"When a baby girl is in her crib, her dowry is already in a chest.", a widespread saying shows how people of Anatolia have cherished their baby girls for centuries. By preparing their dowries as soon as they come to this world, they help their daughters build a life in the future. Dowries are a reflection of the family values of the bride, and they are juxtaposed in hopes of passing them on to the next generations.
"So, what exactly is a dowry?" I can hear you say. To simply explain, dowry is the items a bride brings to her new home as she marries. It generally contains household items such as kitchenware, cutlery, handwoven rugs and towels, beddings, luxurious dinnerware, and much more. It is traditionally preserved in a chest. Although it is traditionally prepared by the bride's family, the groom's family can also gift the bride's dowry. In the modern world, some furniture purchased during the time of the wedding could also be called dowry.
No matter their background or the place they live, the dowry is a way for young women to voice their art throughout the centuries. They inchest their thoughts, family history, values, and culture for their dowry. It shows that a young girl is willing and ready to be wed when a dowry is prepared. It reflects the bride's family's wealth and the effort they put into their daughter's marriage. Historically, there have been instances where dowry affected politics and even altered national borders.
One of the most essential pieces in traditional dowry is rugs. Dowry rugs are handwoven by the bride herself, starting from a very young age. They keep weaving as they age, each rug representing a stage in the bride's life. The motifs and the colors radiate youth while revealing the bride's story.
By all means, the process of a dowry rug coming to life is much more complicated than it looks. First, the dowry rugs are typically made from pure fleece wool, and young girls must harvest the wool themselves rather than buy it. Then, for coloring, they use madder they extract from different plants. So each dowry rug is a precious handicraft into which young girls put all their effort, from getting the materials to weaving the rug itself.
Brides tell their stories through their weaving, but to read those unheard stories, one must pay attention to details. For this blog, we gathered the meanings of the colors and the most significant motifs used in dowry rugs:
Red: Red represents the friendship between the bride and the groom. It is used in hopes that even when the most fierce love may disappear, their feelings of compassion and commitment stay exact till the end of time.
Yellow: Yellow is believed to protect the family against the evil eye.
Blue: Just like the sky, blue represents endless hope for the family's future.
Green: The new life bride and the groom will have is represented, referring to trees coated with green in spring for a whole new season.
Serpent/Dragon: For some, it may be a surprise that a delicate occurrence such as marriage could be related to scary motifs like a dragon. Yet, the dragon motif represents healing and is woven in hopes of keeping the family emotionally and physically healthy.
Tree of Life: Different types of trees could be used as a tree of life. It represents the bond between earth and heaven.
Hair Band: It is woven to eternalize the bond between the groom and the bride.
Chest: When a chest is woven on a rug, it means that a girl is ready to be wed. This motif represents her belongings and her faith in her lover.
Scorpion/Spider: As the most impressive motif, the scorpion represents fight and misdeed. Although it may not sound very rational to have a scorpion wowed, it is believed that these vicious creatures are woven to lock the evil inside the carpet so it can not hurt the family.
Running water: Running water resembles life and reincarnation in the same way water cycles. It is inspired by shamanism, an ancient religion in Anatolia.
Elibelinde (Hands on Hips): This motif resembles femininity and fertility.
Evil eye: As commonly known, the evil eye serves to protect the family against "Nazar."
Snake: Though it may seem scary, a snake represents abundance to the household.
Earrings: A girl weaves earrings to hint to her family that she is in love.
Star: Just like its common meaning, a star indicates that a family is known for their hard work and success.
When looked closely, the dowry is more than just a wedding preparation. It is an intangible cultural heritage for the next generations, the only voice most women had for centuries, and one-of-a-kind artwork. It is more of an ancient language, a tradition, more than just beautiful household items. Therefore, it should be given a thought as well as appreciated for its beauty.