SYMBOLS TO DECIPHER

If the comb as an object carries symbols, its décor is not gratuitous; universal occurrences, such as that of the bird (see our current exhibition) or the deer, leave many questions unanswered.

From the design to the sign, there is only one small step.

The dot-and-circle motif is one of the oldest and most widely used in history. Its significance varies: it may symbolize the male and female principles, (the point seen as an axis section and the circle as a womb), or as God's eye, or a figure of the sun.

Very old too, the swastika is an Indo-European symbol meaning good fortune (photo 2 - photo 3). In the 1900s, it was used with a certain frequency on European combs. 

On different pieces we can find the yin/yang sign, the Chinese ideogram of happiness and longevity, the Indian boteh, the fleur de lys or the Western Greek. The verses of the Koran or the Torah, even a love poem in Persian can be the sole décor. One has to go further than a simple glance to truly grasp the object. It requires looking instead of seeing, as well as a pretty good knowledge of the cultural history of peoples. 

Hair ornaments are leading us into almost all areas of culture: art, of course, but also history, geography, philosophy, religion ...

For example, it would be interesting to compare two African ethnic groups like the Akan and the Senufo through the symbols on their combs. 

Bat, fish and shellfish frequently feature on Chinese ornaments, as well as the dragon and the phoenix. Idem for the tortoise and the crane in Japan. These could also be an interesting topic of study.

Beyond their appeal, head ornaments send many messages.

The horizon is wide open: almost nothing has been written on this subject.

Images: 
The dot-and-circle motif
Swastika. USA, 1900
Swastika. USA, 1900
Fleur de Lys, USA, 1910-1920
Western Greek. USA, circa 1910
Persian poem. Iran, mid. 20th c.
Female figure, symbol of fertility. Akan, Ghana
Female figure, symbol of fertlilty. Senufo, Ivory Coast
Bat. China, late 19th c.
Carp, symbol of plenty. China, Qing dynasty
The crab, link between earth and sky. China, late Qing dynasty.
Phoenix, symbol of the Empress. China, Qing dynasty
The dragon, symbol of power. China, late Qing dynasty
The tortoise and the crane, symbols of longevity. Japan, late Meiji era.