Winter ceremonial (I and II)

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons | © Irving Goldman. ISSN 2049-1115 (Online). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14318/hau4.3.032


Winter ceremonial (I and II)



Winter Ceremonial: I

The principal sources of information on the Winter Ceremonial are the family his-tories, Boas’s, volume on religious life (1930), and, of course, Boas’s great work, The Social Organization and Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl. The family histories, all of which were collected by George Hunt in the Kwakiutl language and translated by him with utter literalness, and then edited for greater intelligibility by Boas, are the authentic sources of the Kwakiutl viewpoint. They describe the ceremonies in their official context, which serves to authenticate the social standing and the supernatu-ral treasures and powers of each family. The narratives are for Kwakiutl ears. They assume Kwakiutl understanding, although in some instances Hunt, aware of his anthropological obligations, elicits explanatory comment.

I have used the original, unpublished Hunt manuscripts as well as Boas’s edited and published version. The two sources are not all that different. In many places, however, the Hunt manuscript is more precise in rendering Kwakiutl meanings. For example, Boas characteristically converts Hunt’s “secret” to “sacred.” “Man eat-er” is converted to “cannibal,” even when the man-eater is not a human being. Boas prefers general anthropological terms to Hunt’s elementary but more descriptive English. Boas speaks, for example, of “initiates” and “half-initiates.” Hunt, more specific, speaks of “go through the rules” and “not go through the rules.” Boas, inex-plicably, does not in many instances publish Hunt’s translations of native terms or names of persons. For example, Boas speaks of certain dancers as Kwexilak, when Hunt has already meaningfully translated the word as “board fast beating,” an im-portant idea since fast and slow dance tempos have ritual significance.

Apart from their descriptive content the family histories are important because they reveal the Kwakiutl idea of necessary sequence of events, of the line of devel-opment from myth time to the present, from the “true” events that had transpired at the Beginnings to their simulated presentation in present-day ritual. Kwakiutl insist on distinctions between the present and the mythical past, and between the reality of ritual and its mythical reality.

Boas’s writing on the Winter Ceremonial may not be noteworthy for clarity of exposition, but it is masterfully detailed and therefore faithful to Kwakiutl thought. His 1897 work has two sections; a general and explanatory treatise is followed by notes on his firsthand observations of a Winter Ceremonial held at Fort Rupert in the winter of 1895–96. In the first section he attempts to synthesize all he has learned about the Ceremonial from informants, from myth narratives, and from family histories. Thus he fuses, and to some extent confuses, historical periods, the earlier precontact conditions and the newer situation of trade goods, trading language, and the consolidation of the tribes at Fort Rupert. Boas wrote this section before he had collected the bulk of his materials on the subject. The eyewitness ac-count, on the other hand, is of one piece; though postcontact it is a rich expression of Kwakiutl culture. It is, as Codere remarked, the work of a brilliant and dedi-cated observer. For background on the analytic essay that follows I have drawn only upon native narratives. No summary can possibly improve on Boas’s description of the actual performances, which is readily accessible in the new edition edited by Codere (1966).

The basic idea of the Winter Ceremonial is to display inherited supernatural powers as a demonstration of the prowess of a line, and as a means of promoting the collective welfare by bringing supernatural powers into the community. The ritual structure arises from the individual but orchestrated enactments of myths of original acquisition of the supernatural powers. All traditions differ as to the nature of the original powers and as to the nature of the original encounter. Hence all rituals also differ, but only in details. Their common ritual theme is the introduction (initiation) of a young novice to the supernatural donor, which removes him from the human realm, and his subsequent recapture by his co-religionists. The ceremonial involves the entire community, some as spectators, the rest as actors. In 1865, 400 of 1000 at Fort Rupert were spectators only (Curtis 1915: 155). All acting roles are finely differentiated, almost in the manner of rank gradations.

The actors form two grand divisions, Sparrows and Seals, each differentiated by grade or rank within itself. Sparrows (quequtsa), broadly speaking, are the of-ficiating officers of the entire Ceremonial. Their chief, who may indeed be a com-mon man, heads the Ceremonial, not merely in an administrative capacity but as a chief shaman who “has no fear” of any supernatural events that occur. Seals (meemqat) are in the front line as direct contacts with the spirit donors of the su-pernatural powers. Except for their chief, Sparrows are all former Seals. They have gone through the course of initiation and impersonation, and now as restored human beings are equipped like curing shamans to guide novices through their spiritual ordeal.

In keeping with their human standing Sparrows are organized by age grades as follows:

Boys Nuisances
Youths Killer Whales
Young Men Rock Cod
Older Men Sea Lions
Chiefs Whales
Old Men Koskimo (a foreign tribe)
Head chiefs Eaters

(Boas 1966: 175)

Seals represent the supernatural spirits, which numbered 53 in Boas’s list and 63 in that of Curtis, recorded some 25 years later. Curtis confirms Boas on a rank order of spirits, but a generation later the ranks are only approximately the same. Both lists agree in giving highest rank to the class of man-eating spirits and their human dance impersonators (Curtis 1915: 156–8; Boas 1897: 498–9). A general characterization of spirits impersonated by dancers should suffice. The top-ranking group includes (following Boas’s list) the war spirit and a variety of man-eating spirits and their animal and humanoid helpers. A middle group includes fool dancers (warrior figures), Wolves, Thunderbirds, Whales, Killer Whales, Otters, Dogs, Ravens, Sea Monsters, Mink, Sunrise, and Salmon. The low group includes Eagle, Shaman, Ghost, Wasp, Salmon, Property Distribution, and at the bottom, Eagle Down.

No list or rank order can be final, since new dances are constantly being in-corporated into the Ceremonial from marriages, and may replace older ones in importance. Thus the hamatsa dance representing the Man Eater at the Mouth of the River became the major ritual of the Winter Ceremonial among the Kwakiutl in relatively recent times, supplanting the earlier hamshamtses (Man Eater of the Woods), which then became mainly a woman’s dance. The hamatsa is always male. Curtis’s list gives the sex of each dance impersonation. By his list, men generally impersonate the violent land mammals, ferocity in war, the powerful birds of heav-en, Thunderbird, Monster Crane, Raven. Women impersonate sorcery, military in-vulnerability, and some of the great mammals of the sea, the deadly Killer Whale and whales, as well as the Salmon and Rich Woman (Qominoqa). The latter two are the great symbols of wealth. Several dances are by either sex; most are male.

All the spirit-impersonators fall into two hierarchical divisions. The highest are laxsa (“gone into the house”) and include all dancers who come under the influence of Man Eater at the Mouth of the River (Baxbakualanuxsiwae), namely, hamatsa, hamshamtses, Grizzly Bear of the Man Eater, Kinqalatlala, the female attendant and flesh procuress of the Man Eater, and Qominoqa. Laxsa refers to having gone into the house of the Man Eater to receive from him powers and dance instructions.1 In rit-ual, these dancers actually “disappear” into the woods and need to be “captured.” All other dancers are wixsa. They have not gone into the house, they have “only leaned against the walls” (Boas 1932a: 212). They need not leave the ceremonial house at all.

The laxsa having “disappeared,” and representing also the most powerful and dangerous forces, become the focus of ritual attention. They must be “recaptured” and “tamed” by strenuous efforts.2 Among the wixsa, some are also subdued, mainly by song, but others simply exhibit their dance and songs. In all Kwakiutl Winter Ceremonials the Man Eater, either hamatsa or harnshamtses, is central. The ritual unity that finally emerges from disparate and individually owned dances is achieved through the symbolism of his figure.

The Sparrows are a society of shamans, the Seals are their clients. As a perma-nent, expansive, and corporate society the Sparrows are grouped by age, represen-tative of the individual growth cycle, primarily a sign of their position on the hu-man side. As a transient but stable grouping of individual spirits the Seals represent a generational cycle; membership moves from man to son-in-law to grandchild. Sparrows are directors of action, managing the invitations, the seating, the order of dances, guiding the “taming” of the spirit-possessed, instructing in songs, and so on. Seals are passive (though energetic in action) replicas of their spirit tutelaries.

The hereditary managerial posts in the Sparrows are all masculine and trans-mitted by male primogeniture. The privilege of dancing a spirit impersonation, however, comes mainly from the female line, that is, from the wife’s or mother’s father. These formal oppositions are then expressed in the ritual antagonisms of biting, teasing, scratching. Sparrows resist the efforts of laxsa Seals to give up their arduous calling. They punish ritual error, a missed dance step, a false word in a song, improperly using a summer name, and the like. Ritual error is a powerful concern because Kwakiutl understand the Winter Ceremonial, as a whole, as a se-ries of contests between persons and spirits, and as super natural power contests between rival tribes. The presence of power can be demonstrated, of course, by ac-complishment, but also by ability to overcome. Whoever commits an error is said to be overcome. If the error is serious the victim is as dead. At very least he must begin all over.

With this skeletal structure of the Winter Ceremonial dances in mind we may pick up the essential inner details from the texts. Hunt recorded part of a family history of the Qomkyutis tribe of the Fort Rupert Kwakiutl. This important text deals with an ancestral chief Waxapalaso and the acquisition of hamshamtses and hence an early pre-hamatsa tradition (see Boas 1921: 1121–79, also Hunt ms. vol. 5 same pagination).

Waxapalaso lies on his back in his house thinking what to do when he recalls a remark of a Qweqsotenox, “Look out for the one of our tribesmen who has a great treasure!—I mean Head Winter Dancer—for he will go around our world to play with the people of supernatural power, all around the world.” In the morning he scolds his still sleeping son saying: “Don't you think of Head-Winter-Dancer, the great shaman, the great war-dancer, who is famous all over the world, and who is looking for a great shaman to play with? I mean you ought to rise and wash yourself in this good river [Tselgwad].” He then strikes the youth with his fire tongs.

