Instrument for curing madness

crowded desktop display case


Wooden stick object with sculpted metal ends

Instrument for curing madness

PRM 1954.6.101 Case C. 27.A


This object was used in Tibetan medical practice for curing mental health disorders, though exactly how it functioned is not known. A wooden stick with crafted metal ends, it is decorated with symbols from Tibetan Buddhism including a dorje (thunderbolt) at one end and the head of a creature (possibly representing a water spirit) at the other. It was collected in the Western Himalayas in the 1930s by the Moravian missionary Walter Asboe, along with further items associated with Tibetan medicine and many other things used in the daily lives of the communities of that region. Alongside his duties as a missionary, Asboe conducted long-term research in the Western Himalayas. He became the ‘Himalayan Correspondent’ for the Royal Anthropological Institute of the United Kingdom and published articles based on his observations.


This object featured in the video artwork 'Presence and Absence' by Marina Abramović.

It is one of seven objects you can read about that was part of the exhibition trail on the ground floor of the museum.