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Old 14th September 2011, 06:42 PM   #17
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,694

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,
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