The son, Xaxosenaso, leaves the house intending to kill himself. At the cascade of the river he comes upon a rock with two holes, and recognizes them as the eyes of Dzonoqwa, the Wild Woman of the Woods. A voice urges him to enter the eyes, saying, “Then nothing will be too difficult for you.” Xaxosenaso scrubs his body vigorously with hemlock branches while sitting first in the right eye and then in the left eye. After he has washed both sides of his body, the voice commands him to dive four times, staying under water a long time: “then you will obtain what makes you strong, so that nothing will be too difficult for you.” He dives deep, and stays under for a long time. When he comes to the surface he has fainted. The text ex-plains, “for he had been dead, and came back to his senses” (ibid.: 1125).

Entering the forest he tests his newly won strength by twisting a spruce tree with his hands. Suddenly, a strange man appears before him and counsels him: “and you shall always purify yourself in the morning and in the evening so that no harm may befall you.” Xaxosenaso just stands there, in the words of the text, “as though he were out of his mind” (ibid.).

He continues his sacred journey, walking up toward the headwaters of a river. Nearing the source, he comes upon the prize treasure. He sees a large, angry-looking human head, and knows that he has found Head Without Body. The head tries to frighten him with changing expressions.

Finally, it opens its mouth to show the head of a man within. Its mouth remains open, and it utters the great cry of the hamshamtses dancer. At this the man within the mouth jumps out as a hamshamtses dancer. He squats in the traditional dance posture, his outspread arms trembling. Then he rushes upon Xaxosenaso to take a bite out of his arm, and jumps back into the mouth of Head Without Body, who immediately disappears.

A disembodied voice tells Xaxosenaso that he has just obtained the hamshamtses dance as his treasure, the Head Without Body as a crest, and the name, Nanogwis, One Man Eater. The voice directs him to show his treasures, that is, to give a winter dance, and to do what the hamshamtses dancer had done to him. He starts down the river, pausing along the way to purify himself. He scrubs his body with hemlock branches and dives into the river four times. Whereupon another voice directs him to still another treasure. A Thunderbird is revealed to him sitting on a rock. He says to it, “I came to obtain you, Great Supernatural One, as a treasure.” Thunderbird takes him under his wing and flies with him around the world. Bringing him back to the same place he assures Xaxosenaso that with his help he would match the pow-ers of his rival among the Qweqsotenox, Head Winter Dancer. “And if he discovers that you are not an ordinary man,” Thunderbird tells him, “he will come at once to make war upon you; and as soon as you want me to help you, sing my sacred song:”

Burn them, burn them, burn them you who burn the world! Hail, hail, hail, hail, hailstorm is brought by you!

(ibid.: 1130)

When Xaxosenaso approaches his village, he does not know that he has been away four years. He hears someone singing near the river. Going toward the voice, he comes upon a small man who escorts him to a large winter dance house. He sees within it all that had happened to him in his meeting with Head Without Body, but this time in the format of a dance performance. Head Without Body is represent-ed by a secret room painted with a head design. The hamshamtses dancer comes out from the doorway wearing a revolving head mask. The speaker of the house tells Xaxosenaso that all he has seen within is his new treasure. He is shown other treasures. A woman dancer, Wilenkagilis, dressed only in hemlock branches, and known as Great War Dancer, acts out the dismemberment of her own body. She urges a reluctant Xaxosenaso to dismember her. Her body recaptures its head and limbs and she is whole again. Her next trick is to throw her supernatural power on the dance floor. It brings a flood that puts out the fire. At that moment, the house and all within disappear, and Xaxosenaso is left alone. He sings her song:

I was taken to the other side of the world, I was taken to the other side of the world, by the great supernatural power. I was taken to the other side of the world by the great supernatural power. I received everything, I received everything, from the great supernatural power. I received everything from the great supernatural power. We, we! I have everything, I have everything, belonging to his supernatural power. I have everything, I have everything belonging to his supernatural power. We, we!

(ibid.: 1136)

Finally back home, Xaxosenaso says nothing of the great supernatural treasures he has brought back. But the people are alarmed to learn that Head Winter Dancer of the Qweqsotenox is coming to them. Their shaman tells them, however, that Xaxosenaso has the name of Wilenkagilis, the War Dancer, as well as great super-natural powers; they are reassured and happy. The Qweqsotenox arrive with their champion, Head Winter Dancer. They come wearing cedar bark neck and head rings. They are feasted, and the contest of powers begins. Dancing naked to fast time, Head Winter Dancer throws his supernatural power on the floor. It brings a flood and puts out the fire. The hosts are unmoved, and the flood recedes and the fire is relighted. Head Winter Dancer allows his head to be cut off, and it is restored. But Xaxosenaso shows his superior powers, and the Qweqsotenox and their champion are forced to leave in shame. But they have not escaped, for they are subsequently killed by the Thunderbird song their conqueror sings against them. Now called Wilenkagilis, Xaxosenaso is feared by his people because of his great supernatural powers. The people, as the text says, desire to be his slaves. They work for him and bring him everything he wants, food, water, firewood, and canoes (ibid.: 1147).

For a final display of his supernatural treasures, the new Wilenkagilis request his father to sponsor a Winter Ceremonial. In preparation, he returns to the place where he had first met Head Without Body. Living alone in the woods, he scrubs his body with hemlock boughs, and dives into the river mornings and evenings. After four months of ritual isolation he has a dream, in which all that had hap-pened during the first meeting is repeated. Now he returns to show his treasures at an actual winter dance.

Sponsorship is called “begging for one’s life” (ibid.: 1153). The Sparrow chief lays his red cedar bark ring on the dance floor and says to the congregation:

Go and consider whether you wish to remain alive. Then you will take up this red cedar hark and give a winter dance next year. If you do not take it up, you will die where we are sitting here.


Whereas the Sparrows are all retired Seals, their chief has never been initiated as a Seal. He is usually the son of the preceding chief. To retain the connection with the Seals, however, his initiation is announced, and is about to take place when he is suddenly snatched back. The supernatural power is said to be frightened away, and it is possible to induct him instead as a Sparrow. He receives a cane, red cedar bark neck rings, and a Sparrow name.

Winter dance performances reenact the encounters with the supernatural do-nors of the powers. The dancer is then an embodiment of the donor, and the con-gregation is in the position of the novice at the time of the encounter. Xaxosenaso dances as the hamshamtses he had seen; and as he had been bitten, he now bites the flesh of assembled Sparrows and Seals. He also displays the acquired treasures in simulated form. The Kwakiutl have often taken great pains with ingenious me-chanical contrivances to make the display as realistic as possible. The Sparrows as the shamans must restore the dancer to his normal human state. The condition of possession is considered a form of madness, of being bereft of the senses, of being wild and uncontrollable like a released force or passion. As the song for Xaxos-enaso, now Nanogwis, One Man Eater, says, to cure a holy madness is to tame:

We will try to restore to his senses [Nanogwis], shamans

We will tame [Nanogwis], shamans

We will quiet [Nanogwis], shamans

We will heal [Nanogwis], shamans.

(ibid.: 1170)

The hamatsa dance which replaced the hamshamtses, among the Kwakiutl, is in the same man-eating tradition, but more violent, and consequently, more highly val-ued. The hamshamtses was then relegated to the women: as more in keeping with its relative tranquility. The great spirit

Face Without Body is a passive being, literally immobilized, and his hamshamtses is no more than an arm biter. The patron of the hamatsa is the most formidable and frightening of supernatural beings, Baxbakualanuxsiwae, Man Eater at the Mouth of the River. His dancer, the hamatsa is ravenous, an eater of whole, freshly killed bodies, of decayed corpses of relatives, and a biter of arms as well. Hamshamtses is a solitary dancer, but hamatsa is part of an ensemble that represents the great Man Eater and his retinue of spirits.

The ritual design remains constant whether the dancer is hamshamtses or hamatsa. I cited the Xaxosenaso narrative because it seems the fullest, and illustrates most completely the stages of ritual development, beginning with the primary en-counter and the display of supernatural powers as actual, to the dream encounter and the simulated display of powers in pure ritual form. A Hunt Text from the Awikenox (Wikeno), a northern Kwakiutl tribe, demonstrates the basic similarity of the pattern in the case of hamatsa (see Boas 1921: 1222–1248). Among south-ern Kwakiutl, the tradition is basically the same. The following narrative is from Nakwaxdax, but involves an Awikenox chief (see Boas 1897: 396–400).

Nakwaxdax tribesmen are disappearing mysteriously. And when the four sons of chief Nanwaqawe leave to hunt mountain goat he warns them to avoid the houses of the grizzly bear and of the Man Eater. The youths, of course, ignore the warnings. They come upon the grizzly bear, engage him in combat, and kill him. They con-tinue on their way and come to a house from which red smoke issues, the mark of Man Eater. They go in and find a woman seated on the floor. She says to them, “I am rooted to the floor. I will help you.” She tells them they are in the house of Man Eater, and how to kill him. They are to dig a fire pit, fill it with hot coals, and cover it with boards as a trap. Man Eater arrives crying hap! (eating) in a state of excitement. His body is covered with mouths. He lies down, and jumps up again in a newly excited state, calling out hap! hap!, and then retires into his secret room. His attendants come out and dance. They are Great Raven and Giant Crane. When they finish, Man Eater comes out with his female attendants, several Kinqalatlalas and the Qomi-noqas. When the dancing Man Eater steps on the fire trap, one of the youths pulls aside the boards. Man Eater falls in and is burned. At his “death” the women also die, but the Crane and Raven only faint. The youths seize the ritual ornaments and paraphernalia, the masks, the whistles, and the cannibal pole. The rooted woman instructs them in their uses, and teaches them the songs of Man Eater.

