What’s your medicine?(bag)

J.Babcock Medicine Bag 2006

There’s something special about a little pouch made of velvet or silk or deerskin. Maybe it’s because of the size and that you can only fit something small and significant or maybe even precious inside.

Deerskin Medicine Bag

After moving to New Mexico in the late ‘80s I first became aware of Native American medicine bags – these are usually made of soft deerskin and containing personal items of protection and power such as stones, fetishes, sage, bones, hair or fur, roots, leaves or feathers.

J.Babcock Medicine Bag circa 1992

Around that same time I also began noticing other types of medicine bags in shops (also called amulet pouches or talisman bags). These were mostly decorative and worn like necklaces.  So, I started experimenting and hit upon a particular design that I could duplicate in different colors and beads so that each bag was unique. I made a lot of those bags and they helped pay the rent for many years. But as everything has it’s time and season and it was no longer my bliss to make them anymore, I decided to retire that medicine bag design for the time being.  

Fast forward to 2012. When I was playing around with ideas last week I came up with this bead embellished amulet bag. The two-dimensional knot on the front was one I found in “The Ashley Book of Knots” (#2329, page 375). This is a really cool book for knot lovers published around 1944. It took the author 11 years to finish and has thousands of knots.

P.S. I may be mistaken but I could swear I saw Mary on Downton Abbey wearing a black beaded amulet bag. It was in the scene where Richard Carlisle was walking out the door for (hopefully) the last time. As they say “everything old is new again” and beaded bags will always be in style.

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