Stories Behind the Symbols of the Moroccan Berber Rugs

The symbols embedded in the Moroccan Berber rugs have a remarkable similarity to some of the ancient cave symbols. Artisans of these carpets were trying to convey their thoughts, stories, and history through these precious artifacts. It's essential to head back to their Moroccan Roots to fully understand the stories and underlying messages hidden within these patterns.
 
The symbols will lead you back to various scenic locations, from Tafilalt and Boujad to Azilal and Beni Ouarain. While researching these symbols, we met some incredible people who were down to earth and eager to share their knowledge. They were extremely excited to see curiosity around their carpet's history and significance rather than finding good bargains. The common trait among all these regions is that Moroccan Berber Rugs are still anchored in their personal cultures and day-to-day.
 
The initial discussions with some artisans and tribes chiefs were inconclusive, but at least we had an idea of some cultural habits. For instance, we understood that the rugs are initially designed for a special occasion such as gifts to celebrate a newborn or marriage. In many other circumstances, it would be used as an asset that would be sold in local markets to generate income for their family.
 
The colors used to create the carpets depended on the materials accessible in their region. When the family is wealthy enough, they tend to use natural wool from their herd, without any coloring. This explains the ivory color of some Beni Ouarain carpets. Some other times the wool would be colored using henna (natural coloring plant), saffron, or any other coloring plants.
 

The Stories Behind the Symbols

All the designs you can commonly find on different Moroccan textiles will tell a new story. Some are believed to bring good luck, ward off evil, or represent their specific trip. You can see them in many different forms, and the meaning behind them can vary, depending on who you can ask.
We know that artisans commonly tell a story with the symbols they use in their carpets. They weave their ancestry, past, and history into their carpets. You're essentially reading a novel or history when you purchase a homemade rug all about the struggles or things weavers have encountered in their life and ancestry. Here are the general explanations for the most common symbols you can find in Moroccan Berber Carpets.

 

1. Seed: The seed looks like an hourglass shape with a thicker, smaller hourglass shape placed on top of it, making a total of two hourglasses. It's typically associated with fertility. The weaver of the carpet might have been pregnant when creating the rug or be at an age where fertility was granted. 

2. Nose: The nose symbol looks like a sideways hourglass with two lines on either side. This symbol represented the shape of a crow's beak, which is typically put around a child's neck for protection. Protection is an important symbol in the ancient culture. It could represent protecting your family, friends, or yourself. It's a story of taking care of the younger ones who are most susceptible to harm.

3. Eye: The eye shape is a diamond-shaped symbol with a cross located in the center. It's a symbol for protection against the evil eye. The eye symbol helps to fight evil in four directions, otherwise known as north, south, east, and west. The evil eye is known as a look that someone will give you that is believed to bring bad luck. This look could be directed your way because of dislike or envy. The symbol was used as a way to protect those who received this look. 

4. Snake and Fish Skeletons: The combination of symbols typically represents someone who has magical and medicinal properties, such as a holy person. If a holy person was granted these gifts or received the gifts of healing from a holy person, this symbol was often used in their carpets. It tells a story of healing and magic that was often one of the medicine sources in their ancient cultures.

5. Scissors or Saw: The scissor symbol, which looks like an X, and the saw symbol represent those who were known as metal workers. If this symbol is found on a carpet, the weaver most likely worked in that industry, or the weaver had a close loved one who worked with metal. Metalworkers were looked up to, as the material of metal was believed to keep away the evil eye.

6. Frog: The Frog symbol was associated with magical rights or fertility. When woven into a carpet, it might mean that the artisan was fertile, or fertility was easy for the family line. The frog symbol is also associated with rites like abundance. The artisans may have lived an abundant life, always filled with blessings and enough of everything they need. 

7. Bird: The bird symbol holds Baraka, or a blessing which may be a revelation that flows through those closest to God. It can be found in people, places, and physical objects. If this symbol is found in a rug, it symbolizes that the weaver is bestowed with this honor of Baraka, and lives out their lives in this way. 

8. Partridge Eyes: This symbol was typically meant to describe women or beauty. The beauty could mean a physical appearance, representing desirable traits in a mate for men, or could be the beauty of the earth around them. Using that symbol shows appreciation for the world around, which means the rug was likely created in a time of little conflict or war.

9. Lions Paw: This symbol is associated with being strong. It is often known to protect those who must face situations that would test their strength or courage. The lion symbol could be used during times of war, or hardship. If this symbol is found on a rug, you can be sure that the artisan or close family of the artisan had faced some difficulties in their lives but persevered through them. 

10. Finger: The finger is often associated with protection from others' evil and wrongdoings. Quite often in life, people are faced with difficult situations where they might be stolen from, lied to, or given the evil eye. The finger is protection against any of the wrongdoings others may put on the artisan, brings in good luck, and protects from bad energy. 

Patterns and Symbols, What's the Difference?

Symbols on a rug will tell a story, typically weaving in tails of the artisan's life or history that is important to them. Sometimes an entire family history can be told through these symbols. In comparison, patterns are typically associated with specific tribes or the region a carpet was created in. Most of the patterns revolve around sexuality, often symbolizing mothers' bodies, female figures, fertility, vulva, or pregnancy.

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Good rugs make a hard surface look better and soften it up. It completes the room.

Raquel Framsey