Here is my Halloween offering.
As many of you know, I make some of my living as a maritime carver – quarter boards, transom banners, billet heads, eagles, and portraits of boats.
But I was surprised when I was contacted about doing a strange portrait. Most portraits show the boat in profile, sailing on a breeze. This gentleman wanted the ship on the rocks, with the sails in tatters. He handed me a profile photo of the schooner for the design and a sketch of the reef. I recognized the Widows and the Pinnacles from living in coastal Maine and remarked that not too many dared thread the path through the needles; he gave me a cold smile and said nothing.
Afterward, I didn’t think about the carving. So it wasn’t till November second that I learned about the wreck. I keep one final tie to my time in Maine: my subscription to the Portland Press Herald keeps me current on happenings in my old haunts. I learned that a schooner had foundered on Halloween trying to thread the Needles. The skipper missed his timing by minutes and brought about the crew’s loss of life. The news photo was disturbingly close to what I had carved.
Being an anthropologist, I read widely into the literature of witchcraft and sorcery among several cultures. I recognized the sort of ritual used. In some traditions, it calls for a ghostwriter – a craftsman capable of rendering the tragedy. The resemblance must be very close to be effective. It can’t photocopied or photographed. Added efficacy comes from the curse written on the back. The rendering and curse create the event.
I now have a new patron, and he’s already contacted me with several requests. Which ones should I choose to carve?