Amulet Hamail in Azerbaijani Carpets

Durdana Gadirova,
philosopher (Azerbaijan)

Ornamental carpets, being models of decorative applied art, comprise reflection of art traditions, lifestyle, worldview and religious values of their creators. Numerous patterns, turned into decorative elements on these carpets, create an artistic and semantic image, expressing the attitude to the most important concepts of real life. One of such patterns is the motive of an amulet-talisman weaved on the carpets.
Early forms of real amulets existed since ancient times. The amulet was attached on clothes, worn as a necklace, bracelet, ring, and other ornament objects. It was widespread at the Caucasian, Asian and other peoples. A numerous archeological excavations discovered a set of amulets in the form of both an image, and a symbolical, or ritual object. The discovered materials prove that since the ancient times amulets were used for protection from diseases, evil eye and other troubles. With emergence of Islam, amulets were used more widely. Since that period, amulets start to contain names of Allah, magic names of angels, and verses of the Koran. For writing the Koran verses on amulets, instead of ink they mainly used holy water of saffron, roses, etc. In addition, amulets quite often contained invocations and charms.
We can say that many peoples of the world use amulets, and often women of these peoples, wearing it, feel themselves “protected”.
Some Arab believers claim that the using the amulets – talismans and charms was justified because amulets (i.e. the records stored in them or written on them) first of all were used for protection against the evil eye, demons and evil spirits (2). Perhaps, due to such strong belief amulets still keep their significance today. Used as main means for protection, amulets are made of leather, fabric, wood, silver and other materials. They usually have triangular, rectangular, round (as a mutakka) forms. Simple amulets consist only of the above-mentioned materials and a string for hanging up. However there are also amulets of complicated form. Some of them in the lower part, forming the amulet’s basis, have suspended chains. And at the tip of the chain they hung pendants in the form of cardamom seeds, which were honored as magic objects since ancient times.
There are amulets of more complicated form; the lower and upper parts of their basis have rich decoration. It is necessary to mark that amulets with cardamoms suspended on chains were more widely spread.
At the people of Turkic origin – Turks, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Kazakhs, Karakalpaks, etc. amulets were widespread. Amulets are noticeably spread also in the Middle East and Arab countries. Amulets are especially significant objects of “decoration” also for Kyrgyz, Arabs, Afghans and other peoples, who used them as a pattern of carpets. According to the placement of such images of patterns, we can assume that they also act as a protective and magic element.
In Azerbaijan the amulet is known under the name hamail, among the Central Asian peoples it is known as tumar, tomar, among Arabs and Afghans – as Taviz, in the Middle East and other places – as muska, tomar, tilsim, talisman, and amulet. Images of an amulet, widespread among the Turkic people, can be met also in samples of weaving art, embroideries, and other objects of decorative art.
To this day amulets have a high significance in the life of the Karakalpak people with Turkic origin (3), who call them tumar, haykel, tumarsha, being practically an integral part of their clothes. Images of amulets are also often met on embroideries, shirts, carpets, yurts of the Karakalpaks. In Karakalpak yurts either amulet or its image is placed at the entrance to the yurt, and is used also as a “protection” or “charm” from evil spirits and other evil (4).
The image of an amulet (tumar), widespread in the Turkmen workmanship, is also often met in their decorative arts, including in weaving products. It is called asmaldyk performing the same function. Asmaldyks, being objects of decoration of domestic animals, especially camels, and in the form are similar to one of variants of amulets. Asmaldyk, being a subject of decoration, has mainly small size (100×100 cm, 100×80 cm, 90×110 cm, etc.); its lower and lateral sides have direct forms, and the upper part is added in the form of a triangle. On the asmaldyks there are images of amulets with both a simple, schematized form, and difficult, more real forms. Such images were usually placed on upper – a triangular part of the asmaldyk. As an example let’s take a closer look at one of them, where the upper central part shows an amulet with more real style. And at the level of cardamoms there is an image of an amulet in the center, and two amulets on the sides. These amulets are not similar to the amulet at the center and they also differ from one another. So, two images of amulets with more schematic form are placed on the side part of the asmaldyk. It becomes clear that Turkmens also use images of the amulet to protect animals from evil, diseases, etc.
