Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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-   -   Mandau with some unusual motifs (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=14272)

VVV 11th September 2011 11:06 AM

Mandau with some unusual motifs
 
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It's been a bit slow with the Borneo weapons so here is a mandau with a couple of unusual motifs to discuss for those who still are at the forum.

Michael

Atlantia 11th September 2011 04:02 PM

BEAUTIFUL!
Love the blade. I could certainly find room for it in my collection ;)

The little 'adornment' on the blades edge reminds me of those on the spine of Wedung.

Maurice 11th September 2011 06:39 PM

Lovely mandau Michael!

I would say the scabbard and blade are from the Baram river area Sarawak.
The handle is a very nicely carved Iban handle with great expression!

Very nice piece!

Kind Regards,
Maurice

asomotif 12th September 2011 12:03 AM

interesting spine decoration !

VVV 12th September 2011 05:30 AM

Thanks,

What I find unusual, except the richness in the spine decoration, is the
motif on the back of the hilt and the circles on the top of the scabbard.
Has anyone else resembling motifs as a reference?
I agree with Maurice on Baram as the probable origin btw based on the blade.

Michael

Indianajones 12th September 2011 08:19 AM

Hi, to my experience -to answer Michaels question- these 'interlocking circles' atop the scabbard is derived from a Chinese motive which depicts coins (to attract coins; good busines). Also the bit more odd looking interlocking points (which look like a shipsrotorblades) seem to look more derived from Chinese motives than usual.
So, this chinese influence would indeed blend in with the Sarawak/Iban origin ohers have already 'established' for this mandau. And the many inset copper points in the blade near the handle points in the direction of (highland) Murut. So, simply following these leads one comes out at the Baramriver area indeed!

(The Chinese are of bigger influence in Sarawak especially in making silver armlets and other tradeobjects (in exchange for birdsnests, hornbillivory and other junglematerials)).

VVV 12th September 2011 03:36 PM

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Thanks,

I haven't thought about this resemblance before.
Do you think it's the same with the moro symbols, where it's much more often found?

Michael

Maurice 12th September 2011 08:55 PM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by VVV
Has anyone else resembling motifs as a reference?

No, I can't recall that I've seen these kind of decorations before.
I've searched on my computer, but wasn't able to find likewise shapes.
Note: These are more beautifull carved as simple circles. I really like the artistic way the circles on top of the scabbard are "woven" into eachother.
This is why I like dayak art so much. All pieces have similarities, but all are very unique compared with the other one.

Chinese were also settled in other areas as Sarawak, just as Malay people, who settled along the rivers. Ofcourse more of them you'll find at coastal areas, but also in the heart of Borneo they were settled (the Malay mostly to hide when they didn't obey the law and they were searching for them, and the chinese to trade fabrics and other trinkets with mostly the wandering dayak tribes).

I attached an image of a mandau scabbard I have from Central Borneo, with brass chinese plates used as decoration beneath the ratan knots. (I know, a whole different area, but just to show that the chinese influence were found all over Borneo..)

David 12th September 2011 10:13 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by VVV
Thanks,

I haven't thought about this resemblance before.
Do you think it's the same with the moro symbols, where it's much more often found?

Michael

I would be careful assigning the same symbolism here (not that we really know anything more about the meaning of these circles on Moro weapons either). The circle is such a primal and archetypical form that we are bound to see it's use in just about any culture with no really connection to it's use in another. It should also be noted that the circles on this Dayak sheath interlock in a specific and different way than the Moro rings do. I feel fairly certain that the number of rings must hold some significance. Do all these have six rings when seen on Moro weapons? The rings on the Dayak sheath appear to wrap around and continue on the other side. How many rings are present there?

VVV 13th September 2011 05:10 AM

Yes Maurice, I remember that mandau. I have also had a mandau with chinese plates like yours
(but not as nice). Chinese beads and urns are very popular too among dayaks, all over the island.

David, the rings don't continue on the other side/half of the scabbard.
As a rule the back side is always unadorned on mandau scabbards.
On the Moro rings I have another kris with rings like that and it has 8 of them.
The reason I was curious on it was because the dayaks of Sarawak/Sabah
had a lot of contacts with Moros so that's maybe why it could have had the same source.

