Maria Martinez (San Ildefonso, 1887-1980) lidded pottery jar, cylindrical jar with light gunmetal finish, decorated with Avanyu

p4A ItemID F7978678
Margaret Tafoya (Santa Clara, 1904-2001) carved Redware Pottery Bowl, Avanyu filling

p4A ItemID F7978072
Mela Youngblood (Santa Clara, 1931-1990) Blackware Pottery Bowl, deeply carved bowl with Avanyu meandering around middle

p4A ItemID F7963277
SANTA CLARA POT BY HELEN SHUPLA. Second half-20th century. Signed Helen Shupla, Santa Clara Pueblo, blackware with raised avanyu figure

p4A ItemID F7958656

Avanyu the Water Serpent

Avanyu (sometimes Awanyu) is a deity of the Tewa people. The Tewa are Pueblo Native Americans who share the Tewa language and live around the Rio Grande River north of Santa Fe, New Mexico among the pueblo communities of Nambé,
Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan), Santa Clara, and Tesuque. San Ildefonso and Santa Clara are in particular known for their pottery, which often has depictions of Avanyu.

Maria Martinez San Ildefonso blackware bowl, with decoration of Avanyu slithering along shoulder. (p4A item # E8947389)

Avanyu is the guardian of water and represents how important water is to the native peoples of the desert, with the flowing movement of its body suggesting the flow of water and the zigzag of the tongue symbolizing lightning. The serpent, often depicted with plumes or horns, appears in cave drawings in New Mexico and Arizona and remains a common decorative motif on the pottery of a number of Southwestern tribal potters. It’s been suggested that Avanyu might be related to Quetzalcoatl and other feathered serpent gods from Mesoamerican cultures.

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