Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dug Abdie Communion Token Hoard (Part 2)

Here are two CTs from the hoard. Surprisingly,
they are in nice condition but for some
sandy pitting and white salts on the reverse.
The spelling of Abdie is interesting: Y for an I.
Relics that come directly to us are particularly alluring.
     Fingertips tingle in anticipation of touching the past. We can never go there, but we can touch a piece of the action that happened there.
     One of my favorite material culture writers is Susan Pearce from Leicester, UK. She has used the phrase -- the real thing -- to characterize relics. Relics are the real thing. Everything else changes over time but relics do not. Even, our interpretations waver. But the physical object -- the relic -- is what it is.
     It is the real thing.
     The relic is as close to history as we will ever get. And frankly, history, as we know it, is nothing more than a surge of brain energy that is experienced in the here-and-now.
     We ascribe meaning to the relic: that is to say, we interpret it. According to Pearce, it is a signpost from the past, but also a symbol of whatever story we are weaving about the past. The signposts are mute, as we do all the talking.
     As collectors, we are meaning-makers. Instead of a diary full of words, we are writing our collecting histories one piece at a time. And our goal (at some level) is to represent the past as we imagine it.
     Twenty-two communion tokens dug from the shadows of a ruined stone church have all the mojo that you could hope for in a relic. These pieces are ripe for story-telling. They are signs and symbols.
     Our collecting protocol often demands that we strive to upgrade our pieces. Get the best one you can -- this is the creed. But relics that are fresh, that come directly from a hidden tin in the rectory or from the earth where they were buried, these are the objects that fascinate the most. Unadulterated by a lineage of collectors, this is as good as it gets. It does not matter that they are used up.
     Let's take a look.
The evocative ruin at Abdie.
Wikipedia (from James Allen)
     Two explorers with metal detectors were looking for relics within a stone-throw of the old Abdie ruin. The earth was rich with the footprints of history. And, relics were found. CTs that were last touched by someone long gone but who lived the experiences we wish to know about.
     We know the story. The old Kirk was abandoned in 1827. Some of the building materials, such as the roof, were auctioned off. The old bell, recast in 1671, was removed to the new church. The tokens were left behind, together in a group. We can imagine that they were left purposefully. Yet, the relics are mute on this. This is the mystery that we crave.
     All we can do (and should do) is make-up stories about them.
     The group suggests that only one kind of token was kept. No other tokens, either older CTs or those from other parishes, were part of the hoard. The number was small, prompting us to wonder if these were extras. Maybe they were the ones taken back from would-be communicants who were subsequently banned from the table. Perhaps, one elder emptied (or spilt) his tray on the ground after the service.
The hoard of 22 Abdie CTs
     In any case, we can add this evidence to those reported by others involving CT hoards. We also know that similar hoards were stored in a safe (as at Cruden) or stashed away in a tin and almost lost (as at Balquidder).
     Of course, we see many large assemblages of CTs in the marketplace, so I am sure that church hoards are not rare -- particularly among the later pieces that were mass-produced. But finding old ones in the ground, now that is quite a story!
     I want to thank my friend from Scotland for sending me this pair of tokens. I have many nice ones, but these are the ones will always be taken out and passed around for all to see. And yes, I will make up stories about them.

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