Michael

asomotif 13th September 2011 05:45 AM

Hello Michael,

I have never seen interlocking rings like these on a scabbard either.
Circles can also depict a snakes biting its own tail. or 2 snakes biting each others tail. The snake being a form of naga/aso like creature.

Best regards,
Willem

David 13th September 2011 02:10 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by asomotif
Circles can also depict a snakes biting its own tail. or 2 snakes biting each others tail. The snake being a form of naga/aso like creature.

The ouroboros (snake biting it's own tail) is a symbol that can be found in ancient Greece and Egypt and a concept that has been described (though i have never seen it depicted) in ancient India. It was picked up and used to a great extent as a European alchemical symbol. I do not believe i have ever seen it used in any Asian or SEA symbolism.
MIchael, i still think that the number of rings would be significant to the meaning of the symbol, so it is possible that the 6-ringed symbol on your one kris has a different talismanic purpose than your 8-ringed example.
There may well be a connection between the circles used on these Moro weapons and the ones on this sheath, but we can only speculate, especially with a symbol such as a circle which is so pervasive throughout all cultures.

Maurice 13th September 2011 03:20 PM

I had one.......
 
Michael,

I once had one with circles at the front of the scabbardmouth, I suddenly remembered.

The circles are not that beautifull carved as yours, but they are plain circles next to eachother......

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=7978


Maurice

VVV 14th September 2011 12:38 PM

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Thanks all for your additional comments.
I haven't either seen the snake biting it's own tail in Borneo or Malay symbolism.
On the amount of circles I first suspected that the circle motif was a more potent (= complex or hidden if you follow the principles of seals and magic theories) variation of the seal of Solomon as seen above the rings in my example. My other Moro kris has 8 rings which corresponds to the 8 rings in the seal. The problem is that my "new" kris (the one on the picture enclosed above) only has 6.
Maurice, with your ex-mandau we now have 2 of those. based on the 100's of mandau we have in our networks collections as well as the museum databases that still is quite rare. BUT a collector friend of mine (A) told me that maybe it comes from other utensils like the enclosed example from Hose & McDougall Vol 1, p. 229? Unfortunately there is no explanation to it and in the other books of Borneo motifs, like A.R. Hein, I don't find it.

Michael

David 14th September 2011 03:59 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by VVV
On the amount of circles I first suspected that the circle motif was a more potent (= complex or hidden if you follow the principles of seals and magic theories) variation of the seal of Solomon as seen above the rings in my example.

Michael, where do you see the Seal of Solomon in this?

Maurice 14th September 2011 04:25 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by VVV
My other Moro kris has 8 rings which corresponds to the 8 rings in the seal. The problem is that my "new" kris (the one on the picture enclosed above) only has 6.

Maurice, with your ex-mandau we now have 2 of those. based on the 100's of mandau we have in our networks collections as well as the museum databases that still is quite rare. BUT a collector friend of mine (A) told me that maybe it comes from other utensils like the enclosed example from Hose & McDougall Vol 1, p. 229?


Hi Michael,

I don't know about anything about the rings on morokris blades, but in the Borneo part of Juynboll there's a sulu kris with 7 rings in the blade.... (so now we have 6, 7 and 8 rings in appearance.)

Indeed, very rare. Though I think you're rings on the scabbardmouth looks exactly like the motif from Hose & McDougall. Absolutely stunning!
I feel allready sorry for myself I traded mine at that time, though the rings were not that attractively carved as the one that you showed here. :-(

Maurice

Jim McDougall 14th September 2011 06:42 PM

Hi Michael,
Definitely has been slow around here, so thank you for posting this fascinating topic to stir some activity. While these weapons are far from my field of study, I am very much intrigued by symbolism. As David has well noted, it is extremely difficult to presume meanings of similar, if not identical, geometric shapes seeming to be symbolic in various contexts and cultures. We can only speculate unless specifically documented instances are found, which gratefully sometimes they are.

In the case of the markings on the Moro keris (post #7) I have seen the interesting square with looped corners before, in fact it seems recently while researching Mamluk material. If memory serves I have seen similar among groupings of 'magical' markings, mostly along with Kabbalistic devices and symbols found on talismanic blades (typically 17th-18th c.). Along with the concept mentioned by David, the 'Ouroboros' or snake eating own tail, this is a symbol of rebirth, and the earliest example known was Cleopatra's. It was as noted, entered into the alchemic lexicon, and many of these symbols and allegories became considered talismanic in varying degree. Alchemy and Kabbalistic symbolism became somewhat amalgamated in European culture, especially in Spain with its diverse religious cultures,particularly that of Islam.

