After months and months (and months) without posting, I’m finally getting back in the swing of things, and what better way than with a visit to the multi-altared house of my colleague Phill! Phill knows a tremendous amount about a tremendous amount, and the apartment he shares with his partner is a treasure trove of books, masks, antiques, original artwork, and salvaged finds, all of which have their own story; Phill was generous enough to share some of these stories with me.
From left to right:
1.This is a Buddhitsan, a Buddhist altar, that are most often found at the doors of Japanese Buddhists’ homes. The mandala inside is written in Japanese, Chinese, and Sanskrit, and reads “Nam myoho Renge Kyo”, the mandala for the Lotus Sutra meaning “I bow to the mystical law of cause and effect.” Here is a close-up of the mandala. Phill changes the flower (a camellia here) every couple of days.
2.Camellia at Budhhitsan
3.This buddhitsan has a mon, a Japanese family crest, affixed to its upper portion. This one is made of metal, but nowadays most are made of plastic.
4.This piece is a gau, a portable Tibetan container shrine. This gau is a middle 1800s elite piece; the stones are turquoise and coral, and the central figure is an ivory lama or bodhissatva. (A bodhissatva is a buddha that has renounced nirvana in order to stay here and help others pursue enlightenment.)
5.Phill showed me several of his original boxes. This one is “Broken-hearted Devil.”
6.This piece is an original work that Phill made. Using a wooden box found in a thrift store (with the name “Pete” carved into the side!), he constructed the “N’kisi Amerikano”, an Americanized n’kisi box based on the African tradition of creating a shrine box to host energies that can be both positive or negative. The center of the character on the outside of the box is made from a broken light bulb; reflective glass and mirrors are a common component of n’kisi shrines that are included in order to see into the ancestral world.
7. Inner N’kisi Amerikano