Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Fon Sacred Pot

Catalog Number: J055


8.48" x 8.36" x 8.46"

215.41 mm x 212.4 mm x 214.9 mm

Religion and Denomination: Vodun (West Africa, Ewe-Gen-Aja-Fon)
Transatlantic Family of Religion: Vodun
Country of Origin: Benin Republic
Ethnographic Origin: Fon (Ewe-Gen-Aja-Fon, West Africa)
Materials: Terracotta
Usage: Ritual (used)
Detailed Description of Significance:

Among the Fon people of the Bénin and parts of Nigeria, terra cotta pots are rarely decorated, so the distinction between a mundane pot and a sacred one is often the simple question of how the pot is used. Indeed, the same pot may be used to store rainwater or food just as easily as sacred substances. Nevertheless, some pots intended for ritual purposes may be fired at a lower temperature, leaving them softer, and they may have thick or uneven lips that make them impractical for use in daily tasks.

Even still, any container can be made sacred and used in a shrine if properly consecrated. Such pots derive part of their sacred nature due to the material from which they are made; clay is a gift from Dan Wedo, a divinity of rainbows and serpents. The gods themselves are potters, since they created human beings from clay. This origin of humankind also makes the human body like a pot, a vessel into which spiritual substances can be poured. By analogy, then, pots sculpted by human hands may also contain potent forces (an idea also found among the Fon’s neighbors, the Yorùbá). The nature of terra cotta pots also makes them useful for managing “hot” and “cool” spiritual forces. Potters harden the clay via the heat of a kiln, but users of the finished pot use it to store water and keep it cool.