I went to an art museum on the island of O'ahu for study one day. I was there with a group of other students in my class at around 8:00am, awaiting the docent to take us on a tour. The morning was cool and the air was filled with excitement. My classmates were grinning in anticipation to see different forms of art.
We passed through several different galleries admiring the detail and fine handcraft of the artists. When we arrived at the old islander gallery I was amazed at the similarities and differences of my culture and those of the southern Pacific. It wasn't until we reached the back area of the islander gallery when I started to feel a little nauseous.
The air condition didn't help the ill feeling that washed over me. We slowly moved further to the back and I started feeling light headed. We approached a glass case filled with ancient artefacts, but I was pulled toward a figure standing off to the left. I looked at the piece and began feeling a pulse or magnetic push coming from the old work. It was like standing in hip deep surf, wave after wave pushing you to the shore.
It was an odd piece, no offence to this particular culture. It was a crude human figure very simple in its design. The body and limbs were carved simply from a single piece of wood. The arms looked like broom handles and torso looked like a marionette. The head, however, was the most detailed part of the form. Proportionately, the head was smaller than the wooden frame and appeared to be moulded of some kind of clay. The eyes were shells, which made the figure seem like it were surveying.
The pressure in my ears grew and the waves got stronger. The tour guides voice slowly muffled and quieted. Pulse after pulse I stood there rocking back and forth. The tour guide saw me staring at the artefact and stood next to me. "Interesting piece, huh?" she said. I looked at her and asked her about its origins.
She started by saying the piece had come from a tribe that lived in Papua New Guinea. She called it an ancestral protector. The people that carved the image believed that it protected the family from harm or bad harvests. If, by chance, the family lived in difficulties and sorrow the statue was taken from their home, broken and burnt, then cast away. I thought to myself at that moment "This must have been a really good protector if it still exists today."
The guide shared "The body is a very simple carving, yeah." She then smiled at me and whispered. "Do you know how they made the head?" I replied no. She then said "The head is removed from an elder that has passed in their family and placed upon this stake, then covered with shells over the eyes to make it look alive." She continued, "If you ask me it's still alive today!" I didn't disagree.
We made our way out of the gallery and as soon as I stepped toward the exit I started feeling normal again. By the time we got down stairs I felt great, rejuvenated! We proceeded to take a break after all we had absorbed within those few hours. I sat in the sun talking to a colleague about the arts and in the back of my mind I was still thinking about the carving.
I told my self there was no way I was feeling a presence coming from that mould, but I was doubtful. Before we were done for the day I snuck back into the islander gallery to take one last look at it. Low and behold the feeling came back. As I neared the protector the pulses emanated once more. I stood directly in front of it and stared into its eyes and said eight words to it.
"I feel your manna, and you are strong." As I said these words the air became clear, the pushing against my body ceased, and my head was no longer foggy. An eerie stillness then followed, like life had become dormant in the statue. I nodded at it and sent a thought "I am not an enemy, I am not here to cause harm." I then proceeded to catch up with my troop.
At the end of the day I left the museum knowing a little more than my fellow artisans. I have a deeper respect in the traditions and beliefs of other cultures. The strength of an inanimate object or person who passed away is still in existence today, even after hundreds of years have gone by.
I don't fully understand the power of protection after death, but I know that it is still alive today... No pun intended.