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Spiritual Meaning Of Calabash

The calabash is a tropical tree in the gourd family, native to Africa. The gourd-like fruits of this tree are used for many daily needs including cups, bowls, spoons, cutlery and even musical instruments. The bulbous-shaped seeds are dried out and eaten like vegetables. These were also some of the most significant uses of calabash gourds in African countries such as Nigeria and others. Let us take a look at its spiritual meaning of calabash seeds and see how it inspired the present day spiritualists and occultists.

In many societies, calabashes have been used in both secular and spiritual rituals. They are used as musical instruments in ceremonies as well as to hold food. I discuss the sacred significance of calabash in the religion of Vodou and in Christianity. Calabash is also considered an object containing magic powers which can be used in healing rituals and continues to be important in music.

Spiritual Meaning Of Calabash

The calabash has a spiritual meaning of protection, healing, and well-being.

The calabash is used in many different ways to heal the body and spirit. The most common way this happens is through the inhaling of the smoke from burning herbs.

When you inhale smoke from burning herbs, you are breathing life into your lungs. This helps to purify your body and cleanse your mind.

It can also be used as an instrument for divination or fortune telling. The diviner would use it to ask questions about the future of those who consulted them, using their answers to predict what will happen in the future.

It’s also been used as a tool for protection against evil spirits.

The calabash is a symbol of abundance, prosperity, and fertility in many African cultures. The shape of the calabash is similar to that of a pregnant woman, which is why it is often associated with giving birth to new ideas or creative projects.

In some cultures, the calabash is used as a container for water and other liquids. This may be because water represents life and fertility in some African cultures. In other cultures, it’s used to store honey or beer—another symbol of abundance and prosperity. The calabash also has other spiritual meanings:

-It can represent the womb, which means it can be used to honor women who have given birth or those who are childless (or without children).

-It can represent wisdom because it grows from inside outwards—the opposite direction from most plants, which grow from outside inwards. This makes it a symbol of growth, change, and transformation.

If you heard the word ‘calabash’, would you immediately know what was meant? Although it has been around for at least 4,000 years, very little information is available about this ancient vessel. Essentially the dried-out and sturdy yet lightweight shell of a fruit known as Lagenaria siceraria, a type of gourd, it has long served a multitude of purposes. But, it is also a powerful symbol of womanhood. So what exactly is its draw for African women, and how does it reinforce their sense of self?

A timeless gourd

The calabash is still used widely today and is an indispensable part of the African cultural heritage. This fruit was one of the first crops that man harvested. It takes time to mature but can then be hollowed out and sun-dried, ready for use. Its natural green hue will eventually fade, and its exterior will harden – making it an ideal vessel. In African society, it is used for storing or serving food and is a marker of wealth and power when used to proffer water, milk or kola nuts to guests.

This versatile crop doubles up as a money box for market sellers, as well as an inkpot and cosmetics container. And it can be carved into a multitude of musical instruments, including a harp, violin or a rattle – with its seeds sometimes bestowing its music-making quality.

You can often spot the Fulani women of northern Nigeria carrying beautifully decorated calabashes (known as kwarya in the local Hausa language). Certain Fulani peoples living in northeastern Nigeria carry calabashes distinctive for their deep red or orange colour and thick black geometric pattern, which is engraved with hot knives.

Today’s calabashes are used at restaurants for serving tourists traditional dishes, or for decorative purposes, providing sophisticated works of art for the home. They are engraved by hand, with darker dyes being used to bring out the chosen designs. While easy to maintain, calabashes should be dried after washing and not left to soak as this can jeopardise their structural integrity. What is more, they are often regarded as a planet saver. Unlike plastic, their natural material is fully decomposable and non-polluting. And once it breaks or is no longer fit for purpose, it can simply be replaced, no harm is done.

The cosmos and womanhood

Besides its day-to-day utility, the calabash also holds a spiritual significance that is still upheld by African traditionalists today. This sacred vessel is inherent in Yoruba cosmogony, which sees a likeness in the two halves of a calabash. The belief is that it recalls goddess of the Earth Odudwa and her husband Obatala, the god of the skies. Moreover, Nigerian scholar Babatunde Lawal reinforces the belief that the top half of the gourd represents maleness (or ako) and the world’s invisible spirits, while the bottom half stands for femaleness (or abo). And that the two halves are held suspended in space through a powerful force known as àse, which keeps the world in perfect harmony.

