Dialogues and Meditations on Tsims^ian Narratives





pp. 49-156



On Morality and Existence

pp. 51-82



Contingency and Luck

pp. 93-111



Humans as Real-Beings

pp. 111-53




pp. 157-228



Shamanís Mirror

pp. 167-77



Becoming a Shaman

pp. 177-96



Shaman as Healer

pp. 196-226




pp. 229-281



Origins of Secret Societies

pp. 233-9



Categories and Collectives

pp. 239-49



Secret-Society Rituals

pp. 249-75



Naxnox Dramatizations

pp. 275-79


II. (pp. 49-156) "Totemic Vision".

p. 52 elderberry emblematic of mortality

M1a "Once a stone and an elderberry bush on the Nass River lay in labour [childbirth] at the same time. {This mention together of berry and stone may indicated that, like berry, stone could be viand (banquet).}

{"The third will appear

Through the mountain veins,

Like a flinty banquet" (M, p. 484).}

The bush gave birth to its children first. ... Since elderberry bush was first, man is mortal and his skin soft.

{cf. elderberry-bushes along path for souls of the dead (TN, p. 234)}

Only fingernails and toenails show how the skin would have been if stoneís children had been born first (Boas 1895:278)."

M= Charlotte Guest (translatrix) : The Mabinogion. London : Bernard Quaritch, 1877. http://sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/mab/mab32.htm

TN = William W. Elmendorf : Twana Narratives. 1993 : U of WA Pr, Seattle; U of BC Pr, Vancouver.

Boas 1895 = Franz Boas : Indianische Sagen von der Nord-Pacifischen Kuste Amerikas. Berlin : A. Asher und Co.

pp. 53-63 myth of the salmon-people

p. 53

M2a "At Gitwilgawts village lived Saxsaax who was the Chief and his wife ... . ...

p. 54

One day the young nephew of Saxsaax came into the house of his uncle, and ... he came upon the box in which the spring salmon was hidden by the Chiefís wife. ... When he had finished eating, his uncle and uncleís wife came in ... . ... So the young man, feeling much embarrassed ..., ...went out wandering. ... . ... a large canoe suddenly appeared at the waterís edge ... . ... The young man ... immediately boarded the canoe and went with these people; who they were he did not know. The canoe started to travel very fast, and all wore shining garments; ... and no one spoke among them. ... . ... they were traveling under water. ...

p. 55

When they landed they were met by a man who wore very shining garments with a huge spring salmon headdress ... . ... The young Prince now knew that he had been taken by some strange supernatural people ... . ... "You have been to the Chief of the Spring Salmon. He had been caught by your uncle ... . But when you took him and ate him, ... he immediately became well again. ...

p. 56

The chiefs you saw in the many coloured garments were the dog salmon. ...


Their canoes are double headed beings ... . ..." ... .

{cf. the double-headed (with a single head at each end) canoes depicted on pottery from Moche, Peru`.}


... so he took up a club and ... he struck then child on the head ... . ... . ... the same child he had knocked down ... kept ... saying, "My eye, my eye, I cannot see." ...

{Goddess "Caridwen ... seized a billet of wood and struck the blind Morda on the head until one of his eyes fell out upon his cheek." (M, p. 472)}

p. 57

There he saw the child ... calling out, "Oh ... I cannot walk about ... ." ... The young man returned and searched until he found a part ... of the salmon he had eaten ... . ...

{"The child was limping because one of its feet was gone. Then, the boy ... quickly found the one fin he had missed" ("SB").}


When the young man came there, he saw a great many crippled children and grown-ups ... . ... "That is the fault of ... people ... who eat salmon. They do not ... gather up all the bones and burn them. Some day you may return to your people and you must tell them; they must do that .. . ..." ...

p. 58

When the young man had been lost he was mourned as dead. ...

p. 59

So the young man slept, and while he slept a large spring salmon came and swallowed him. Next day, the young manís uncle and his wife came ... . They saw a huge spring salmon ... and cut open the belly of


the huge spring salmon, and as it opened up a child came out crying. The Chiefís wife took the child and said, "... our nephew has returned ... . ..."

{In seeking "salmon" (M, p. 474), in the weir there was found by Elphin a boy (M, p. 473). "And forthwith Elphin gave his haul to his wife, and she nursed him tenderly and lovingly." (M, p. 476)}


They went up into the village, which was Gitselas village of the canyon of the Skeena. ... .

p. 60

... the Gitselas Prince ... [became] a spring salmon ... .

{"Gwion Bach ... became a fish." (M, p. 472)}


An eagle ... saw the spring salmon, and ... swooped down ... to pounce on the spring salmon ... . ...

