The Amulet

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Save Article Share Tweet. Related Articles. Bereaved parents worked with artist Marie Brett to locate an amulet they possessed which has significance in relation to the loss of their baby. Marie recorded the stories behind the chosen amulets and these stories, together with visual materials gifted by the parents, formed the basis for a new artwork. Anamnesis , Objects like these are freighted with a depth of emotion and meaning impossible to articulate by those who bestowed them on their lost children.

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Talisman-like, they also convey other meanings. For archaeologists and ethnographers, such items appear in many forms across myriad cultures, representing lost loved ones, symbolizing ancestors, or as grave goods accompanying the dead on their journey to the afterlife.

Their potency, when representing a loss as well as a life, is familiar to us; they have been used throughout human history to embody memory after death. That is, infants who have died at birth or during pregnancy. These infants have not traditionally been remembered with the same rites and rituals that babies who lived long enough to be baptized, and totems of memory are usually absent from their stories.

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In this environment, those contributing to The Amulet Project in the period of research and reflection that preceded the exhibition shared their experiences of birth, pregnancy loss, and infant death, working with Brett over a number of years. The fact of this type of loss of a child is not a recent phenomenon, but rather one that Irish society is beginning to recognize as it slowly separates itself from the stays of dominant Catholic religious convention. This veil of silence over the loss of such children has meant that historically, those mourning them had no sanctioned focal point or associated rites to manage the grieving process, which in Catholic Ireland has a distinct and ritualized structure.

Anatomizing these rituals, ethnographer Lawrence Taylor describes the Irish way of death and mourning as having phases that are both in and out of the purview of the church, which while seemingly disparate, complement one another and contribute to the liminal phase of acceptance of the loss.

This becomes an important signifier of the event, and is kept close by the bereaved. These ordinary items, much like the foundling tokens, become something else. The Amulets are shown to us in photographs and are modest items.