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Spirit-Root-Club: 2 Faces from 2 eras


DISCOUNTED THRU JANUARY 2019 (Discounted $250)

This remarkable root club was carved by Stan Neptune, Penobscot carver. It has "2 faces" on opposite sides of this club - each face in the top of the root bundle and the side of the handle underneath each face is carved in a different tradition - from a different era. There is the very traditional "Spirit face" with old traditional designs and motifs carved below it. The opposite side has a carved chief's face and designs from the "tourist era" c/1900-1950, carved below it. PLEASE view ALL PHOTOS IN FULL by clicking to expand - That will bring a slideshow of all the photos expanded to full length/size. When viewed in the slideshow there is short description of what you are seeing - where on the club it is located.

The root club is a truly Maine Indian item - There just don't seem to be 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 - but discovering that these could be sold as "tourist items" or "souvenirs" 1900 -1950's, 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. S

This club is 32.5" long, the sharpened roots are 9" roughly across, the handle is 1.75" in diameter. - These were first intended, centuries ago to be used as weapons - this would be an impressive weapon - it is an impressive work of art. - Stan Neptune is the leading authority on Maine Indian root clubs, chip carving and their history. He collaborated with others for the current Abbe Museum exhibit "Emergence" Root Clubs of the Penobscot Nation. The Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor Maine recently became affiliated with the Smithsonian. He also collaborated on an early exhibit and small exhibit catalog "Spirits in the Wood" sponsored by Maine Historical Society - the catalog has several great photos of root clubs, including a number with spirit faces. After returning from the Vietnam war, Stan Neptune sought out an elder in order to learn more of his tribal culture and history. Senabeh, elder, shaman and master chip carver would carve as he discussed these things with Stan. It was Stan's introduction to more of his culture and to this art form. This is a piece that was in my physical store (now closed) ... and not offered again until now. With the Abbe Museum's new root club exhibit there is increased interest in root clubs and Stan Neptune's work - so making this and a few other of his pieces I have had stored available.

On the first photo below you see the native Chief's face Stan has carved into the root ball, but as done in the tourist era, he has placed a Plains Indian style headdress on it - feathers intricately carved (look at the detail!) but - flowing down around the face and back - Northeastern style feather headdresses would have feathers sticking straight up around the top of the head. If you look at the 3rd photo expanded you can see the entire side of the root club that shows the "chief's face", the triangle below the barked section of the top is incised cross hatched. There is a flower below that, done in the style of Stan's teacher, Senabeh. Beneath the flower is Stan's tribe "Penobscot" carved inside a design that I have come to call the "leafed arrow" design, a wide arrow shaft, with leafs attached to the sides and an arrowhead at the bottom. The small arrowhead points at an incised carved turtle with a chip carved 4 directions/4 arrow design chip carved w/ incised arrows on it's shell. The arrow shaft has chip carved ash branches (more on them near end of description) and chip carved curved ash branches "framing" it. Below the turtle, at the bottom of the handle (just above the small amount of bark left on very bottom) is an incised eel. It is Stan's maker's mark, he is of the Penobscot eel clan. - Back to the chief's head carved into the root ball/burl on the tourist era side of the club. The attention to detail is beautiful - look at the individually carved feathers on the Plains Indian style headdress and the lovely headband they are affixed to ... The face is carved into the part of the burl that looks like bird's eye maple... such complex coloration - it adds such beauty and depth to this face.

On the old traditional "spirit" face, Stan has used brass tacks for eyes, historically this was done on a number of spirit clubs... the earlier ones with brass tack eyes date back to late 1700's. May have been used in even earlier ones that are lost in time or yet to be discovered. Note how Stan has left the bark on the Spirit face side of this club and has carved into the root ball/burl for the "tourist era" face side. You can see the Spirit's nostrils and teeth. In the second photo below I show the spirit face side in it's entirety. - If you expand the 4th photo below you will see the "spirit" face/traditional side of this club in it's entirety. The designs are very old style - the triangle shape beneath the root burl bark is done with triangular shaped chip carvings. Below that is an ash branch (more about the significance of the ash tree later in the description) At the center of the handle on this side is a chip carved diamond shape with ash branches top and bottom - and a small chip carved triangle shape at the very bottom of the handle. The diamond and the bottom triangle have further chip carved embellishments. NOTE - NO photos nor any words can truly describe this piece - hard to photograph the round handle in a way that shows all the amazing detail work - hard to see how each design is placed relating to the work beside/on top/under/behind it... And this work is just so beautifully done, I really am struggling to adequately describe it.

Photos 5 & 6 show close ups of the Senahbeh style flower and the incised turtle.

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?

. and I wish I could show this so you could see the design with the leaves encircling the turtle on both sides... just frustrating that I can't photograph this curved round object to show the beauty of the whole and the way all the designs relate to each other!

2 Faces Root Club - Chief (face 1st side)
2 Faces Root Club -spirit (face 2nd side)
2 Faces Root Club - entire front of club
2 Faces Root Club - entire back of club
2 Faces Root Club  -Senabeh style flower front of handle
2 Faces Root Club  -Senabeh style turtle front of handle
2 Faces Root Club - traditional chip carving near top of back handle
2 Faces Root Club - traditional chip carving, middle back handle
Weight: 3 lb