Prayer Staff Finial
Haile Michael (Ethiopian, active late 20th century)
DimensionsWork : 2 1/2 x 4 1/8 x 1/4 in. (6.35 cm x 10.48 cm x 6 mm)
Credit LineGift of Neal and Elizabeth Sobania
LabelEthiopian prayer staffs are typically between four and five feet long and consist of a straight wooden shaft topped by a T-shaped finial. As the name suggests, prayer staffs are used by priests and deacons to support their bodies during long periods of prayer and worship. The staffs are also used to keep time in liturgical chants and dances by moving them forward and back as well as tapping them on the ground. Prayer staffs are sometimes said to symbolize the staff of Moses and thus function as reminders of early church law. Another explanation says that the staffs symbolize the cudgels that were used to beat Jesus before his execution and therefore serve as reminders that Christ suffered and died for our sins.