Native American, Pacific Northwest, Tlingit, ca. mid to late 19th century. A hand-carved wooden shaman's guardian figure standing upon slightly bent knees with arms bent at the elbows beside the torso, and a large head presenting exaggerated features including large almond-shaped eyes, a wide nose, and even wider open mouth. Additional incised features delineate the figure's large navel, knobby knees, fingers, and toes. The figure stands upon an oval platform. Size: 9.875" H (25.1 cm)
According to Joy Wheat in her recent paper entitled, Shamanism and Christianity in Tlingit Culture, "Tlingits saw little distinction between themselves and the supernatural beings they believed inhabited their physical world. They believed these beings (guardian spirits also called yeik) where a natural part of their environment which could be called upon and controlled through shamanistic ritual. Of course direct contact with these supernatural beings was endowed only to the shaman. The shaman or ixt acted as the mediator between the Tlingits physical universe of earth, sea and sky and conditions brought on buy any evil spirits, which may have manifested in that world. He accomplished this arduous process by calling on his own array of spirit guides to cure the sick, find a lost soul, foretell the future, predict the weather and even speak with rival shaman via long distance communication." (http://www2.bakersfieldcollege.edu/roughneck/2-2/JoyWheat.html)
Provenance: private Newport Beach, California, USA collection
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Expected surface wear with scuffs and abrasions commensurate with age. Tiny perforation behind figure's left elbow, perhaps for attaching an attribute. Old collection label on underside of the base.