Posted by R. John Howe on 09-21-2002 04:18 PM:

Is “Number” Significant in Engsi Designs?

Dear folks –

A few years ago a dealer, who is also a practicing Sufi, presented a “rug morning” program at the Textile Museum on Balouch rugs in which he specializes.

Apparently, numerology is an important part of Sufi beliefs. He counted devices in Balouch rugs and gave Sufi interpretations of what the various numbers of them signify. As I recall odd numbers were often seen to be important. 7, 13, etc.

This week I received a book on “Turkmen Costume.” Not the Central Asian Turkmen we have talked about mostly in this salon, but some that settled into the entire range of western Turkey. Many of these women’s costumes include “aprons” worn facing front and others facing to the rear. One front apron is described as having 126 buttons sewn on to it (and they are placed precisely in parts of a lattice design), “all serving purely as ornamentation.” This seems to indicate that the number of a device or adornment on a textile may sometimes have no symbolic meaning.

How do we think the notion of “number” of devices applies to the engsi? What is the significance of one arch form at the top or of say, seven? Does the number of “panels” in the field of an engsi matter, be it, four, two or one? Are the numbers of “candlabra-like” devices in the panels of a hatchli design deliberate in some symbolic sense and do they indicate something? Do the numbers of items in any aspect of the design of the engsi have meanings? If so, do we have any notion of what they are?

I’ll ask the Sufi dealer about this at the flea market tomorrow, with a Turkmen rug book or two in hand.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-21-2002 10:02 PM:


Dear folks -

Just to make the basic notion I'm asking about here, concrete, here is a set of headings for parts of a site that talks about numerology, I think more broadly than that of the Sufi tradition.

Gematria Calculator
The divine number "888"
Prime # 17
Prime # 53
Pythagorean Number Groupings - To 100
Yi Ching and Gematria - Example of an avenue of research
Numerology - One system of allocating meaning to the first 10 numbers
Name Value - One system of associating a Gematria number with a name
Gematria by Aliester Crowley Excerpted from The Equinox I volume 5.
Greek Gematria by Aliester Crowley
Gematria 1 English Word Values #1-#104
Gematria 2 English Word Values #105-#270
Gematria 3 English Word Values #270-#435
Gematria 4 English Word Values #436-#621
Gematria 5 English Word Values #622-#820
Gematria 6 English Word Values #821-#1037
Gematria 7 English Word Values #1038-#1308
Gematria 8 English Word Values #1309-#1440
Gematria 9 - #1440-#3402
Gematria 10 - Egyptian Words - number (gematria) value
Gematria 11 - Astrological dial gematria associations

If one examines the Prime #53 in the listing above one gets this:

Prime #53
by Abba Yesai Nasrai, O:N:E: (c)

The prime number 53 contains several words hinting at an enclosed space or condition. If we look at the multiples of this number 53, we find this theme repeated many times. The nature of the multiple partakes of the basic nature of the prime combined with the basic nature of the multiple. For example, the number two means females. When combined with 53 in the multiple 2x53, we get veiled or walled off females, or Nuns in a walled of abbey or nunnery. 4x53 is to enclose, 4 equals to house or enclose with 53-wall. 8x53 is Cheth, the Hebrew name for eight which means wall or fence. 10x53 is Virgin Mary, called the Queen of Heaven. #10 means woman or queen, virgin equaling 53. 14x53 is #14 or social prominence coupled with a exclusionary walling off attitude, #53, yielding snobbery.

53 PRIME-Multiples
53 PRIME Wall, hem, ban, garden, lover, condom (sexual veil).
106 Nun (walled off women)
159 Pagoda.
212 Beard, To enclose, secret chamber.
265 Cavern, crania, architect.
318 Shy (closed off), corpse.
371 Husband (walled off spouse).
424 Cheth (English spelling of Hebrew name for fence), Chateau.
477 Garden of Eden (Cherubim veiled), incubate.
530 Virgin Mary (walled off mother).
583 Concealed of the Concealed (Title of walled off Deity), slumber.
636 Spurn.
689 Disneyworld (encircled by a wall).
742 Snobbish (socially walled off), vestal, Ark of Tremblings (veiled religious artifact).
795 Enlist (enter into), silent, teahouse (with walls).
848 Seduction.
901 Holy Ark (veiled religious artifact).
954 United Order (walled off economy).
1007 Subterfuge (veiled activities), Temple of Amen-Ra.
1060 Tabernacle, prohibitory.
1113 Delicatessen (with walls)
1166 Restrain.
1219 Steamboat(with walls).
1272 -
1378 Telestial Kingdom (walled off kingdom).
1431 Passport (to pass through country walls)
1484 Constraint, consternate.
1537 Southern Egypt (walled off country)
1590 Corpus Christi (walled church/body of Christ)

Now I am not suggesting that these are the Sufi meanings attached to these numbers. They are likely those of an amalgam of numerlogical meanings. But I want to give you some concrete sense of the order of thing I am referring to.