They return home with their new possessions, and fetch Nanwaqawe their father. The rooted woman instructs him in the Man Eater ritual. She teaches him the names and songs of Man Eater and of his associates, and finally reveals herself to be Nan-waqawe’s daughter. Nanwaqawe would free her, but dares not cut her deep-set root for fear of killing her. She advises him to return home and present the hamatsa dance.

Two new elements enter the Winter Ceremonial by way of the hamatsa legend; one is the killing of the tutelary, Man Eater, the other is the mediation of a woman in the process of transfer of powers. The act of killing transposes the winter ritual on to a new level: from mere biting to devouring; from being, in effect, born from the tutelary from whose body the dancer emerges, to becoming his conqueror; from being but a one-man-eater (Nanogwis) to being an insatiable devourer. The presence of the hamatsa elevates traditional ritual antagonism to higher levels. The presence of the rooted woman, the human daughter rooted within the house of the devourer of men, as an internal opponent is, of course, the mythological setting to marriage, still another phase in the cycle of transference of powers.

The hamatsa dance does not enact the killing of Man Eater. It presents him rather as resurrected, and in his voracious aspect. Since the hamatsa is a human being, he is literally a cannibal. His state of being is, nevertheless, ambiguous. He is human, but he is also mad, and possessed by the Man Eater spirit; and it is the spirit that is the devourer of men. To sustain this conception of hamatsa dancer as a spirit being, he is made to vomit every trace of the human flesh he has swallowed. In one sense the vomiting signifies, ritually, the miracle of resurrection.

At the same time, the human being must be free of the taint of cannibalism. Even his excrement is closely studied for traces of human flesh. The hamatsa does not return to the normal human condition for a full year, among some Kwakiutl tribes long as four years.

During this period he does no work; he may not gamble, nor engage in sexual intercourse. Boas made the interesting observation that the restrictions upon the hamatsa are like those imposed on young women who are menstruating for the first time (1897: 538). The hamatsa and the menstruant are both separated from the domain of men, perhaps for similar reasons, each as a representative of the powers of death. The dancer symbolizes death the devourer, the menstruant is the symbol of the wounded being who could bleed to death, but will, in fact, recover and become a life giver.

As the highest stage of shamanistic achievement, the hamatsa initiation can only be approached gradually. As in other North American Indian shamanistic initiations, the hamatsa has advanced through the world of spirits, impersonating others for six years before he is ready to meet the Man Eater. Only the hamatsa disappears for the full four months duration of the Winter Ceremonial. Thus the season opens with his disappearance and closes after he has been brought back and temporar-ily subdued. He is but one of some 50 spirit incarnates. But his role is ritually and thematically central. As he is for the moment the Man Eater spirit, the congregation must be ritually clean to capture him. There is a special affinity between him and the ghost dancers; but anyone in the house may unexpectedly hold the power to capture him.

The hamatsa is accompanied by the retinue representing the spirits dwelling with Man Eater. While all form a single thematic ensemble, the male dancer is always paired directly with Kinqalatlala, a slave of Man Eater, and his procuress of bodies. Her dance signifies that she is both his feeder and his tamer. She carries a mummified human corpse to a drum inside the house, and from there feeds its flesh to the dancer and to all former hamatsas. In another dance she moves before him, facing him and drawing him into the house, gesturing with outstretched arms, palms up. She sings:

I am the real tamer of [Baxbakualanuxsiwae]

I pull the red cedar bark from [Baxbakualanuxsiwae’s] back.

It is my power to pacify you when you are in a state of ecstasy.

(Boas 1897: 527)

The dancing of the procuress is slow and restrained, that of the hamatsa alternates between the excitement of rapid tempo and the subsidence of the slow drum beat. He is excited when he is naked and crouching low. His outstretched arms tremble and he is poised to attack the congregation. When standing, and fully dressed, he is in the human state, and is then quiet.

Winter ceremonial: II

Human beings have always seen the darkening of the days as the frightening drift into death, and have fought against the dying of the light as for their life. The en-ergy of ritual fills the void of the night, as though dusk to dawn were the true arena where the struggle for life must be fought. Daylight can take care of itself; the dark-ness must be subdued and tamed and made to turn back by the powers that human beings have won for themselves. For northern tribes, winter is the long night, the descent into darkness and death. For the tribes of the Northwest Coast, winter is the sacred season when all other work is put aside to fight the night, the darkness of death which can be made to yield, but will never let go on its own.

The Kwakiutl Winter Ceremonial is a kind of shamanistic festival, a dazzling dis-play of powers, a pitting of human powers against the powers of alien supernatural beings, or, as the people often say, a time to see what the supernatural powers will do. On the human side there are two principal groups of protagonists: the chiefs, who for the occasion are called the “shamans,” and their children, boys and girls who are sent out to meet the supernaturals face to face. In diversity of incident and symbolic representation the Winter Ceremonial is bewilderingly complex. At some point or other, all supernatural powers the people possess and all their su-pernatural donors are brought out for display in song and in masked dances. In the course of the sacred winter season almost the entire content of myth on the acquisition of powers is dramatized in a kaleidoscope of image and sound, appar-ently uncoordinated in detail, as each set of dancers carried out its own portrayal on its own ground within the great dance house. Everything that goes on, however, carries out one elementary ritual theme: The young are allowed to be seized by su-pernatural antagonists and the “shamans” try to bring them back. When the young return afflicted with holy madness, the shamans cure them, restoring them to their ordinary state.

Curing shaman and Ceremonial shaman are identified in the same title, paxala.3 The Ceremonial shaman is the curing shaman translated to the more general and hence higher level of ritual performance. The bringing down of nawalak so that the community may be assured of life for another year is basically the curing ritual socialized. Only in the most general sense, of course, is the Winter Ceremonial the magnified and socialized version of the curing ceremony. The elementary shaman is at the bottom of it, but the very magnitude of the Winter Ceremonial is itself a new phenomenon. The Winter Ceremonial is shamanistic, but in a guise where the central concepts of shamanism are asked to deal with all the major concerns of Kwakiutl culture—with lineage, with rank, with marriage, with distribution and exchange, as well as with all relations between men and spirits and between men and animals. The Winter Ceremonial has, of course, the central shamanistic theme of overcoming death. At the same time, it has a broad cultural compass, befitting the grandeur of the theme. It stands for that side of the culture that faces the coming of the night.

The shamanic model for the Winter Ceremonial is readily discovered in the sur-rounding area, among northeastern Siberians, Eskimo, Athabascan, and Algonquian, and Salishan peoples (see Eliade 1964). In essence the shaman is a special person who has been able to recover from a mysterious affliction that has brought him close to death. Fellow shamans aid his recovery and prepare him professionally to become a healer and to command other powers. This rather mundane experience, in itself common enough, is transformed into a more profound religious event. Illness and recovery are metamorphosed into a concept of a dangerous journey from the hu-man world of the living to the spiritual world of the dead, and—most important—to return home. To cross what should be an absolute divide and return safely is an ex-ceptional feat confined to the exceptional person who has been chosen or accepted by the spirits. The shamans are the human emissaries who are to set up the means of continuous intercourse with the world of the spirits.

Shaman and spirits form a bond of interdependence. Each at some point pos-sesses the other, the shaman acting as agent of his spirits, the spirits as agents of the shaman. Each in a sense sacrifices some part of its original identity for the sake of the new and mutually advantageous relationship. The spirits consort with human beings and respond to their commands. The shaman becomes established as a mar-ginal person who straddles the boundaries between his own kind and the universe of spirits. The nature of his original disorder marked by trance, vision, faintness, epileptoid seizure, wasting illness, the common signs of impending death, define his marginal state. The marginal state is volatile and ambiguous and, therefore, very dangerous. The shaman is compelled to battle. He must prove himself or define himself by demonstrating his powers, demonstrating to all as well as to himself that his spiritual connections are still reliable. He is at the border between his kind and the spirit world as a defender of the human community, an aggressive assignment.

There may be a parallel between the pattern of relations between shamans and spirits, and between hunters and animals in northern North America. Each pairing involves a system of intercourse between two realms, originally joined in the primal myth era and now separate and hostile, but obliged to intersect and to col-laborate. Animals offer their lives, their flesh to human beings in return for respect and human collaboration in preservation of their species. Human beings, too, give up their flesh when they enter the spirit world, often at the hands of spirits who are hunters of lives. The shaman secures the safety of the souls, a link in preservation of the species. Eliade offers the important observation that the shamanic aspirant gives animal spirits his own flesh to eat (1964: 108), implying thereby a parallel with hunting. The parallel is perhaps rather self-evident, since the spirits with whom the shaman consorts, with whom he establishes a common identity, are the animals of the original mythic state (ibid.: 93). Ultimately the two patterns of relationship are not parallel, but intersecting. The shaman mediates both.

The shaman of the Winter Ceremonial is a transformed version of the primordi-al shaman described by Eliade, and equally a transformation of his curing counter-part among Kwakiutl. The transformation deals with the issue of directness of the shamanic experience. In primary curing, shamanism is an experience personal and mystical; that is, immediate and spontaneous encounter with spirits. The shamans of the Winter Ceremonial, however, have themselves had no direct or immediate encounters with spirits; they inherit the primary experiences of their antecedents.

Boas wrote of the transformation of the traditional North American vision quest from an individual experience to an accommodation to hereditary rank (see 1897: 336). This may be taken to mean the power of the social system to transform the religion. For the Kwakiutl, however, transmission by marriage and by descent along the lines of aristocracy adheres to religious principles. It is not sufficient to say that shamanism comes under the influence of the social system, rather, elemen-tary shamanism has become evidenced by association with those other sources of supernatural powers that belong to chiefs. Hereditary shamanism is not unusual in this region, in any case, so that Kwakiutl only formalizes an acknowledged practice. The decisive innovation is insistence that marriage symbolize the bridging of the divide between the home world and the alien realm, and that the father-in-law as donor stand as an equivalent to the supernatural spirits. It is in this sense, of course, that the father-in-law is the great magister.

