Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural

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Alaska Northwest Books, 1991 - Fiction - 127 pages
2 Reviews
The Tlingit and Haida are Native Americans who inhabit southeast Alaska and share many traditions and stories. Written by a non-native scholar, this book contains nine Tlingit and Haida tales concerned with shamans and kushtakas. Land otters were fearful hybrid beings of the spirit world. Able to live on land and in water, they had the special mission of saving persons lost at sea or in the woods and transforming them into kushtakas, creatures similar to themselves but who retained some human qualities. Land otters and kushtakas were suspected of kidnapping or actively luring people to their kingdom. The shaman mediated between the spirit world and the human realm and was a figure of great power who inherited or was "called" to his role. The shaman's extraordinary powers made him the proper adversary for the kushtaka, and the shaman was often called upon to struggle with the kushtakas for a person's spirit. The tales dramatize the values and traditions of Tlingit and Haida societies and provide models for emulation and examples of the individual and social consequences of improper or irreverent behavior. Many characters undertake some form of classic journey, beset by dangers, challenges, and sacrifices for personal or communal benefit. A preface and introduction discuss Tlingit and Haida culture. This book contains illustrations created by a Native artist. (SV)

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ladycato - LibraryThing

I bought this book at the State Capitol Museum in Juneau while on cruise in Alaska last summer. It's a short read at 127 pages and nine stories, but it's absolutely fascinating. Our society tends to ... Read full review

Review: Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural

User Review  - Valerie - Goodreads

I think I bought this in Alaska. Read full review



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About the author (1991)

Mary G. Beck is a classical scholar (M.A. from Stanford) who has lived in Ketchikan, Alaska beginning in 1951 when she married a third-generation Alaskan.  Besides rearing a family, she taught literature and writing courses for thirty years at Ketchikan Community College, a branch of the University of Alaska.  Mary has an abiding interest in the Native culture of Southeast Alaska and a commitment to recording its oral literature. She is also the author of two other related titles, Heroes and Heroines in Tlingit-Haida Legend, and Potlatch: Native Ceremony and Myth on the Northwest Coast as well as articles on Native mythology and on travel by small boat to towns and Native communities in Southeast Alaska. She and her husband currently reside in Bellevue, Washington.

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