Object: Wedding Jar

E/1958/25/2
Santa Clara Pueblo: Wedding Jar
North America: New Mexico
ca. 1900
Material: Ceramic

The wedding jar (or vase) is an element in traditional wedding ceremonies of Native peoples of the Southwest. Wedding jars usually have a rounded, bulging base that has a long, double fluted neck with two spouts on each side coming out the top. The spouts are joined together by a handle. Traditionally, weddings jars, like most southwest ceramics, were made using a coiled method. Many that are made today use the “greenware” method because it is quicker and the resulting vessels are more uniform in shape.

The wedding jar has its origins in the Santa Clara Pueblo and is one of the most recognizable Santa Clara ceramic forms. Known in Tewa as Xa-po (or Kha’po), Santa Clara is located between Santa Fe and Taos, on the west bank of the Rio Grande. The Pueblo was established around 500 years ago. Today it is the third largest pueblo in New Mexico. Santa Clara also boasts the most pottery makers of any other pueblo in the region. Santa Clara has a long tradition of ceramic production dating back to prehistoric times. Early civilizations of the Southwest like the Mimbres and the Hohokam were both established pottery makers. Today, the function of pottery in the Southwest is must less utilitarian and focuses more on the style and aesthetics of their pottery. However, like it was with the ancient civilizations, pottery today has deep, sacred meaning to the people and continues to play an important role in many of their ceremonies.

The wedding jar is created a few weeks before the wedding is set to take place. Usually it is the groom’s parents who create the vessel. During the wedding ceremony the jar is filled with water or sometimes an herbal tea. The manner in which the ceremony proceeds from this point varies. One way is for the bride to take a sip from one side, and the groom the other. Then the jar is turned and they drink from the opposite side. After this has happened, the couple drinks from the jar at the same time. This act symbolizes their new union. Traditionally, after this act has been completed, the jar is smashed on the ground. However, in recent years this has fallen out of favor and now people choose to keep the vessel intact.

[Chris Dority]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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