In popular religious traditions in Korea, Vietnam, and Myanmar, spirits (or gods) become visible through their material realization in the corporeal bodies of shamans and spirit mediums and via ensouled statues and paintings that give the gods or spirits presence on altars. This discussion concerns a basic problem of material religion, that even ensouled, numinous, or otherwise empowered materials are subject to material decay. In the three cases presented and in many other places as well, the images are produced in commercial workshops where knowing craftsmanship entangles (what we commonly call) technique with what we might (more cautiously) call magic to produce an efficacious or agentive image. Questions of object efficacy are also linked to the prospect of decay, which may be hastened or postponed in relation to both individual choices and enveloping circumstance, from questions of climate to political economy.

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