Thursday, March 11, 2010
Congo Magical Effigy
This little guy fascinated me from the minute I saw him. I had to document him and research what he was. My pictures were snapped in haste before the owner showed up to collect. Sold at a small town swap meet for .50 cents, you couldn't have paid me enough money to touch him. Not touching him hampered my ability to see everything about him but I had a yucky feeling in my stomach that said 'don't touch'.
He is covered from neck to knees in rusty nails and pie shaped rusty pieces of metal piercing the wooden body. Around his neck, a dirt encrusted string of perfectly formed herbal pouches. On his belly is embedded a shiny mirror that you can catch a glimpse of through the dried mud.
Most people show religious fear ( you know, the kind that is blind and makes no sense ) at objects like this and that makes me like 'em that much more. Being a witch means people fear you instantly for no good reason. I am fascinated with proving wrong the ones who point and scream 'evil'.
I researched Voodoo, Hoodoo, Santeria, Candomble, Macumba and all things connected in between.
My intuition ( gut instinct ) told me to show respect by not touching. That it had been disturbed (from it's place) and mistreated (passed around). The lady selling it said she dug it, and much more, out of a dumpster after learning her neighbor had passed away and the family didn't want any of her belongings. The market lady said the neighbor lady had spent much time in Honduras and had a ton of unusual items.
Now I know, you're thinkin' it looks like bad juju but open your mind and reach for something more. It's taken me at least three weeks to work through what I think this could be. Sure people have used pins and nails in poppets before. The uneducated think it's for cursing alone and some people use it this way. In healing folk magick you stick a poppet where the sick person hurts to target the illness and "cure" it. Think 'Witch Bottle'. Well documented now and more being found every day. They are full of rusty sharp objects, mirrors, herbs and a lot more, that I won't go into since I'd like to cover it more in depth in another post, and buried in the earth. Witch bottles were used for protection.
So, after reviewing the emotions I've experienced and researching the uses of magical items through history I've come to an uneducated but heartfelt guess. I feel he was used as protection, buried with a deceased person. Much like has been done since time began.
Here is what I found just yesterday at a auction site specializing in meso-american and ethnographic art. They look similar, No ? The one that sold for $200 thousand dollars is far more artistic and from central Africa, the folksy one above (if you can believe the provenance) is from central America. From my research I understand there was heavy african slave trade in Honduras and I'm sure they practiced their homeland beliefs no matter where they lived.
B3705. AN IMPORTANT CONGO MAGICAL EFFIGY FIGURE, ca. early-mid 20th century, possibly earlier. The figure inlaid glass eyes and polychromed features and holding a glass inlaid box with uncertain contents of magical function, the body covered with embedded iron nails and cloth balls into which are sewn magical charms. 12.5 inches. A choice, rare and important example with excellent provenance. Provenance: Ex. Robert Lang collection. Robert Lang of Rye, NY (1909-1997) was born one hundred years after Abraham Lincoln. He made a fortune on Wall Street. He spent it on his mansion in Rye, New York and on his vast collection of hundreds of thousands of items which he purchased over a 40 year period ranging from African art to Asian art, and candlesticks to vintage cars. Recently his eclectic estate was dispersed. A valuable collection of antique vehicles was given to the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine, an institution of which he had been a founding member. The rest of his collection was sold in a series of two and three day auctions in New England. Some highlights include a copy of the declaration of Independence which he had owned sold for $415,000, African bronze brought over $225,000, and an African Congo fetish brought over $200,000! Dave Kenny, Maine Antiques Digest.
What do you think ?