In the Congo (also spelled "Kongo"), people may seek, in a crisis, to obtain a spirit's protection by driving nails into its carved wooden likeness and shouting at it. Powerful substances like roots and other fetish materials - called nkondi - may be attached to the figure. To guard against misuse, a mirror was typically affixed to the body of the figure to reflect back any evil intent. The nail fetish shown here was reportedly owned by a Congo tribal family in the 1920s. However, many such items, while made in the traditional way, are modern productions deceptively "antiqued" to simulate a genuine fetish and made for export.
Digital image copyright 2014 Images in this collection are not to be used for any commercial purposes without the expressed written permission of the Center for Inquiry and Dr. Joe Nickell. Patrons of this digital museum are free to utilize materials from the museum for non-commercial and educational purposes.