I’ve spent a lot of time trawling through the National Museum of Australia’s Convict Token Collection. I find them completely memorising, sad, tragic, beautiful, sometimes funny, but infinitely fascinating to see these relics, pieces of people’s hearts left to a loved one after being found guilty and sent off to the colonies we now call Australia. Every time I visit the website, I cannot help but think of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan:
She also said she would give him a kiss if he liked, but Peter did not know what she meant, and he held out his hand expectantly.
“Surely you know what a kiss is?” she asked, aghast.
“I shall know when you give it to me,” he replied stiffly, and not to hurt his feeling she gave him a thimble.
“Now,” said he, “shall I give you a kiss?” and she replied with a slight primness, “If you please.” She made herself rather cheap by inclining her face toward him, but he merely dropped an acorn button into her hand, so she slowly returned her face to where it had been before, and said nicely that she would wear his kiss on the chain around her neck.
There are no “x” denoting kisses on any of the tokens in the collection. But what is a kiss? And surely one knows when they receive one.
The “♥” is a more apt symbol, as these tokens are called “leaden hearts”. And what a perfect moniker for an item, often the only one, that gives emotion and a personal face to the many men who are otherwise reduced to a series of numbers, dates and ages, in entries on bureaucratic ledgers.
Coins, hearts, and crosses, the kiss kind, the crossroads kind and the crucifix kind, are LOADED with religious and spiritual meaning, of both the mainstream and occult kind. I think it’s fascinating how these various meanings find expression in the practices of contemporary witches and pagans.
I know I love to collect obsolete coins, particularly the Australian 1c and 2c coins. Still technically legal tender, that is they are still worth an Australian cent, for the Ancestors, for the Dead in general, and because they are shiny copper coins. Coins in general have pictures and symbols on them of people, national ancestors, heads of state, artists, a plethora of fauna and flora, and I’ve written about using Australian Coins in magical work before. That post is easily accessible from the Glossary page, as well as here.
I use them in fetishes and iconography as well. And at least once a year, I like to make a shiny metal offering, almost always coins, to the Ocean. Usually in the Summer, usually with several other things like food stuffs, and flowers, paper petitions. I like the coins too (or anything metal) because they sink, rust, and the Ocean Spirits have always had a bit of a penchant for them.
When we consider the convict leaden hearts, we see how such objects have a varied connection to us, particularly for those of us (or even as a nation of British Australians) have ancestors that are connected to us through the various use of such items. And even though I am not convict stock, or “Australian Royalty”, my Grandpa was a whaler and Navy man, and all my free-settling ancestors came here by boat. In this way, there seems to me many reasons why a coin offering to the Ocean Spirits seems an appropriate yearly ritual.
Being familiar with these little bits of our history serve to add greater meaning to our spiritual practices. They add depth to our understanding of our National convict Ancestors, our collective history, give us a small glimpse at the immensity of being sent to an island continent. They also remind me of the variety of ways we can connect and make offerings to our spirits and ancestors, entering into activities that they engaged in, when they too felt need to leave behind a kiss, and a little piece of their hearts.
P.S. ‘X’ is for “Kiss”. This post participates with the Pagan Blog Project 2014.