The death that greets at Butser

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Haggard  skeleton;
Sockets deep;
Horns of plenty,
Decaying bone.
An Iron Age greeting?
Welcome talisman
Or deadly curse?
Dare I enter……?

I was privileged enough last weekend to visit the Iron Age replica settlement at Butser in Hampshire UK. The original farm was an archaeological experiment from the 1970s. It has now moved to a different site nearby where there are houses from Pre-Neolithic to Roman times some recreated from actual archaeological finds in Wessex, giving a living museum. They run various course throughout the year in skills used by our ancestors. I got to make felt for clothing and a friend learned to knapp stone tools. There are skulls above the doors of the neolithic houses. Probably the houses were built by a group and an animal killed for a feast on completion. The skull representing the animal spirit was put over the door maybe to ward off evil spirits.

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Words and photo copyright Englepip©

Daily Prompt: Talisman

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What power weaves  strength  through this face?

Of Idia,  queen from Benin.

Authority conjured in ivory

Great noble who knows how to win.

Portuguese traders,  her puppets

Bound up as clips in her hair

Deep marks of scarification

Assert influence and dominance there.

Only one look  from this death mask

Will all opposition repress

Giving power throughout generations

A talisman for success.

 

 

There are several of these masks,  one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Seattle Art Museum, another in the Linden Museum (Stuttgart)  which I photographed in the British Museum (London),

The Benin ivory mask is a miniature sculptural portrait in ivory of the powerful Queen Mother Idia of the 16th century Benin Empire, taking the form of an African traditional mask. The likeness was worn however, not as a mask, but as a pendant by her son Esigie, who owed his kingship as Oba of Benin to the Queen Mother’s military aid.” from Wikipedia

The fact that this was worn not as a mask but around the waist or possibly hung from the neck of her son Esigie in the 16th century, indicates it was probably a talisman of power. Wikipedia states, “The masks may have been used in ceremonies including the Ugie Iyoba commemoration of the Oba’s mother, as well the Emobo purification ceremony to expel bad spirits from the land.[7][18][19] Similar pendant masks are mainly used in contemporary Emobo ceremonies focused on bad spirits, though the traditions of Emobo may have changed throughout history.[18]”

Poem and photo copyright to Englepip©

via Daily Prompt: Talisman