This looped square may have some association with the 'eternal knot' which occurs in the art and symbolism of many cultural spheres, including in medeival Spain, Mamluk items and in India on items such as mourning rings and others.

It would seem most of the collective symbolism on this mandau is most likely to pertain to talismanic devices and probably using symbolism from Chinese and Islamic sources. The linked circles probably pertain to numeric qualification, as these are very much observed in tribal cultures of Asia as I have understood. I thought maybe there might be some celestial link as often observed in India and Africa to lunar phases, but these links seem more to represent number or simply linear motif than varying phases.

Im afraid these thoughts dont add much in explanation, but I add them here just for discussion and other observations.

All the best,
Jim

VVV 14th September 2011 06:48 PM

Thanks Maurice,
So probably the rings aren't connected to a fixed number.

David, I don't have my reference books around me now but somewhere I read that the double square star is a variation within the family of supposed seals of Solomon (the other ones are the pentacle and the hexagram, aka Star or Shield of David). As you probably know, no one really knows what the mythic seal of Solomon really looked like.
Cato calls it the ring of Solomon but I haven't seen that anywhere else.
Anyway it's not to be mixed up with the chaos star, which is also an eight-pointed star that is sometimes used as a "pentacle" in "modern ritual magic".

Michael

asomotif 14th September 2011 06:54 PM

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two dragons / from : Hornbill and Dragon.

VVV 14th September 2011 07:04 PM

Willem posted later too
 
Thanks Jim too,

Your message first appeared after I finished my post.
When you say kabbalistic, do you mean European blades used for (non-Jewish) ritual magic? Like the Western Kabbala (Eliphas LÚvi etc.?).
The double square star is also a less magic symbol in Islam, Rub el Hizb.
But in the Moro case I don't think it has anything to do with that non-talismanic meaning.
The Mamluk material sounds very interesting, do you have any reference pictures?
On the roots I don't think that India should be ruled out. Both the first wave of Hindu religious practices as well as the Sufi missionaries of Islam came from India.

Michael

PS Thanks to Willem too who also posted when I was writing. Now I have to check out...

Jim McDougall 14th September 2011 07:45 PM

Michael thank you for the response. By Kabbalistic I mean generally the symbols which are often included in 'magic' or 'occult' references in European context of blades termed 'talismanic'. With symbols in varying context, it seems in many cases alchemically associated symbols became interpolated with both magical symbols as well as in many cases Kabbalistic sigils. It seems that Christian symbolism and allegory also became entwined in much of the esoterica, and as with many aspects of theology, those of various religions also were adopted with varying interpretation in degree.

It seems in general, the term 'magic' as applied with talismanic blades was intended much as superstition and folk religion in many tribal cultures, basically good luck or protection for the user of the weapon. In many military weapons there were subtle devices applied, and the 'running wolf' became an element of this feature which became known as 'Passau Art'.
This marking, much as the case of many European markings, originally intended to indicate quality on blades, became interpreted by native cultures to signify power or magical power. In earlier times, Europeans also relied greatly on such superstitious beliefs in many cases.

I think that the markings on the Moro keris are likely derived from certain Islamic or possibly Spanish symbols though the Chinese influences are certainly as likely. With the mandau, much of the decorative linear seems motif, but I dont think the instances with the holes has ever been resolved.
We know that early Islamic swords (many of them Mamluk) had gold filled holes in the blade, sometimes one to up to seven. These were believed to bring good fortune to the swordsman. This practice was known to be applied in certain cases in India, and in North Africa. There were once suggestions that these may have been 'tally' measures, to record 'victories', but that idea has been discounted as far as I have known. I believe Cato noted doubts on this as well.
With the lines on the back of the blade, it seems many years ago researching a dha from Laos with similar chop lines on blade back, I was told by a lady professor who had written on the Hmong tribes that elders of the tribe told her these were a kind of tribal identifier. Again, this goes to the importance of number in tribal groups where oral tradition prevails, and numbers are a kind of universal device for record and communication.