R. John Howe

Posted by Jerry Silverman on 09-21-2002 11:27 PM:

C'mon, John, you just threw in

"689 Disneyworld (encircled by a wall). "

to see if we were paying attention.



Posted by Sue Zimerman on 09-22-2002 12:40 AM:

Dear John,

53=s=Mercury/Virgo, 106=z=Sun/Leo, 212=a=Venus/Taurus, 424=i=Jupiter/Sagitarius, 530=P=Moon(increase)/Cancer, 10=l=Moon(decrease)/cancer

Alister Crowley's Geomancy work has scribal errors. It comes from Mather's Enochian decipherment, which he derived from the watchtowers. The watchtowers of Enochian were supposedly given and then taken away from Adam and returned to Enoch.

Supposedly the original Enochian watchtowers were carpets laid on the sand at the four corners of a desert encampment, etc. Probably the original "magic carpets".

Geomacy symbols are what show up in the windows of old Arabian Astrolabes. Ben Franklin used Geomacy. All of the "winners club" probably do.

East=air, West=water, North=earth, South=fire

As I have said elsewhere I don't go anywhere without knowing who I'm working for. This is the stuff you don't want to mess with. Personally, I feel the same way about the Kabbala and Tarot cards--most especially in times like these. I am pursuing the astrology angle, it's harmless, clean, safe, and works just as well for helping to understanding Engsis. The other stuff will take you right smack dab into the middle of a big evil "winners club" family feud. You'll get squashed like a bug on a windshield. Sue

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 09-22-2002 02:16 AM:

Dear John,

All of that is fascinating, but before going further:

1- What do we know about Sufi influence on Central Asia nomadic tribes?
2- What do we know about Sufi numerology?
3- (This is for Sue) What the hell is a "winners club"? The way you put it, hell sounds as an appropriate word here.


Posted by Steve Price on 09-22-2002 06:07 AM:

Hi Folks,

Just a reminder: this Salon's discussion will close in the next two days. You can add that to the reasons why a detailled description, discussion and critique of various systems of numerology isn't going to get anywhere here.

Anyone who wants some reading material on numerology as applied to rugs should look up Eberhart Herrmann's articles in GHEREH a few years ago.


Steve Price

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-22-2002 08:07 AM:

Dear folks -

These reactions are interesting.

Jerry - Yes I noticed the "Disneyland" reference, but feel that it is just some interpeter's attempt to give us a current example of a sizable instance of "enclosure."

Filiberto - Two things: 1) I'm not suggesting that Sufi numerology was prevalent among the Turkmen, although it is true that the Sufis were evangelical and went about this area too selling their wares; 2) I'm only asking whether number sometimes was important to Turkmen weavers as they decided how many of what to include in their designs. I think what the Sufi dealer might say might give some hints without claiming that the Turkmen were heavily influenced by Sufi nurerology. We do know that the Turkmen religious beliefs were an amalgam of shamanism and those of Islam at least (and the Sufis reside in the Islamic belief spectrum). Some of the tribes might also be exposed to such things as Zoroastrianism which was at one time the dominant religion in Persia.

Sue sounds like she gives some credence to this stuff and is warning us away in some sense. Almost fearful. I don't live in that world.

Steve seems to think, immediately, that it's not something to talk about usefully. A waste of the little time we have left.

Well, I don't know. I, too, was put off by the pretentiousness of the efforts of Hermann in Ghereh, but I found the Sufi's less grandiose suggestions about the significance of number at least interesting.

As Steve says, September 24 will come quickly and perhaps mercifully end whatever ensues here.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 09-22-2002 08:39 AM:

Hi John,

I don't think the subject of numerology in rug symbolism is unworthy of discussion, but I don't think it can lead to anything except a dangling topic in the next 48 hours or so. It's not so much a waste of what little time we have left. It's that we don't have enough time left to do anything with it.

My take on Herrmann's writings on this topic are irrelevant. I mentioned them because I know of no other published source.


Steve Price

Posted by Sue Zimerman on 09-22-2002 12:30 PM:

Dear John,

Yes, mercifully. Ensued, Sue

Posted by R. John Howe on 09-22-2002 10:48 PM:

No Sufi Today

Dear folks -

The Sufi dealer whom I intended to ask about numerology in Turkmen weavings was not at the local flea market today. So I have no report on what he might have suggested.


R. John Howe