Petitionary Objects

Miracles are sometimes petitioned using representational objects. This is particularly the case in Oaxaca, where miniature models of houses, children, cars, trucks, livestock, and other desired acquisitions are used to make petitions. Devotees fabricate these at home (of wood or cardboard) or, usually, on site at pedimentos (from the verb pedir, to ask for). Making the miniature object is a way of enacting the petitionary prayer. The outstanding example is the pedimento affiliated with the Virgen de Juquila shrine, where petitionary objects are molded using the clay-rich dirt there. Petitionary objects (and texts) evidence a need to make petitions present tangibly before miraculous images. When the miracle-maker is itself material (unlike a sacred figure in heaven), prayer alone seems too abstract. Represented petitions emit quietly but constantly in the votary’s absence so that the petition is seen/heard and not forgotten.