Octopus & Sculpin Spirits
EXHIBITION:Spotlight On: The Giant Pacific Octopus
Shaman masks represented a very large range of things both natural and supernatural. Shaman and their spirit helpers (yeik) were often shown in the same mask, as in this mask. The shaman is shown with open mouth as if singing during a performance. The two spirit helpers evoked here are the octopus (the tentacle around the shaman’s face) and sculpin, the two black areas rising from either side of the mouth representing the spines on a sculpin’s gill plates.
Most shaman had four spirit helpers, acquired during seclusion, fasting, and prayer. Some had as many as eight and all were represented in the shaman’s kit as carved wooden masks. The most powerful of these masks not having eye holes cut or burned through them. There were larger masks that could cover the face.