Bird Crown

14 magic birds, 2 faces
Height: 18 1/2 inches
Diameter: 20 1/2 inches
Material: Cotton, beads, sturdy frame
Culture: Yoruba
Origin: Nigeria, Africa
Price: $495

"Yoruba kings provide the highest link between the people, the ancestors, and the gods. Their relation to the Creator is given in the praise poem Oha alashe ekeji orisha, 'The king as master of ashe, (the power to make things happen) becomes the second of the gods.' Birds especially those connoting the ashe of the 'mothers', those most powerful elderly women with a force capable of mystically annihilating the arrogant, the selfishly rich, or other targets deserving of punishment, are often depicted in bead embroidery clustered at the top of the special crowns worn by Yoruba kings...signifying that the king rules by mastering and participating in the divine command personified by them. These feathered avatars brilliantly rendered in shining beads protect the head of the supreme leader. The veil that hangs across the wearer's face protects ordinary men and women from the searing gaze of the king in a state of ritual unity with his forbears."

-from Flash of the Spirit, by Robert Farris Thompson

Flash of the Spirit,
Robert Farris Thompson
Vintage Books, Random House, 1984.