Amulets of the period of Ottoman Turkey are met rather often. It can be explained by the fact that the amulet was also widely used in everyday life of Ottoman Turks. Amulets of that period draw attention with the difference of the decoration elements. There are amulets made generally of silver and are decorated by carvings, relief stamping and other methods, as well as various semiprecious stones, religious writings and floral elements.
The image of the amulet, widespread in the art of weaving of Turkic peoples, are met on carpets of each region mainly on the oriental carpets weaved in such areas as Mersin, Tokat, Konjya, Eskisehir, Elazyg, etc. Here images of amulets, being both triangular and rectangular, characterize their forms. Images of amulets on the Turkish oriental carpets demonstrate that, being a pattern element, they at the same time, perform the “magic” function of “protection” and “charm”. It should be noted that the Turkic peoples called the image of amulets muski and nezerlik (talisman against the evil eye) (5).
Amulets were also widespread among the people of Azerbaijan. Their images differ in the originality. They are met mainly in weaving art, more widely – on oriental carpets – lint-free carpets, as well as on tufted carpets. Images of amulets with medallion composition on carpets of Karabakh, Shirvan and Gouba are especially widespread. As an example of the image of amulets in weaving art we can specify such carpets as “Zeyva”, “Ordudzh”, “Gonagkyand”, “Piryabyadil”, “Garagashly”, “Archiman”, etc. On the Shirvan oriental carpet, for example, simple images of amulets, which turned into a pattern, are rowed at the edges of the main frame. Undoubtedly, here the structure of amulets creates a protective image.
On the carpet “Zeyva”, weaved in the XIX century, images of amulets are placed by the principle of sequence – at the edges of the intermediate field. Multi-colored elements of amulets on this carpet, being placed along the carpet, as if form unity with the border system for protection of the carpet against the environment. It is known that the medallion of the carpet reflects the idea of the tribal unity, and the border – the idea of boundary of their world. According to the principle of placement of images of amulets here we can conclude that they act here also as a charm.
Images of amulets on the carpet known as “Ordudzh”, act as a talisman. On this carpet images are placed as pattern elements on the edge of the carpet– along the contour of the main edge in two rows – one row goes downward and another – upward. However their principle of placement creates its own image of a strong protection as well. On two of three rectangular medallions in the intermediate field of the carpet and in the central medallion of the middle part there are four opposite images of amulets.
In general we have noticed that as well as some other elements existing on carpets and other objects of decorative applied art, images of amulets here took their own place in works of art. Although during the early periods, the images of amulets on Gouba carpets were depicted schematically, during the subsequent periods they became more realistic. If to compare Zeyva carpet of the XIX century and Gonagkyand carpet weaved at the beginning of the XX century one can clearly notice the development line of the amulets depicted on them.
On Piryabyadil carpets, including symbols of forces and power, the images of amulets also draw attention with the originality, which lies in the fact that in this composition, images of amulets are placed on the edge of the intermediate field. A set of images of amulets at the center of the carpet is depicted in various options and in different colors.
Having examined in general the amulets and their images in the works of applied art, we can draw the following conclusions:
- Early forms of amulets existed since ancient times;
- An amulet or its image can be met in the cultures of most peoples of the world;
- After the rise of Islamic religion amulets, widespread in the culture of Muslims, developed further, having passed a way of formation from simple to complex;
- Rich, complicated shapes of amulets are mainly met in the culture of the peoples of Turkic origin;
- The amulet, which became a subject of decoration and jewelry in culture of these people, is also used now as a magic and protective mean.

1. Arabic magic. Tilsum and Hamail.
2. David Richardson. Karakalpak Jewellery. 2009.
3. David Richardson. The Ko’k Ko’ylek. 2007.
4. Mine Erbek. Catalhoyukten gunumuze Anadolu motifleri. Ankara, T.C. kultur bakanl ?g?, 2002.
5. Rzayev N?sir. ?cdadlar?n izi il ?. Bak ?. 1992.
6. Turkish Kilim Repair. wwwtraditionalrugrepaircom
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8. Ivanov S.I. Ornament of the Siberian people (historical source). L., 1963.

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