Two spirit moose are among the carved root projections atop of this traditional "spirit" root club by Joe Hugga Dana, Penobscot carver. A "smoking moose" is incised carved on the front of the handle - as well as a moose track. This amazing root club emphasizes the dependence that Northeast Native Americans had on the moose. Hugga says "Moose were the Maine Indians'buffalo" the difference is that Maine Native Americans still hunt moose and moose still "roam" free here in Maine. Hugga, always the conservationist, was quick to show me the little beaver he carved on a smaller front root. He explained the mutually beneficial relationship between moose and beaver - the beaver clear trees near lakes which helps aquatic plants grow - these are the main foods of the moose. Please check out the little beaver - the cross hatched tail and the long beaver teeth are perfect. Hugga explained that to him "spirit" root clubs are those that have creatures, animal, human; real or mythological, visible in the roots when the carver peels off the bark of the small tree as he prepares to carve the club. Hugga then slightly carves the "spirits" he sees to enhance them. You will see that the 2 moose are natural roots with smaller roots for ears. Traditionally these spirit clubs had spiritual significance.
Please take the time to click on photos below... Many of the photos are only portions of the picture. By clicking you will be able to see the entire club in some of the photos.
While the root section on the top features the 2 spirit moose - and their neighbor, the little beaver, the "smoking moose" incised on the front of the handle is of equal significance. The spirit moose are without antlers (cow and calf? Bull moose in winter after his antlers have dropped?). The smoking moose is definitely a bull - Hugga took this moose design from a petroglyph found on a rock on the banks of the Kennebec River near Emden Maine. This petroglyph is the only known depiction of a smoking moose, but there are numerous drawings of a smoking rabbit in the Penobscot's mythology.
The root club is a truly Maine Indian item - There just aren't examples of these in any other area. Made from the root ball and trunk of a small birch tree, the root club has been documented to have been made pre-European contact. Traditionally used as weapons some later ones were thought to have ceremonial or spiritual use. Very small ones, less than a foot long are thought to have been shaman's clubs. The traditional carving on root clubs is an ancient skill which was nearly lost, Hugga's father, Stan Neptune learned from one of the last practicing chip carvers- Senahbeh, a shaman and carver. Stan taught Hugga and Hugga has now become the best chip carver I have seen. Prior to Stan's learning from Senahbeh, the previous generation c/1900-70 discovered that these could be sold as "tourist items" or "souvenirs". Maine Indian carvers of that era began incorporating designs that sold - including using Plains Indian type headdresses on the faces that were traditionally carved on some root clubs. Place and tribal names appeared on the handles - as tourists liked mementos of where they had visited. But Stan Neptune and now his son and their apprentices have revived the art of the traditional chip carved root club..... and here Hugga makes a very traditional "spirit" club - adds his own amazing technical mastery, his artistry and innovation - making this an important work of art - and an important homage to the tradition of root club carving as well as to the moose.
This club is 31" long, the naturally shaped roots are 8" roughly across, the handle is 1.75" in diameter. Hugga's father, Stan Neptune, is the leading authority on Maine Indian root clubs, chip carving and their history. He collaborated with others for an exhibit and small exhibit catalog "Spirits in the Wood" sponsored by Maine Historical Society.
The significance of some of the designs on this root club Please note on the handle is the morning star design below the face - see a close up of it in a photo. The double curve designs below that -, then the smoking moose, looking as tho he is strolling thru the forest with the vegetal designs that are right under him, then his track. Below that a design I have come to call the "Feathered arrow" design - This one has a wide shaft with feather dangles. Notice the chip carved leaves on curved ash branches attached at the sides of the arrow shaft at both ends and sides of the shaft. The ash tree figures in the Penobscot creation myth and as such is a sacred plant - The myth says that Glooscap shot an arrow into an ash tree, splitting it and from the heart of the tree - out from the split emerged the people, the Penobscots. - Maybe that is what the arrow and the attached ash branches signify? The shaft has some of the most intricate cross hatched diamonds, with curves and incised lines that I have ever seen on a Maine Indian chip carved work - Please be sure to view all of the photos, none of which can do justice to the magnificence of this piece. This piece is signed by Hugga.
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