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Old 14th September 2011, 07:45 PM   #21
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,694

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,
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