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Tsimshian Amulet

Basswood and Soapstone / Stained and Waxed / 2000 / 15 inches

The Tsimshian Indians believed that the spirits were present in all things - in the rocks, in the trees, in the elements, in the animals, in every aspect of life. They believed it was necessary to acknowledge, thank, and plead with the spirits by holding rites and acting out ceremonial dramas.

Since so much in their lives depended on hunting, a good many of the rites were related to placating specific animal beings. There were salmon rites, bear rites, bird rites, curing rites, and so on. To assist them in these special rites, the Indians would wear little amulets for good luck. 

This carving was inspired by an amulet worn by a Tsimshian shaman during salmon-curing rites. The original amulet was four inches tall, but I thought the design was strong enough to be enlarged into a relief carving of fifteen inches.

The form is of a crane-like bird with a moon face on its shoulder joint and another on its tail joint. Four pieces of dark green Brazilian soapstone have been inset into the bird's outstretched wing.


(Detail of the moon face on the crane's tail-joint.)

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