|The Sacred Crossroad|
The primary motif in Central Asian Yurt Art
The cross is a universal symbol that far pre-dates Christianity. The Kyrgyz cross is one whose sides are all equal. This cross symbolizes the four corners of the universe—the axis mundi of a mythology dating from 3,000 BC in Central Asia. The nomads of Kyrgyzstan were a shamanistic culture originally. They were later influenced by Islamic religion, but even as Muslims, they had no Imams or mosques. Because they were nomadic, they could not sustain a religion that required them to stay in one place to worship. Their form of Islam was Sufi, the belief that god resides within each person and can be accessed at one’s center through prayer and meditation.
The Kyrgyz cross represents the belief that the god within you travels with you to the four corners of the universe. At the center of the Kyrgyz cross is a form which symbolizes that spirit of God, which the nomad will meditate on and will call upon when required to make a decision.
The crossroad most obviously represents a choice of direction to the traveler. It also represents other choices in life, choices that require wisdom and guidance. The individual alone may not be powerful enough to make these decisions, and so requires the full power of his culture, ancestors, and spirit-guides. Symbols such as vines, trees, birds and animals are ancient motifs embroidered in and around the Cross on Tush Kyiz to remind the people of how their lives are bound to their culture and to the spirit world.
The art of the Tush Kyiz had a narrative importance to instruct the nomads of Central Asia, just as stained glass windows in cathedrals instructed the illiterate in medieval Europe. The pictures and symbols would remind them to maintain their cultural heritage and to strengthen personal character. Interestingly, the most common motif—in both Tush Kyiz embroideries and cathedral stained glass—is the cross.
The nomads of Central Asia also believed that every crossroad held its own spirit. Paleolithic hunters believed each crossroad was a cosmic center where spirits of both animals and humans travel between the spirit worlds of death and life. Nomads might place sweets wrapped in red cloth at crossroads to stop evil spirits.
Nomads had a faith in the power of decoration to tame the gods and thus control their destiny.
What is the ancient derivation of the Cross? The tree of life