Otel & Riya's Page

Question:

What is that squiggly little thing on the left-hand side of Otel's heraldry?

Answer:

That "squiggly little thing" is an stylized development of Otel's tamga, which looks like this:  

Simply put, a tamga (or "tamgha") is a mark indicating a reference to a person, family, country, etc, not unlike a signature, stamp or wax seal. These devices were (and still are) commonly used amongst those nomadic cultures who inhabited the eurasian steppe such as the Scythians, Kipchaks and Mongols. Adjacent cultures, such as the Rus and the Hungarians have sometimes borrowed the concept as well. In these nomadic cultures and their progeny, the tamga served similar functions as did signatures or signets in European cultures.

The origin of these marks were as livestock brands. As many pastoral cultures count a family's wealth by the size of their herd, being able to determine ownership clearly was of critical importance, especially when herds were mixed. The tamga was a simple and efficient way of expressing ownership of livestock, but was used for other items such as clothing and tools. As families and clans became more organized, tamga began to be used to represent nations as well.

In addition to being used as a mark of ownership or a signature, tamga were also used as a basis for decorate paterns as well. Mirrored, repeated and arrayed, enhanced with botanic or geometric themes, these tamga patterns found their way into clothing, carpets and other domestic items. If you look closely, you will see that the floral design on the left hand side of this page is such an interpretation of Otel's tamga.

Tamga are still being used to this day. Many of those who continue to follow the nomadic traditions of the eurasian steppe still utilize tamgas for their traditional purposes of animal branding. The national flag of Kazakhstan has a distinctive tamga-looking design on its' hoist. The national flags of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Mongolia and Turkmenistan contain abstract designs with tamga-like elements, as well.

You can find some more info (and sources) on tamga from the following pages:
The Tamga
Tamgas of the Middle Age Alans
The Tamgha
Wikipedia's article on Tamgas


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