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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Tlingit shaman charms Lovejoy, James


This thesis examines 480 Tlingit shamanS1 charms using Panofsky's method of analysis. The ms. catalogue notes on 380 charms collected by George Emmons were compiled together with published information on 100 others to yield firm data on provenance, context, materials, frequency of various motifs, and use. This data is presented in a series of tables which are discussed in the text. The most frequently appearing motifs on charms were human beings of various types, and the most common animal motif was the land otter, but variability of motif type and complexity was pronounced. Examination of the Tlingit context of the shaman's practice and specific Tlingit beliefs about the land otter reveal that it was the animal most frequently connected with shamanism, and the most important to his practice. Tlingit cosmological structure was reviewed in order to locate the land otter in the Tlingit scheme and shed light on the taboos associated with it. The insights of Mary Douglas were referenced, comparing the ways the Tlingit structure is like others worldwide, and how the land otter functioned as an essential mediator between the secular and sacred for the Tlingit.

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