Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

History - Very Superstitious: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

History - Very Superstitious: Resources

Article excerpt

Two charming exhibitions explore faith, hope and chance.

The Wellcome Collection deftly sums up two current exhibitions as groups of supernatural "thank yous" and "pleases".

Infinitas Gracias: Mexican Miracle Paintings focuses on the devout practice in Mexico of presenting offerings at the shrines of selected saints for help and divine intervention at times of crisis. These range from naive paintings executed on wood and slate to home-made captioned drawings on paper and card, expressing gratitude to the saint for their assistance for anything from bouts of illness to examinations.

Each of the paintings depicts a moment of crisis ranging from the catastrophic (rail accidents, wrongful arrests and just-averted public executions) to the mundane. There is Juan Garcia's thanks to St Francis in 1861 after being "rescued" from a near lapse into unconsciousness while bathing. There is also an extraordinary display of milagritos (little miracles): simple tin badges depicting everything from feet to lorries and giving thanks for things as diverse as injured limbs healed and long journeys survived.

These segue neatly into the "please" exhibition - Charmed Life, curated by artist Felicity Powell - which features 400 charms and talismans collected by amateur folklorist Edward Lovett during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Both shows would make great trips for primary pupils. Preparation could include questions on whether they or their families have sought supernatural support or solace for troubles in their lives. …

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