Monday, May 11, 2009

Meaders Face Jug

Returning to the Ogden's 4th floor craft cabinet this week is Lanier Meaders' Face Jug. The Meaders family has been producing pottery in Mossy Creek, Georgia since 1893 using locally dug clays, kick-wheels, and home made glazes. There are several theories about the origin of the face jug. One theory is that moonshine was stored in them to scare the grandchildren away from the sauce. Although much moonshine was surely stored in face jugs throughout northern Georgia and western Carolina, the more plausible origin of the face jug can be garnered from that area's African-American oral history. Slaves from West Africa brought with them a form of ancestor worship or reverence. When the dead were buried, personal belongings and ancestral totems were placed upon the grave. The conversion of the these slaves to Christianity and a belief in the devil transformed these objects into devil-faced vessels. The two schools of thought on the reason for the devil face are 1.) the face was meant to scare the devil away and 2.) the vessel was placed on the grave for one year, during which time a break in the jug meant that the deceased was wrestling with the devil. Lanier Meaders was mystified by the popularity of his face jugs. Of the people who purchased them he said, "They must be half-crazy to begin with."

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