In the Winter Ceremonial the process of initiating the acquisition of generalized shamanistic powers starts at marriage, at a point when the groom is nearing the peak of his powers, and is simultaneously on the verge of becoming a full-fledged chief. His course is precisely opposite to that of the curing shaman, who must first descend to illness and to the crisis of death. This inversion defines precisely the distinction Kwakiutl imply between commoner and noble shamans. Nobility tran-scends common suffering. As Kwakiutl often say, it is the “little ones” who must struggle. The curing shaman is one of the “little ones” and it is he who submits to suffering and to self-divestment. The noble faces the spirits from a posture of strength. His rank has already advanced him to a plane of equivalence with the supernatural being.

The Kwakiutl call the Winter Ceremonial tsetseqa, a word Boas initially trans-lated, too crudely, as “fraudulent, pretended, to cheat” (1966: 172), saying that: “Even in the most serious presentations of the ceremonial, it is clearly and definite-ly stated that it is planned as a fraud” (ibid.). Boas is left with this wry thought: “The peculiar attitude of the Indians towards the whole ceremonial makes it difficult to understand its fundamental meaning” (ibid.). The crudity is in the choice of such words as “fraud” and “cheat” for rites of such extraordinary religious importance as the Winter Ceremonial. The proper translation of tsetseqa finally appears in his posthumous grammar (1947) where tsekweda, based on the same stem, is given as “imitated.” Thus the label defines the ceremonial aptly as a simulated event. One should not conclude hastily that a simulated or theatrical performance is not there-by religious.

The concept of tseka (the stem) has distinctive native overtones of meaning. Thus in an earlier stab at translation Boas suggested “secrets” (1897: 418). Among the neighboring Heiltsuq (Bella Bella), whose dialect is only slightly different, tseqa refers to shamans and to the Winter Ceremonial. From Heiltsuq usage Boas derived still another meaning, “exalted” or “unusual.” Taking all these suggested meanings into account, one arrives at an idea of hidden things, in the sense that the ceremonies deal with secret matters that are always hidden and can be experi-enced, therefore, only in a simulated form. The masks, the whistles, the ornaments, the dramatizations of mythical events simulate a hidden reality, a reality that does not literally exist on this side of the cosmos, belonging only, as the Kwakiutl always say, “on the other side.” The idea of simulating hidden things is one of profound religious sophistication, a recognition of the ineffable.

In contrasting the Winter Ceremonial with “true shamanism” I had in mind gen-eral patterns of arctic shamanism, the historical model for the Kwakiutl. Unlike his more mystical and more spiritual counterparts, the Kwakiutl shaman relies heavily on elaborate tricks in his public demonstrations. He devises hidden trapdoors and partitions, and uses strings cleverly to manipulate artificial figures. He is in appear-ance the modern magician, and when his tricks through clumsiness are exposed he is humiliated. Hence, the curing shaman is an avowed simulator too. Is he a fraud? The possibility of fraud cannot be dismissed. Yet all shamanism relies on some tricks, on extraction of foreign crystals or worms from the body of the patient, on ventriloquism that suggests the presence of spirits in the vicinity, on sleight of hand and hypnotic suggestion. In some respect all shamanism is a simulated theater of spiritual mythology. Siberian tribes perhaps voice the feelings of many shamanistic congregations when they speak of contemporary practices as decadent. The origi-nal ancestors, they say, had real experiences with the spirit world. They actually did all the things shamans now pretend to do (see Eliade 1964: 68).

The concept of decadence, which is clearly pertinent to a consideration of Kwakiutl shamanism and the Winter Ceremonial, probably states historically the more fundamental idea of an increasing separation between an original mythical state of being and a contemporary reality. All mythical states of first origins are by the nature of religious thought set in a pristine world no longer directly accessible. Founding ancestors remain connected with their descendants, but across a decided barrier, a barrier growing increasingly impenetrable. What is referred to as sha-manistic decadence is but an acknowledgment of distance as a function of aging. In their views of shamanism and of the Winter Ceremonial the Kwakiutl acknowledge the gaps between the true spirit world at the time when men were still in animal form, or had just emerged, and the present. What was real then is simulated now.

In using terms such as “simulated” or “theatrical” we run the risk of seriously misrepresenting the Kwakiutl idea by secularizing what they specifically identify as the opposite of the secular. The summer season is known as baxus, translated by Boas as “secular” (1897: 418), and is said to be the opposite of the tsetseqa. In the summer, the Indians say, the baxus is on top and the tsetseqa is on the bot-tom (ibid.). In the winter the positions are reversed. The winter ceremonial season begins as a rule in our November and ends after January. It is a bracketed solstice observance, but not, strictly speaking, sidereal, for the season is launched not on a fixed day but always by the social event of transmitting winter dance privileges. These are, of course, handed over in the winter. The point is nevertheless made, and emphatically: The act of transmission initiates the Winter Ceremonial period even before the season has actually started. The distinction is important because it verifies the shamanistic analogy of having a mystical experience triggered by an extraordinary event; and it separates Kwakiutl ritual timing from the astronomical traditions of Plains and Pueblo Indians.

The appearance of the Winter Ceremonial season totally reverses the order of human existence. People then represent another form of being. They abandon their summer names and their lineage affiliations as though they had returned to an ex-istence prior to the appearance of human beings. In the winter they are organized in animal societies, and, of course, as varieties of supernatural beings. No one then is, strictly speaking, a human being, and no one accordingly belongs to a lineage, for the Kwakiutl the quintessential organization of human beings. They live under a new spiritual jurisdiction, under dangerous spirits who punish remorselessly any lapse of ritual decorum. The winter condition does not actually duplicate the pre-human condition because it is unrelated, by design, to the lineage origins. What it seems to duplicate is a general state of being when human beings reestablish close contact with a spiritual existence by an act of identification. The house becomes a spirit residence, the people become simulated spirits, and the great supernatural spirits come to live among them as among their own kind.

I believe we can satisfactorily distinguish between so-called genuine and sim-ulated participants and events. The impersonations are artifice, but the power brought by the spirits is genuine. The power of the Winter Ceremonial is nawalak, the most positively identified concept of supernatural power that the Kwakiutl voice. Boas compares nawalak with “holy” and with the Algonquian concept of manitou (1927). It seems to be, judging from contexts, the power associated with the unusual forms of life. Thus simulated actions, by establishing identity with the sources of power, acquire the powers. The semantic problem of contrasting simu-lated actions and genuine powers is self-evident. Implied is a religiously impossible equation between spurious recipients and genuine donors. Kwakiutl have no sense of charity; for them, a genuine donor can give only to a genuine recipient. Religious logic compels the conclusion that in the context of the Winter Ceremonial the simulated is not the profane. In no sense is it the antithesis of the holy. To receive nawalak from the supernatural, petitioners must be on the proper plane. While they are not, and cannot be, fully equal to the supernaturals they impersonate, they have raised themselves to a level of sanctity or, better still, of ritual purity at which they can receive powers. Actually, Kwakiutl follow a common ritual procedure in all transmissions: The recipient prepares himself by seeking identity with the do-nor. The viewpoint of tsetseqa, of simulation, seems to be that a true identity is not, and indeed cannot be attained with the supernatural beings. They remain distinct from human beings just as the ancestral founders, the animal-masked humans, are now eternally distinct from their human descendants. The Kwakiutl who told Boas the Winter Ceremonial was presented as simulation were surely not denigrating a ritual of great importance. They were stating, I would imagine, a position of true religious humility: Men can imitate the gods, they cannot be the gods. Imitation, even in tribal societies, is Flattery. Among

Kwakiutl, as in all animist religions, the gods are seen as attracted to their own kind.

If the impersonators are not genuine spirits but genuine impersonators of spirits, what about the nawalak that is received? The Kwakiutl view is that a well-conducted ritual brings the actual supernatural beings down into the house (Boas 1930: 69), which then becomes the abode of Healing Woman (ibid.: 121). They bring with them the nawalak, but not, of course, in the same form as in myth. In myth, the nawalak powers are both extraordinary and specific, restoring the dead to life, killing enemies effortlessly, accomplishing miracles in hunting, acquiring wealth, curing, and so on. On earth the miracles of myth are not altogether dis-counted, yet deferring to reality the congregation expects only general benefits. They speak of the period as “making the heart good” (aikegela), as wiping the slate clean of the ailments, the troubles, and the rancors of the secular time, and as “bringing down from above” (Boas 1897: 418), a conjunction of ideas about general benefits brought down from the sky world. A more specific benefit is the shamanis-tic preservation of life. Thus at the end of the season someone must at once promise the festivities for next year or else “we will die” (Boas 1921: 1153).

Reality compels a compromise with the extravagant promises of myth, but not at the sacrifice of the fundamental premises of religious logic. The generalizing and softening of specific and extraordinary powers does not, we assume, violate the authenticity of a primeval condition; its reality cannot extend to contemporary conditions. The man can never again be the child, the tree can never again be the seed. Time is an authentic condition. The aim of myth is not to overcome time by fusing in superficial fashion present and primeval. On the contrary, myth insists on the implacable and irreversible separation between that which started a cycle and that which continues the cycle.

The viewpoint of myth, as deeply rooted in the human consciousness as is the incest taboo, is that history must move forward from its origins. The connection with beginnings is not to be broken. Even more imperative is the distinction be-tween present and beginnings. The incest taboo remains a powerful psychic com-pulsion for similar reasons. Deepest incest revulsion among human beings is for the mother and son connection, which implies a return to the source of origin. Common to origin myths and to the incest taboo is the Orphic idea that life in its growth moves out and away from its primal source. Return is fraught with the dan-ger of rejecting life. Those who violate the incest taboo are dead, metaphorically. Since they are already “dead,” it is reasonable for religious societies to treat them as such—expelling them or killing them.