Further, the gourd’s shape is likened to the female form and uterus and is hailed as an emblem of fertility. As a result, the container is commonly used in fertility and initiation rituals for girls as they grow into women. The engravings, then, are not merely beautiful artworks but also used to invoke the powers that be to help women conceive. To do this, Animist preachers use the calabash for sacrificial offerings to the ancestors whose blessings they seek.

Emma Rice takes this idea a step further in her academic paper. She argues that Yoruba women can themselves be seen as vessels, the calabash a metaphor for ‘women as containers of their own gendered identity’. She posits that Yoruba women are held to a different standard than they are in the West, their bodies vessels that conceal elements of an inherent female identity.

She considers the calabash’s liquid contents an emblem for fluid gender identity – put simply, a metaphor for the Yoruba women’s body as a hollow that will eventually house her progeny; a vessel for her maternity. Rice believes that, much like a ritual calabash, a woman’s body has the potential to hold both good and evil, with the power to shore up – or indeed destroy – Yoruba society. In this way, her calabash-Esque body holds the essence of her identity (and power) as a woman.

Furthermore, while a young Yoruba woman’s mind acts as a repository for her intelligence and secrets, her womb is a container for the blood that will give life to society. Whether or not we subscribe to the notion that women’s bodies are powerful vessels, this does much to underscore their social purpose (maternity) in African society and the respect that garners. Conversely, an older woman with a ‘blocked womb’ is regarded as dangerous given her ability to use a life’s worth of knowledge to ‘destabilise societal balance through her application of witchcraft’.

A pan-African musical legacy

One older African woman, however, utilized the calabash as a means of creative expression: Madeleine Yayodele Nelson, or ‘Yayo’ to those who knew her best. She was the frontwoman behind her 1978-founded Women of the Calabash, a musical company of percussionists and singers that celebrated the music of Africa and its diaspora for over three decades. A beacon of womanhood for pan-African females. It was her newfound instrument’s hollow sounds and variable pitch that would launch her wildly successful career as a performer par excellence.

Nelson broke the mould with the shekere, an instrument that was traditionally a male preserve – that is until she happened upon it one day in a New York City park. She learned how to handcraft and play this dried, bead-covered gourd, serving as an inspiration to many through her workshops and one-on-one tuition. And all of it with no formal musical training. And her own inspiration? In part, the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 70s, which afforded her the opportunity to pay tribute to traditional Yoruba sounds and would lay the groundwork for her own musical education.

The shekere has since been popularized by the likes of beloved Nigerian Afropop artist Yemi Alade, who has even dedicated a song to the instrument.

No matter what purpose this versatile sun-dried fruit may serve – be it as a food container, vessel of life, or a way to delight music enthusiasts – it is here to stay. Do you have a story to tell about another little-known African instrument? And what significance does it hold for you?

Calabash Ritual

The calabash is ⁣often used⁤ in ‍spiritual rituals and practices ⁢across different cultures. Its rounded shape represents wholeness and can hold various substances, ⁢symbolizing containment and protection. Here are three common calabash rituals ‌and their spiritual ⁣meanings:

  1. Purification ‌Ritual: Using‌ a calabash to hold sacred water,​ herbs, or other cleansing substances, individuals can perform purification rituals. This ritual ⁤aims to ⁢cleanse the body, mind, and spirit from negative ​energies,​ impurities, and emotional burdens, promoting spiritual growth and harmony.
  2. Divination Ritual: Some cultures use the calabash as a tool for divination. Diviners‌ may pour ‍water or other substances into the⁣ calabash and interpret the patterns formed ‍to provide​ insights and guidance. This ritual is⁢ believed⁤ to connect individuals with the spiritual realm and‌ provide answers to their questions​ or ⁤dilemmas.
  3. Offering Ritual: In many spiritual practices, the calabash is used as a vessel ⁣for offerings to deities or ancestors. These offerings can include food, drinks, or sacred ⁣objects. By ⁣presenting ⁤these offerings in a ⁤calabash, individuals show their ‌respect ​and ⁤gratitude towards the divine, while also seeking blessings ‌and protection.