{Goddess "Caridwen, ... as a hawk, followed him and gave him no rest in the sky." (M, p. 473)}

p. 61

... salmon people ... took down the burial box containing the young manís remains and placed it in the canoe. ... They travelled very fast in their double-headed monster canoes. First they passed the cohoe village, then the dog salmon village, and finally came to their own village, the Spring Salmon village. ...

p. 62

Then the Chief went into a trance, at the same time grasping his throat and struggling as if gasping for breath.

{"Three springs arise

In the nape of his neck" (M, p. 484).}


His shamans then started to dance and restore the chief who was now also as if dead. ... The young Gitselas Prince now came from inside the box. ...

p. 63

When the young Gitselas Prince retired with his wife ..., she told him, "... So that no man should ever have anything to do with me, they put teeth into my vagiua. These teeth are like the teeth of a dog salmon, and should any man enter me these teeth shall chew off his penis." {Chum (dog-salmon) run in the summer.} ...

{Taliesin said, "my original country is the region of the summer stars" (M, p. 482).}


So ..., the young Gitselas Prince took the stone from his mouth and placed it in his wifeís vagina. The living teeth then began to chew on the stone and were ground off and fell out".

{"In Western Numic variants, Coyote uses ... a stone to rid the women of their vagina dentata" ("ASN", p. 38b).} {In "myths of many Amazonian Indian groups recounting the way in which men got hold of female powers, ... they broke their vagina dentata with stones" ("PK-Wh-G", p. 119).}

"SB" = "Salmon Boy" (Haida) http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/SalmonBoy-Haida.html

"ASN" = L. Daniel Myers : "Animal Symbolism among the Numa". J OF CALIFORNIA AND GREAT BASIN ANTHROPOLOGY, vol. 19 (1997), pp. 32-49. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/33n59338;jsessionid=384AF4C3CC7F8BA08A18A61A9A03DDC4#page-7

"PK-Wh-G" = "Paradox of Keeping-While-Giving". PACIFIC STUDIES, Vol. 18, No. 1--March 1995. pp. 118-27 https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/PacificStudies/article/viewFile/9929/9578

p. 72 foods in the otherworld

"M2c Do not eat what they place before you,

as it is not salmon,

but the bellies of dead people and

when they place

what looks like berries do not eat it

as it is the eyes of dead people."

pp. 82-4 Txamsem and other mythic characters

p. 82

In M14 (Boas 1916:58-60), "the Chief of Heaven sends a shining youth, Txamsem ... . ... However, upon Txamsemís arrival, ... the human chief is forced to send his new son away. He gives him two objects. One is a stone, the other a raven cloak.

p. 83

... the garment gives him the power of flight. ... By staying with his fatherís people, the shining youth ... becomes a glutton and consumes as the food in the village, threatening its survival. Txamsem must be sent away ... . ...

p. 84

A song states : "... she is turned to stone ..." ... . This refers to a woman who flirted with men of her own clan ... . Likewise, in another Txamsem myth, M15, ... some frogs are turned into stone for not believing him (Boas 1916:62). In M12, Wauxís wife is turned into a crystal".

p. 85 the 3 possibilities in post-mortem consequences for souls in accordance with modes of death


"force, as in warfare,

after which the deceased takes on "... the form of an owl ... ."


"death by drowning,

in which the soul of the person goes : "... up into the hills and becomes a human-like animal [baegwas] ... ."


"natural death,

... would ascend into the heavens up to the skies to the "Chief of Heavens"."

pp. 86, 107 baegwas

p. 86

Baegwas "attempt to get physically close to individuals in order to blow in their faces. {Hence the term "blowjob".} If that happens, the victim is first driven crazy, then dies. ... The creature would appear to the victim in the guise of the unfaithful spouse."

p. 107

"death my drowning" : "The deceased comes back as a baegwas ... . What may be implied here is that the accident was caused by an unfaithful spouse."

p. 87 weather favorable, and favorable, for ghosts

"Ghosts are more able to come back during periods of cold and darkness.

In a variant of M15, it is said that they visited humans regularly because the world was in constant darkness ... . M18 The Narrative of the Ghost ... presents daylight as harmful to ghosts, allowing people to over come them.

M19 The ... Ghost Woman ... in this text dies a second death as summer approaches".

p. 87 "You must respect the dead, if you ... yawn ... that is an invitation that you are calling them."

p. 88 salmon-berries

M18 "the people believe that the berries of the ghost people are salmon berries and this is why when people speak of any person dying or dead ... they always say, "so-and-so has become a salmon berry"."

p. 89 ghosts & redincarnation

"In M18 and M19, ghosts are described as skeleton figures/people".

"Among the Gitksan, ... a person is : "... reincarnated in their own House, never in another House." ... . ... for the Coast Tsimshian, ... a sister or niece is needed to reincarnate a person".

p. 93 animals of favorable & unfavorable omen

"meeting an owl is seen as "bad luck", as is contact with bats".

