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19th C. Monastic Tibetan Skull Ritual Piece, Hand carved and painted, 

The Skull acts as a Protectorate, used to strengthen us, reminding that death is reality and to act in such a matter as to gain good Karma. Often used as objects of focus during meditation. Skulls are also observed in primitive or prehistoric societies, an incorporation of a skull in a statue or painting emphasizes its divine, sacred, or magical character. Such visualization or imagery of a skeleton is a practice for purifying one’s greed.