Rare Tiny Ojibwa
Medicine Bowl with
Dramatic Castellated Peaks

Great Lakes, ca. early to mid 19th century.

The beautiful line quality of this bowl with its high peaked and notched effigy castellated peaks make it a dramatic and superior example. The tiny palm-size is surprising and riveting. Thinly hewn from maple in silky-smooth original surface, with use wear to the interior and complex patination around the rim from handling, its sophisticated form and complex surface read as testament to its age and important cultural history.

Bowls of this form were carved specifically to prepare herbal medicines made from berries, plants, and bark (and often mixed with animal fats). There is little to no darkening in the bottom of this bowl, so its use was reserved for herbs and barks. It would have been stored with other ritualistic objects in blankets and bags (often referenced as ‘bundle bowls’).

About 5 x 3 1/8 x 2 3/8 inches. Inconsequential faint hairline.

The water spirit MANITOU, and the use of WOOD, were critical to many Native American belief systems. The esteemed and feared MANITOU, the powerful and sacred guardian and keeper of the lakes and rivers, was often manifest as a likeness on bowls, ladles, and clubs. To portray the Manitou in effigy on a bowl is witness to the importance of the water spirit.

Provenance includes a private Santa Fe collection purchased years ago at the Winter Antique Show in NYC. Reference: See The Art of the Spirit World: Woodlands, Steven Michaan, for related, yet less developed, examples.