Ancestral Wisdom – Ceramics of Chazuta

Symbols – Ceramics of Chazuta

Stepped symbol – is a recurring figure in the pottery of Chazuta,  it is a symbol of power that generates complex complementary forms: the simple, the double, and the quadruple step-by-step symbol. The Chacana, religious symbol points out the four directions of the world, the four “suyos” or to the four winds. It can also represent the three levels of existence ‘Hana Pacha’ the upper world inhabited by the superior gods and angels, ´Kay Pacha,’  the world of our everyday existence and ‘Urin Pacha’ the underworld inhabited by spirits of the dead, the ancestors. The hole through the centre or the cross is the Axis by means of which the shaman transits the cosmic vault to the other levels.
Step and Wave symbol – The relationship between the stepped symbol and the wave or spiral is one of the most recurring symbols in the iconography of all regions, including the north eastern Andes, also in the pottery of Chachapoyas.  Experts believe that the symbols represent a close relationship between life and death: ‘life’ symbolised by the steps and ‘death’ by the subsequent spiral which is developing inward.
Mother concept – which includes that of origin, but at the same time, that of protection. It is the same as the concept of “mama”, so universal during the period of the Tahuantinsuyo, that was certainly an old concept. The mother of all waters is the “mamacocha”, as well as the “mamapacha” is the mother of the earth, which provides us products that enable life.
These concepts are expressed in the iconography of Chazuta in a rather peculiar way, but the more important is that it is fully aware in the spirit that inspires the artisans to translate their designs on pottery. Flowers and stars are the most commonly used features in pottery. In both cases, a larger and more complex flower or star is identified as a “mother”, emphasizing its importance and hierarchy on the others.
The “mother” is the widest line and the laterals are the children. In the jargon of the ceramicists, it is the mama with its wawas, and the activity to paint them is called “wawacheo”. This feature on the ceramic seems to me very interesting, lines are clearly identified with some features, like the river, the hill or the “ropes” (lianas in the forest) and snakes. In these cases, they are conceived as living beings, with reproductive capacity, because “everything has a mother”. This item may refer us also to two additional categories: phenomenon and essence; or substance and form; the inner world and its outer form.
Flower symbol – Flowers are one of the most prominent characters of Chazuta’s ceramics.  Chazuta is a community in which traditional medicine is deeply rooted and who used as potent hallucinogen known as Ayahuasca (rope of the dead). Therefore, from this perspective, the use of flowers in a traditional way could contribute to understanding this relationship. Most of all, considering that in the culture of the Ayahuasca, different species of plants are involved, many of which can be identified by their flowers. Among them, perhaps one of the most important is the flower of Toe (Brugmansia arborea), whose medicinal properties are well known, but it is also a plant of sacred meaning which hallucinogenic properties, wisely used for the purpose of health. In the same way, the representation of the flower of Toe (Brugmansia arborea), Chiric Sanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora), Bobinsana (Calliandra angustiflolia), Ajo Sacha (Alliaceum mansoa stendleyi), Ucho Sanango (Bonafousia undulata), magic plants of greatest importance in the culture of the Ayahuasca, must be the most representatives The fact of considering flowers as food for the souls of the dead is also part of a tradition of several Amazonian ethnic groups that comes from the concept that the Hummingbird is a physical expression of souls.

Water (Snake) and fish

Flower of Toe (Brugmansia Arborea)
Snake symbol – wavy lines of black, red or white colours, are common in the decoration of the necks of closed vessels, as cotosinas, suninchas and squared. These lines, according to the information provided by the ceramicists, represent different things: firstly the river, the ‘Yacumama,’ but at the same time, it represents the snake and the lianas or “ropes”. As we know, these three elements can be formally distinct, but may be synonyms in metaphorical terms of myths. The body of the rivers and the meandering water is always identified with snakes. The relationship between snake and water and the water and fertility. In fact, water is the element which fertilizes the soil and is therefore inherent in the fecundating concept of the snake.