Art And Culture

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Iranian Symbols

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Iranian SymbolsIllustrated Encyclopedia of Iranian Symbols

The book ‘Illustrated Encyclopedia of Iranian Symbols’ compiled by the semiotician Bahman Namvar-Motlagh and art researcher Manijeh Kangarani was recently unveiled in Tehran.

Namvar-Motlagh said the need to compile a pictorial encyclopedia on the symbols and myths in Iran as a reference work for scholars, researchers, students and enthusiasts, was long-felt, Mehr News Agency reported.

Namvar-Motlagh, 53, is a semiotician, an expert in the study of signs and symbols as elements of communicative behavior. He had the idea of writing the book for a long time and now it has crystallized in the book.

In their preliminary studies, the two compilers collected a total of 100 symbols and myths prevalent in Persian literature and other fields of art.

The current book, which contains 40 of the more influential symbols in Persian history of art, has not simply introduced their etymology but “from the beginning our goal was to investigate them in a chronological sequence and examine their manifestation and expression in different works of art,” Namvar-Motlagh said.

The book begins with a long introduction on the nature of symbols and then surveys the Persian symbols in four categories of literature, myths, religion and art from ancient to contemporary Iran. Each symbol is analyzed in an article of 5 to 10 pages with examples in existing works.

Simorgh (mythical flying creature), Zahhak (mythical evil figure), Sohrab (literary character), earth, sun, raven, wind, water, fire, moon, fish and cedar are among the symbols discussed in the book.

Symbols such as Simorgh, Zahhak and Sohrab have all been mentioned in the long epic poem of ‘Shahnameh’, literally meaning ‘Book of Kings’, written by the great Persian poet Ferdowsi between 977 and 1010.  The book is replete with legendary kings and heroes and mythical creatures.

As an example, Simorgh is mentioned in Iranian legends and the bird is considered so old that “it has seen the destruction of the world three times over.” The Simorgh learned so much by living so long that it is thought to possess the knowledge of all the ages. In one legend, the Simorgh was said to live 1,700 years before plunging itself into flames.

The most prestigious award in Iranian cinema, given to the winners at Fajr Film Festival, is named after the mythical bird as Crystal Simorgh.

The 325-page book is published by Shahr Publication Institute and is available in the market.