Next month, the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, N.C., will open a shop of later 20th-century woodworking iconography titled: “Blood on the Adze: The Hegemony of Post-radicalist Disestablishmentarianism Among Followers of St. Roy.”
The exhibit will showcase a number of objects that have recently been donated to the museum that shed new light on the activities of 20th- and early 21st-century cultists who followed televangelist Roy Underhill, who was named a saint by his followers in 1998 despite protestations from the Vatican who claimed his continuous spilling of blood did not constitute him an intercessory or worker of wonder, but merely as “clumsy.”
Exhibit 1: Icon of the Saint.
Dimensions: 2-1/2” diameter base; 7-3/4” high.
Material: Ceramic, cloth, spring, sticker
This remarkably well-preserved iconic worship doll exhibits all the classic aspects of the woodworking “superman” – the oversized cranium covered by an unstructured skull-covering, which contains the saint’s “accessory brain.” The circle of cambium – a round cross-section of a tree’s decimated carcase, signifying the saint’s dominance over the subservient species. The Shouldered Axe. The Suspenders. The Mark Spitz Moustache.
This rare ceramic piece has been found at only a few archaeological sites indicating its status as a way for favored followers to seek the approval of the Roy when encountering tricky joinery problems. To this point, archaeologists have been able to elicit only an approving nod from the icon to every question posed to it.
Exhibit 2: Canopic Vessel
Dimensions: 3-1/4” diameter; 4-1/2” high
Material: Ceramic, clear glaze, black paint
Obviously a vessel for the remains of a follower for his or her trip to the afterlife, this particularly well-preserved example was found with a black residue lining the interior, clearly the remains of a follower’s liver.
The vessel is decorated with worshipers engaged in ritualistic acts of destruction and creation – the de-legging of the chair, the tearing of the table and the nailing of the splat. Archaeologists note that the vessel shows three females engaged in ritual activity with one male – obviously the male/female ratio of followers and practitioners of the craft.
One of the most mystifying aspects of 20th-century Roy worship, this smallish tree-pulp icon appears designed to hang from some hook or ring that pierces a worshiper’s body. What makes this particular example notable is that it is still sealed in its original clear wrapper. Micro-analysis of the interior contents indicates that the pulpy icon is imbued with compounds that smell alternatively as “pine” or “armpit.”
Featuring a stylized portrait of St. Roy on the front, this “Rosetta Stone” of late Roy-ism explains many of the psalms of the followers as transmitted by the official church organ, PBS. While some directives are still being interpreted by academics, others have been newly translated and will be presented for the first time during the exhibit:
“INGREDIENTS: Oaks, jokes, puns, pines, poplars, splinters, dovetails, bent nails, walnuts, small cuts, shavings, sawdust, expletives deleted, blood, sweat and tears”
“GUARANTEE: If you’re not satisfied with the quality or performance of this product, that guarantees you don’t know your adze from a hoe in the ground!”
The exhibit runs through the end of June at the history museum.
— Christopher Schwarz
For an as-yet-incomplete set of gospels of St. Roy, visit ShopWoodworking – the only place to get the word right from the saint himself.