Created by Eddie Owens Martin, a.k.a. St. EOM Born 1908, Marion County, Georgia
Died 1986, Pasaquan, Georgia
Enormous sculptures flank the entrance and the tall perimeter wall is decorated with psychedelic medallions and mandalas. Influences are numerous, including factual and fictional places such as Africa, Easter Island, Pre-Columbian Mexico and Atlantis.
Work on Pasaquan began in 1957. Martin used the four acres of land willed to him by his mother as his “canvas.” On it, he built structures and sculptures, all infused with the spirituality of various religions, many of which were his own. Upon Martin’s death in 1986, Pasaquan was willed to the Marion County Historical Society. Today it is overseen by the Pasaquan Preservation Society who welcome donations and volunteers to ensure the site’s preservation.
“I built this place to have something to
identify with, 'cause there's nothin' I see in this
society that I identify with or desire to emulate.
Here I can be in my own world, with my temples
and designs and the spirit of God.”
Born in 1908 in Marion County, Georgia, to poor white sharecroppers, Eddie Owens Martin would lead a life that was the moral and religious antithesis of the conservative Baptist background in which he grew up. At the age of 14, he embarked on a freewheeling journey that carried him from Bible belt Georgia to the liberal and urban streets of New York City. He hitchhiked first to Atlanta and then to Washington D.C., financing his trip through homosexual encounters. He would “settle” in the Big Apple, sleeping in parks and in subway cars while working as a street hustler, drag queen, bartender and gambler. Martin eventually returned to Georgia, where he renamed himself St. EOM, the guru of Pasaquan.
‘Good Manicured Nails’
In 1945, a propitious opportunity presented itself to the 37-year-old Martin. He took a job telling fortunes in a 42nd Street Tea Room, filling in for another seer who had died unexpectedly. Martin had an instinctive knack for fortune telling. His eccentric personality and colorful dress made him an instant favorite and won him a devoted following. According to Martin, his key to success was “good manicured nails.” By 1950 he had had enough of New York. Fortune telling was something he would take with him, back to his childhood home of Buena Vista. Martin would continue telling fortunes until weeks before his death.
‘Bringin’ the Past and the Future Together’
Back in Georgia, he was heir to four acres of land, a small house and a well, bequeathed to him by his mother who had passed away in 1950. Martin returned to his family’s farmland and began working in cement and Sherman-Williams house paint, using proceeds from his fortune telling to pay for building materials. He transformed his unpleasant past into a future that would eventually earn him eminent fame.
Martin began work on Pasaquan in 1957. The name, he says, came from spirit guides. As he found out later, the name could not have been more apropos. Pasa in Spanish means “to pass.” Quoyan, as Martin tells it, is “an Oriental word that means bringin' the past and the future together." For Martin, Pasaquan was an opportunity to create a future from the wisdom of past experience.
Crafting Religion from Life’s Lessons and World Travel
Pasaquan is the tangible product of Martin’s self-crafted spirituality, called Pasaquoyanism. Martin saw Pasaquoyanism as having to do with “the truth, nature and the earth, and man’s lost rituals.” Throughout Pasaquan, Martin has given tangible form to a lifetime of images, seen in person and in print. Both exotic and fictional places like Africa, Easter Island, Pre-Columbian Mexico and Atlantis can be found. Influences also come from Eastern philosophy, paganism and marijuana. An overt sexuality is also present, seen in towering nude sculptures with vividly depicted genitalia.
A “Style” all his Own
While at home in the world he created, Martin did not exactly fit in with the local “scene.” In a community where overalls predominated, Martin stood out in his colorful flowing robes, adorned with jingling bells and dangling shells. He often complimented his inspired ensemble with feathered and beaded headdress.
Taking his cues from ancient religion-based powerhouses like the Mayans, the Assyrians and the Egyptians, Martin suspected there was something important about long and meticulously coiffed hair. Applying overcooked rice “goo” to his long locks (which he claims had not been trimmed since World War II), he fashioned a “far out” hairstyle which doubled as his spiritual antennae to the universe. Similar coiffeurs can be seen on sculptures around Pasaquan.
With his health failing and his hair falling out, Martin became increasingly depressed. On a spring day in 1986, he sent his assistant to town for lunch and shot himself in the head with a .38-calibur pistol. He had previously prepared his gravestone, on which he inscribed his year of birth and his assumed name, St. EOM. In a suicide note he scribbled, “No one is to blame but me and my past.”
During his lifetime, Martin received little artistic recognition. He was featured just once, along with other Georgia artists, at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Death, however, brought him fame. Works by Martin have been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York and by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in the nation’s capital.
Pasaquan today preserves the legend of St. EOM. The site was willed to the Marion County Historical Society upon Martin’s death. The Pasaquan Preservation Society oversees restoration and has been successful at acquiring significant grants. Pasaquan does not have scheduled hours for visits but a private appointment can be arranged in advance.
Pasaquan was willed to the Marion County Historical Society upon Martin’s death in 1986. Today it is overseen by the Pasaquan Preservation Society. They welcome donations and volunteers to ensure the site’s preservation.
Pasaquan is located on Eddie Martin Road in Buena Vista, Georgia. From the Town square in Buena Vista, drive north on Georgia Highway 137. Highway 137 forks to the left. Take that left fork and then take the second paved road, County Road 78, after the fork. Pasaquan is a half mile down the road on the right. It is open by appointment only. Call ahead for a reservation. Tel. 229-649-9444