Ten‍ Uses‍ of Calabash

The calabash has been utilized for various purposes ‍across different cultures and spiritual practices. Here ⁢are ‍ten common uses of the calabash:

  1. Container for ⁣Food and Drinks: The ‌calabash, with its sturdy⁢ shell, has been used to store and carry food and drinks. It can keep liquids cool, ⁢making ​it ideal for carrying water ⁢or other‌ beverages during outdoor activities.
  2. Musical Instrument: Due to its ⁤unique shape ‍and hollow interior, the calabash is often transformed into a musical instrument. It is commonly used‍ as ​a resonator,​ creating ‌beautiful sounds when‌ struck or plucked.
  3. Decorative Art Piece: The artistic appeal ‌of⁤ the calabash is often utilized to create decorative art pieces.​ Intricate carvings and engravings are made on‍ its surface, showcasing cultural designs⁣ and symbolism.
  4. Natural Bowl: Calabash bowls are commonly used for serving fruits, soups, or other ⁢food items. Their natural shape and smooth surface make⁤ them aesthetically pleasing and practical.
  5. Medicinal Use: In traditional⁤ medicine, the calabash is utilized‍ for‌ various healing ⁣purposes.‍ Its seeds,⁤ pulp, or extracts​ are believed to possess medicinal properties, offering relief from ailments such as coughs,​ digestive issues, and skin conditions.
  6. Artistic Canvas: The calabash shell is​ often used‌ as a canvas for painting or engraving‌ beautiful designs. Artists create ‍intricate patterns, scenes, or⁤ symbols on⁤ its surface, turning it into a unique art ⁤piece.
  7. Household Utensils: Calabash shells can be carved or ​shaped into different household ​utensils. They are used as ladles,‍ scoops,‍ or containers for storing small items.
  8. Planting Container: The calabash can be hollowed‍ out and used as a planting container.​ Its natural shape and sturdy shell provide an ideal environment for ‌growing plants and herbs.
  9. Spiritual ⁢Offering: The calabash is often used to hold offerings during⁢ spiritual ceremonies or rituals. It is filled with sacred substances, such⁢ as water, herbs, or fruits, and presented to deities or ancestors as a form of gratitude and reverence.
  10. Symbolic Representation: The calabash​ holds symbolic⁣ significance in many cultures. It‌ represents abundance, fertility, ‌and protection,⁢ often used as ‍a visual representation of these concepts ⁣in various rituals, art forms, or spiritual practices.

Calabash Bowl

Symbolic ⁣Meaning of⁢ the Calabash⁢ Bowl

The⁤ calabash ⁤bowl carries deep spiritual​ symbolism ⁤in different cultures and spiritual practices. Its rounded shape and capacity to hold other objects make ​it a symbol of abundance, nourishment, and protection. Here are some key symbolic meanings ⁤associated with‌ the calabash bowl:

  • Abundance and Fertility: The calabash bowl is ⁤often ‌associated with abundance and fertility, representing the bountiful blessings and provision of‌ the divine. It symbolizes nourishment and the ability to sustain life.
  • Containment and Protection: The calabash bowl’s rounded​ shape symbolizes containment and protection. It represents the ability to⁢ hold and safeguard⁤ valuable contents, whether physical or spiritual.
  • Harmony and Balance: The​ calabash bowl is seen as a symbol of⁢ harmony and balance. Its ⁢curved‍ shape represents the unity ⁤and interconnectedness ​of all aspects of life.

In conclusion, the calabash ⁤carries profound spiritual meaning in various aspects of life. Whether seen in dreams,‌ mentioned in religious ‌texts, utilized in rituals, or‌ represented as a symbolic object, the ⁤calabash symbolizes abundance, fertility, protection, and​ nourishment. Its presence serves⁣ as ‌a reminder of the divine’s provision and the need for balance and gratitude in one’s spiritual⁢ journey.

What does it mean to dream of Calabash?

