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Shaman’s Rattle

Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

ca. 1820–40

wood, paint
height: 11 ¾˝

Inventory # CN4123

Please contact the gallery for more information.

Related Examples

Collins, Henry B. De Laguna, Frederica. Carpenter, Edmund. Stone, Peter. The Far North: 2000 Years of Eskimo and Indian Art. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1973, pg. 265, pl. 343

Holm, Bill. Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1965, pg. 18, fig. 14


Round or globular rattles were the property of shamans on the Northwest Coast, employed to propitiate the spirits in curing rituals. It is said that the globular rattle depicts the form of a skull, which refers to the shaman’s ability to pass between the world of the living and of the spirit. Many globular rattles feature a sculptural face on one side, with the reverse decorated in traditional formline design. This exceptional rattle presents a bird of prey carved on one side with traditional two dimensional designs on the reverse.

The design work on this rattle is in a style from the first half of the 19th century, indicated by the broad nature of the formlines that surround the carved-out areas of the design, along with the carver’s choices of imagery and compositional elements. The firm ovoids and downward-angled eyelid points suggest the hand of a skilled Haida carver.

Animal Form Bowl N4205

Southeast Alaska

ca. 1840-60
Soul Catcher CN4342

Northern British Columbia

ca. 1840-60