Illustration principale
Vomitive Spatula
Taino culture, Greater Antilles, 800-1500 AD

Length : 30 cm

Provenance : Collection Dr. Médart A., Berlare
Karl Stimm, Antwerp

Publication : "KunstKammer"
(M. Doustar, 2017), n°89
The Taino centered their religion on the worship of zemis, or deities. Shamans (behiques) served as intermediaries between supernatural and natural and natural worlds. They communicated with deities by inhaling cohoba powder, a hallucinogen that was mixed with tobacco to maximize its effect.
Snuff, made from the crushed seeds of the piptadenia tree, would then be taken in front of the Zemi through a forked tube. This caused hallucinations during which the Zemi would make know his will. Carved spoons were used to ladle the powder, which was then inhaled through the nose with a tube. Before ingestion, the shaman purified himself by purging with a vomiting stick.
These spatulas were made of wood, bone, shell or-exceptionally-stone as in the present case, and were essential to the ritual of purification. These ritual objects were exquisitely carved with images of zemis, who helped the shaman achieve ecstatic states. Zemis were the spirits of ancestors from whom the Taino sought assistance in their everyday life, and whom they worshipped through the carvings that were made to represent them. Once a year every Taino village would pay homage to the Zemis of their chief. The ceremony began with a procession of villagers wearing their ornaments carrying baskets of cassava bread and signing songs about the Zemis. The chief sat at the entrance to the temple beating a drum while the priest entered and dressed the Zemis. The villagers presented themselves before the temple an purified themselves by pressing a vomit spatula down their threat to induce vomiting. The women then brought cassava bread to the priest who offered it to the Zemis. Dancing and singing followed praising the chief, the ancestors and the Zemis. Prayers were then offered for the prosperity of the village. Finally, the priest broke up the cassava bread and distributed pieces to the heads of families and these fragments would be preserved throughout the year as protection against accidents and illness.
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