Spirit Sounds

Images of spirits surround us. They are everywhere. Cemeteries are filled with images of assorted psychopomps, those spirits who escort human souls to afterlife realms. Garden stores offer stone sphinxes, plaster gnomes, and a vast selection of Aphrodites on the half-shell.

Look in store windows and calculate how long until you encounter

the ubiquitous image of Maneki Neko, the Japanese beckoning cat, who reputedly attracts customers as if by magic. Mermaids grace the labels of products like wine, tuna fish, and sardines, not to mention Starbucks coffee. Recent trips to the supermarket netted me a bottle of Japanese rice vinegar with a label featuring the smiling face of Okame, goddess of mirth; a jar of Laxmi brand coriander chutney, named in honor of India’s goddess of good fortune; and a bottle of Spanish Rioja wine with a label depicting Ares, that helmeted lord of war.

Visit virtually any art museum, except those devoted solely to

abstract art, and just try to avoid the spirits. They’re pretty

omnipresent in museums devoted to history, too. Look at an

Egyptian mummy case: it’s covered with pictures of spirits. Go visit

crafts museums, quilting exhibitions, sculpture gardens: odds are,

you’ll nd some spirit lurking in the works. If the spirits aren’t on

display, their images are almost guaranteed to be in the gift store,

waiting for someone to take them home.

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