The Kilim - A 9000 Year Old Turkish Tradition

The Ancient Tradition of the Kilim

The kilim is a truly remarkable tradition maintained by women of Anatolia for hundreds of generations, dating back nine thousand years. Turkish mothers and daughters maintained this mysterious tradition for the last thousand years as Turkish tribes settled in Anatolia and intermingled with the local population. 

The oldest record of kilims comes from Catal Hoyuk Neolithic pottery circa 7000 BC, the oldest settlement ever to have been discovered. It is located southeast of Konya in the middle of the Anatolian region. Excavations to date (only 3% of the town) not only found carbonized fabric but also fragments of kilims painted on the walls of the houses. The majority of them represent geometric and stylized forms that are similar or identical to other historical to contemporary designs.

Traditional Religious Beliefs and Practices of Ancient Turks

Faith in God had a central place in historic Turkish societies from the eastern borders of Asia to Central Europe. Even though the word “Tanri” (God) took such forms as “tangara” with the Yakuts, “teri” with the Kazan Turks, “ter" with the Soyons and “tenggeri” with the Mongols, it retained to present day its fundamental form in every religious system accepted by Turkic peoples.

Though the Turks attained the concept of a sublime and abstract God, in the beginning they would think of it as being in the sky, which covers the world and governs everything and hence as a Sky-God, the Creator and the Absolute Power. The political power and sovereignty has its origin in God. There were no temples, pictures or statues for the Sky-God, who is ancient and eternal and it has no human characteristics. It gives luck and power to the Khans, on whom the organization of society and destiny of people depend.

Ancient Turks also considered Earth-Water (Yer-Su) sacred. The belief in “Yer-Su” related to the mountains, forests and rivers, and this later transformed into a “Cult of Homeland.” Through history, the Turks also respected fire and saw within it a cleansing and sacred power. The cult of fire among the Turks is closely related to “the cult of family hearth” which in turn is related to “the cult of the ancestor.” The term “Yer-Su” (Earth-Water) implies that in addition to trees, fire, water and mountains, the earth, rocks and stones have a sacred meaning and importance. In the Orhun inscriptions, “the blue sky” and “the black earth” form the two main cosmic fields and complement each other.

The tradition of honoring and presenting sacrifices to ancestors is one of the most important elements of the traditional Turkish religion. It is the sense of gratitude felt for the ancestors, which makes up the foundation of the cult of the ancestors. Not all ancestral spirits or graves become the subject of the cult but only the most respected reach that level. Because of this, it becomes necessary to differentiate “the cult of the dead” from “the cult of the ancestors.”

Even though there is no systematic individual worship in the traditional Turkish religion, prayer was carried out individually. The cloth pieces tied to the trees were a kind of worship, each representing a bloodless sacrifice. This tradition has survived to present day. Animal sacrifices for Sky-God and other sacred things were also part of the tradition.

Turkic Shaman

A type of religious, mystical and magical authority called “kam” or “shaman” by the Turkic people also had an important place in the traditional Turkish religion. Shaman, who could be a man or women, is a master of trance who feels their spirit rising to the sky, going underground and wandering around in an ecstasy by means of his or her personal methods. It was believed they had the ability to be mediators between God, people and the spirits. However they did not rule over the social and even religious life of the community. Hence it is not possible to call Shamanism a religion but a summation of ecstatic and therapeutic methods from the archaic ages on.

From Turkish Cultural Foundation

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