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Cryptids of the Pacific Northwest
A Miniature Northwest Coast Style Totem Pole
Cryptids of the Pacific Northwest: Thunderbird, Bukwus, Sisiutl
Ancient Indian legend tells of strange creatures that once inhabited Canada’s Northwest Coast creatures which were large, dangerous, and often in possession of supernatural powers. Today, in bustling coastal cities like Vancouver and Victoria, it’s easy to dismiss such legends as charming, fanciful products of First Nations oral tradition, dreamed up centuries ago by some shaman around a longhouse fire. But in wilder stretches of the Pacific Northwest, on days when the fog rolls in to permeate the coastline with an aura of mystery and romance, it’s not so difficult to entertain the notion that perhaps somewhere high up in the mist-shrouded crags of the Coast Mountains, far out in the remotest corners of the coastal rainforest, or deep down in the blackest recesses of the Pacific, a long-forgotten species lurks in concealment, just waiting to be discovered.
The Thunderbird is a mythical creature of Coast Salish tradition. Manifest in the form of a massive eagle with curved horns, the Thunderbird was credited with creating storms. Lightning shot from his eyes when he blinked, and thunder boomed when he flapped his wings. On occasion, the Thunderbird would leave its perch atop the Black Tusk peak in the Garibaldi Ranges to hunt for killer whales. Considered to be highly intelligent and a protector of the people, the Thunderbird was respected and revered.
According to Kwakwaka’wakw legend, Bukwus was a savage, human-like spirit which lived within the coastal rainforest. Emaciated and long-haired, the Bukwus was fearsome to behold, and bore vague resemblance to the Sasquatch (Bigfoot) of Coast Salish tradition and the Ba’wis of Tsimshian legend. Also known as the Wildman of the Woods and the Chief of the Ghosts, the Bukwus was associated with drowning victims, and was purported to persuade human travelers to eat ghost food in order to turn them into spirits like him.
The Sisiutl is a powerful sea serpent of Nootka and Bella Coola mythology. Typically depicted as an enormous two-headed sea-serpent with a horned human-like head in the middle of its body, the Sisiutl was purported to be a shapeshifter which had the ability to swim through water, crawl over land, and fly through the sky. Legend has it that the Sisiutl’s gaze could turn a cowardly adversary to stone. Considered to be the god of martial prowess, Sisiutl was often painted on the sides of war canoes and lodge entrances.
This mini Canadian Northwest Coast-style totem pole was hand-carved from yellow cedar and varnished with two light coats of boiled linseed oil. The base is made from western red cedar and is bottomed with genuine Harris tweed .
The base measures 14 x 14 (5.5 x 5.5 inches), and the total height is 37.5 cm (14.75 inches). The wingspan measures 22.5 cm (roughly 9 inches).
This piece was hand-crafted by yours truly, a western Canadian aboriginal artist.
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