Inv. SAH/ss-18007
The seventh object

Object acquired by the Curator in October 1993
Origin: Bruges, Belgium;  various materials


Collection of 'spiritualist' items that once belonged to Célia Cassave. The contents include a hand of Cleopatra, six magic relics acquired from different parts of the world and various personal objects.


Background and experiments carried out at the Surnateum

The Cassave sisters were born in Bruges on 15 March 1907 into a very well-to-do family.
Alice and Célia  - identical twins - quite soon developed a strange gift, a form of non-verbal communication or telepathy that formed a bond between  them, no matter how far apart they were physically.
If one of them decided to play with a toy, the other one would pick up an identical object. If Célia did not feel well, Alice would cry. If one of the little girls drew a picture on a school slate, the other would draw the same thing, but in a mirror image.
It was as if together they formed a single entity in two different bodies.
This phenomenon attracted many visitors who were passionately interested in the occult, pseudo-scientists steeped in alchemy, convinced spiritualists as well as people who were simply drawn to them out of curiosity.

Unfortunately, their success did not last long, for on the day of their 11th birthday, the young girls rushed out to use their new ice skates on the city's frozen canals. The thin sheet of ice broke, drawing Alice into the muddy depths of the canal. Her body was never found.
A grief-stricken Célia decided to devote her life to trying to re-establish contact with her sister through the impenetrable wall of death. She never succeeded.
When she was 20, one of her uncles - himself a spiritualist - told her that if she wished to communicate with Alice across the Great Void, she would have to collect seven objects from various parts of the world. In addition to this quest, she had to learn all she could about how different philosophers in different civilisations thought of and conceived of death. This initiatory rite would take her entire life.
She set off on the hunt.
In Paris, she bought a pack of divinatory cards from Madame Lenormand, the celebrated clairvoyant of the French revolution. This pack of cards was a key, symbolising the means for opening the gateway between the worlds, and was also used as an alphabet between the living person and the spirit being consulted.
Another friend, an alchemist, gave her a heart-shaped brooch depicting a fight between a griffon and a chimaera. Reality facing off against illusion. This served as a warning to anyone venturing into these twilight lands.
This small wooden pedestal table on which sits this ivory skull - a 17th century miniature - represents the place where the living person confronts death.
She excavated this Kissi stone in Mali, where she spent several years studying the funeral rites of the Dogons and Bambaras.
The stone dates from the 16th century. They are typically carved in the effigy of a famous ancestor, sometimes a sorcerer or a powerful healer, and then buried in a field. The person who finds it can ask the spirit of the deceased for help. To find a specific spirit, the spiritualist needs a guide to the beyond.
During a tour of Tibet, where she studied the mysteries of the Bardö Tödol, she received this coin which, when placed in the hand or mouth of the deceased, allows him to pay his way into the beyond.
In Egypt, a Coptic priest who was not only well versed in the study of the Book of the Dead but who also served has her guide to the royal burial sites, slipped into her luggage this curious mummy's tongue made of gold. This extremely rare antique enables the soul to defend itself when it is being weighed before Osiris and the 42 judges in a process called psychostasy. She unwittingly smuggled it out of the country.
But I was the one who loaned her the seventh object.
The hand of Cleopatra is a kind of small toy which the user spins in order to take decisions at random. It is also a sort of glove into which an ethereal being can slip its hand to indicate its decisions or choices.
As Célia was already quite old when I met her, I gave her this object on the proviso that it would be returned to me when she could no longer use it.
One day in October 1993 I received a box containing all of these treasures from the old lady along with a letter that said simply: "Remember."
Célia had crossed the final frontier with a smile on her lips.
Since then, on a cold autumn night, I sometimes invoke the soul of the Cassave sisters by concentrating on one of Célia's precious souvenirs. When I do, I sometimes feel a presence. This manifests itself via the hand of Cleopatra and the spirit slates in the box.
One evening, however, when I asked who Célia had met on the other side of the mirror, a word, written backwards, materialised on one of the small black boards: Alice