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 Museum Explorer

Gods and spirits in
the Americas

Shaman's rattle

Length: 35.000 cm

AOA 1949.Am22.111

Shaman's rattle

From: Alaska (Tlingit)
Date: 19th century AD

A shaman is a person who has special powers given to them by helper spirits. A shaman would help his people find meaning in times of trouble, for instance when there were no animals to hunt.

Another important shaman's task was to heal people who were sick. Tlingit shamans did this by finding out what was wrong with the person and then sucking out the evil. They would have used this rattle to help cure illness, by shaking it over the person and saying prayers.

The rattle is in the shape of a bird called an oystercatcher. There are extra spirit helpers carved on the back that tell a story about a goat, a frog, and a witch.