Divining Green Mysterious

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What follows are various threads from some photo posts of mine on a social network site.   Since the main topic of these threads  has travelled from Zaire to England to Indiana to Mexico, and now to California, I feel it is perfect for the Travel Theme on Ailisa’s blog We are trying to solve the mystery as to what green mineral is used as/on some of the objects.

I will post the disclaimer I send to all of my new social network “friends”, because there are elements of this post where this is applicable in a very tame way:

      • My canned disclaimer: I have been known to post items that some people may find offensive because of the religious, political, profane, personal, or sexual content. I won’t be offended if you de-friend me because you would rather not be exposed to these. Likewise, please don’t be offended if I de-friend you after a while because I get bored with the Mafia-Wars, Farmville, or Biblical quote posts as I try to keep the number of my friends manageable. I look forward to getting to know you better! Nina


Nina:  Antelope antlers filled with minerals for divination. These pieces are where the real mojo lies.

A. Ray:   Heh Heh, she said “filled with minerals”.

Nina:  Hopefully it will have a new home soon where it gets some appreciation and reverance. Or perhaps I should bury it.

A. Ray:   I didn’t know that you throw the bones :)

Nina:  I like to chew on bones, occasionally toss them, but do not throw them. I would never casually mess with this thing, nor would I knowingly let anyone else. I’m going to see if the Bowers Museum wants it. It still makes my fingers numb. It is a very fine example, and it bothers me to think how a Ndimbu Nganga became separated from his bowl and how it landed in our middle class home in Indiana. I guess we were a safe place for it if it had to end up in the hands of ‘tourists’.

A. Ray:   You respect it for what it is and so are the rightful caretaker. There is only one way the bowl would have been separated from its maker…… physical death.

A. Ray:   Zaire is the place where the rainforest pushes back on the encroachment of modern man. A difficult place to survive and a good deal of unexplained illness. The service this individual provided for his community would have been very important toward the village’s ability to cope with the hardship.

The shaman- like guide would have been privy to all the emotional undercurrents between people within the village and his purpose would be to manage the energies that kept the group united and surviving as a unit in the harsh environment.

Zaire is also where the Ebola virus (the most frightening organism on earth) came out of the rainforest.

Nina:   I know about the physical death part. This is one of the reasons I am bothered by it. It isn’t right that this thing was sold as an object of art. We purchased it because we recognized its power. My mother and I would hold certain divination objects or the bowl itself and parts of us would get infused with electricity. My arms used to go numb from it. Once it was “ours”, the bowl sat on a shelf in the library on top of some books, and we rarely touched it. It wasn’t on “display”. I recently purchased two books that were recommended by the dealer who sold it to us (I think he was a missionary) so that I might try to decipher the meanings of the different divination objects in the bowl. Most of them have to do with sadness, sickness, or spells that someone has cast upon the person seeking the reading. Because these are all negative, I was thinking it was time to put it in a final resting place–either a museum or, seriously, burying it. The thought of burning it frightens me. It should have been buried with its owner.

Nina:  As to your fourth post, I love you, A. Ray.

A. Ray:   The reasons one would go see this individual would be for sadness, sickness or illness. That is why they are represented.

A. Ray:   Spells were believed to be the reason for misfortune

A. Ray:   Illness happened because “someone” had it in for you.

A. Ray:   The shaman relieves the pressure imagined in the group superstition.

A. Ray:   This is a HEALING tool

A. Ray:   I<3u2

A. Ray:   a western museum might be a sad choice. I wouldn’t want my sacred items gawked at in the future.

Nina:  It is a bowl full of still-powerful mojo with which this white girl doesn’t know what to do. It makes me sad, contemplative, and full of respect for all that I don’t understand.

Nina:  Some of the objects, and the bowl itself, are encrusted in layers of mud and goodness knows what else–as is typical of African artifacts. Every time I handle the thing, pieces of dried mud flake off. This makes me pensive, too. I will post a picture of this object made of green mineral that is encrusted in mud. Perhaps you will know the mineral. Anyway, the objects leave both physical and metaphysical residue whenever they are handled. Better to be behind plexiglass???

A. Ray:   Don’t fear it, it helped many people with deep superstitions. I know why it picked you…… you could hear it hum. :)

A. Ray:   malachite comes from there and is believed to be a healing stone

A. Ray:   this is another one


Nina:  I can hear it hum alright!!! Perhaps the thing is trying to remind me that I probably shouldn’t be spending my days off napping and whatever else–especially, the whatever else.

Nina:  i just had deja-vu.

A. Ray:   uh oh, it knows we’re talking about it…. do do dodo, do do dodo

A. Ray:   Your so fun to talk to

Nina:  I like talking to people who are smarter than me :). Speaking of, I think I need to ask the basket what it wants me to do with it. I’m going to try and round up some grub. You should do the same. Pho sounds good. I wish it wasn’t such a drive.

