The Box of Astaroth - The Shrine of Baron Samedi
Other than the legendary Doomsday Voodoo Dance, I've surprisingly had very little experience of Haitian Vodou. That was until September 2019 when I was commissioned to create a Box of Astaroth in the form of a shrine. More accustomed to Gothic Victoriana, I felt slightly out of my comfort zone but over a period of a few months I let the project evolve and almost manifest itself. The final piece is a shrine to Baron Samedi, the leader of the Guédé, loa who have particular links to magic, ancestor worship and death. I also felt some form of affinity with Baron Samedi due his notoriety for outrageous behavior, continuous swearing and filthy jokes.
Baron Samedi can usually be found at the crossroads between the worlds of the living and the dead. When someone dies, he digs their grave and greets their soul after they have been buried, leading them to the underworld. I think his most endearing feature is that he ensures that all corpses rot in the ground to stop any soul from being brought back as brainless zombies. All that is required is an offering or sacrifice at the shrine. These types of shrine are houses were one can communicate with the spiritual realm and appease the gods and the spirits of ancestors. It is believed that these shrines are bestowed with highly supernatural powers but are dependent on the extent and quality of sacrifice offered to them. Use with caution!
Unlike the other boxes I have made over the years which had an emphasis on a fine antique finish and aesthetically pleasing details, the voodoo shrine had to be approached from a completely different artistic angle. My research of voodoo shrines revealed that they are not only fine examples of simple folk art but also a visual phantasmagoria of weird artefacts and bizarre offerings. These shrines, as well as their intended religious purpose, also serve as amazing Haitian cabinets of curiosity, all unique in both artistic style and content.
As always, I have used original antiques where possible and this edition retains all the functionality of previous boxes.