Shamans’ Box

1985, 18 X 22 inches,
one color on silver-foil coated stock,
archival quality, 195 images

In this image the shaman or Indian doctor of the Northwest Coast of North America moves in a state of self-induced ecstasy - in a magic flight - to cosmic zones unknown to humans. He travels through a central opening between an upper, a lower, and an underworld. As mediator between these realms and the lives of human beings he is able to heal, to foretell, to control the weather, and to bring success in war. He has human helpers and employs personal spirit helpers known as "yek” (among the Tlingit of Southeastern Alaska). The most generally powerful of these yek are land otters who are transformed human beings.
In this print the shaman (top center) is flanked by the profiles of two land otters. Beneath the shaman is a symbol of the split tongue of his yek which must make up a part of his personal cache of power possessions. Further flanking him in the arc to right and left are transformational yek peculiar to him alone. Beneath these, the second broad arc represents the head of a large frog, another powerful shamanic representative on the Northwest Coast. It’s eyes are elaborated right to left in the print as a killer whale (note its blowhole) and a halibut. Between them is the nose of the frog which rises up from its arched mouth and lower jaw. The frog’s front feet flank the mouth. Inside the mouth (lower center) is the shaman’s emaciated human helper which signifies the spiritual value of fasting and the transcended and trascendent life force of sexuality, for the shaman’s spiritual power is augmented by continence. Flanking this figure are grizzly bears with spiral nostrils in upturned faces with front limbs, joints and claws.
The entire image, whether in the silver edition (representing a silver engraving) or in a black-on-black edition (representing carved argilite or slate - sold out) is designed to suggest both a cosmos of stratified worlds, the shaman’s magical access to these levels, and any given shaman’s personal (and coveted) box of empowering paraphernalia.
Most broadly it represents each human being’s spirit helpers, aids to personal spiritual power and that all power is in the present.
This is an original one-color silkscreen print designed by Barry Harem and printed by Jim Hunzinker, in Seattle, Washington, in March of 1985.

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