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Image of Herbalist's Staff (Opa Osanyin)

Yoruba Peoples
African

Herbalist's Staff (Opa Osanyin)

20th century

Object Type: Sculpture
Dimensions:
25 in. x Diam. 9 in. (63.5 cm x 22.86 cm)
Medium and Support: Iron
Accession Number: 2013.0017.0031

Credit Line: Gift of Dileep and Martha Mehta


Iron staffs are commonly dedicated to the "orisha" of curative medicine, Osanyin, who is one of a multitude of Yoruba gods who work on behalf of the creator god. Yoruba herbalists, who protect the health of the community, display such staffs as symbols of their profession. The herbalists also reverence Ogun, the god of iron and hunters, because Ogun supplies the iron blades herbalists use to harvest plants to make their medicines and because herbalists must hunt for their cures. The iron birds signify the life-giving and nurturing powers of women that the herbalists have harnessed.

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