The inescapable counterpart of the incest taboo is the sacred obligation to re-tain connections by endowing them with deep significance. The Garden of Eden is never again to be reentered, and never to be forgotten. And the Kwakiutl idea of simulation is unusual only in its remarkable explicitness. Like the biology of growth and development, gradations are recognized between (1) the supernaturals themselves, (2) the ancestral beings who acquired powers from them, and (3) the contemporary people who now simulate the earlier pristine conditions. Simulation, however, is no casual matter. It seeks identity even through danger, but dares not make identity absolute. The initiate enters the realm of the supernaturals, but as a differentiated human being who is firmly tied to others on the human side who will pull him to safety.

Simulation of powers and of beings is the familiar sacred-profane distinction. Kwakiutl semantic sophistication enables us to understand a more subtle distinction, in which sacred-profane represents a gradation through which the sacred reaches toward but need not encompass the truly divine. By recapitulating the myth Kwakiutl gain a substantial benefit. But they are not mystics; and they do not delude themselves with the belief that what had been at the Beginning can ever be regained. They simulate the mystic doctrine through metaphysical enactment of the return to first and enduring principles. Apart from the simple positive good of the ritual series, the enactments have perhaps the more constructive benefit of setting forth the cultural metaphysics, using the language of visual symbols and the irresistible power of mimesis to impress upon all the meaning of Being. For the student of Kwakiutl thought, the Winter Ceremonial is the gateway to hidden meanings, its symbolic structure the Rosetta stone to an undeciphered code.

As Levi-Strauss has so cogently reasoned, all myth versions are authentic. Each tells a part of the whole story. According to several traditions, the Winter Ceremo-nial first came down from the sky. The Dzawadenox tale cited in Chapter 4 about the marriage of a chief ’s daughter with the son of Abalone of the World attributes the origin of the rites to the celestial trinity of Sun, Moon, and Thunderbird (Boas and Hunt 1905: 58). A Qweqsotenox tradition is more specific and attributes ori-gins to Thunderbird, who is called Head Winter Dancer. The attribution of origins to the Thunderbird, who in myth represents the birds of the Sky World in their ever-losing combats with the birds and beasts of earth, is in keeping with major religious themes. In the former version the rites are brought to earth in marriage, thus authenticating the act of transmission. In the latter version, Thunderbird and his wife come to earth bringing with them the winter dances. In another version it is the Wolves who bring down the first rites (Boas 1930: 62ff).4 The original source is generally in the sky, and the secondary sources are on earth where the powers had been deposited. Yet finally, there is the tradition that the Winter Ceremonial, and privileges of giving coppers all over the world, come from Qomogwa, god of the sea (Boas and Hunt 1905: 85).

Stories of the first origins are, however, general, dealing only with the broad framework of the rites and not with the supernatural beings who are imperson-ated. In the marriage story of the Dzawadenox chief ’s daughter a connection is established between the winter dances and incidents of having one’s brains eaten by Brain-Eating Woman and being restored to life after she vomits them out and they are sprinkled with the water of life. This brief incident contains the main idea of the rites. In stories of Thunderbird, who is also Head Winter Dancer, another connection is established. Head Winter Dancer (Tsaqame) becomes a great sha-man and demonstrates that his powers are at least equal to those of Qanekelak, one of the great Kwakiutl deities, a creator and a transformer. In the presence of Head Winter Dancer and in the presence of the Winter Ceremonial itself, when it is in progress, the god Qanekelak is diffident. He recognizes an inherent antagonism of powers and acknowledges his inability to conquer. Thus the Thunderbird, qua Head Winter Dancer, demonstrates that the powers of the winter dance, powers in the province of human beings, are on a par with those of the god who created many important features of earth.

We cannot be sure to what extent Kwakiutl myth is conceptually unified. Are all qualities of Thunderbird, for example, pertinent to his role as Head Winter Dancer even when not in that specific context? Yet it is hard to escape the impression that the contexts of Thunderbird combats are related. If he is a contestant with Qanekelak in his guise as Head Winter Dancer, his heroic combats with the birds and beasts of earth, when he goes by the name of Thunderbird, may be part of a common theme. With Qanekelak he is equal, and they fight to a draw. Against the birds of earth, headed by Woodpecker, he is defeated and thereafter the thunder, a threat to life, is heard only in the proper season. The meaning of these narratives is not, I should think, that the birds, who represent the earth division, are stronger than Qanekelak and Head Winter Dancer, but rather that Thunderbird, as such, is for the moment subordinate. He is invincible, however, when he is both the great shaman and the Head Winter Dancer. The entire mythological tradition must dem-onstrate to the Kwakiutl how awesome and unconquerable are the powers of the Winter Ceremonial. (See Chapter 7 for Qanekelak and Head Winter Dancer as paradigms for ritual antagonism.)

Even in the course of a single season at one village the ritual series represents a great variety of supernatural beings and their powers. Not all the supernaturals, each of whom is portrayed by a masked dance and song, are presented at any one time. Boas had grouped them into four great supernatural jurisdictions: the war spirit, Winalagilis, Making War All Over the Earth; the Man Eater spirit, Baxba-kualanuxsiwae; matem, the birds that give the power of flight; and Ghosts, who have the power of bringing back to life a person who has been killed. His classification does not incorporate all dances—for the ceremony is in fact a rapidly evolving system—rather the main religious themes they represent.

The quadripartite grouping divides thematically into pairs of dualities: War and Man Eater as death and consummation; Birds and Ghosts as flight and resurrection. In myth, Man Eater and War Spirit are older and younger brother respectively. Man Eater is the chief and his younger brother “makes war around the world” to fetch corpses for him to feed upon. They form a natural pair (see Boas and Hunt 1905: 204ff). Birds and Ghosts form a different kind of pair. Birds are souls who ascend to the sky, the original source of nawalak; Ghosts live underground and in resurrection ascend to earth. Each pairing complements the other; all-devouring death is matched by means of overcoming it. Thus the main themes are set forth in a fairly obvious manner and repeat themselves. One of the songs representing the Man Eater states the point clearly:

[Baxbakualauuxsiwae] made me a winter dancer

[Baxbakualanuxsiwae] made me pure

I do not destroy life. I am the life maker.

(Boas 1897: 508)

The major themes of devouring death and resurgent life resonate throughout the Winter Ceremonial and throughout all other rituals. In the Winter Ceremonial the theme is picked up at once in the statement of powers given as gifts by the supernaturals. These, too, come often as a set of four. They are: (1) the magic harpoon for gaining wealth, (2) the burning fire that destroys wealth, (3) the wa-ter of life that revives the dead, and (4) the death bringer usually a pointing stick (see Boas 1897: 415). Again the four form two pairs: magic harpoon/burning fire and water of life/death bringer, and magic harpoon/water of life and burning fire/ death bringer. The first pairing relates property to people, a theme picked up later in man-eater songs. The second pairing contrasts life enhancing and life destructive forces.

The organization of supernatural powers and the gifts they bestow are in har-mony. The harmonic relation, however, is satisfyingly complex since each gift is not merely a special province of a single donor. All supernatural beings can give one or several, and often all. The statement in myth that the four gifts are usually a single treasure (tlogwe) helps convey the religious message of the unity of oppo-sites, a fundamental Kwakiutl dogma. I might as well establish this point at once. For Kwakiutl, all metaphysical issues of antagonism are resolved simply and neatly by the Hegelian trick of transformation into opposites: death turns to life, life to death. As the hamatsa dancer sings: “I do not destroy life. I am the life maker.” Perhaps the most ancient shamans, whose business it was to reverse the direction of the course from death to life, first discovered this fundamental biological and spiritual principle.

The transmission of the four gifts was a historical event. It occurred, as a rule, during a shadowy historical period verging into the decadent present, after the an-cestors had assumed their human form, but at a time when their exploits were still legendary. This earlier period accounts for origins of the Winter Ceremonial and is, in this most important respect, distinct from the present era when the legendary events are merely enacted. The original recipient had met the supernatural directly and in receiving his treasures had himself become nawalak and possessor of the qualities of his supernatural donor. In the present era transmission is indirect, from the father-in-law who had himself received the powers in marriage, or from killing in the course of war,5 or from killing an initiate encountered in ritual isolation in the woods. These experiences are secondary, and hence attenuated. Even the ritual enactment by the initiate of being “seized” by the supernatural spirit is a secondary and fabricated event. In other words, the legendary events are the genuine experi-ences, and their ownership authenticates the ritual enactment.

The dominant figure is Man Eater; his role is the exclusive prerogative of high-est-ranking chiefs (see Boas 1897: 411; Boas 1921: 1176). Though the four catego-ries of supernatural beings form a conceptual ensemble, all are subordinated to the central figure of Man Eater, who in his own being incorporates the necessary duality of devouring lives and of giving life. Further, he is devourer of property and sources of wealth and so binds together the ideas of life and wealth as two aspects of the same vital reality.

Myth describes Man Eater as occupying, with wife and children, a house in the woods. Dwelling in mountainous forests, a spirit region in opposition to that of sea and sky, he has his closest associations with forest beasts and flesh-eating birds. The exact details of habitat and associations vary from tribe to tribe, but the symbolic pattern remains constant. The mountainous forest is a special domain of spirits; it is not a human habitat. When the myth people were still in animal form, according to a Mamaleleqala tradition, they lived as people now do, on the beach. The interior was a dangerous zone, which people entered to seek for nawalak. The forest was also the ancient cemetery, where the dead were draped in trees. So the forest is the appropriate habitat for the entire Winter Ceremonial, and especially for Man Eater. The mountains, moreover, are considered to give access to the sky; arising directly from the sea, as they do in many places, they appear to the Kwakiutl to connect that realm with the sky as well.

