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Object Record

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Artist Lee, Mai
Nationality or Tribal Affiliation Hmong Sam Neua
Title Girl's Chicken Hat with Amulet
Type of Object Hat
Date 1986
Medium Cotton, synthetic thread, sequins, beads, fake coins
Dimensions H-13.7 W-17 D-20.7 Cir-16.5 cm
Dimension Details Orientation is with comb in front; depth includes the distance of the comb.
Collection Missoula Art Museum Collection
How acquired Gift of Susan Lindbergh Miller in honor of Montana's Hmong Community
Object ID 2011.10.212
Statement about this object This hat, made for a small girl, features a protective amulet in a cross stitch star pattern on top. Around the band of the hat is a snail design made in reverse applique, which indicates the hat is in the Hmong Sam Neua tradition. Appliqued triangles create borders around the square snail patterns. The snail pattern symbolizes family. Triangles symbolize mountains, which stand for strength. The small diamond pattern references Earth/Four Seasons. Commercially-made imitation coins hang all around, on top, and off the "comb" protuberance. The hat is worn with the comb in front.

"Literature on the Hmong indicates that the chicken holds an important place in Hmong beliefs and customs. It is the rooster who leads the deceased to the land of the ancestors…one of the three principal souls that dwells in each person is the plig quab, or 'chicken soul.' It is this soul which is reincarnated, and also the soul most likely to leave the body, causing illness or death. To retrieve it, the sacrifice of a chicken is necessary." Newborns sometimes receive their protective chicken hats and sacrifices are made when they are three days old. These rituals "enlist the help of the ancestors in protecting the child from evil spirits." -- Lindbergh, Susan Miller, "Traditional Costumes of the Lao Hmong Refugees in Montana" (1988). Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers. Paper 9371.
Classification Textiles
Subjects Patterns (Design elements)