Tinglehoop:  Nina..I would bury it.

Erica:  ^ rabbit turds? *shrug*

Nina:  To give you an idea of size, that is a chicken’s foot behind it, and a little hoof on its right, or about the size of 4 rabbit pellets.

A. Ray:   Copper oxide

A. Ray:   no that would be red

A. Ray:   or black

A. Ray:   http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~adg/images/minerals/cu/botallack.jpg

A. Ray:   copper hydroxychloride

A. Ray:   just a guess based on location

A. Ray:   copper hydroxyphosphate is also found in the Congo


Nina:  It could totally be a form of oxidized copper. Verdigris would be dusty like this. It is so INTENSELY green though.

Nina:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verdigris

Nina:  Jungle green perhaps? :)

Nina:  For red and black aren’t you thinking of iron?


4th one down


A. Ray:   Just kidding…… i hope



Nina:  In this picture here ^, it DOES look like it could be one of those radioactive minerals.

Nina:  Like I said, the thing next to it (I have no idea what the core is–and I am not certain I want to know) is covered in this mineral and then encrusted with a grainy mud-like substance. Going to bed now, but thinking of you.  A. Ray, you have been a great help with all of my outside-of-the-box needs. I <3 you for it. x

Tinglehoop:  Nina..the answer to your question before….if you could I would bury it where it came from or on some public land.

A. Ray:   Although the radioactive version would be worth money…….. it flakes off like a salt. I’m still leaning toward a copper hydroxy double salt. Also, take a look at this piece of copper ore (which is common in the Congo-Zaire area)


A. Ray:   And my analysis of the grainy mud -like substance is that it is a form of….. well, grainy mudite (also very common to the region) hehehe

A. Ray:   Tinglehoop, I’m giggling at the mental image of Nina in a pith helmet diggin’ a hole deep enough. There must be a more humane way. ;)

Tyler :  Looks like Malachite —a copper carbonate mineral, formula Cu2CO3(OH)2.

Nina:   But the malachite that I am familiar with doesn’t flake, dust off, and crumble like this does it? From the most minimal of handling, you can see that it has left residue on the sheet. Perhaps it is malachite that has been ground down and then applied as a paste to both of these objects??? At first I assumed the oblong object to be the mineral itself with some encrustation of mud. It is typical to encrust objects with meaning in many different African cultures. It is the color of malachite.

Nina:  How did this photo end up in ‘Home Away From Home’ photo album???!!! Weird.

A. Ray:  I toll u lucy

A. Ray:  Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Nina:  The thing was humming and swirling tonight. There is still so much mojo in that 10″ bowl.

Nina:   Tinglehoop, my love, I won’t be going to Zaire anytime soon. The thought of it being buried at the Bowers Museum ( sort-of a public land) until a scholar came around and recovered it was what I was thinking. Because this thing ended up in my “Home Away from Home” photo album instead of its intended destination in “Miscellany”, I am having second thoughts as to whether I should dispose of it so quickly.

Tyler:  Malachite forms as a secondary oxidation product of other primary copper minerals. Malachite can also occur as a soft encrusting mineral. A flame and HCl test would help verify. Looks too green for Uranium salt.

A. Ray:   That was from wiki, notice malachite, libethenite,brochantite from our original guessing game.

here is a picture of the flaky version


A. Ray:   Erased previous post ….. TMI

A. Ray:   After MUCH deliberation, if you really need find the artifact a new home, I will help.

A. Ray:   It seems to have chosen you though and so I say that with great caution.

Nina:  Thank you, boys. The picture of the flakey version is beautiful!!! Don’t worry about the TMI. Being around other nerds is a turn-on.

Nina:  As far as finding a home for the divination bowl, I am going to let it rest back on a bookshelf for now. I still don’t think it is entirely wrong to let others see it in a museum setting. Those who are interested in it will pay attention, most people will ignore it. It has been getting ignored for many years now on a bookshelf. I am grateful for the quality pieces that make it into museums. Most of the really exquisite examples of art/artifacts are kept in private home collections and are shared with very few. According to the letter of provenance I have from the dealer, there is only one other fine example he knew of at the time such as this, and it was at the Smithsonian. The Bowers is known for their support of African Arts.

Nina:  I used to spend A LOT of time in museums.

Tyler:  Blessed Be !

After hearing it hum, I decided to reunite the divination basket and its precious cargo today. It still shimmers, but not like it used to. Southwestern Region of Shaba Province, Zaire. Circa 1980

***For more information on divination baskets such as this one, I found this MOST EXCELLENT site, which provided more information than the two scholarly books I purchased.  

If you want to get in on the fun of Travel Theme-Mysterious:  http://http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/11/16/travel-theme-mystical/

Link to comment about basket: http://managuagunntoday.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/just-a-cup-of-coffee/