Amulet Trail: Vulture's head, Ghana

1937.13.2PRM 1937.13.2

This amulet is made from the skull of a Nubian or Lappet-Faced vulture (Torgos tracheliotus) mounted in painted leather. It was bought in Obuasi market in Ashanti, Ghana by Robert Powley Wild in 1937 during his time as Inspector in the Mines Department of the Gold Coast.

Vulture heads, parrot wings and dried chameleons are still sold at markets in Ghana today. They might have once been called 'fetishes' – objects invested with supernatural powers and part of a magical system of belief, observances and practices known as 'Juju'. Juju is a word of West African origin, derived from the French joujou ('toy') and its connection to the spiritual realm and ghosts means that 19th-century Europeans regarded it as a type of witchcraft or 'black magic'. The slave trade carried juju traditions to the Americas where they still survive – albeit often fused with Christian elements – in Brazil, the Caribbean and the southern United States.

Artisans of Memory

Behind the scenes of an amulets project

This series of short films follows the progress and practices of those connected with the Small Blessings project as they unravel the stories surrounding these curious objects.

The full series of films may be viewed here.


Amulets Competition

The competition is now closed and a winner has been announced. Find out more here.

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