In many cultures, gourds have been used to create utensils, containers, musical instruments and religious objects.
Masks have also been created from gourds and have been traced back through the centuries from records and drawings that were kept. Masks have been used in special ceremonies by primitive cultures worldwide.
The gourd masks were usually part of an elaborate costume used to invoke or impersonate the spirits. Thus the mask became a symbol of control when worn by a powerful member of a tribe, such as a shaman. Gourds were used as the foundation of the mask face or as an element such as a beak, mouth, nose, ears or horns. The shaman would usually create the mask to be worn at a special ceremony.
But in a few tribes the mask would be created by a mask maker who would interpret the Shamans dream. The mask maker was held in high regard for his artistic talent and being able to transform the mask into the meaning of the dream.
Gourds were also used as medicine rattles and in ceremonies. This lead to the gourd becoming a link between the visible and invisible worlds. The gourd was considered a valuable part of culture and beliefs.
Gourds are believed to have originated in Africa. They are thought to have floated along ocean currents and that spread their use to other parts of the world.
In African Mythology, it was said that good spirits were transported to earth within gourds and that evil spirits could be captured within the same vessel.
In West Africa, the Yoruba people of Nigeria would add beads and shells to netting and drape this over the gourd. This popular musical rattle instrument was called the Shekerie. When the gourd is slapped or shaken the beads strike the gourd shell, which makes a pleasing, rhythmic sound. The shekerie’s popularity as a musical instrument spread to many countries around the world and is still used.
Large gourds were also used as cradles and baby baths in Africa.
There is evidence of seeds and gourd fragments found in Peru date that back to 23,000 B.C. The first gourd seeds were unearthed in Aacucho, Peru that date from 10,000 to 7,000 B.C.
In Peru, the Huiro is a rhythm instrument, which contains dried beans that rattle when it is shaken. There is also a row of grooves on one side. These grooves are scraped with a polished eucalyptus wood stick, which creates a unique sound.
In Feng Shui the Wu Lou or gourd could be placed beside the bedside as a symbolic cure, to improve general health as well as hasten recovery
It is considered Good Luck by many Chinese people to have a gourd in your home. The gourd was also believed to have supernatural powers and served to interpret the wishes of the gods.
It’s amazing how a plant that produces a fruit or vegetable has played such an important part in culture and history.