Posted by Jerry Silverman on 09-18-2002 04:54 PM:

Elem = earth?

I don't remember where I heard this, but I recall the elems of ensiis being referred to as symbolic of the "earth" while the parts above it symbolic of "sky". (I believe Elena Tsareva may have mentioned it at the show and tell when she was here in Chicago last year, but I'd heard it before.)

Have I just mis-remembered - as is becoming all the more frequent lately - or have others of you heard this?



Posted by R. John Howe on 09-18-2002 06:02 PM:

Jerry -

Yes, others have made this suggestion. In fact, Jourdan has made it twice now in this salon, once in the initial essay and again in the thread on "shamanism."

Here, again, is what he says. He's pretty explicit:

"...This design can be said to reflect the idea of a cosmos with a tree at the centre of the earth, the latter "represented" by the design found in the lower elem panel..."

The elem in this interpretation represents not just the "earth" but the very "center" of it in some sense.


R. John Howe

Posted by Jerry Silverman on 09-18-2002 06:56 PM:

See? I didn't remember it from this Salon but from long ago. Probably triggered some subliminal recollection.

For what it's worth, the most attractive ensiis (for me) are those with an especially dark elem. Not to get too design-y here, but the dark bottom provides a strong visual foundation for what goes on above. The choices of colors for that dark elem are also often especially saturated.


Posted by Yon Bard on 09-19-2002 09:10 AM:

1. Some (admittedly rare) ensis have identical elems at top and bottom.
2. Many Turkmen main carpets have elems with designs similar to those found on ensis, and sometimes different on top and bottom.
3. Many bag faces have decorated bottom elems, and sometimes top elems too.

What conclusion do I draw from these facts? That interpretations of the elem that are unique to ensis may be a bit fanciful, even more so than sppeculations about Turkmen designs in general.

Regards, Yon

Posted by Steve Price on 09-19-2002 09:42 AM:

Hi Yon,

The elem on most ensis is different than the elems on most other Turkmen stuff, which is why I mentioned it in a short list of things that haven't come up.

But I agree with your statement that interpretations of the ensi elem are not supported by any evidence and are, as nearly as you and I can tell, entirely speculative.


Steve Price

Posted by Marvin Amstey on 09-19-2002 01:19 PM:

I don't know about that, Steve. There are plenty of Yomud chuvals with serrated leaf designs in their elems that are also seen on engsis.

Posted by Steve Price on 09-19-2002 01:46 PM:

Hi Marvin,

It's true that many Yomud ensis have elems with motifs similar to those in the few Yomud juvals with decorated elems. But this isn't the case with most ensi elems, and even in the Yomud ensis where it is the case, the background color of the elem is usually different than that of the field while the elem in most (all?) Yomud juvals is the color of the main field whether it is decorated or not.

I don't know what, if anything, to make of ensi elems, by the way.


Steve Price