In the Gwasela family histories a cannibal pole, Man Eater’s own tree that con-nects him with the sky, has carved representations of the entire set of animal associ-ations of Man Eater. The cannibal pole is also associated with the Milky Way (Boas 1897: 446). It is surmounted by Eagle, the lookout who discovers human flesh. Eagle stands on the head of Man Eater, who is perched above Raven at the North End of the World, who in turn rests on Grizzly Bear, the guardian of the doorway. At the bottom is Wolf, the “scent taker” of Man Eater (Boas 1921: 856). The figures of Eagle and Wolf at the top and bottom of this “totem pole” are especially inter-esting for two reasons. Both are shamanistic figures, and Eagle is the figure of the highest-ranking chiefs as well; neither is considered to be in the same class as Raven or Grizzly Bear, who like Man Eater are devourers of men. The eagle is a special shamanic tutelary among Eskimos and among Siberian tribes. The wolf, however, belongs particularly to the Kwakiutl brand of shamanism. Woodman the Wolf was a high chief among the myth people living at Crooked Beach, and Eagle was a chief of the birds. Wolves are described in myth as the first great shamans and as the first to have the Winter Ceremonial. As shaman figures, Eagle and Wolf are links to Man Eater but are, strictly speaking, not of him, as indeed they could not in all logic be.

Man Eater is even more specifically located; he is at the headwaters of the rivers at the North End of the World. The north is for Kwakiutl the source of darkness, of disease, and of violent death. The rivers hold at their place of beginnings a ma-jor source of nawalak—seekers of nawalak commonly proceed upstream (see Boas and Hunt 1905: 150). Man Eater moves restlessly about the earth driven by his insatiable appetite for human flesh. An entourage that includes three categories of women assists him. Qominoqa is usually his wife. Kinqalatlala is a slave. A woman who is actually human is deeply rooted in the floor of his house. The women are his provisioners, bringing him victims and corpses. Others in his entourage are Grizzly Bear, a vicious and fearless killer of men; Raven, who feasts on men’s eyes; Hoxhoq the Great Crane, who devours men’s brains; and a humanoid male called Haialikilatl (Benefactor), all but the last in the general category of devourers. The chief devourer is Baxbakualanuxsiwae, whose insatiable appetite is depicted by the image of mouths all over his body (Boas 1897: 395).

In a fairly transparent biological metaphor, the females are the suppliers of bodies, the great provisioners. Qominoqa, Rich Woman, defines what wealth means for Kwakiutl: not objects such as trinkets, coppers, or woolen, store-bought blankets, but lives. Wealth is life. Man Eater sings: “I am swallowing food alive; I eat living men. I swallow wealth. I swallow the wealth that my father is giving away” (Boas 1897: 459). I return later to this very important idea. The slave women are auxiliary provisioners. As for the rooted woman, her role as provisioner is only incidental to her human destiny as the persistent enemy within Man Eater’s house. She teaches men how to overcome devouring death.

Death is tamed. Women have an important but not exclusive role in taming Man Eater. Those who feed him property also tame him by quenching his vora-ciousness. The brothers who seek him out and take his powers and “kill” him also tame him. If Man Eater can die and return to life, death, it must be assumed, can-not be final. Ultimately, Man Eater is tamed because that is his destiny. One of his many names is Wishing To Be Tamed (Boas 1897: 398). Frightening as he is said to be, he is easily overcome by simple guile, or else he yields readily. In one story, he welcomes the hero, saying: “My dear, do not be afraid. I want to give you magical power. This is my house. I am [Baxbakualanuxsiwae]. You shall see everything in my house” (ibid.: 404). All accounts, and each tribe has its own, bring out his dual qualities—his terrifying side, and the softer side, that can be made to yield to sim-ple perseverance. Almost all Kwakiutl supernatural beings submit to the persistent suitor. The man who meets Death-Dealing Woman in a stream embraces her, and copulates with her until she promises him the usual four treasures.6

The encounter with Man Eater and his company is stripped of total terror from the outset, since they are all seen in the ritual aspect of dancing and singing, rather than as raw forces. Ritual is by function the reshaper, the subduer, and the tamer of all raw states. Hence the gap between the human dancers and Man Eater and his entourage is reduced from the start. The mythical encounter serves to project not a raw image of devouring spirits, but a ritual format. In the human setting, the ritual containment of ultimate raw menace is completed. Since the impersonator of Man Eater is a high chief, or the son of a high chief, qualified by birth and marriage to bring Man Eater into the human community, he is also qualified in his role of sha-man and noble to be his supreme antagonist.

The power of Man Eater and of the entire Winter Ceremonial, for that matter, is concentrated in rings of red cedar bark. Worn on the head, around the neck, at the wrists and ankles, the cedar bark rings are by form alone—the magic circle— the containers of power. The circle may stand among Kwakiutl as it does among Eskimo and other North American tribes for the cosmos (or sun or moon), the ultimate container of powers. In myth the ring is represented as a container of souls and spirits, like a primordial covering. Red cedar bark is a parallel source of power by virtue of substance. It stands for the blood of the sacred tree, the tree that, like the “cosmic tree” in Siberian shamanism, ascends to the sky. The rings hold the greatest concentration of powers, but not all powers. The remainder of the nawalak powers are in whistles and in face and forehead masks. The masks seem to repre-sent the form soul of Man Eater or other supernatural beings. The red cedar bark rings introduce an idea of generalized form soul, pertaining to abstract powers, perhaps to a religious idea as general as that of the Siouan wakan or the Algonquian manitou, which are essentially cosmic powers. The depicted spirit beings are pre-sumably not the ultimate powers; like people, they are themselves recipients, but from an unidentified donor.

If an idea of a universal spirit, of a primal source of life and of its powers, does exist for Kwakiutl, it does so only as an implied possibility, not as a ritual reality. Ritual deals with the self-evident reality of universal distributions of power, but in graded degree. Thus Man Eater cannot contain within his person alone all the relevant powers, even though his symbolic character and his dual nature are com-plete within his figure. The complexity of the Man Eater rites alone—part of the more comprehensive plan of the Winter Ceremonial as a whole—is in accord with the doctrine of the essential incompleteness of any part of the whole. We may see in Man Eater the central metaphor for the Winter Ceremonial, but Kwakiutl are less reductive. For them, as pure imagery, the part may stand for the whole. In ritual practice the aim is to represent the totality of parts, as a mosaic. One is reminded of the Navajo dry paintings which painstakingly bring the supernatural power into being by the patient assembly of grains of sand, pollen, and other bits and pieces whose coloring and texture create symbolic designs, and finally a portion of myth to which song, dance, the sound of rattles, the beat of drum, the narrative of myth add the rest. If a portion is omitted the entire assembly, like a faulty chemical ex-periment, fails.

The spirit of war, visualized as Winalagilis, Making War All Over the Earth, is a younger partner of Baxbakualanuxsiwae. Equivalent as life takers, they are, nevertheless ranked in order of their powers. Man Eater is potentially an ultimate devourer. Unless he can be tamed he consumes all. His is the natural image of death leading to final decay and dissolution. He devours flesh, but also skulls, the cases of the life spirit, the hardest bone, the body’s sole hope for material immortality. Dread of Man Eater may not be of mere death, but of the degradation of reduction to the end product of digestion-excrement. By contrast, the spirit of war is only a killer. He begins the task; Man Eater, who can feed on corpses, completes it. In this respect the war spirit is indeed a younger brother, the equivalent of an atten-dant. Man Eater’s women gather corpses, the masculine war spirit is an active killer. Among the Kwakiutl of Fort Rupert the war spirit has no mask or carving (Boas 1897: 394). He is a canoe figure which Kwakiutl think of as a receptacle (although the Trobriand Islanders’ idea of the canoe as a swift masculine projectile-phallus may also be present), as well as a conveyance. He also comes from the north and travels about the earth never leaving his canoe. He grants the dual powers of killing and of invulnerability in combat. Toxwid, usually a woman, represents military invincibility; awinalatl (War Dancer) represents insensibility to pain, and impreg-nability; Mamaqa represents the powers of sorcery.

War powers are, to be sure, pertinent to the active Kwakiutl interest in military success. The concept of Winalagilis as a war spirit reaches, nevertheless, well be-yond ordinary expediency. The spirit of war also has shamanistic associations. He is a stealer of souls (Curtis 1915: 79), and is the supernatural patron who grants them their curing powers. Once again, we find the common principle: The source of the remedy is in the affliction. The death dealer is the healer. That a woman should play a key role in the war spirit configuration is in keeping with the thor-oughgoing Kwakiutl dualism that controls the entire Winter Ceremonial. Even as she is the companion and aide of death-dealing spirits, she is, at least by implication, a life-giving figure as well. Her association with Winalagilis projects the war theme onto a broader cosmic scale. The female Toxwid has her powers from the double-headed serpent, Sisiutl, a double supernatural being who kills and also pre-serves. Merely the sight of Sisiutl contorts and kills. Those who have his powers wear him as a belt that provides invulnerability (see Boas 1897: 487). The blood of the double-headed serpent applied to the skin gives it the impregnability of stone. At the same time, the serpent is seen as the salmon of the Thunderbird—not as an ordinary salmon, but rather as an incandescent version, seen by people as a blaze of light. This blaze of light is presumably the lightning flash that strikes the water, the forerunner of Thunderbird’s clap of thunder. In this set of symbolic associations, Sisiutl joins Man Eater as one of the key figures in the Winter Ceremonial.

