10 November 2018, 15:16
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The Armenian origin of “Boteh” symbol

“Boteh” (english-botteh, russian-бута, persian- بته‎‎ )  is the well-known almond-shaped pattern, that is sharp in one end and curved on the other, better known in English as Paisley. 

Paisley was used in the countries of Asia Minor, Middle East and the Orient and exists since ancient times. There is no reliable information about when, where and in what conditions it was created. For most of us, it is known as an almond-like pattern in fashion and in everyday clothing. Nowadays, it's a very popular pattern both in Oriental and European countries. For example, the famous Italian brand ETRO used it as its main ornament, as the element of the spread "Boho" style. 

 
I decided to research this mysterious and very recognizable pattern because of its usage in Armenian national costumes and jewelry. Boteh was used a lot in High Hayq, in Vaspurakan, in Cilicia and also in many states of Small Hayq, like Karin, Sebastia, Shatakh, Marash, Halberd, Perry, Alexandropol and Igdir, especially in the 18-19th century embroidery with golden thread on national costumes and aprons.  In Armenian dialect, Boteh is called "badamanakhsh", "nshanakhsh”, but despite its wide usage, there is no close translation or etymology to it. 

According to the costume textbooks and clothing encyclopedias, Boteh is of Indian origin, where it is still widely used on cashmere wool shawls and in "mehndi" body art. According to Indians, the shape of this pattern is one of the symbols of "movement", "development" and " energy". Which is why they use it in the decoration of Indian bride dresses to this date.

In the Sassanian Empire this pattern was used to decorate royal regalia, crowns and court garments, and was embroidered using gold or silver threads (see pic. 6), same as in our national costumes. It was said that Boteh was forbidden to be depicted on the carpets for a very long time: as a sacred symbol, it wasn't allowed to be put under feet.

Only after many years it was widely used on rugs, but left the main component of aristocracy, especially on shawls till as recently as the 18th century.

In 14-16 centuries, cashmere wool shawls that were entirely covered with this pattern, were also widely spread around Europe. In Great Britain soon it became known by the name "Paisley" due to the namesake Scottish city, where in the first half of the 17th century cheap textiles with paisley design were produced. Today it's also a famous pattern for rugs and a decorative element in Asia Minor and Middle Eastern Arts. In the Middle East, Boteh is commonly praised in folklore. According to historians, Boteh and also "Muganian" carpet design come from ancient times of Zoroastrianism and form an expression of the essence of that religion.

Some design scholars believe that the pattern has the silhouette of cypress tree, others see the shape of a feather or pheasant's wing, others compare it with almond, cucumber, fig, pear, palm leaf, fruits and vegetables.  And what about the etymology of the name "Boteh"? There is a big uncertainty. Why "Boteh"? In Zoroastrianism "Boteh" meant "Torch of Zoroastrian", eternal flame, that was lit in Zoroastrian temples.

In Farsi, the word “Boteh” has the meaning of thistles. It is said that when its branches burn like a candle, the fire has the same form as Boteh does, and  the flowers have a unique aroma and drug effect, and from here arises the very special attitude towards Boteh pattern. Though any speculation has its right of existence, it seems too far-fetched for me. Now, let me introduce my own version of its origin.

It appears that among the constellations we also have Boteh pattern in the face of Boötes constellation. In ancient times, in different languages it was always called the same way as it is now. In Europe and especially in Ireland there are extremely interesting artifacts related to Bootes constellations. In particular, there is a huge pile of stones in an Irish Febag village (see pic. 8), which the Irish relate to this constellation. Within the sorting of those stones, European scientists have made a research and found out that the stone on it has the meaning of a thumb and in that way it was called FENAGH “finger”. This stone thumb is nothing more than Bootes constellation.

Here we can take into account Armenian word “Bhut mat” that according to reknown Armenian philologist Hrachya Acharyan is a native Armenian word which comes from old grammatical form “bhut”-thumb.

It is thus clear that the above origins are linked with a common logical pattern and can't be a mere coincidence. To this respect, it is enough to take a look at our thumb for the resemblance to become clear to us; Boota pattern = Boot mat = Bootes constellation.

But what is the true meaning?

 
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There is an old well-known Chinese legend of "The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd".
In old Chinese narrative, Chzhi-Nyuy (in Chinese weaver, spinner) is the goddess of carpet makers and the daughter of Heaven’s Lord Tsyan Di who lived on the east coast of the Silver River and weaved clouds with magic silk. In one of the narratives it mentions that she reminded a silkworm with her delicate «silk» nature (silkworm, шелкопряд ).

