Today we are going to set off on a journey around the universe of ornaments provided by ArtMess team. The main question is whether the Croatian and Ukrainian folk rugs can be interconnected? If it is so, then in what way? Why do we assume that peoples of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and the Ukrainians have a lot in common?  

The photo of this rug was taken by our team this year during our visit in the village Cilipi (Čilipi), located near the town of Dubrovnik in the museum named: Konavle County Museum. The guide explained to us that the fragment that we see is one of the few exhibits that has not been decoded yet by Croatian researchers. In addition to that, the explorers have no clue what the genuine implication of the rug is.

Cilipi, Croatia, Konavle County Museum. Folk carpet, 20th century. Photograph: provided by editorial office

We made a rigorous analysis of this rug, paying a special attention to every single ornament as a sacred sign. But before we start our fascinating journey we want you to be inspired and fully immersed into the topic. Here are some amusing samples of the Ukrainian folk culture, including carpet weaving. That will help you to draw parallels on your own.

Folk carpet weaving of Ukraine: Podillya region , 20th century. Photograph: 

The rug, 1930s Hutsul region (Hutsulshchyna), Ukraine



Hand-crafted weaving 

203 х 116 cm

The National Museum of Hutsulshchyna & Pokuttya Folk Art named after Yosaphat Kobrynsky,  Kolomyia


We hope that you are inspired and engaged now. Let’s take a closer look at every symbol and finally try to outline the entire meaning of the Croatian rug.


A fragment of the Croatian rug

Fragment of a rug, crafted in Podillya region 

Trypillian logographer that means “connection, togetherness, unity”

An ornamental pattern called “meander” from the Croatian rug 

Have the Greeks put their hands on the meander? 

You must have seen this symbol on ancient Greek amphorae. 

Vase, State Antique Collection, Munich

However there is one detail for you to notice, the meander dates back to the time of the Mizyn encampment. That settlement was in the village of Mizyn, the Chernihiv district (Northern Ukraine), in the late Paleolithic era.  It is approximately 18 thousand years BC. In 1907 some residential buildings and objects made of mammoth tusks were found on this particular place, including sculptures, female statuettes, bracelets, figures of animals and birds, decorated with ornaments. The meander and swastika patterns were used as the embellishment. 

We are looking at the images  of artifacts. 

Mizyn archeological site (Mizynska stoianka),  The Upper Paleolithic period. Bracelets made of mammoth embroidered with a meander

Scientists believe that the bracelets were made of mammoth fangs. The ornaments are carved and decorated with red ochre (a substance that is obtained from the earth, it has a yellow-orange hue).

Meander and Trypillia


Moving ahead in our captivating journey into the sacred world of signs and history, the meander appears in the Trypillia culture, which is located not far from the Mizyn archeological site mentioned above.

Trypillya culture, also called Cucuteni-Trypillya, dating to 5000-4000 BCE. It had a distinctive written language, certain signs that denote the natural phenomena elements of the domestic life and surrounding, the beliefs of the people. Nowadays these signs are called logographers.

Artifacts dated the period of Trypillya culture have been found in 15 districts in Ukraine. Among the large settlements researchers identify the proto-cities: Trypillya (a village located near the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv), Myropillya village, Volodymyrivka, Kut, Biliy Kamin, Dobrovody and many others. It is believed that the culture inhabited the territory from the Dnieper river, to the Carpathians, from Polissya to the  Black Sea coast. And then it reaches the countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Balkan Peninsula.

But we are little bit distracted from the main subject of our journey. Let’s go back to the symbolic meaning of the meander. 

In Trypillia writing, it symbolizes the «connection, unity» There is also a semantically similar sign – “spiral”.

 The spiral of time (ornament) 

Both the meander and the spiral symbolize the endless movement, the cycle of life and death. It is a symbol of the Universe. 

If we dig into the history, we will find out that the meander, the labyrinth, and the spiral embody the ancient image of a snake or a grass snake. Ukrainians believed that the grass snake protects the family and the house. Our people were convinced  that this animal symbolizes goodness. Therefore, the snakes could often live under the threshold of the house or under the pich (stove). Furthermore it is believed that the grass snakes are empowered to protect the  hearth and home. Concerning the forgoing information it is not a surprise that people fed  them and never chase away. 

In addition, the  grass snake is also associated with the archetype of water and fertility. In Slavic mythology, this snake is the son of Water and the Moon, a sacred animal. There was also a belief that snakes help farmers (and Ukrainians are primarily farmers), just as birds have their warmer clime, so called earthy heaven, where they pass the winter.

In general, a meander is a combination of the archetype of water and earth. Belief in the eternity of human existence. 

Are you ready to move further ? 

