Libation sticks, Japan and Russia

These beautifully carved wooden sticks were made by the Ainu people, who historically lived in Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands (Russia), and Hokkaido (Japan). Such sticks, known as iku-pasuy, were once thought to be ‘moustache lifters’. They were in fact used by Ainu men to make offerings to spirits. 

The tip of the stick represents a tongue, which ‘speaks’ the prayer as it is dipped in sake (rice wine). The droplets are then deposited on the venerated object. The carvings on the sticks identify the ancestral lineage of the owner.

From left:

Collected by Neil Gordon Munro and donated by him in 1909.

Purchased for the Museum in 1900.

Purchased for the Museum by Basil Hall Chamberlain in 1892.

Accession numbers: 1909.15.3, 1900.76.12, 1900.78.62 and 1892.56.25, respectively