My parents died quite a while ago, and I have nothing that honors their Spirit and Presence in my life. I feel the loss of that. After reading about Reliquary Art in both the Catholic Church and African Culture I thought why not express this in figurative clay – my passion. From the very start my work in clay has been a spiritual practice for me, and the SpiritKeepers are now an extension of that process.
SpiritKeepers as a Reliquary - Each SpiritKeeper has a space inside to place ashes or a sacred object from the one who passed. Some have a large enough space to hold all the ashes while others have just enough to hold a small amount.
SpiritKeeper As Holding an Intention, Hope or Dream - After I started making the SpiritKeepers as reliquary pieces, I thought wow, these could hold our hopes, dreams and intentions as well. Spiritual literature often says if you have an intention you “put it out there and then let it go”. Sometimes letting it go is very hard. We tend to go over and over it in our minds. I see these SpiritKeepers as a kind of intermediary in the process. You set the Intention, Dream or Hope, write it on paper, and then offer it up by placing it in the SpiritKeeper. Then you are available to go about your days without obsessing. It is being held and offered up through the SpiritKeeper in an ongoing way.
Christian belief in the power of relics, the physical remains of a holy site or holy person, or objects with which they had contact, is as old as the faith itself and developed along side it.
In the Catholic Church the Reliquaries were designed to hold “relics” of saints. A reliquary is a vessel meant to hold a relic, or a surviving trace of a holy person. Many churches along pilgrimage routes displayed relics, which attracted traveling pilgrims. Miraculous powers were attributed to some relics, which could include preserved bodies, body parts, or the personal belongings of saints or important religious figures. Reliquaries could be as simple as a square box, or as elaborate as a fine sculpture.
Relics were more than mementos. The New Testament refers to the healing power of objects that were touched by christ or his apostles. The body of the saint provided a spiritual link between life and death, between man and God: Because of the grace remaining in the martyr, they were an inestimable treasure for the holy congregation of the faithful. Fueled by the Christian belief in the afterlife and resurrection, in the power of the soul, and in the role of saints as advocates for humankind in heaven, the veneration of relics in the Middle Ages came to rival the sacraments in the daily life of the medieval church. Indeed, from the time of Charlemagne, it was obligatory that every altar contain a relic.
In Gabon and adjoining regions in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, the spiritual connection between the living and the dead takes physical form through reliquaries (containers for the preserved pieces of skull and bones) that represent important ancestors, such as the founders of extended families and villages, or women who have borne many children. The living family not only honors the dead with ceremonies and gifts, but through prayer and ritual they also consult the deceased on significant matters, such as warfare, infertility, and preventing illness. Reliquary guardian figures protect the irreplaceable relics that link the living to the dead. Most of the peoples in the region--the Fang, Kota, Hongwe, Shamaye, Obamba, Tsogo, and Vuvi--placed the figures atop bark boxes or baskets holding the relics. The Mbete placed the relics inside the torso of the figure itself.