Lozenges (or Rhombuses) 

A fragment of the Croatian rug

Fragments of a rug, crafted in Podillya region 

Trypillya logographer that has the following meaning: «To save, to preserve”.

Any find where there is an exuberance of geometric sings can undoubtedly be classified as the oldest. The rhombus or lozenge is also an archaic ornament that symbolizes the fertility of the land and the procreation. In addition it is believed that it combines masculine and feminine principles. The old Ukrainian folks has a belief that the three corners of the rhombus are held by a woman, and only the fourth is held by a man who completes the whole and creates a harmony.  

A fragment of the Croatian rug

Fragment from the Ukrainian national shirt, vyshyvanka (embroidered shirts) 

 Traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt. 

A rhombus with hooks, like tendrils, is called «zhaba» that is translated as a frog,  it is also an earth sing that symbolizes fertility. Zhaba (frog) was interconnected with the heavenly humidity, that gives life to everything around. Lozenges or rhombuses with hooks are also found in Ukrainian ornamentalism not only embroidered along the contour, but as a completely filled figure. In that case they symbolize the sown field, prosperity and well-being. Usually they were embroidered on wedding shirts as a procreation symbol. 

Even though the rhombus refers to the archetype of the earth, in some cases it also symbol of Spirit and light, because just like a cross it has four lines.

A fragment of the Croatian rug 

A fragment of the Ukrainian rug 

The rhombus with an inner broiding in the form of a dot symbolizes the sown field, which was of great importance to our ancestors, it implies wealth, prosperity and well-being.


A fragment of the Croatian rug 

Fragment from the Ukrainian national shirt, vyshyvanka

Vyshivanka, Rivne region, the beginning of 20th century 

Ornaments called “chevron”, Ukrainian folk art

Trypillia, sign “Tabu”. Tabu can be referred to as something that avoided for either religious or social reasons. 

Trypillya, sing “Mezha”. Mezha is translated as border 


* The meaning of Trypillia logographers is revealed in the book:

«Zori Trypillya» authors Eugene Palamarchuk and Ivan Andrievsky, publishing house «Teza». Vinnytsya.


The open triangles, or so called chevron (the word chevron comes from French language and originally meaning rafter, or that is something V-shaped) symbolize the masculine, spiritual essence (top up) and feminine, material (top down).

A fragment of the Croatian rug 

Rivne region, 20th century, embroidered shirt 

 A fragment of the Croatian rug 

 Trypillia, sign “Tabu” 

The triangle denotes the trinity of the World, so it implies the combination of three powerful elements: water, fire and air.

Also, with the adoption of Christianity, it acquires new connotations on the territory of Ukraine: it symbolizes the Holy Trinity. There is also a version that the triangle depicted regularly has a meaning of the spiritual world, and if it is upside-down it indicates the earth.

 A fragment of the Croatian rug

Trypillya logographer, “Pid horoyu” meaning “Under the mountain”


Isn’t it a surprise that we meet the Trypillia logographer meaning «Under the Mountain” on the carpet of the hillfolk ?

In Ukraine, we also have many similar ornaments on folk clothing, utensils, household items.


From the national Ukrainian embroidered shirt 

Coming closer to Trypillia 

A fragment of the Croatian rug

Trypillya logographer“Perevaha” meaning advantage 

So, now we only have to make an assumptions about the purpose for which the Croatian rug was created, and what is the whole meaning of all the symbols that we have thoroughly examined and deciphered above.


What is primarily clear, it is that first and foremost appear the archetype of earth, water, mountains and fire. This is foreseeable, after all, the carpet comes from the former Republic of Dubrovnik, the region where both the sea and the mountains can be found. But most of the symbols from this carpet have their origins in the Trypillia culture (5000-4000 BCE), which once again proves two things:

  • -Trypillia in Ukraine from the Dnieper river “stretched” far to Eastern and South-Eastern Europe; 
  • – The Ukrainian people have got a lot of similarities with European due to our origins, in particular there is a close connection with the EU countries.

After the thorough and neat analysis of each ornament separately and the meaning of the rug as a whole, we can conclude that it served first of all to protect the Ukrainian Dynasty, the family, well-being and prosperity. It had a protective function and implemented the basic meanings such as: faith in the Spiritual and the Earthly, in the eternity of life, the cycle of life and death, a strong connection between the Family and the ancestors.

I hope that you enjoyed our our trip to the world of the sacred meanings of the ornaments and you found out some information that you have never heard before. But it is not our final destination, so add ArtMess to your bookmarks and stay tuned. 

The author of the text (folklorist, researcher of modern art): Anna Lyudnova.

Translation: Anhelina Lysunets. 

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