This introduction and following series of related posts on shamanism serve as an online version of our 2017 fall exhibition, ‘Balancing The Universe: Shamanic Amulets, Instruments and Costumes’. We also have a full color photo catalog available of the all the pieces in the show and 12 color postcards of selected pieces. Scroll down to see catalog and cards at end of this post.
You have likely heard the term ‘Shaman’, but who were – or, are they? Shamanism is an intriguing phenomenon.
Since the beginning of humanity, there has been a need to cure the ailing, and to integrate the physical and spiritual worlds. This universal need gave rise to the art of healing or, ‘Shamanism’. A shaman is a highly trained and disciplined, man or woman, who can enter the spirit world at will to communicate with and influence spirits in service to their community. They have been the keepers of knowledge, the healers, the priests, and the philosophers in virtually all societies around the globe.
Animism, the belief that all things have souls, is another globally shared phenomenon and forms the spiritual origins of the rituals and traditions that most of us in the modern western world see as mysterious. But what is art, science or religion without mystery? Art and spirit converge in this show to take you on a journey into the inspiring and enlightening unknown.
All shaman have a unique repertoire of amulets, instruments, and costumes essential to their own culture. This exhibition includes a wide range of spiritual artifacts personally collected by David Bardwick over the last fifteen years from Nepal, Nagaland and Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand, and across the Indonesian Islands.
Shamanism is a matter of curiosity for those unfamiliar with its conventions, but it endures as a universal healing method and path to the spirit world which are integral parts of daily life for billions of people around the world
Sumatra is one island in the SE Asian chain of 17,ooo islands that make up Indonesia. The cultures specific to different islands have long been isolated from one another resulting is significant diversity. It is therefore helpful to organize the following Indonesian descriptions into major sub-groupings. Please browse through the following posts: Sumatra (Batak tribes), Borneo (Dayak tribes), Mentawai, and the Lesser Sunda Islands of Sumba, Flores, Timor and Lombok, among others to get the entirety of Indonesia.
Sumatra: One of Indonesia’s largest islands, it is home to the Batak tribes. Batak Datu, or shaman, are erudite men with a long esoteric history encompassing both white and black magic. They have the power to exercise power even after death. Like walking encyclopedias, they are well educated and proficient in science, history, medicine, theology and economics.
Becoming a Batak shaman is not a matter of choice as in many cultures where one recognizes a calling and seeks training. They are most often identified at a young age and obligated to serve a long apprenticeship. Their repertoire includes the ability to cast spells, influence the weather, find lost objects, and diagnose and treat physical and metal illnesses. They are also highly trained and prolific artist/craftsmen, required to produce their own sacred objects and medicines. The accordion style shaman books, written in the Batak language to preserve their healing and magical knowledge, are works of art in themselves.
‘Pangulubalang’ Shaman Figure (exceptionally rare), Sumatra, Indonesia, Batak, Simalungun, Mid 16th to 17th c, Stone, with patina. They are specifically made by the shaman and embodied with a powerful spirit slave. They are used in conjunction with a magical substance, ‘pupuk’ – a magical substance which is the embodiment of earthly suffering, destruction, hate and anger – which required special ingredients and a long and intricate preparation ritual. The purpose of this was to imbue the statue with the power to ward off evil spirits, to prevent disasters and as a dynamic healing tool. For healing, small bits of the statue itself were chipped off of corresponding body parts and made into a potion. 12” x 7 ¾” x 3 ½”, Price on request
The book unfolds like an accordion. The wooden cover is fairly austere with a small carving on the front. It contains the shaman’s magic formulas (tabas), oracles, recipes for medicines and instructions for performing rituals and for producing magic cures. It contains three main divisions of knowledge: the art of preserving life; the art of destroying life and the art of fortune telling. 8” x 6 ½” x 2 ½”,$3200. (see image below for inside detail)
The book unfolds like an accordion. It contains the shaman’s magic formulas (tabas), oracles, recipes for medicines and instructions for performing rituals and for producing magic cures. It contains three main divisions of knowledge: the art of preserving life; the art of destroying life and the art of fortune telling. 4 ½” x 3 ½” x 2”, $2200. (see inside detail below) SOLD
Used in healing rituals, 16” x 19 ½” x 7”, $2200. SOLD
.Amulets and Talismans are often used by the Datu (Shaman priest) as well as by the tribes people. There are innumerable ways in which a person can protect themselves as well as their village with these amulets. This cat-like figure was empowered to protect against wild animals, enemies and black magic. This one has a beautiful smooth patina from use and age. 5 ¼ “ x 4” x 2”, $450.
Used in rituals to predict the future. 20” x 9” x 6”, $1450.
The book unfolds like an accordion. It contains the shaman’s magic formulas (tabas), oracles, recipes for medicines and instructions for performing rituals and for producing magic cures. It contains three main divisions of knowledge: the art of preserving life; the art of destroying life and the art of fortune telling. 1 ¾” x 2 ¼” x 3”, $1200. SOLD
The book unfolds like an accordion. It contains the shaman’s magic formulas (tabas), oracles, recipes for medicines and instructions for performing rituals and for producing magic cures. It contains three main divisions of knowledge: the art of preserving life; the art of destroying life and the art of fortune telling. 8 ¼” x 5 ¼” x 2 ¾”, $3800. SOLD (see inside detail below)
For protecting the shaman during healing rituals. 15 ¾” x 5” x 4 ¾”, $800. SOLD
Used for calling spirits and in healing rituals. 56 ½” x 5” x 4 ¾”, $1600.
For making offerings to spirits and deities. 18 ½’ x 14” x 14”, $650.
Used for grinding medicinal herbs. Singha (Lion) figure, 5 ½” x 5 ¾” x 12 ¼”, $420.
Hung in a shaman’s home to store medicines. (left/large – 17” x 7 ¼” x 7 ¼”, $475.); (right/small -12” x 6 ¼” 6 ¼”, $375.)
Ritual zoomorphic amulet for healing rituals. (left/small – 2” x 6 ½” x 1 ¼”, $120.); (2” x 7 ½” x 1”,$110.)
The door from a shaman’s hut. 52 ¼” x 16” x 6 ½”, $2200. (see handle detail below)
Shamanic Culture, Tribal Art, Healing and Magic converge in an unmatched, museum quality collection of over 300 shaman pieces from across SE Asia. We had an opening extravaganza to debut the rare amulets, instruments and costumes, acquired over the last 15 years.
It took months to research the individual pieces that represent many different, ancient healing cultures from South East Asia – Nepal, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Nagaland (India) and across the 17,000 Islands of Indonesia. Some of the pieces have been passed down through generations of healers and date back 400 years. Please inquire for a tour of the magical mystery pieces! If you have the time to browse, we learned a lot and would love to share all the intriguing histories.
For continuity, we have grouped the blog entries by country and culture. Check back as we continue to add a full listing and photographs of all pieces in the original exhibition.