 

Weaver Chzhi-Nyuy gets acquainted with young man New-Lan who is a cowherd. They fall in love, get married and from their love two children were born - a girl and a boy. But Heaven's Lord gets angry that ever since his daughter got married, she no longer weaves silk clouds and banishes the cowherd to the opposite side of the Silk River allowing them to meet only once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th moon. From ancient times whether in China or in Japan this day is considered as Lovers' day.

It's clear that all this is related to astronomy. Indeed, Chinese people called Milky Way also a Silk River. Besides this, as we already mentioned, Chzhi-Nyuy was the carpet-makers' goddess and associated with the “Julhak” star Vega, which was the brightest star of Qnar constellation (Lyrae, Лира) and her father was the Heaven's Lord. It hence becomes evident that New-Lan cowherd symbolizes the Bootes constellation (Bootes). However, the interpretation given to the legend in more recent times claims that New-Lan Bootes is not a Bootes constellation with its brightest star Arkturus, but the Eagle constellation with its star Altair that has nothing to do with it.

However Yu-Ken, the author of the book “Myths of Ancient China”, writes "On two sides of the heavenly river reminding white silk ... we can still see two large and bright stars – Bootes and Weaver. Behind the Bootes there are two small stars, son and daughter…"

It’s enough to look attentively at stars and it will become clear that it’s all about Bootes constellation, the biggest star of which Arkturus is also named Bootes because as mentioned, right behind him you can see his son and daughter rather than Altairi (see pic 9).

Let's not forget that we have been moving in the path illuminated by the bright stars of Bootes constellation, and are able to notice things which weren't visible before, we pay attention that in Chinese legend, the Heaven's Lord allows the lovers to meet only on the 7th day of the 7th moon, which coincides with month Mehekan and Astghik day of the ancient Armenian calendar. And here we find another key to open the doors of our treasury of ancient knowledge.

In old Armenian narrations, the Goddess Astghik and God Vahagn were lovers. Like in Chinese narration the weaver swam in Silver river and met the cowherd, also according to the Armenian mythology, Godess Astghik was swimming in Aratsani river that was flowing across the Valley of Mush. Her and Vahagn's love was considered sacred, people thought that when they met, it rained on the earth, and brought joy and blessing with it.  The same is seen in the Chinese legend. The swallows, like messengers, took news from Astghik to God Vahagn, and in the end of the Chinese legend the messengers were also birds.

Parallels clearly refer to the Silk Route, which in ancient times linked China to Armenia. Any myth has at its core a certain amount of rationalism, truth, logic like any plant has a seed. Thus, we want to extract and study this rational part, to see and understand the full meaning of the myth. Surprisingly, this Chinese-Armenian tandem is supported by a similar Sumerian-Akkadian tandem. The latter states that the name of the Caspian Sea originates from the Akkadian word "kaspu" -"silver" (A.Revazian) and here we come to a conclusion that Armenian-Chinese myth's rational piece is their correlation, which later was called the Great Silk Road. The Silver River separated the Weaver and Bootes in the sky, and the Silver Caspian Sea divided silk-producing China from professional carpet makers’ country of Armenia on the earth. Here, in Armenia, the threads imported from China were dyed into red, purple and azure colors, then the luxurious carpets were woven and sold all over the world. This cooperation was so profitable, that myths of love were told about it, and Boteh pattern became a symbol of love, respect and cooperation between Armenia and China. It began to be used in carpet weaving art, and the weaver girls started to use it in embroidery as a symbol of pure love. The time had its destructive influence and the pattern's original meaning was forgotten. But the shining stars still keep reminding us about what had been long forgotten and was taken from us. Now it's time for Boteh to be perceived in its original symbolic meaning. So, take a needle and look how your thumb, forefinger and the needle form the constellation of Bootes together. One question still remains. Why Vega star was chosen as a weaver. Answer - while the Great Silk Road opened and Armenian-Chinese cooperation began, the Vega star was carrying out the role of the Pole Star, and that was 13000 years B. C., which means more than 15000 years ago. While this statement may be perceived as contradicting the current scientific understanding, all these evidences are more than enough to make the scientific community revisit the myths and their correlation from a different angle. Moreover, in light of most recent archeological discoveries in Portasar (Gebekli Tepe) of the ancient Armenian Highland (currently, territory of Turkey) has already puzzled the scientists on the high level of understanding of earth-sky linking architecture of the ancients, previously perceived as coincidental and primitive.

 

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