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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Making connections: tokens of love and devotion, or, Tie a (yellow) ribbon 'round the...

Looking through some photos from our trip to Syria last year (I was motivated to reminisce after skimming through our just-released Syria and Lebanon guidebook), I came across these ribbons tied to the tomb of an important Islamic figure. If you travel around the Muslim world and visit mosques and shrines, you'll soon start to notice these ribbons tied to the gate that protects the tombs venerated by worshippers. The ribbons are mostly green, which is the colour of Islam, yet, just like in my photo here, you'll see all sorts of colors used, and sometimes you'll even see pieces of headscarves, bandages, and even tissues and toilet paper - whatever people can get their hands on, really. Some believe it's a sign of respect and deference, of devotion and love, and of remembrance. Others leave a ribbon after asking for something, for help, for answers, so they leave a bit of themselves. It seems to be a Shi'a custom, as Sunnis don't believe in shrines, their graves are very simple, they believe in acting as if the deceased person were still alive, so some Sunnis find the act objectionable. One Muslim friend told me the ribbon is a sign of something that comes from within as much as it is a demonstration of an action for others to witness. The photo of the ribbons reminded me of the locks of love we've been seeing all over Europe, and Italy in particular over the past few months, a sign of love and affection. But it also reminded me of a song from the 1970s, which was a huge hit when I was a child, 'Tie a yellow ribbon 'round the ole Oak tree (if you still love me)'. In this case the ribbon was also a token of remembrance and devotion.

2 comments:

jessie said...

What fascinating cultural contexts. I enjoyed reading this!

laradunston said...

Thanks, Jessie. Much appreciated.

I'm sure there's a lot more to explore on the topic. I have a feeling tying ribbons and strings to trees and other things goes back a lot further than the US civil war but that's a start...