Curiosity

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is about a little object I have had in my mitts for several months now. It came to me via someone I follow and have purchased from on Instagram, Mia (aka http://@therubyfoxes) and I have written about other purchases from her here and here) lives in Britain and at least at this time the object hails from that part of the world. I share it today as pretty much as an object from my personal cabinet of curiosities and welcome all comers with any information or worthy speculation.

There were two slightly different ones and Mia kept the mate. I chose mine because it had a vaguely feline sensibility which I thought suited the Pictorama collection best, hers is a bit more squat and canine, shown below. (She was nice enough to send a photo this morning – I had snatched him via a story on her account so no way to save the photo.) It is more similar than I remember.

Mia’s sibling version of the object. Many thanks to her for popping this photo over to me this morning!

These appear to be made of bone and the base and ring looks to be silver. A careful look and the grooves where the collar goes around the neck convinces me that these were designed to be in these silver holders with a loop for a chain, ribbon or twine. He sports a tongue which sticks out between his carved teeth. There are deep holes on either side of his mouth and I am not sure where the maker was heading with that. The eyes are perched atop of the head with tiny pointy ears. I thought there was a vague suggestion of a tail, but when I rubbed it I realized it is just the natural coloration of the bone, no carved indentation.

Flip side, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Toothy! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The allover etched designs seem to be the same on both. Whatever their hoodoo it is consistent. I do hope they do not mind being separated, but I believe the US is glad to have one on its shores. I like to think of it having a partner over at Mia’s house in her own cabinet of wonders.

At first I was thinking maybe it was a chess or other game piece, until I realized that the apparatus for hanging and wearing it was integral to the design. Kim had a good suggestion this morning and reminded me of Billiken’s. (He purchased one for me made of mother of pearl which I wrote about here. The creation story is a good one indeed.) The god of things as they ought to be according to Wikipedia (a concept I paused a moment to contemplate), Billikens are good luck and I have christened these likewise. There is something sort of Billiken-esque about them.

Billiken, possibly amber, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Bone Billiken, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

In fact a search of bone Billiken on Google turned up some credible relatives and I am reminded that Sandy over at http://@Curiositiesantique (or http://www.getcuriosities.com) came across a Billiken for sale I remembered as bone, but is amber she thought (see above), although there was a bracelet of small bone ones as well. However, these I found on Goggle are a bit closer to the mark of our mystery charms. (Also above.) Oddly, there are a number of Alaskan and Inuit carved figures that turn up under the search of Billiken bone images – not sure how all things Billiken can be true if there are early Inuit ones. Hmmm. More mysteries.

Lucky Billiken button. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Billiken Button

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Billiken button

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Seems that with the gift of this Billiken button from my husband I am, as I always knew, a lucky girl indeed! The wonderous Mr. Deitch surprised me with this acquisition a couple of weeks ago while he was burrowing deep into Billiken lore on a Facebook post. For those of you who missed that, it appears to have been inspired by a Billiken image on a cigar box – Kim was having a good time with cigar box pics a few weeks ago. Seems that research turned up the origin of the Billiken as a pretty good story – the creator Florence Pretz, art teacher and illustrator, brought it into existence it after seeing it in a dream. She christened him (it?) Billiken based on a poem, Mr. Moon: Song of the Little People, the appropriate passage below:

O Mr. Moon,
We’re all here!
Honey-bug, Thistledrift,
White-imp, Weird,
Wryface, Billiken,
Quidunc, Queered;
We’re all here, 
And the cost is clear!
Moon, Mr. Moon,
When you comin’ down?

 

Ms. Pretz did obtain a patent on Billiken, but where she made her mistake would appear to be in selling it to what became the Billiken Company of Chicago, which ultimately managed to merchandise him into a crazy cash cow nothing short of an international mania – his likeness was borne by toys, figurines, tobacco products, at least one football team, several early 20th century minor league baseball teams, and of course and evidently, clothing buttons. Strangely asian and eskimo cultures seem to be especially susceptible to his charms.

The other especially compelling fact about Billikens are that they are said to be the god of things as they ought to be. That’s a pretty interesting idea and I can see how it could be a double-edged sword as I consider it. Nevertheless, it is said to be good luck to purchase one – and even better luck to be given one. (Thank you Kim! I can use all the luck I can get.)

I hardly have to remark on the pearlized wonderfulness of this item. It fairly glows. It is actually beyond even my imagination to consider what an item of clothing might have looked like with a fewof these sewn on. Wowza!