Pagan Design Elements (Ornamenti)

These days pagan Latvian design elements are most commonly seen as designs in woodwork objects, on jewellery, or as embroidery on traditional folk costumes. The young woman shown on the left is wearing one such traditional folk costume.

On the right is an enlargement of the young woman's headdress. Notice the two rows of zigzags, one row near the bottom, and one in the middle: they are examples of "Mara's Wave". The yellow, bushy pyramid on top is an embellished version of "God's Sign".

On the left we see "God's Sign". This sign represents Dievs. This word originally derived from an old (i.e. Proto-Indo-European) root deiw- meaning 'to shine'. It gave rise to the noun deiwos, the name of a sky god. In Latvian this developed into the word dievs.

When Christian missionaries were attempting to convert the pagan Latvians, they chose the name of the sky God, Dievs, to represent the Christian God. It is still used in this meaning to the presentday. However, in Latvian tradition this symbol originally represented the sky, conceived of as a roof over the earth.

The symbol at the right is called Mara's Wave or Mara's Zigzag. It represents the goddess Mara's domain over all the waters, the rivers, lakes, and seas.

Mara had a number of functions. She was the goddess who was responsible for the land, the waters, and every living thing. In particular, she was the protector of women, especially mothers, and children.

She is strongly associated with childbirth; children are said to enter the world "through the gates of Mara". Mara is also linked with death, and often takes the form of black animals such as ravens or black hens.

Want to see what's on the young woman's sash? More pagan design elements: click here!

For more information on Latvian pagan symbols, please see:

Sky Deities: Symbols for God (Dievs), Sun (Saule), Thunder God (Pērkons), Moon (Mēness), and Morning Star (Auseklis).

Earth and Water Deities: Symbols for Laima, Māra, Ūsiņš, Mārtiņš, Jumis, and Jānis.

Latviešu ornamentu pamatelementi un to nozīme. Prepared by Dr. hab. Irisa Priedīte, from the World Federation of Free Latvians site: (In Latvian)

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This page created and maintained by
A. Steinbergs

Last revised September 19, 2008