Did You Know This About Monstrance?
You’re placing food on a sculpture worth more than 25,000 dollars.
Finals week is the craziest, most packed time of the year for college students everywhere. Fueled by Starbucks, Red Bull, and a plethora of other caffeinated drinks— the stressful blur of finals week leads many students to anxiously participate in luck-based rituals to guarantee good final grades. Finals week turns even the most cynical people into superstitious believers. Whether it’s wearing a good-luck charm or uttering a last-ditch prayer—college students find themselves relying on a heavy amount of caffeine and magical beliefs to make it through their exams and papers.
Southwestern students in particular gather good luck for finals week by offering sacrifices to Monstrance, a gray sculpture of a horse skull that sits in front of the library. Monstrance was originally donated by Joey King, a 1993 alumnus, and carved by James Acord. If you’ve ever taken a tour from a more-than-eager student ambassador, you’d know that Monstrance was crafted out of radioactive material. However, the peppy tour guides left out the fact that Monstrance took 10 years for the artist to construct and was originally sold for 25,000 dollars…
One google search of “Monstrance for a Grey Horse” is all it takes to find articles from Seattle and the New York Times that revere James Acord’s sculpture. Apparently, Monstrance was in the shopping cart of many elite, artistic bidders before it was bought and donated to the university by King.
The Fine Arts department originally expected Monstrance’s presence on campus to be an academic tool. However, while you could argue that Monstrance is being used for academic purposes… as a helpful good luck charm… I am not sure that an altar for finals-induced, not to mention cheap, food offerings is what the artist had in mind when carving the grand structure.
Southwestern students have been placing sacrifices in front of Monstrance for good luck on their finals since 2016. These offerings are typically food-based, consisting mainly of cheap snacks. In the past, students donated pumpkins with hand-written prayers, oreos, goldfish, and the occasional candle.
Today, desperate test-takers are still making these offerings. A Megaphone Instagram poll told us all the funny offerings students left for Monstrance. According to our poll, Southwestern students left Monstrance “snacks!”consisting of “crackers” and “maybe a cookie.” This finals season, many students even got into the Holiday Spirit! Monstrance, the man–the myth–the legend was decked out with tasty holiday treats. There were multiple packets of hot cocoa and lots of delicious Lindor peppermint bark chocolates.
Although Monstrance-offerings are usually a variety of yummy snacks, this year, one student got creative. Someone made sacred candles featuring President Trombley and Pirate Paideia as their Monstrance sacrifice. This really ramped up the ritual. I asked the creative candle maker, Bailey Barlow, her inspiration for this new addition to Monstrance sacrifices and she shared,
“My freshman year, someone left a regular prayer candle by Monstrance, and I’ve sort of had the idea in the back of my mind since then to make a Southwestern-related version of something like that…I think that the creative offerings to Monstrance are really fun…and I wanted to have my own creative thing to leave.”
Her candles contrasted the piles of cheap junk-food decorating the expensive sculpture, and I’m sure the artist would have appreciated the creative thought behind Barlow’s Southwestern prayer candles.
While James Acord expected his creation to “outlast hewman civilization” due to his near-eternal choice of medium: granite, Titanium— nuclear material. I don’t think decaying post-final pumpkins and apples will add to Monstrance’s lifespan.
The next time you partake in Southwestern’s tradition by tossing a banana peel at Monstrance as you hurry to your next final exam, keep the sculpture’s rich history in mind. After all, it only cost a mere 25,000 dollars for this good-luck sculpture. Maybe you’ll think twice before stopping to chuck an apple at it in hopes of receiving a good grade on the exam you “forgot” to study for.