Ferme ta gueule / Philippe Charlier

This is a “Ferme ta gueule” (“Shut up”). This voodoo ritual object from Benin has been collected from a ghost monastery in April 2016. It has been used to cast spells. It looks like nothing. Looks like (divine) crap. That is, at first glance, a mound of soil with an iron chain. Not a big deal. If one looks carefully, one can perhaps make out some teeth coming out of this mass of sacrificial materials. Some feathers of chicken, too, which indicate the presence of sacrificed animals whose blood was shed on this offering to the gods. It smells like oil, smoke, alcohol (gin). Old blood too. Rancid. A little musty.

The CT-scan showed that it is a dog jaw, with chains attached to it. The animal was sacrificed to sow death, to cause losses at games or convictions in court. A supernatural object to influence the justice of men. Does it work?

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Philippe Charlier, MD, PhD, LittD, is a forensic practitioner and anthropologist. He works on representations of the human bodies, and rituals related to diseases and death. He loves words, and more.

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