This bottle is an interesting culmination of my experience with voodoo. The front is adorned with an upside down skull and crossed chopsticks. This is my take on the voodoo tradition of binding forks and spoons into the shape of a cross. The upside down skull is a representation of gede, a god of death and immaturity. The filled in eye is to show how he sees both the world of the living and the dead. The condom is a double play on the idea of safe sex. It is the modern symbol of being responsible, it is drilled into our heads that condoms are necessary in our lives both to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STDs. However in my representation of this “shield of sex” it is hanging from one of the chopsticks off to the side pierced through the center. Thus rendering the image of safety useless and nothing more than horrible practical joke. On the back we have three Xs scratched into the label. This is an old African tradition that represents the crossroads and the crossing of the worlds both spirit and material. These three Xs also could stand for poison, sex or even booze. Which is what is inside the bottle, three different types of rum, the favored drink of the voodoo gods or lwa, are mixed into each other within the bottle. Also within the bottle is a traditional offering of money in this case, twenty-five cents. Also within the bottle slightly hidden by the distortion of the glass are three pins. The pins are sunk into the cork at the top, each of the sewing pins have a different colored head. Then there is the wire skull and crossbones hanging freely from the bound neck of the bottle. The “bones” are coffin nails that I got at a convention over the summer. The top is sealed with red wax and like the red yarn evokes the petwo side of gede, the hotter more fiery side of the god. The wax is a seal, not unbreakable but a seal nonetheless. The bottle is to be used in time of extremes it is not an item to be used lightly.
In shaking the sprit I learned a lot about voodoo how it was created and how it has grown. This project is a recreation of one of the common ways that oungan or manbo, priests and priestesses of voodoo, have of worshiping their lwa. These bottles are created with aspects of the god or gods that the creator is most in tune with. With objects of such religious power you would think that they would stay with in the circle of voodoo. However people there are people who create prayer bottles for the express purpose of being sold. Those bottles are known as pwen achte, and can be bought by anyone, not only people who practice the religion of voodoo They are usually made from objects that have been cast off by others and seem to have no use or are viewed as trash. For instance the condom I used had expired and instead of throwing it out I used it in the piece.
Bottles are used for many reasons, one being that they are used both as containers and retainers. Also there are the most discarded objects in our society. Bottles like this one are containers constructed to hold a spirits by humans. As stated above they can be used as a kind of purchasable favor with the gods. There are adorned with other cast off materials like scraps of cloth or old scissors. Bottles can represent many things from a simple container holding the offerings to the gods to the symbolic representation of their stomach within which is kept their libations. The bottles shape is also that of a man’s they both have a large mass connected to a neck with a mouth at the top.
The way that I chose container to house the bottle is an interesting aside. From the start I left the creation to the spirits, I had a choice of twelve vessels each different in look and content. I decided to use a twelve-sided die to decide. This bottle contains within it three types of rum, twenty five cents in change, three sewing pins each with a different colored head, red yarn, sealing wax, machinist wire, coffin nails, a condom and chopsticks. It also contains five Xs and two skulls. The Xs in voodoo culture has many meaning. Voodoo bottles have emerged as a way of bringing together both voodoo and the modern world.