Rare Pair of Carved Powwow Figures

Circa: 1860 - 1890
Size: 19" (tallest)
Both walnut carvings consist of three twisted snakes, one with an outsized head which is consuming the head of a man. The back of each carving contains a small block cut from the solid and placed back. Each block is whole save for one corner which has been clipped. These clipped corners when placed back would create a small hidden void, likely for ritualistic materials to be placed within the objects. They were likely used as a “plugging” device wherein an illness would be ritualistically transferred by way of a plug into a larger body.

Though the specific use of these enigmatic figures are unknown, they were created as ritualistic objects of powwow or braucherei (in German) which was a Pennsylvania-Dutch folk medicine based on Catholicism and regional healing practices.

Powwow scholar, Patrick Donmoyer writes, "Combining a diverse assortment of verbal benedictions, prayers, gestures, and the use of everyday objects, as well as celestial and calendar observances, these rituals are used not only for healing of the body, but also for protection from physical and spiritual harm, assistance in times of need, and ensuring good outcomes in everyday affairs."

Provenance: Machmer Collection

Literature: Just For Nice: Carving and Whittling Magic of Southern Pennsylvania, figs. 224, 226.

Condition: Excellent with wear commensurate with age and use.

Price: SOLD