Washing With The Gods

We are delighted to be able to show a fascinating insight into the magical beliefs of the people of Central America, South America and Spain in this new mini exhibition of magical soaps collected by Dr. James Green. 

Soap is one of the mundane objects that form part of our everyday lives. Magic soaps are bars of soap that are sold at Tiendas Esoterica, (stalls that sell items associated with magic), in the inner city markets of Central and South America and Spain. Unlike regular bars of soap, magic soaps draw on the powers of a range of beings, gods, sacred objects, animals and folk saints, which, if applied directly to the skin, will make the users chosen desire come true.

They are presented in visually striking packages this are illustrated with pictures that either show the circumstances that led to the magic soup being used, (a person being frightened by evil magic), the results the magic produces (a woman dominating her wayward husband), or the being whose power is the magic soap cause upon (a folk saint of Guatemala). Magic soap often comes with small prayer cards that provide instructions for the user to ensure the best results and some have small charms, talismans or seeds mixed into them.

Washing With The Gods, exhibits magic soap collected from Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Mexico and Spain between 2015 to 2019. The collection on exhibit is possibly the largest collection of its kind. Magic soaps have been overlooked and this exhibition aims to bring them to the fore and to begin a discussion of how the images on the packages contribute to the history of how ideas of folk magic from Europe and indigenous groups of Central and South America have merged.

The exhibition runs from July 20th – September 20th 2019