I dont have any reference yet on the Mamluk aspect, but still looking . I agree with India as a quite likely source. The diversity of trade networks truly presents a conundrum, but fascinating study!!

All the best,
Jim

David 14th September 2011 10:47 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by VVV
David, I don't have my reference books around me now but somewhere I read that the double square star is a variation within the family of supposed seals of Solomon (the other ones are the pentacle and the hexagram, aka Star or Shield of David). As you probably know, no one really knows what the mythic seal of Solomon really looked like.
Cato calls it the ring of Solomon but I haven't seen that anywhere else.
Anyway it's not to be mixed up with the chaos star, which is also an eight-pointed star that is sometimes used as a "pentacle" in "modern ritual magic".

I think you might be confusing the "Seal of Solomon" (which as you correctly noted, no one truly knows which symbol was used) with the "Keys of Solomon", which are sigils meant for the calling and controlling of demons. These sigil keys actually have nothing to do with the historic Solomon, first turning up sometime in the 14th century and followed up later in the 17th century with the "Lesser Key of Solomon". I have never seen any that look exactly like your Moro symbols in amongst the Keys. And when summoning demons it is best to be exact about such things so i doubt that this symbol relates to any of these "Solomomic" symbols. I am not sure why Cato makes the connection to Solomon at all. The "Ring of Solomon" in the traditional sense refers to the legendary signet ring on which the seal was held. As you have mentioned there is a bit of a split camp on whether this seal held the symbol of a Hexagram (most popular) or a Pentagram, but i have never seen or heard of an eight-pointed star being used as Solomon's Seal. :shrug:
Even though these rings on the Moro swords do not hold to a fixed number i would not count out the significance of the number in each example. It is all together possible that each one of these groupings hold an individual talismanic meaning based on the number of rings.

Jim McDougall 15th September 2011 12:14 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by David
I think you might be confusing the "Seal of Solomon" (which as you correctly noted, no one truly knows which symbol was used) with the "Keys of Solomon", which are sigils meant for the calling and controlling of demons. These sigil keys actually have nothing to do with the historic Solomon, first turning up sometime in the 14th century and followed up later in the 17th century with the "Lesser Key of Solomon". I have never seen any that look exactly like your Moro symbols in amongst the Keys. And when summoning demons it is best to be exact about such things so i doubt that this symbol relates to any of these "Solomomic" symbols. I am not sure why Cato makes the connection to Solomon at all. The "Ring of Solomon" in the traditional sense refers to the legendary signet ring on which the seal was held. As you have mentioned there is a bit of a split camp on whether this seal held the symbol of a Hexagram (most popular) or a Pentagram, but i have never seen or heard of an eight-pointed star being used as Solomon's Seal. :shrug:
Even though these rings on the Moro swords do not hold to a fixed number i would not count out the significance of the number in each example. It is all together possible that each one of these groupings hold an individual talismanic meaning based on the number of rings.



David, thank you so much for this excellent clarification! I had mentioned in my earlier post I thought I had seen this squared device among either magical sigils or perhaps among some material including Mamluk artwork and Islamic arms. In the carnage here after digging out tons of notes, I found and undated reference with this figure (from the Moro keris post #7) and it notes from 'Cato' as 'Solomons Ring'. Clearly his reference is miscaptioned, but it does note this device does appear on Moro weapons.
As you well note there is a great deal of misinterpretation and confusion concerning magical devices; cabbalistic sigils; alchemical symbols and various religiously based symbols and allegories. I think is largely why attention to these kinds of markings is typically avoided in arms literature, unfortunately inadvertantly often adding to the dilemma.

All best regards,
Jim

VVV 15th September 2011 03:05 AM

Thanks Jim and David for your input.
In this case I doubt that we can use European demonological sources, like the Keys of Solomon or the later Goetia, as David referred to. Instead I think we should focus on either universal Islamic sources (like Jim suggested with the Mamluks) or maybe Indian or Malay sources if we can't find it in Moro sources. I don't have the reference book around at the moment where I once found it as related to the talismanic signs attributed to Solomon (probably it was in one of Westermarck's books).
However, when googling I found this page that maybe gives some explanations why Cato thought it was the "Ring of Solomon" (compare "Sisinga Solaiman" in Cato with Sibniyyah Sulayman)?

http://islamic-arts.org/2011/the-eight-point-star/

Michael


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