Shaman's Charm or Soul Catcher
Arts of the Americas
On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
Animals indigenous to the Northwest Coast region play prominent roles in this group of objects. Rattles were part of chiefs’ ceremonial dance regalia; the Tsimshian example depicts a shaman touching tongues with a frog as he rides on the back of a raven with another frog in its mouth. The clapper by the Haida artist Charles Edenshaw takes the form of a halibut with the face of the fish’s spirit represented on the tail. The Haida frontlet, which would have been attached to a headdress, represents a raven emerging from the mouth of a whale. The Tlingit soul catcher, of a type used by shamans to capture and protect people’s souls during healing ceremonies, depicts a whale with a fin rising from the center of its back.
Bone or Ivory, abalone shell
late 19th or early 20th century
9 1/2 x 6 x 1 1/4 in. (24.1 x 15.2 x 3.2 cm) (show scale)
Carved and hollow bone figurine in the form of a whale with a fin rising from the center of its back. On the fin is a carved face with mouth and teeth. At one end of the whale is an open mouth. Incised geometric forms cover the figure: U-shapes, circles, and ellipses forming another mouth, teeth, eyes and nostrils. Several incisions are filled with abalone shell; three pieces of shell are missing. On back of object, at either side of fin, are two holes equal in size. Used by a shaman to catch or hold the ill person's soul while he performs the healing ceremony. When the ceremony is finished, the patient's soul would be returned to his or her body.
Condition: A portion of one end of the charm is broken.
Tlingit. Shaman's Charm or Soul Catcher, late 19th or early 20th century. Bone or Ivory, abalone shell, 9 1/2 x 6 x 1 1/4 in. (24.1 x 15.2 x 3.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, By exchange, 73.110. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 73.110_bw.jpg)
overall, 73.110_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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