Deeper Meanings of Symbols on Native American Pottery

Posted on Sep 24, 2011 in ancient symbols, history, interpretations, parallels


It is not uncommon for letters, pictographs and symbols to have deep hidden meanings—even magical power, for cultures around the world have rich histories and stories connected to symbols, letters and written words. Other countries and cultures too have symbols and writing systems that were multi-dimensional, that is, their writing systems in application could not only be read as words and every day messages or chronicles, but also could convey that meanings that were profound, sacred or even used as divination. 

Baybayin symbols have deeper meaning that Filipinos have been sharing in closed circles and for which only recently people are openly discussing and talking about in wider circles and now online, such as this blog.

I find that symbols of ancient culture and native culture around the world all have deeper meaning that many times archaeologists or historians may not have access to. This lack of access to oral and written information about the deeper meanings is also combined with a dirth of understanding of how ancient or indigenous people perceive the sacredness in every aspect of their daily lives, animals, plants, nature, the Earth, etc.

For example even tattoo symbols were oft misconstrued in many ways by westerners, even after being explained to them. The foreigner’s, although learned in their countries, had perspectives often filtered by their Christian religion, deeming cultures and beliefs of native people pagan, satanic or “of the devil” and their prayers to their ancestors or nature spirits and elements as worshipping by savages, instead of native folks inherent interconnection and communication with all that exists.

I find that demeaning and sad at the same time, because Filipino people, colonized by Spain and Roman Catholic friars(fresh from the Inquisition movement in Europe) and by the United States and their protestant missionaries, began to imitate their colonizers, in the good intention of becoming more civilized, but in the process, began to look down upon their ancestors ways and spiritual beliefs.

Many Filipinos today might want to consider removing the Western lens from their observation of their own culture and the “superstitions” of their ancestors and of their people today… and try looking at the bigger picture…

“Archaeologists are able to determine the probable origins of excavated pot remains, [geographical origins, evolution, etc]…

…[but] Anglos have long struggled to find meaning in these designs… [Native Americans] are reluctant to verbalize their meanings. If the symbols are important rather than mere embellishment, outsiders are not likely to be privy to the potter’s intent. [Native Americans] do not divulge sacred traditions, ceremonial rituals, or symbols. From the earliest times, Indian tribes have venerated life, nature, birds and other animals, humans, and gods. Realistic and abstracted interpretations of these mentors probably form the basic elements of [Native Americans] designs for all utilitarian and ritual objects.”

Pottery by American Indian Women at the Women Artists of the American West.

(The above article appears to be quite dated and refers to Native Americans as “Indians” and so I have switched the terms in the above excerpt as “Indians” are native to the country of India.)

Tonight, September 15, I saw this new NatGeo post The Beauty and Meaning of an Ancient Art Form and just learned that the symbols on Native American pottery have deeper meanings.
Click here to read article at NatGeo.

This is a pictorial series that shows

  • a water jug whereby “Every line is symbolic of a spiritual or life-giving force, and is made with an appopriate prayer.”
  • a bowl with a butterly has colors that carry meaning ” carry meaning as well. The white of the clay is for day, the black for night, and the red or orange for the earth itself.”
  • and more spiritual and personal meanings for native americans.

So like Philippine indigenous tattoos, decor, weaving patterns, amulets, and, yes, baybayin symbols—there is a way of rendering and interpreting symbols on Native American pottery that has deeper meaning.

The above article is posted by Andrew Howley and he writes:

“View the gallery above to learn about the ancient techniques, rich symbolism, and deep spirituality behind the creation and enjoyment of this timeless art form. Then look for parallels in your own life, culture, and traditions and see just how your path meets up with all roads.” 


Here is more information about symbolism found in Native American pottery:


More examples of writing symbols with deeper meanings:

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