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This carved wooden box comprises two hinged wings which open to reveal a narrow chamber in which steel spurs used in cock fighting are stored. One spur remains in this example. The case is carved with a crocodile or lizard and foliage on one side, and a turtle amid foliage on the other.
Cockspur cases were made and used in many parts of Indonesia, but this example comes from Lombok, an island adjacent to Bali.
Cockfighting has been integral to the cultures of Bali and Lombok and the practice was only banned on Bali as late as 1981. It was a sport pursued by men and was tied in with religious rituals as well as gambling.
Cock spurs (taji) were regarded in similar terms as the blades for a kris and chanting a mantra while forging a spur was believed to imbue it with magical power. Other rules related to the taji – they should be forged during a new moon, menstruating women were not permitted to even look a taji, nor could one be touched by anyone who had a family member that had recently died (van Donk, 2000).
The case has a superb, deep patina and very evident age. It is without chips or repairs.
van Donk, P., Indonesian Cockspur Cases: Kotak Taji, Hes & De Graaf Publishers, 2000.