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Symbols and Messages of a Peasant Rug

A peasant rug from the Buzau ethnographic area of South-East Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

This post is relevant for those interested in the peasant and traditional houses of Romania, looking to find out clues about the meaning and significance of the myriad of ethnographic symbols decorating this ancestral type of habitat. Traditional rugs, such as the one I photographed above, are essential decorative and spiritual artefacts that contribute to the make-up of a peasant house. This particular example exhibits an abstract human figure multiplied seven times (a number with miraculous beneficial properties in local mythology), in shades of red and black (see bellow for meaning) that has his/her arms suspended up in the air, denoting the worshipping of the Sun god, represented in this instance by the repeating rhomboidal figure on the rug’s border area. The chromatic range is formed from variations of three colours with fundamental ethnographic significance: black (earth), red (fire) and white (air-space-spirit). I very much like the stubborn persistence of old pagan worshiping elements in local ethnography, which can be encountered in every corner of a peasant house in the Carpathian region, dating probably from the times when the first Indo-Europeans settled the area more than 5,000 years ago, or even from earlier populations, despite the last two millennia of relentless “assaults” from the organized Christian religion. In fact there is an intense and lively intermingling and even syncretism within the local peasant culture between the Christian and ethnographic symbolism, that gives it a peculiar character, which just captivates the outside observer. The beautiful rug in the image above is actually a treasured present from my grandmother, a peasant woman from the Buzau ethnographic area of South East Romania, which she gave me about ten years ago to decorate my house in London and thus bring me luck and insure protection against the local Thames Valley malevolent spirits :)

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I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

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