Symbols of a Culture

The symbols woven into Oaxacan clothing and accessories aren't just for decoration. Each symbol represents some part of the Zapotec and Mixtec culture.

Most indigenous cultures have a deep connection to nature, so the symbols repeat from community to community, and share many similarities with ancient Incan and Mayan symbols. These are so beautiful and unique and I find it so fascinating that this is passed on from generation to generation. 

zapotec-diamond-oaxacan-pattern

Zapotec Diamond- 

The four points of this symbol represent the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. The symmetry of the diamond signifies a pyramid reflected vertically, implying the reality we see in a mirror reflects what lies within us.

 

oaxacan-pattern-lightning

Lightning: 

Cocijo was the ancient Zapotec god of lightning and rain, represented here with a zig zag pattern.

 

oaxacan-pattern-agave

Agave- 

Here we have a representation of the agave plant, an integral part of life in the Central Valley of Oaxaca.

The plant produces a sweet nectar that can be enjoyed as-is, or fermented into the smokey alcohol called mezcal. The shape of the plant is simplified here in woven form, with the central point representing the agave flower.

 

oaxacan pattern mitla

Mitla- Which is another small beautiful indigenous town in Oaxaca where many artisans produce their best work. Some of the patterns are preservations of ancient religious mythologies, like this Mitla pattern, named after the Zapotec religious center.


The geometric spirals represent the life cycle; each step is a stage of life: birth, youth, adulthood and finally death.

gods-eye-pattern-oaxacan

God's Eye- Known as the ‘Ojo de Dios,' this symbol varies from weaver to weaver in its execution, but never straying from the symbolic power of seeing and understanding the unseen.

 

oaxacan pattern butterfly

Butterfly- 

Commonly found on ruins in Central Mexico, there is some evidence that the ancient Zapotec worshipped a butterfly god.

The design represents the wings, body, and antennae of a butterfly.