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African Art

Herbalist’s Staff (Opa Osanyin)

19th to early 20th century

Iron

20 × 7 1/2 × 8 in. (50.8 × 19.05 × 20.32 cm)
Gift of Drs. Ruth and Theodore Lidz
1995.81.1
Herbalists enlist the aid of the god of divination, Osanyin, or the god of medicine, Erinle, in their work against mental and physical illness caused by supernaturally evil people.  These people change into birds at night to extract fluids and spirit from individuals.  A staff of birds refers to the herbalist’s understanding of and power over these malevolent people.
Geography: 
Made in Guinea Coast, Nigeria
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
Yorùbá
Period: 
19th–20th century
Classification: 
Tools and Equipment
Provenance: 

Gift of Drs. Ruth and Theodore Lidz to Yale University Art Gallery, 1995

Bibliography: 

“Acquisitions, January 1994–December 1995,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (1995–96): 157.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.