Heavenly Frogs in the Art of Bukharian Jewelers

Professional jeweler was a fairly popular choice among Bukharian Jews – there is even such a surname as Zargar, which, in translation from Bukharian and Tajik languages, means “jeweler.” Not all of the adornments that were made by Bukharian jewelers were intended for women of Bukhara, and not all of them reflected their aesthetics, symbolism and semantics; however, jewelry custom made by Bukharian Jews had a unique style that separated their work from the works of other ethnic groups working in Bukhara.

In the Central Asia, the moon motif is primarily used in bridal ensembles. Looking closely at the diadem from Bukhara, the stylized images of three frogs jump to attention (the number Three, significant in many mythological systems represents the ideal model of any dynamic process suggesting the birth, development and decay, visible particularly in the vertical structure of the universe.)

A frog is closely linked to water, particularly to rain. Frogs are considered “lunar animals,” connected with the female symbol of Yin in Chinese philosophy. In Japan, a symbol of the frog is associated with good luck.

According to the Indian mythology, the world is balanced on a giant frog. It is also a symbol of fertility, or Mother Earth. In Mesopotamia, frogs were primarily a symbol of fertility. In Egypt, a goddess with the head of a frog assisted at birth, represented a long life and immortality, and was considered a symbol of prosperity and abundance. A frog was also a symbol of resurrection.

In the Bukharian diadem, a massive frog in the center and two on the sides are combined with bird images (pheasant and snake are interchangeable with frogs). In Iranian mythology, birds were identified with the supreme wisdom, fire and sun. In indo-Iranian mythology birds, particularly waterfowl, accompanied the mother goddess, and were related to the water element. In terms of ritual, an image of two birds symbolized fertility, prosperity, and wealth, and a pair of ducks in the folklore of many nations if a sign of conjugal love.

The bottom pendant of the diadem is a stylized image of a “lunar animal.”

A picture of a tree with birds on its branches was a well-known a symbol of fertility, happiness and well-being.  One of the Avesta hymns mentions the sacred tree, in which the seeds of all plants worldwide are collected. Birds sitting on a tree strip the branches, others collect dead seeds and bring them to heaven, from where they fall down to the ground with the rain and grow into new plants. A tree with birds on its branches has been depicted on the ceremonial headgear of the nobility of Eurasian steppes from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD. The nature of the images on the ceremonial vestment and crown of a Bactrian woman (Tillya-Tepe, VI tomb) portray her to be not just a noble woman, but a ruling queen, goddess of fertility, a role symbolized by the tree of life on her crown. The plot starring the tree of life with the forthcoming animals was especially popular in the early  1st millennium AD – during the era of settlement of the Northern Iranian tribes -- had some impact on the Scythian fine art.

  • 19-3-2009

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