Last weekend we went over for Sunday lunch at my mum and step-dad's new place. My brother, his wife and three-quarters of my brother's brood came along too. The lucky buggers had recently returned from a week's holiday in Venice and had very kindly brought back a few small gifts for us all.
When I opened mine I squealed like a Twi-hard when Robert Pattinson appears onscreen - they'd brought me back a cheap stretch bracelet that was covered in small varnished religious pictures!! It was absolutely just what I wanted! A few weeks back I had been in conversation on Facebook with friends of friends who had been brought up in the Irish Catholic tradition about the Infant of Prague, and I'd seen photos of just this bracelet and decided I wanted one with all the power of a thousand suns, i.e., A LOT!!!
The Infant of Prague is a statue of the baby Jebus which does miraculous things, apparently. In Ireland, it seems, if you bury a statue of the Infant in your garden, it'll make the weather better. Or increase the value of your house. Or something.
Anyway, I asked my brother how he knew I'd adore the bracelet and he reminded me that he was fully aware of my love, nay, near obsession with religious tat. Especially Catholic tat because they do it so well, although I actually have catholic tastes (see what I did there?) and collect from more than one religion. Friends have been getting me small bits and pieces over the years and I've been collecting it myself since the beginning of the 1980s, after visiting Buckfast Abbey down in Devon and being overwhelmed by their gift shop. TLH reminded me that I'd said on more than one occasion in the past how I'd love to go to Lourdes just for the gift shops - it's still a dream.
Yes, I KNOW I'm a card-carrying Atheist but religion really does fascinate me - I just can't believe in any of it myself but I will be forever grateful that enough people do that they want to make small statues that glow in the dark.
This morning I thought I'd go take some photos (click on them to enbiggen) of my religious stuff in its various locations around the house to show you all. My preference is for the really kitschy and tacky but it seems some tasteful stuff has slipped in somehow:
This is Kuan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of Compassion, found in a department store. She's ceramic and lives on a bookcase in the hallway.
This is a stoneware Buddha (charity shop) and a wooden Eastern Orthodox Icon (Guildford Cathedral's giftshop) - they sit on one of the bookshelves in the study, specifically in front of my Archaeological Theory textbooks. Of course.
A bronze Buddha (gift from TLH) holding an small piece of amethyst, on the windowsill in the study, protecting the precious computer games.
One of my earliest pieces - a wooden letter rack with a 3-D picture of the Last Supper on the front, from a shop in the notably holy seaside town of Ilfracombe.
This is a very large and heavy piece, depicting the Last Supper, carved entirely from coal. As you do. It's sitting on the windowsill of my downstairs loo and was a gift from friends.
That's downstairs, so let's go up to the kitchen and sitting room, shall we?
On a shelf in the kitchen, watching over me, I have Jesus and Mary statuettes (Mosta Church giftshop, Malta) flanking an incense-holder in one of the forms of Buddha (gift from my mother, I think).
In the 1960s hatch between the kitchen and dining area, there is a wooden Thai spirit house that is gilded and decorated with little bits of coloured mirror. I love this thing. Got it in Koh Samui.
Inside it (because they're the right size, they fit and they're kind of appropriate-ish) I've put the three teeny tiny brass figures that my brother gave me one Christmas. There's a Ganesh and two Buddhas.
Also in the sitting room is another bronze Buddha (from Koh Samui, Thailand), this time in the Thai form wearing the pointy headdress.
That's it for the sitting room - I've been quite restrained. Onwards and upwards to our bedroom and my jewellery room:
Perched on top of the fantastic mirror that my mum made for me is a papier mache depiction of Ganesh (charity shop).
Sitting on top of my Tiffany bangle box is a model of the Ancient Egyptian cat goddess, Bast (gift from The Artist, from the British Museum). The punk rubber duck in front was a present from my brother and his missus. They know me so well.
Mary, Jesus and Rover. Sitting in front of the chest of drawers that my mother made for me is a rather fantastic model of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding an infant Jebus in a fishing boat. My mates Steve and Carol brought this back for me from Tenerife. Obviously you can't have a boy without a dog and this one that came from a christmas cracker was just the right size, so I added it for verisimilitude. Please ignore the dust. Yes, I am a slattern.
In the jewellery workshop (it's okay - we're on the home straight now):
On the top shelf, tucked between my Elvis Cow (gift from brother) and snowglobe Empire State Building (brought back by TLH from business trip), you might be able to make out my glow-in-the-dark Crucifix.
That's a bit better, isn't it? This was also bought from Buckfast Abbey giftshop in about 1980 and doesn't glow much anymore. I went back to Buckfast Abbey a few years ago, ostensibly to go to the gift shop, but they'd shut it down!
Behind my lady's head moneybox (which I've had since I was about 10) and in front of the framed Andy Goldsworth picture and the faintly obscene melted candle is a proper votive candle (from a supermarket in Las Vegas), in a tall glass jar with a (now faded) picture of Jebus on the cross pasted on the outside. There's also a Union Jack stuck in it. Just because.
Also on the windowsill in my jewellery workshop is a snowglobe with the BVM on one side, and Padre Pio on the other. It looks like she's holding the baby's head up above the water to stop it drowning. I think I got this from Rome. I have to say I was most disappointed with the quality of the religious tat in Rome, seeing as how it's the tentacular seat of the Evil Empire you'd think they'd be knee-deep in the stuff, but I hardly found anything, tat or otherwise. Very odd.
And finally, the inspiration for this post:
The Bracelet of Religious Iconography.
I really don't know how many of you have made it to the end of this rather pointless rambling but blessings be upon you if you did! And now you know what to get me for Christmas.....
Since publishing this post, TLH reminded me that I had forgotten the poseable Jesus model that my brother gave me one Christmas which, for some reason, we've put in the garage:
And then I remembered yet another item that I'd forgotten, and this one really is nice. It's a large, handmade brass crucifix that was sent to me by my friend Anna (the one who also gave me the Last Supper coal carving) all the way from Ethiopia where she was working as a midwife for VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas - the British version of the Peace Corps):