Power Dressing: Clothing and Ornament as Amulet
Time & LocationSession 10
Fri 11:00–12:30 Room 1.404
- Florina H. Capistrano-Baker City University of New York
- Mark Johnson University of London
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- Faith and Filigree, Gold Jewelry and Identity: Transforming Spiritual and Secular Power Florina H. Capistrano-Baker City University of New York
The use of personal adornments as expressions of spiritual or temporal power as well as individual or group identity occurs across various cultures and time periods. In the Philippines, jewelry traditions express group affiliation, social status, religious beliefs, and more. Styles and materials utilized for attire and accessories vary according to different geographic regions. In this presentation, I address lowland jewelry traditions and attempt to retrieve, in particular, the genealogy of Hispano-Filipino expressions in gold. Among the earliest documentation of Philippine gold ornaments are sixteenth-century Spanish colonial accounts and illustrations of lowland Tagalog and Visayan inhabitants in sumptuous garments with lavish layers of gold adornments encircling the neck, arms, legs and fingers. After the conversion of lowland populations to Christianity, these ostentatious displays of gold jewelry gave way to western expressions of Catholic piety. I examine, in particular, the (r)evolving spiritual and secular meanings imbricated in the gold filigree beads and ornate pendant medallions popularly known as the tamborin and relicario – descendants of the apotropaic reliquary and Catholic rosary.
- Notes on the Significance of Morinda and Other Reds in the Bagobo Textile Hierarchy Cherubim Quizon Seton Hall University
The magical and spiritual power of red cloth has a long and complex story in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. The revolutionary reds in flags, banners and amulets that sustained indigenous bodies in colonial struggles, for instance, have been studied semiotically through the lens of epigraphy and textual expressions of popular spirituality/peasant culture. But how can these insights be used to understand the broader significance of red cloth among indigenous peoples, from contemporary sumptuary rules to the secret uses of red cloth in healing or paramilitary practices? This paper suggests that these semiotic domains may be bridged by a direct engagement with extant textile practices, an engagement that considers elements of change as equally relevant as perceived cultural continuity. Focusing on the Bagobo and the material origins of red in this community’s past and current clothing practices, this paper argues that reliance on luck and prowess in achieving redness is central to the color’s meanings. Moreover, the properties of the dye plant Morinda when applied to indigenous threads creates conditions that metonymically and procedurally link redness with effort and efficacy. Ethnographic perspectives alongside a consideration of museological evidence from colonial contexts in the late 19th to early 20th centuries will be used to explain resilience in the color’s importance in Bagobo textile aesthetics.
- Spirit Medium’s Costumes in the Worship of Mother Goddesses in Vietnam: Colors and Spiritual Powers Huong Thi My Doan Vietnam National Institute of Culture and Arts Studies
Observing costumes of the spirit Mediums in ritual practices in the worship of Mother Goddesses in Vietnam, one notes eye-catching colors with the repeated use of red and gold, green, blue, white. The costumes are ornamented with decorative patterns, motifs, and images of sacred animals such as dragons, turtles, phoenixes, peacocks. Other motifs associated with spirituality include letters, clouds, chrysanthemums, and tiger’s faces. These eye-catching designs can be understood as a way to attract the attention of the Gods' souls, whereby the Gods can recognize and come (descend on earth) or enter (incarnate) into the body of the spirit Mediums who are performing the rituals. So, are there any specific standards for colors, shapes, patterns, and personal adorments in the spirit Medium’s costumes? Are these costumes merely a way of expressing or honoring beauty or is there another concept of spirituality at play? Is attracting the Gods a way to express the notion of power not only of the Gods, but also of the person wearing that costume? This presentation will examine the relationship between the conventions of color, decorative patterns, and spiritual concepts in costumes. I will examine how spiritual meanings and power transform secular materials with supernatural power as a costume is placed over the spirit Medium’s shoulders to start the ceremony.
- “Wearing Letters" and "Attiring Texts” as Talismans in 18th-Century Bali Kaja McGowan Cornell University
In a Balinese version of the Panji texts called Malat, a major kidung poem of the 18th century, a Prince from the Kingdom of Daha, Java, travels to "Malayu" to search for his lost sister. Upon arrival, he is adopted by the old king of Malayu, whom he consequently succeeds as ruler. Returning in disguise to Java, the young king lands at Tuban, an old royal port city on the north coast of Java part of the Kingdom of Majapahit. In oral renditions of this episode, Malayu and Java are identified, and "Jawa" merges with Bali, indeed "mirrors" Bali through a coastal port of the same name, Tuban. The Malat, in its role in Majapahit discourse, is concerned with these topics of "Jawa" and "Malayu" as defining both the inside and the outside of Bali's world. It does not qualify its interest in religious terms, but rather through commodities like cloth. When torn pieces of patterned cloth converge in these texts with talismanic and healing properties, then the realm of healers (balian), both Hindu and Muslim can be seen to vie for superiority. An essential part of what makes these practices, both Hindu and Islamic, merge, their boundaries of efficaciousness rendered permeable, is through their shared belief in the magic of patterned cloth, foreign or domestic, and the hold it has over the body and the land through intimate rituals of literacy: "wearing letters" and “attiring texts” as talismans.
…it is worn like an idea, that of a terrific power, for it is enough to be seen for this power to be demonstrated (Roland Barthes, The Language of Fashion, 2015, p. 56).
It has been argued that some forms of jewelry and specialized garments trace their origins to magical purposes. This panel retrieves the genealogy of instances of Southeast Asian clothing, personal adornment, and architectural ornament from present-day (often) secularized iterations to earlier expressions of faith in supernatural powers. Speakers address factors and processes that endow material things with amuletic qualities. Do apotropaic powers derive from formal characteristics such as shape, design, or composition? How does color, or the mind’s perception of it, contribute to an object’s efficacy? How are meanings and notions of power negotiated, enhanced, or negated as various objects transition from sacred to secular and vice versa? Specific materials such as gold and silver; or semi-precious gems such as jade, pearls, and coral, among others, were traditionally believed to protect, prolong life, or cure illness before their transformation into contemporary expressions of secular power and wealth. What were the basis for their early association with spiritual power and their present-day function as tangible markers of economic status? How do group affiliations, conceptual associations, or performative actions impact these processes?