"Conversely, there are animals which bring good fortune. One is a bird, variously described as like a robin, sparrow, ...

known as Hatsenas

{cf. name of Navaho god /HATSiN/}

or Houx.

Another is a type of large black beetle (g>asgaw>egan)."

{cf. Kemetic sacralizing of the scarab beetle}

p. 99 "Luck often assumes the shape of a bird, though it may then transform into a human shape as happens in M30 The Story of Asdiwal (Boas 1912:71-77)."

pp. 94-5 myth of the origin of devilís-club medicine

p. 94

"When it became dark, the young woman felt that someone came and lay along side of her, and then whoever it was began to have sexual intercourse with her. When the man finished, the young woman suddenly turned on the man and grasped him. The young man ... said, "My father who is a great naxnox has sent me, as he feels greatly for your ailing mother.


My father is Devilís Club naxnox

[p. 100 : "In M26c, he comments that a devilís club root is "part of me."]


and I will take you both to Kmelthku (Jap Point). Here ... I will show you the use of Devilís Club (waums); how it can be used as a cure for illness, also as a purification medicine for hunters ... ."

They went into the woods and there the young man started to clean the thorns from the stalks of Devilís Club, and then ... started peeling off the inner bark.

p. 95

"This is what you will gather, then you brew it and you then ... will go to the lake and gather the roots of the waterlily and put this in the brew. ..." ... The young man then said, "... The person would both bathe in Devilís Club brew, as well as drink it. ... The person would go into seclusion, and ... sleep by himself in the northern corner. Then next, he would bathe and drink in the next corner, and would continue this until every corner of the house had been completed. When he had finished these four corners, he would then indulge in sexual intercourse with a woman who was recognized as a lucky woman; and after having four days of intercourse, ... he would at once set out for his hunting.""

pp. 99-101 devilís-club herb for good luck and for hunting

p. 99

"devilís root is good luck ... . ...

p. 100

The powers of devilís club appear to be available to everyone ... . In M26c the girl is given explicit instructions to tell her people how to use devilís club. ...

p. 101

In M26c, the son of Chief Devilís Club warns the girl that breaking of devilís club taboos will cause its powers to retaliate and bring bad luck to the violatorís endeavours. ... The process implies devilís club is ... a means of establishing the pre-conditions for acquiring luck. ... .


... drinking and bathing in the juices of devilís club will remove human smell, which is offensive to animals. ... Through the use of devilís club, humans become more like ghosts in order to successfully hunt animals."

p. 102 signaling by means of cords

"M33a The Story of Mucus describes secluded women using strings extending from their menstrual hut to the main house to signal relative about their needs ... .

Strings are also employed to bind up bodies of the deceased, with the ends left outside the burial box".

{Sometimes in 19th-century U.S.A., in burials a signaling-cord was attached to the body buried, for signaling in the circumstance that it had inadvertently been buried while at yet alive.}

p. 103 "Similarly, the successor to a chief, after holding a black feast, is required to be in seclusion for a year so that the deceased will not return."

p. 104 good luck from women

"women regarded as lucky could become wealthy by cohabiting with hunters, and might even be encouraged by their husbands to do so. ... . ... good luck from women involves sexual intercourse. ... men gain powers from women before hunting animals." [as on p. 95]

p. 110 wind-myths

"In M44 The Combat of the Four Winds ..., the wing [sic : read "wind"?] chiefs are in conflict over who will dominate ... . ...

M33b has four human brothers who travel to the lands of the four winds. The wind-chiefs allow their daughters to marry them, and as a consequence winters were shortened."

p. 113 Thunder-bird

In M47, "A chief goes to a lake after hearing some unusual sounds coming from there. Out of the water emerges

[cf. p. 187 : "texts also mention being engulfed by foam, after which the princes become unconscious".]

{Taliesin said, "In water, in foam,

I have been a sponge" ("CG").}

a huge bird-like creature covered in human faces,

{Taliesin said, "There passed an animal with wide jaws,

On it were a hundred heads." ("CG")}

and emitting thunder and lightning. After this experience, he claims the creature as crest for his House and concretizes it through a robe."

"CG" = Cad Goddeu or The Battle of Goddeu. Translation by Revd. Robert Williams. http://www.celtic-twilight.com/camelot/poetry/taliesin/cad_goddeu.htm

p. 121 Hummingbird-deity {cf. Aztec}

"in M5 Asaralyaní Downfall ... A prince goes in search of a supernatural arrow ... . Chief Hummingbird takes him into the skies where he is given the arrow by another supernatural being."


CARLETON LIBRARY SER., No. 139 = John Cove : Shattered Images : Dialogues and Meditations on Tsimshian Narratives. Carleton U Pr, Ottawa, 1987.