05:55 AM:


David's points are well taken (by me, at least). It is one thing to be pretty sure that the motifs, layouts, designs and colors had important meanings. It is quite another thing to believe that you know what those meanings are.

I have no trouble recognizing Hebrew writing as a written language. I am sure that each symbol is a letter with a sound (or a range of possible sounds), that each group of letters is a word, and that strings of words ending with a period are probably sentences. That is very different than being able to read it.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 10-19-2004 06:42 AM:

Dear folks -

Many of you will know this, but Peter Stone (he of the "Lexicon") has just published a book exploring such things in tribal rugs.

His title is "Tribal and Village Rugs: The Definitive Guide to Design, Pattern and Motif," New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 2004.

A large format book with good color, it has the added virtue of a systematic, dispassionate treatment.

It would be a good read for those interested in this thread.
$65 USD.


R. John Howe

Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 10-19-2004 08:05 AM:

I have ordered this book from Amazon some weeks ago and it should be on my desk rapidly. I hope this book can make the synthesis of informations about rug design that are generally scattered and incomplete in several publications. On the subject the Ford's book is interesting but incomplete.

For the research about designs, the field work is of course essential but it is not sufficient as the tells of the contemporary weavers are often not directly significant of the motives. It is evident if one design is called "amulette" that we have to see what this amulette is made of and from what it is originated. We have also to refer at the semiology of the weaving language that is of course ruled by the technical limitations (to refer to the Vincent's theory) but also by the real structure of this language (simplification, replication, symetry, open shapes, encapsulated shapes...) linked with the social stuctures of the weaver's social group. We have also to study the rugs in their historical dimension in order to put in evidence the older archetypes of the motives and to find shared origins.

I find that the manner in which my papers are "corrigés" (with red marks like in old schools) is not constructive and a little bit discouraging. I should be happy if somebody with the same approach ( "pluridisciplinaire" as we say in France) can help me in this work, I should be less alone.

Avec mes amicales salutations

Louis Dubreuil

Posted by Steve Price on 10-19-2004 10:56 AM:

Bonjour Louis

I'm sorry that you ind the criticisms not constructive - they are intended to be very constructive.

Jon Thompson published a schema for evolution of Turkmen guls, in the book he co-authored with Louise Mackie (Turkmen). Like your schema, it is interesting and plausible. As with yours, it is difficult to progress much beyond that point.

I share your reservations about fieldwork as the key to answering questions about design evolution. Few (if any) contemporary weavers know the centuries-old traditions behind the motifs that they weave. They are a source of information that should not be ignored, of course, we just have to recognize its limitations.

Likewise, we can conjecture about what various motifs might have represented. It seems reasonable to suppose that important things are included in the symbolism. The problem is, which important things? Why should it be assumed that birds and flowers were not important? In many cultures, birds are magical animals - they can fly! Flowers are a visible manifestation of the cycle of living and dying, fertility, the bringing forth of food from the earth.

This debate was pursued pretty vigorously on Turkotek several years ago. If you read the discussion in you'll probably come away with a better understanding of the heat the topic can engender and how difficult it is to come to reasonably persuasive conclusions. This is not meant to discourage you from trying to do so, but to help make you aware of some of the pitfalls in your path.


Steve Price

Posted by David R.E. Hunt on 10-19-2004 10:28 PM:

Louis and All- I am sorry to have been terse, but not of my intention, was in a hurry this morning and just dashed off a few quick ideas. It shows. It would be difficult to conduct field research with weavers from the early19th century. Not the first time I've put my foot in my mouth here on Turkotek, and probably not the last

Find below a scan of the formentioned schema of Turkmen guls from Thompson/Mackie's "Turkmen",

and this scan of holders for written amulets or prayers from Johannes Kalters "The Arts and Crafts of Turkestan"

and described, moving left to right top to bottom, as Khivan, Tekke, Kazak or Uzbek in Kazak stye, and Ersari.

Now compare these above amulets with the border sticking out from under the chuval in this photo. These, I believe, are amulets(or possibly combs?).- Dave

Posted by Rick Paine on 11-02-2004 05:33 PM:

This has been a very interesting thread. Would someone be kind enough to outline the spatial distribution of the Hash Gul. I have a little brocade 'spoon bag' that uses it as its main element. I bought the bag in Konye, but don't know its origin. Does anyone in Anatolia use it?


Posted by dubreuil on 11-03-2004 03:09 AM:

Bonjour Rick

Your information is very interesting. It would be kind if you could send a picture of your bag to Steve or Filiberto in order we can see it.
For the moment we know only two tribes who use this design : mainly the Yomut (but without any further precision) and more scarcely the Belouch. There are exemples of historic prototypes in Anatolia (the Crivelli star rug is the main exemple) but we don't know any contemporary exemple in Anatolia.
So, the maximum precision about your item would be very profitable (materials, weave technic, structure....).

Thank you

Amicales salutations à tous

Louis Dubreuil

Posted by Rick Paine on 11-04-2004 10:45 AM:

Thank you Louis--

I will try to borrow a digital camera and send something in. I will also send some more detailed description, tough I am not very good w/structural analysis.


Posted by Louis Dubreuil on 11-27-2004 06:16 AM:

Hello Rick

Till waiting for your pictures that can enrich the "hash gul story".
If you have a problem for sending digital pictures, send a message about that to Steve or to Filiberto.

Meilleures salutations


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