Shaman’s Amulet Tlingit c.1880 Mountain Goat Horn 3 5/16” Long Amulets were shamanic talismans, carved of bone, ivory, and sometimes horn or wood, as is this unusual example. This amulet appears to represent an otter, one of a shaman’s universal helper spirits, indicated by the mammalian ears, four legs, and long stout tail. The head of the creature is not only unusual for being depicted as a comparatively flat face looking straight upward, but also because of the small humanoid face that is carved in the otter’s mouth. Transformation is a common theme in shamanic objects and designs, and the human face may indicate the shaman’s spirit within the otter, assuming the animal’s form. Frequently seen in Tlinglit shamanic imagery, land otters sometimes appear as emaciated forms with exposed vertebrae to emphasize their otherworldly aspects. Amulets were sometimes carved by the shaman himself, and sometimes by commission with recognized artists, made to manifest the shaman’s helpers for the patients and observers involved in a healing ritual or divination. The artistry displayed in this amulet suggests that it was created by a skilled traditional carver, and the broad brow and large eyes indicate a Tlinglit origin for this sculpture. Tlinglit shamanism remained strong into the last decade of the nineteenth century, while in other regions, such as among the Haida, missionary influence had greatly curtailed their traditional activities by that time. The shaman would imbue an amulet with his spirit and sometimes leave the amulet with a patient, held in place or bound to the afflicted area, in order to affect a cure. Shamanic objects were held in high and cautious esteem by the general populace, who feared and respected the unfathomable power of the shamans.