G. W. Locher (1932) has seen in the double-headed serpent the grand integrative image of Kwakiutl religion. One need not go so far in reductivism to recognize how deeply the serpent, even though a comparatively minor figure in the entire Winter Ceremonial, does succeed in portraying the main themes. Sisiutl, as Locher has painstakingly shown, has wide-ranging associative connections with almost the entire spectrum of Kwakiutl religious beliefs. Through it, we see as from an-other vantage point the panorama of forces and spirits that occupy the great lineage houses during the winter season. As the food of Thunderbird, a primary patron of the Winter Ceremonial, Sisiutl is a counterpart of Salmon. Salmon, the food of men, is also visualized as light in its associations with copper. Copper as Salmon and as light represents the wealth of the sea and the treasures of the sky. Broadly speaking, the double-headed serpent theme is conceptually akin to the man-eater theme, in that both supernaturals control life-taking and life-granting powers. Each, never-theless, has its own place within the total mosaic. Man Eater is the avowed and explicit devourer; the serpent, with his two mouths and his natural character of one who swallows creatures whole, is a devourer by implication only. As actually por-trayed, Sisiutl is essentially the lightning bolt, the traditional war symbol. Still, the imagery of devouring is so powerfully lodged in the Kwakiutl religious imagination that the double-headed serpent cannot escape it. Sisiutl is inevitably fused or else paired with Man Eater in myth as well as in ritual organization.

In a Qweqsotenox tale, Head Winter Dancer (Thunderbird) kills a sisiutl that has been caught in his salmon trap in the form of a blazing salmon. He coats his son’s body with its blood, thereby turning him into a Dzonoqwa, whom he names Food Giver Stone Body. The traditions more commonly depict Dzonoqwas as fe-male devourers of human children. The masculine type of Dzonoqwa is a warrior who enslaves chiefs and robs them of their crests (souls). It is evidently the male Dzonoqwa who is fused with Sisiutl. Food Giver Stone Body then becomes paired with Man Eater as his warrior. He speaks to Man Eater: “I will go and make war to satiate you” (Boas and Hunt 1905: 206). His war cry of ho! is like the thunderclap that dazes or kills all within its range. Chiefs who own the right to his war cry use it when they are “selling” a copper. In that ritual context the menacing cry of the warrior marks the transmission of a copper across a tribal boundary as an act of antagonism. Man Eater, who devours all, including coppers, remains the central figure in ritual and the eminence behind all property transactions.

Since all the great themes of the Winter Ceremonial are presented in song and dance, we must assume a special significance to these expressive forms. The dance presents the spirit characters in their characteristic motor forms, supplementing the masks which portray physical form. The songs reveal the essential nature of the beings, and the names establish their genre. In addition there are ornaments and instruments, cedar bark neck rings, eagle down, whistles, staffs, and the like. Each item is a vital (perhaps a soul) component of the being who is represented. The mission of the human community seems to be to assemble all separate components and thus to create, or rather to reconstitute among themselves, the spirit beings who would otherwise lack a human connection. Impersonation is therefore an act of creation. The human form, as in the transmission of names down the generations, is the carrier of spirit beings. In the spirit of mutuality of interchange, the human community grants life to the spirit beings who in turn are to grant life pre-serving powers to them. In this respect, the Winter Ceremonial must be seen as more than a general enactment of life renewal themes. It has the more immediate purpose of doing for the nonhuman spirits of the Kwakiutl cosmos what lineage and rank do, as a matter of course, for the human ancestors.

The assembly of spiritual components to create or reconstitute a spirit being of the Winter Ceremonial provokes what the Kwakiutl call an “excitement.” The excitement informs the congregation that the spirit has entered the dancer and pos-sesses him. When the first winter spirit has arrived in this manner, the Ceremonial season has begun. The state of possession of but one man suffices to convert the entire community into an assembly of spirit beings. In due course, others will be seized by the excitement and will join in the dances. The ritual community, often intertribal, forms itself then into Sparrows, Seals, and commoner observers.

Sparrows and Seals divide the ritual congregation into opposing and antagonis-tic spiritual divisions. The Sparrows are the earthbound division, and having in-herited office from their fathers are linked to the paternal lineages. Seals, the actual impersonators of the spirits, are the representatives of the other side, that is, of the spirit world. Having acquired these privileges from the wife’s or mother’s side, they are linked to maternal lineages. Only through the ritual connection can one recognize what is for Kwakiutl the religious significance of marriage. Sparrows are the officials and managers of the ritual, the Seals are their ecstatic clients. The Sparrows hold the role of shamans—the spirit controllers. Consequently, their chief is Head Shaman. Ritual antagonism between these two divisions acts to sustain the linkage and separation between what is set forth as two realms of existence. The Sparrows, as former Seals, must resist the premature efforts of those still in the spirit realm to leave it. From the texts it is not directly evident what significance the sparrow as a bird has for Kwakiutl. Presumably, sparrows represent the birds of earth, who, together with land mammals, once fought against Thunderbird and the birds of the sky and by their victory achieved the regulation of thundering. Since ritual contest is perceived as shamanistic, the Sparrows would appear as shamans against Head Winter Dancer (Thunderbird), himself a great shaman from the sky.

In the Winter Ceremonial the Sparrow-Seal antagonisms are rather complex. In the broadest sense, the Sparrow shamans are in contest against the general powers of the spirit world, of which Head Winter Dancer is representative. In this contest they are allied with Seals to see what they both can do against the great powers. In the face of such major antagonism, the oppositions between Sparrows and Seals are relatively minor. The Seals are, after all, the clients of the Sparrows, who are charged with bringing them back to secular safety.

The ritual concept of Seal illustrates a Kwakiutl penchant for fusing opposing images or opposing forces. Seal is the generic category for the 50 or more spirits of the Ceremonial who represent in their number the cosmic realms of earth, sky, sea, and the underworld of ghosts. Their designation as seals suggests at least a com-mon denominator of identity that transcends otherwise extraordinary differences among all the spirits. That they are sea mammals who move easily between two major realms is one bridging factor. Basically, they are of the sea, thus associates of Qomogwa, and they inhabit a world that is opposite in time orientation from that of human beings. Their summer is the earth winter, so they are always in their win-ter dances (see Boas 1935b: 164), when they appear among human beings. The sea, which is the source of salmon and copper, is even more generally considered to be the element that finally cures the hamatsa dancer and releases him from his state of possession. As the great source of wealth, the sea is the tamer of the Man Eater and of all associated spirits. Thus, once again, the principle of fusion of opposing ele-ments is drawn upon as a mystical mechanism for counteracting dangerous forces. Kwakiutl seem to give themselves all possible advantages in their cosmic contests. The novice who goes out to meet Man Eater is paired with shaman Sparrows who are to guide him back. At the same time, he is fused with Seal, the opponent of Man Eater from within. And, of course, the frightening spirits are themselves controlled and counteracted from within their own realm, and from within their own nature.

Another division within the company of Seals distinguishes between those who “go through to the other side” (laxsa) and those who remain within the human realm or, as the Kwakiutl say, only lean against the wall (wixsa). Since dying is also spoken of as laxsa, they are the company of those who enter the realm of the spirits, on the analogy of the dead leaving their human habitat. In the course of ritual procedure the laxsa leave the house to disappear in the woods for a lengthy sojourn, returning as possessed by spirits. The wixsa need not leave the house at all; they retire briefly into a bedroom. Understandably, the laxsa are associated with the major spirits, and the wixsa with the minor. An unexplained reference to laxsa as “cedar bark boxes” suggests, simply by analogy with Kwakiutl concepts of containers, that the laxsa are actual possessors of great powers that need to be contained. Basically, laxsa comprise the joint complement of Man Eater and war spirits, the exponents of the major ritual themes; the wixsa are, perhaps, ancillary, but they complete the required mosaic.

Viewed in the perspective of overall structure, the grand divisions of Sparrow and Seal, and laxsa and wixsa manifest a principle of gradation, not identical with the gradations of rank, but perhaps akin to it. Social rank among Kwakiutl is, after all, a religious configuration, as a gradation of the original ancestors by criteria of power. Gradation of winter spirits is entirely comparable to the gradation of ancestral spirits. Gradation does not divide a community. On the contrary, it establishes an unbroken chain, a connection implying diminution going back to the original sources. Implied in gradation is a metaphysical mechanics that “safely” links together the most power-ful and the weak. The weak are, accordingly, spared the dangers of direct association with great powers. From this point of view, the structure of the Winter Ceremonial provides an unbroken lifeline from the hamatsa dancer who is most exposed, to the Sparrows. The wixsa are an intermediary group, a bridge between the two.

The minor spirits of the wixsa are not necessarily innocuous; and they are the-matically joined with those of the laxsa. The most important of the minor spirits are the fool dancers (nutlmatl) who are, in fact, lesser forms of war dancers. The nutlmatl represent the madness, the wildness, and the obscene side of war and de-struction. Like similar cults among Plains Indian warriors, they are “contrary ones” doing things backward, in opposition to conventional norms. They are figures of filth and obscenity, their long noses dripping snot. They urinate and defecate in the house and pretend to commit suicide. They are destructive madmen who rage through the congregation, knocking people over, destroying property, and, finally, in some instances, dismantling the entire house (see Boas 1897: 468ff). For their destructiveness, they pay with property. An indemnity, or a pacification of the spir-its of madness? In thematic consistency, the “payment” would have a significance parallel to the feeding of Man Eater. The fool dancers as destructive forces should, by the same principle of consistency, contain within themselves a countering and thus a restraining force. Property-giving is an example of a counterforce. Perhaps, the contrary behavior should be considered as another. Thematically, contrariness expresses reversal. Rage and madness, the fury of excess, are reversals of the com-mon order. But if the reversal theme is conceived of as general it can imply a move-ment back in either direction. In this sense, the contrary behavior of the nutlmatl conveys the counterpart theme, namely that every course of action can be reversed.

