Tsimshian mythology

Last updated
Tsimshian ceremonial club of carved antler bone, circa 1750. The head carved at top of the club may be the first owner of the Wolf crest, carved on the projecting tine. The club may have been used by Tsimshian shamans in religious ceremonials. Tsimshian club circa 1750.jpg
Tsimshian ceremonial club of carved antler bone, circa 1750. The head carved at top of the club may be the first owner of the Wolf crest, carved on the projecting tine. The club may have been used by Tsimshian shamans in religious ceremonials.

Tsimshian mythology is the mythology of the Tsimshian, an Aboriginal people in Canada and a Native American tribe in the United States. The majority of Tsimshian people live in British Columbia, while others live in Alaska.[ citation needed ]

Tsmishian myth is known from orally-passed tales. An adaawx is a story concerning animal spirits in human guise and is usually linked to the origin of the Earth and the peoples on it. A malesk, in contrast, is an adventure or history tale that purports to entertain rather than explain.

The raven spirit is known as We-gyet or Txamsem. [1] Txamsem is said to have a brother named Logobola who is responsible for the lack of fresh and clear water as well as the existence of the fog into which Txamsem became lost.

The Raven

The Raven, known as Txamsem or Giant, is a central figure in Tsimshian mythology, part of the Raven Tales mythology connecting the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. The Raven is viewed as the creator of the universe and an intermediary between its physical and spiritual incarnations. [2] :160

Tsimshian creation myth presupposes a dark and still universe populated by a variety of animal spirits. [2] :165 An animal chief pampers his son, causing him to fall sick and die, and his intestines are burned. The next day a new youth appears in the bed, healthy and visible in the darkness, "bright as fire." The boy is adopted by the chief. Initially, this boy does not eat, but slave spirits trick him into eating scabs. This triggers an enormous appetite in the boy, who begins to eat so much that the chief and villagers send him away with a raven blanket. The boy leaves, and becomes Raven. [2] :165

As Raven arrives in the mainland, he is insatiably hungry, causing great disruptions to those he meets. At various points of the myth he serves as a trickster. [2] :171 For example, after creating a slave from rotted wood, he disguises himself as a king and arrives in a village. The villagers tell the slave to invite Raven for dinner, but the slave says Raven is not hungry, and takes the food for himself. Raven builds a bridge from cabbage and as the slave crosses, he falls to his death. Raven descends into the valley to eat the food from the dead slave's belly. [2] :171

As Raven begins to develop a sense of generosity, he hosts a potlatch, in which he shares food with many guests. As he speaks, he wishes they would all turn to stone, and they do, giving form to a previously immaterial world. [2] :176

Related Research Articles

Thunderbird (mythology) Legendary indigenous North American creature

The thunderbird is a legendary creature in certain North American indigenous peoples' history and culture. It is considered a supernatural being of power and strength.

Cherokee spiritual beliefs Spiritual beliefs of the Cherokee People

Cherokee spiritual beliefs are held in common among the Cherokee people – Native American peoples who are indigenous to the Southeastern Woodlands, and today live primarily in communities in North Carolina, and Oklahoma. Some of the beliefs, and the stories and songs in which they have been preserved, exist in slightly different forms in the different communities in which they have been preserved. But for the most part, they still form a unified system of theology.

Anansi is an Akan folktale character. He often takes the shape of a spider and is sometimes considered to be a god of all knowledge of stories. Taking the role of trickster, he is also one of the most important characters of West African, African American and Caribbean folklore. Originating in West Africa, these spider tales were transmitted to the Caribbean by way of the transatlantic slave trade. Anansi is most well known for his ability to outsmart and triumph over more powerful opponents through his use of cunning, creativity and wit. Despite taking on the role of the trickster, Anansi's actions and parables often carry him as protagonist due to his ability to transform his apparent weaknesses into virtues. He is among several West African tricksters including Br'er Rabbit and Leuk Rabbit.

Mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the Americas Wikimedia list article

The indigenous peoples of the Americas comprise numerous different cultures. Each has its own mythologies. Some are quite distinct, but certain themes are shared across the cultural boundaries.


According to Chinese mythology, a 'Nian' is a beast that lives under the sea or in the mountains. The character nian more usually means "year" or "new year". The earliest written sources that refer to the nian as a creature date to the early 20th century. As a result, it is unclear whether the Nian creature is an authentic part of traditional folk mythology, or a part of a local oral tradition that was recorded in the early 20th century. Nian is one of the key characters in the Chinese New Year with scholars citing it as the reason behind several practices during the celebration, such as wearing red clothing and creating noise from drums and fireworks.

