From ancient times, fishers in the Curonian Lagoon fished from wooden boats called Kurenkahns because of their fishing method and used nets. These ships were used mainly for fishing.
Kurenkahns are flat bottom boats which were used even by Vikings for travelling around shallow bay or rivers. These boats have no keels but latteral centreboards raising which the boat can travel by completely shallow water.
Mast of Kurenkahn is often decorated by "crown", i.e. Curonian Pennant made of wooden table and coloured. Local fishermen named them by different names at every shore: flag (flagge), coat of arms (wappen, kurenwimpel), colours (farben), "vėlukai". These unique decorations, Curonian Pennants, were known long time ago, even at times of vikings, but they spread widely across all seacross after new law issued in 1844 which controlled fishering in the Curonian Lagoon. Every village had to catch fish only in own fishing areas.
In these times, there were 133 villages around the Curonian Lagoon and in order to control them contemporary inspector Ernst Vilhelm Berbomcreated modest rectangular signs with geometric drawing of two different colours. Black and white colours were dedicated to the west shore (for villages of the Curonian Lagoon, Klaipėda), yellow and blue – to the south shore (to locality of Semba, recent Russia, Kaliningrad Area), and red and white – to the eastern continental shore (to villages of Kintai, Ventė, Mingė and so on).
That Sign was drawn on the tin plates, which the fishermen had to raise on the ship mast. Fishermen spending much time on the sea started to decorate these tin plates eventually giving them forms of real art creations, which are appropriate to this region of Curonian Lagoon. Thus, Curonian Pennant of Kurenkahn became a hardly decoded symbol code reflecting desires and everyday life of fisherman. Later Curonian Pennants were cut from 10 mm width split tables of cleft alder, ash, linden or aspen. To soften wood of these plates the fishermen ret them in leaky boat. They cut Curonian Pennants by knife and the holes were burn by metal bar, as in their Kurenkahns the fishermen had put bonfires used to prepare hot food. After finishing cutting they decorated their Curonian Pennants by glass chip.
Classical ornamental Big Curonian Pennant is divided into several parts:
1. Frontal – windward part often depicted symbols of elements: moon, sun (circle, stars), arrows, feathers (wind symbols, air element). On top of windward part the house is often depicted, and as symbol of comfort, fullness and wealth – letter initials of ship owner.
2. In highest part of Curonian Pennants – it was a custom to depict religious symbols on the top of Curonian Pennants, as it was believed being able to protect fisherman and his relatives from disasters which could occur in seas and on land. The top of Curonian Pennant was often decorated by the cross, a symbol of Christian belief, a symbol of man, or a circle, a sign of woman, wife. Animals were depicted too, e.g., clover - symbol of happiness and success, castle, ship and so on.
3. Downwind Curonian Pennant part was divided into 3 - 4 or more parts depending on how the fisherman wanted to tell about himself. This part of Curonian Pennant was significant with special splendor and plenty of engraving. Here various symbols could be depicted (houses, churches, people, animals, various tools and things, even separate inscriptions, elements of architecture) and everything what the fisherman left on the shore and what he dreamed about. From symbolism presented behind the axis of Curonian Pennant it was possible to know about fisherman's family. A cross in the middle of circle meant that the fisherman was married and various underlines and lines exposed number of children. There are opinions that perforated holes number showed how many helpers and workers the fisherman had. Thick lower row of narrow plates represented success, houses, church, mills - faith, sweeps, ships, horses – symbols of wealth, family, and harmony.
So, now knowing something from history we can make a conclusion that Curonian Pennants are interesting seacoast country folk ware helping to understand hard but interesting life of fishermen better, to feel their creativity, love of nature beauty. And if all symbolic interpretations would appear as unfair, it will not belittle any artistic, cultural and historical value of Curonian Pennants of Curonian Lagoon.