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Ceramics of Ancient AmericaMultidisciplinary Approaches$
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Yumi Park Huntington, Dean E. Arnold, and Johanna Minich

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813056067

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813056067.001.0001

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Ceramic Wares and Water Spirits

Ceramic Wares and Water Spirits

Identifying Religious Sodalities in the Lower Mississippi Valley

(p.29) 2 Ceramic Wares and Water Spirits
Ceramics of Ancient America

David H. Dye

University Press of Florida

Water spirits as major Mississippian cosmic powers assumed various forms ranging from panther-like to serpent-like, and these varying visualizations were crafted as ceramic vessels, copper objects, rock art, and shell media. Evidence of water spirit religious sodalities is reflected in the numerous Lower Mississippi Valley “cat serpent” bottles and bowls found in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri. Their use flourished during the protohistoric period, the decades between the Hernando de Soto entrada and initial French contact. Water spirit vessels were crucial for transforming and in consuming medicinal potions for purification in water spirit rituals. In this chapter I discuss these Lower Mississippi Valley “Great Serpent” effigy vessels and argue that they were central to religious beliefs in Beneath World deities associated with the cycle of life and death and appealed to through ritual supplication and veneration.

Keywords:   Ceramic vessels, Lower Mississippi Valley, Protohistoric period, religious sodalities, Water spirits, “Great Serpent” effigy vessels, “Cat serpent”

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