Shaman’s Amulet Tlingit c. 1870 Ivory 4 ½” Long Amulets were primarily employed by shamans on the Northwest Coast, but many people in the region kept small pieces of material (shapes made of stone, bone, horn, etc.) or simple carvings as talismans for their own well being and protection from spiritual harm. A drawing from the 1780's of a high-ranking Haida woman includes an English silver fork worn about her neck on a cord, the first of this exotic material to be used as jewelry. Shaman’s amulets are usually recognizable by the inclusion of certain types of imagery unique to the shamanic calling, such as emaciated humans or animals (with skeletal features), octopus suckers, figures in transformation, land otters, and similar themes. Amulets were made of bone, horn, ivory, and sometimes wood or stone. This small sculptural amulet is made of whale ivory and may have been strung on a deer or moose-hide cord through the pierced opening below the neck of the human figure along the top. The piece is deeply relief-carved into three interrelated figures. On the right end) is the head of what may be a whale or dolphin, with round, inlaid eyes and a rounded snout with a large mouth. What are probably pectoral fins stream back from the rear corner of the head and are split into two long digits or feather-like forms. At the opposite end of the amulet, a creature even more difficult to identify is shown with separately carved lobes trailing behind it. These represent the creature’s vertebrae. Finally, the head has round inlaid eyes, and an unusual form that arches up over the animal’s snout. This may represent the head of a large whale species like a humpback or bowhead. Between the two heads spans the carved form of a reclining human figure, its hands crossed over its belly. The mask-like face has large abalone-shell inlaid eyes and an open mouth, which indicates that the figure is singing. This image most likely represents the shaman himself, spirit-traveling with the two creature images to a realm between life and death, the spirit-universe of the shaman.