2991 – Wax house: Votive wax house or cottage

Physical description:
A votive made of wax in the shape of a house.
Museum classification:
Christian Magic
13 cm x 9 cm x 5.5 cm
This wax representation of a house was purchased in 2014 from a stall surrounding the Basilica of Our Lady of F'tima in Our'm, Portugal. The shrine is devoted to the appearance of the Virgin Mary to three children in 1917. The votive would be purchased and then left at the shrine to act as a focus for prayer. These prayers would usually focus upon protection for the supplicants home, possessions or family. This could be seen as form of sympathetic magic; the vast array of wax body parts offered up to the Virgin as a means of healing demonstrate this magical link more clearly (See objects 2062 - 2069). Pope John Paul II famously donated the bullet that nearly killed him in a terrorist attack in Rome in 1980 to the Virgin of Fatima. The offering was given as a token of gratitude for the Virgin's protection; the bullet was then set in a crown and placed on the saints' statue in the cathedral. The use of wax in magical and religious rites dates at least as far back as the Ancient Egyptians; references to wax figurines appear in the Book of the Dead and in the practice of the lector priest Webaoner (Middle Kingdom). Wax was used during the dynastic period in medico-magical operations, including the healing of burns. The Roman Pliny wrote of the various uses of wax in his 'Natural History'; it was thought especially good for carrying out the (magical) intentions of the living (for both good and ill), but was also used for remembering the dead - especially in the form of wax cerae, heads or death-masks, which were set in niches in Roman family homes and carried in funerary processions (although this practice had died out by the time of Pliny).