Seeing a calabash in a dream can frequently provide significant life lessons.We do not merely experience arbitrary sequences or collections of events in our dreams while we sleep.A discernible correlation between them and reality exists.Dreams containing Calabash are not uncommon to occur during sleep.In order for you to comprehend the dream’s true meaning, we will need to combine all of its “elements.” I will assist you in doing so in the following section.

1.Do you anticipate seeing a calabash in your dream?denotes favorable conditions for farmers and businessmen.2. What does it mean to dream of fresh calabash?signifies the satisfaction of strong aspirations.3. Do you yearn for expired calabash?signify that good prosperity is on its way to you.4.What does it mean to fantasize of delectable calabash?signifies that peril lies ahead.5.What does the dream signifier “eating calabash”?signifies that you have sufficient time to acquire the necessary resources for an exciting transition.

Calabash Mythology

Although Einstein didn’t quite have this in mind when introducing this term to mathematically describe the nature of the universe, there is a kind of conceptual ‘cosmological constant’, a recurrent and invariable model of the cosmos, that, at least in traditional West Africa, all hinges on the calabash.

Close-up photography of an engraved Bozo calabash, broken and mended over the years.
Mended ​1​

The Calabash, Cosmic Gourd (igbá ìwà)

“Igbá nlá méjì s’ojú dé’ra won.”

(Two halves of a gourd create one universe.)


The calabash appears in all places, at all times: set on the ground to mark a communal meeting point, swirled by a Tuareg diviner’s hands​7​, balanced on a water-bearer’s head, decorated and displayed as a Fulani bride’s finery​3​, brimmed over with a healer’s traditional remedies or a brewer’s fermented millet, or sounded as the traditional Ewe funerary “drum of the dead”.​8​

The calabash is revered, rarely discarded, and is patched, then re-patched, through the passing of time. Whole, forthright, and reliable, it is the 

The association of this group of people, migrants to the northern part of Nigeria, with the Ka’aba (Holy Mosque) at Mecca was the basis of the name by which they subsequently came to be known, the Kabawa. Each year as the Rima River drops to its lowest level at the end of the harvest, the Kabawa wade into the water to initiate the Argungu Festival, one of the oldest traditional events in Nigeria, now internationally acclaimed.

” style=”margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border-top: 0px; border-right: 0px; border-bottom: 1px dotted rgb(0, 0, 0) !important; border-left: 0px; border-image: initial; font: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none !important; color: rgb(82, 99, 107) !important; transition: all 0.25s ease 0s;”>Kabawa fisherman’s buoy, the Mandé musician’s resonator, the subject of storytellers​*​ and the substance of song​†​​‡​.  Once shattered, no longer ‘trustworthy’, its fragments are strung together as the Bambara’s traditionally symbolic “liar’s necklace”.​9​ Broken, it is the Batammaliba’s visual metaphor for the loss of children.​5​

A Calabash by Any Other Name …

Igba in Yoruba, ugba in Igbo, wamdé in Mooré, or flè in Bambara, the words for the calabash are as diverse as the cultures that name it and as assorted as the role it is given. The Fulani manage to evoke the calabash in 23 different ways​4​ and the Hausa have nearly as many calabash-inspired idioms, metaphors and proverbs:​3,10​


“A rarrabe da d’an duma da d’an kabewa.”

(One will distinguish between the bitter gourd and the sweet, the true and the false.)

“Kowace k’warya tan da murfinsa.

(Every gourd has its lid, its matching half.)

“K’warya ta bi k’warya.”

(A gourd follows a gourd, same follows same.)


Batammaliba Calabashes by Landy2Go

The calabash is a West African ‘constant’ — proverbially, philosophically, pragmatically, percussively — brimming over with celestial and terrestrial meaning, movement, and sound. 

10 Uses Of Calabash

  • In rural Southern Africa, calabashes (dried and hollowed out Bottle Gourds) are used for typical utensils such as ladles, bowls, cups, bottles and containers to keep liquids, floats, pipes and musical instruments.
  • It can also be used for carrying water, or can be made for carrying items, such as maize, etc.
  • Painted and decorated products made from calabashes are also offered for sale at roadside stalls and curio markets.
  • In some countries it is worked, painted and decorated as shoulder bags or other items by artisans, and sold to tourists.

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