Woven textiles have long incorporated color and symbol to tell myths and legends. From the straightforward woven scenes on tapestries to the symbols and patterns woven into textiles, people have captured their myths and stories in hangings, clothing, and funerary cloths.
One hundred and fifty-six miles south of Lima, Peru, the Paracas people used alpaca wool woven on cotton warps beginning around 3000 BC. They produced complex woven textiles embellished with embroidery, braid, and fringe. Some weavings featured the spirits and demons of Paracas mythology. The Paracas people also created brightly colored and geometrically patterned burial cloths. Fortunately, many beautiful textiles were well preserved due to the hot and arid climate of western Peru. Although the Paracas people created intricate and vividly color textiles, woven from threads colored by indigo, plant dye, and cochneal, little is known of their everyday life.
Border from an embroidered mantle, 200 BC – AD 600, Paracas
In the area near Chiapas, Mexico, Mayan weavers pray to saints for skill and grace to weave. Weavers select from hundreds of symbols, used in combination, to tell a mythological drama. In Mayan myth, the Goddess of the Moon taught women to weave sacred designs. The weavers tell the story of their culture through their weaving. Their skill is found on textiles used for rituals, ceremonial practices, and traditional dress.
Diamonds represent the Universe and the path of the sun in its daily movement. The small diamond at the top is the east. The small diamond at the bottom is the west. The large diamond in the center is the sun at noon, resting in the center of its daily journey.
The Earthlord, “saint” of the underworld.
The toad that sings at the mouth of the Earthlord’s mountain cave.
Mayan symbolism from: www.flmnh.edu/maya/maya7.htm