The dances and spirit impersonations portray the religious essence of the Winter Ceremonial. It is also a period of feasts, “potlatches,” “sales” of coppers, and returns by fathers-in-law of “marriage payments.” Are these separate or co-ordinated events? Boas thought the dances were the real religious content of the Winter Ceremonial season, and the feasts and property distributions but unrelated secular events, conveniently placed at a time when people were at leisure and al-ready assembled.7 Had Boas recognized the religious import of oil feasts and of property exchanges, he might have come to a different conclusion about the total religious content of the Winter Ceremonial. The Winter Ceremonial is a complex ritual organization within which the shamanistic contests with spirits are carried out by a totality of means. I reserve a full scale discussion of the ritual totality for later chapters. But I cannot close this chapter on the Winter Ceremonial without at least outlining its full dimensions.

It must be understood that the scope of a strange ritual is not obvious. Some events are so clearly cognate that their unity is recognized at once. Ordinarily, the conditions of space and time furnish sufficient clues as to what are the unities. But since ritual is only akin to, but is not theater, where the stage separates what is presented from what merely occurs, the fact of events occurring within the same space (the village) and at the same time (the winter season) does not in itself es-tablish a conceptual unity. In a situation as complex as that of the Kwakiutl Winter Ceremonial, understanding of conceptual unity is ultimately to be reached through understanding of the whole nature of the religious concepts.

A most important clue to the ritual design comes from our understanding of Kwakiutl marriage. As Boas saw so clearly, the Winter Ceremonial is a response to the acquisition of rights in marriage and is indeed the occasion for what he called the return of the marriage payment. Having gone this far, Boas simply dropped the matter, failing to recognize the religious nature of marriage and of exchange. As we have seen, marriage is a climactic event that bridges the gap between two realms on what we would call the social level. In Kwakiutl marriage the closing of the gap, symbolized by the transport of a bride from across the sea, is analogous to the bridging of the gap between men and spirits. The bridging of a gap must provoke a chain of events. Since Kwakiutl symbolic imagery is biological, the chain is both develop-mental and circulatory. By bridging one gap, marriage leads to a new step by which the human-spirit separation is then temporarily overcome—a new and perhaps higher development, as though the ability to unify one type of realm provides the means to unify another. One developmental move demands another, and each calls forth a circulatory movement of property—coppers, animal skins (form souls), and oil. What Boas spoke of as the “sale” of a copper may be visualized “biologically” as part of the circulation engendered by marriage. The “sale” of a copper is associ-ated with the Winter Ceremonial because it and the winter dances are both related properties that are transmitted through marriage. The dances are exhibited and the coppers are set into circulation. Oil feasts are also part of the same transaction. Fish oil, the Kwakiutl say, is given in the name of the bride. Distributions of animal skins are mandatory for all demonstrations of acquired powers. The Winter Ceremonial is also the occasion for antagonistic displays between tribes; and as I show more fully in a subsequent chapter, social antagonism is essentially a ritual counterpart of the necessary antagonism between men and the dangerous spirits.

I discuss Kwakiutl property concepts in the next chapter. These concepts, how-ever, become clear only in the context of the Winter Ceremonial and are, there-fore, most appropriately introduced at this point. The essential clue to the nature of property comes in the hamatsa songs.

These are some examples:

I hold down your great furor,

great [hamatsa] I hold down your whistles,

great [hamatsa]

I appease your voracity,

great [hamatsa]

You are looking for food all the time

great [hamatsa]

You are looking for heads all the time

great [hamatsa]

You devour wealth, great [hamatsa]

(Boas 1897: 460)

He wants to eat with both hands, the great [hamatsa] at the house of the one who is trying to eat all himself all over the world; but he did not reach the coppers that he was going to obtain at the edge of the world.


Wealth, which stands for the vitality of the people, is indeed an integral component of the festival. Wealth satiates the voracity of Man Eater, and is quite understand-ably a major ceremonial theme. The festival is inaugurated by a simple ceremony of the “winter dance pole,” a heavy staff some six to eight feet long. The pole rep-resents, as Boas reports, the amount of property that will be spent by a man in be-half of his son-in-law, property such as copper bracelets, blankets, food, and grease (ibid.: 502). A chief dancing with the pole in behalf of the young man demonstrates that it is too heavy for him to carry. Then he sings:

The spirit of the Winter Dance came down

The spirit of the Winter Dance came down and stays here with me.


Thus is opened the Winter Ceremonial. When the people enter the dance house, they pass through a doorway surrounded by a ring of hemlock branches covered with eagle down. Hemlock, a cleansing agent, removes the human smell; eagle down is a symbol of wealth.


Boas, Franz. 1897. “The social organization and secret societies of the Kwakiutl.” United States National Museum, Report for 1895: 311–738.

———. 1921. “Ethnology of the Kwakiutl.” Bureau of American Ethnology, Thirty Fifth Annual Report, Pts. 1, 2. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

———. 1927. “Die Ausdrucke fur Einige Religiose Begriffe der Kwakiutl Indianer.” In Festschrift Meinhof, 386–392. Hamburg.

———. 1930. “The religion of the Kwakiutl Indians.” Columbia University Contributions to Anthropology 10. New York: Columbia University Press.

———. 1932a. “Current beliefs of the Kwakiutl Indians.” Journal of American Folklore 45: 177–260.

———. 1935b. Kwakiutl culture as reflected in mythology. Memoirs of the American Folklore Society, vol. 28. New York, G. E. Stechert.

———. 1947. “Kwakiutl grammar with a glossary of the suffixes,” In Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, Pt. 3, edited by Helene Boas Yampolsky and Zelig S. Harris, 203–377. Philadelphia.

Boas, Franz and Helen Codere, eds. 1966. Kwakiutl ethnography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Boas, Franz and George Hunt. 1905. Kwakiutl texts. Memoir of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 5. Publication of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, vol. 3.

Boas, Franz and George Hunt. n.d. Manuscript in the language of the Kwakiutl Indians of Vancouver Island, 14 vols. Special Collections. Columbia University Libraries.

Curtis, Edward S. 1915. The North American Indian, vol. 10. New York: Johnson Reprint.

Eliade, Mircea. 1964. Shamanism, archaic techniques of ecstasy. Translated by Willard R. Trask. Bollingen 77, New York: Pantheon.

———. n.d. See Boas and Hunt, Manuscript in the language of the Kwakiutl Indians of Vancouver Island.

Locher, G. W. 1932. The serpent in Kwakiutl religion, a study in primitive culture. Leyden: E. O. Brill, Ltd.



Irving GOLDMAN (1911–2002) was an American anthropologist and Professor of Anthropology at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. A student of Franz Boas, Goldman was a pioneer in ethnographic theory and a celebrat-ed ethnologist. He is the author of The Cubeo: Indians of the Northwest Amazon (1963, University of Illinois Press), Ancient Polynesian Society (1970, University of Chicago Press), and The mouth of heaven: An introduction to Kwakiutl religious thought (1975, John Wiley & Sons), which was the first synthesis of the encyclo-pedic Kwakiutl and English ethnographic reports produced by Franz Boas and George Hunt.


Editor’s Note: This is a reprint of Chapters 5 and 6 from Goldman, Irving. 1975. The mouth of heaven: An introduction to Kwakiutl religious thought. New York: John Wiley and Sons. We remind the reader that we retain the style of the original.

1. Laxsa is also a common expression for dying, in the phrase, “he has gone through” (Boas 1932a: 212).

2. When initiates return, it is said, “What in the world can vanquish us? Even Baxbakual-anuxsiwae is unable to overcome us” (Boas 1966: 218).

3. The distinction between curing shaman and Winter Ceremonial shaman is genuine, but not absolute. A person “disappearing” in the course of the Winter Ceremonial may sicken and then receive real shamanistic power (see Boas 1921: 733–742 for a case history).

4. The myth of Mink and the Wolves (Boas 1930: 57–86) sets the Winter Ceremonial among animals prior to the existence of human beings. Thus the animals are granted priority as well as parity. The Laalaxsendayo lineage of Gwetela takes this tradition of wolves as the first Winter Ceremonial performers to be the source of their own rites. The sons of Head Wolf “disappear” as initiates, but are, in fact, ambushed in the woods by Mink and Deer, who kill them. The wolves then use their supernatural powers to try to restore the wolf youths to life, but are thwarted by Mink who has the powers of Sisiutl. In shame at their failure to overcome Mink and his powers, the wolves slink away into the woods to remain forever animals. When the Laalaxsendayo took over the rites from the wolves they added the hamshamtses dance. Among wolves there is no Man Eater, and no overt theme of devouring. They are in their natural element. Head Wolf sponsors a Winter Ceremonial because he is downcast at the coming of winter. The tale implies that the animals are primary sources of Winter Ceremonial powers. Deer, a warrior chief among animals, is the first Fool dancer. Deer, Mink, and Raven (Great Inventor) are the constant antagonists of wolves. Raven, who had secretly witnessed the ceremony, passes on his knowledge to the first ancestor of the Laalaxsendayo.

5. The man-eater powers are said to be greater when seized in war than when received in marriage (Boas 1921: 1,017).

6. Chief Tlawages meets Cause of Weeping Woman in a stream. Both faint. But he re-covers and embraces her until she gives him four treasures, the property obtainer, the property accumulator, the water of life, and the apron that burns everything. She gives him also the name Pulling off Roof Boards (a reference to death). After copulating with her he meets Man Eater who gives him two of his names, Man Eater and Swallowing Everything, the dance of being vomited out by Raven, and another set of powers that include red cedar bark, the fire bringer, the death bringer, the water of life, and the un-failing harpoon (Boas 1921: 107–111).

7. “There is no doubt that the winter ceremonial is essentially religious, but it is so inti-mately associated with nonreligious activities, such as feasts and potlatches, that it is difficult to assess its religious value. It is my impression that its essential religious ele-ment lies in the belief in the presence of a supernatural power in and around the village which sanctions all activities” (Boas 1966: 172).