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Silver crown with gilt and carnelians (Unknown Turkmen Silversmith, 19th–early 20th century)

Silver crown with gilt and carnelians (Unknown Turkmen Silversmith, 19th–early 20th century)

Here is a beautiful crown made using plain materials and simple techniques.  It was crafted by a nomadic silversmith of the nomadic Turkmen people in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.  The piece is at the edge of being a crown.  I guess purists or monarchists might argue that it is just a fine headpiece.  It is made with silver, plain carnelians, and cotton lining—perhaps for a chieftain or a high status nomad.  However the work is beautiful and cunningly made—it has much greater artistic merit than much fancier works.  I would argue that not only is it a crown, it illustrates a great truth about human affairs—If you are a nomad or a wanderer (or a member of some other society that  does not crawl before the great but runs away from them) monarchs do not mean as much.  Any nomad can put on a crown and declare himself a potentate. Of course, that line of thinking ignores what has happened to modern Turkmenistan where the entire society was enslaved by an evil alienist who wasted the entire treasury making huge marble follies in the desert.  Perhaps I need to tell that story!

Among the Potawatomi nation, one of the most important clans was the fish clan.  Fish clan members were thought most likely to be teachers, medicine people, and diplomats.  They carefully observed the natural world, interpreted their experiences and passed this information on. The fish clan constituted the intellectuals of Potawatomi society.  Two of the most important fish clan families were the Wawaazisiigs and the Maanamegwugs, named after the Bullhead catfish and the channel catfish respectively.  Their ideas provided the philosophical underpinnings of the tribes understanding of life.  The catfish was a respected spirit guide.

That introduction, however, is a bit of a red herring for today’s post, which features tattoos of catfish.  I wonder if the individuals who decided to get permanent images of catfishes etched in their skin with needles were thinking along the same lines as the Potawatomi elders.  Did they hope for the deep thinking of the Wawaazisiigs and the Maanamegwugs?  Were they just enchanted by the charisma and personality of the Siluriformes?  Or were they just intoxicated or hopelessly young?  Unfortunately we have no context other than the images.

Whatever the case, here is a gallery of catfish tattoos which I found around the web. Enjoy!

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