How the Pame potters ritualize clay manufacture, which is directly linked to the lunar phases

16/04/2021

For the potters of Cuesta Blanca, in San Luis Potosí, the manufacture of clay pots and comales is a rite, in which the presence of the moon/nmauu'/ragui', the "Devil's Back"/caing bi xiñ'ing (the earth) and fire/nkyue is not a mere coincidence; all these symbols are considered as entities of great power that endow the clay with hardness.

Among the women of the Pame locality, pottery has been and is to this day, an activity through which they reaffirm their gender identity and their role in the world, under a destiny imposed by the celestial gods and the underworld.

The production of ceramics among the Pames is directly linked to the lunar phases, for example, in the crescent quarter or "tender moon", the gypsum is ground "to make it softer". In the full moon and "mature or solid moon" (waning quarter) the firewood is collected and the piece is molded. The ritual elaboration is teaching inherited and transmitted from generation to generation.

For the Pame potters, the kitchen is also a sacred space because they establish a parallel between the comal/schie and the moon/nmauu.

According to Pame cosmogony, women are "cold" because they are daughters of the moon and are associated with the earth since their sphere of belonging is the underworld. However, they are "hot" in the sexual sense because of their link with fertility and human gestation, the care of the family, and the administration of the home.

The use of pottery is an element that is part of the conception of "being a woman" among the Pames. The women who ritualize their craft production have passed their reproductive cycle, that is, they are older than 40 years of age. However, granddaughters or daughters have begun to join in this work.

The characteristics that differentiate the pottery of Cuesta Blanca from that of other Pame populations are based on the elaboration techniques (which in the specific case of the potters is a ritual), the almond color of the clay and the specialization of the potters and artisans, the latter being understood as those who do not ritualize their work.

There are different types of pottery: pottery for commercial purposes; pottery for self-consumption, which includes pots, comales, and cajetes for daily use; pottery used by sorcerers or healers in healing rites; and pottery used in agricultural rituals, which are led by the head of the family or his representative (eldest son or healer) to bless the milpa.

All the clay tools are elaborated under the lunar ritual, with the exception of those used in healing. In this case, due to the context of their use, they are still ritualized ceramics.

The elaboration ritual followed by the potters seeks the good fortune of the lunar deity and the authorization of the "Devil's Back", which is the earth as a feminine entity of dual character: good/bad. This rite is a projection of the feminine capacity of gestation, which is why, despite being a heavy work, it is not performed by men.

For the potters who ritualize, their activity is part of a destiny imposed by the celestial gods and the underworld. The moon as a female deity is a symbol that determines their gender and ethnic identity, their participation in social organization, and their activity.

To be a potter means to be a moon; a fertile woman who transcends the limits of her physical materiality to reproduce the cultural patterns she has inherited from the ancients. However, the role of the potter is subordinated to that of a mother and a wife.

By Mexicanist, Source INAH