Wendigo is a mythological creature or evil spirit which originates from the folklore of First Nations based in and around the East Coast forests of Canada, the Great Plains region of the United States, and the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, grouped in modern ethnology as speakers of Algonquian-family languages. The wendigo is often said to be a malevolent spirit, sometimes depicted as a creature with human-like characteristics, which possesses human beings. The wendigo is known to invoke feelings of insatiable greed/hunger, the desire to cannibalize other humans, as well as the propensity to commit murder in those that fall under its influence.

Tsimshian Indigenous people of the northwest coast of North America

The Tsimshian are an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Their communities are mostly in coastal British Columbia and far southern Alaska, around Terrace and Prince Rupert in British Columbia, and Alaska's Annette Islands.

Haisla people

The Haisla are an amalgamation of two bands, the Kitamaat people of upper Douglas Channel and Devastation Channel and the Kitlope People of upper Princess Royal Channel and Gardner Canal in British Columbia, Canada.

Amala is a mythological giant who supports the world in the mythology of the Tsimshian, Nass, Skidegate, Kaigani, Massett, and Tlingit Native Americans. He supports the Earth which he balances on a spinning pole. He receives an annual application of wild duck-oil to his muscles from a servant which brings relief to his muscles. The belief is that when all the ducks are hunted out, there will no longer be any duck-oil available in the world. At this point, Amala dies and the world topples off the pole and comes to an end.

Raven Tales Traditional creation stories of indigenous peoples of North America

Raven Tales are the traditional human and animal creation stories of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. They are also found among Athabaskan-speaking peoples and others. Raven stories exist in nearly all of the First Nations throughout the region but are most prominent in the tales of the Tsimshian, Tlingit and Tahltan people.

Coyote (mythology) Mythological character

Coyote is a mythological character common to many cultures of the Indigenous peoples of North America, based on the coyote animal. This character is usually male and is generally anthropomorphic, although he may have some coyote-like physical features such as fur, pointed ears, yellow eyes, a tail and blunt claws. The myths and legends which include Coyote vary widely from culture to culture.

Melanesian mythology

Melanesian mythology is the folklore, myths and religion of Melanesia — the archipelagos of New Guinea, the Torres Strait Islands, the Admiralty Islands, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Professor Roland Burrage Dixon wrote an account of the mythology of this region for The Mythology of All Races, which was published in 1916.

Miwok mythology

The mythology of the Miwok Native Americans are myths of their world order, their creation stories and 'how things came to be' created. Miwok myths suggest their spiritual and philosophical world view. In several different creation stories collected from Miwok people, Coyote was seen as their ancestor and creator god, sometimes with the help of other animals, forming the earth and making people out of humble materials like feathers or twigs.

Cultural depictions of ravens Ravens in world culture

Many references to ravens exist in world lore and literature. Most depictions allude to the appearance and behavior of the wide-ranging common raven. Because of its black plumage, croaking call, and diet of carrion, the raven is often associated with loss and ill omen. Yet, its symbolism is complex. As a talking bird, the raven also represents prophecy and insight. Ravens in stories often act as psychopomps, connecting the material world with the world of spirits.

Kutkh Raven spirit revered by various indigenous peoples of far eastern Russia

Kutkh, is a Raven spirit traditionally revered in various forms by various indigenous peoples of the Russian Far East. Kutkh appears in many legends: as a key figure in creation, as a fertile ancestor of mankind, as a mighty shaman and as a trickster. He is a popular subject of the animist stories of the Chukchi people and plays a central role in the mythology of the Koryaks and Itelmens of Kamchatka. Many of the stories regarding Kutkh are similar to those of the Raven among the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, suggesting a long history of indirect cultural contact between Asian and North American peoples.

Trickster Literary archetype

In mythology and the study of folklore and religion, a trickster is a character in a story who exhibits a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge and uses it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and defy conventional behavior.

There are a vast array of myths surrounding the Blackfoot Native Americans as well as Aboriginal people. The Blackfeet inhabit the Great Plains, in the areas known as Alberta, Saskatchewan, and areas of Montana. These stories, myths, origins, and legends play a big role in their everyday life, such as their religion, their history, and their beliefs. Only the elders of the Blackfoot tribes are allowed to tell the tales, and are typically difficult to obtain because the elders of the tribes are often reluctant to tell them to strangers who are not of the tribe. People such as George B. Grinnell, John Maclean, D.C. Duvall, Clark Wissler, and James Willard Schultz were able to obtain and record a number of the stories that are told by the tribes.

The Bantu beliefs are the system of beliefs and legends of the Bantu people of Africa. Although Bantu peoples account for several hundred different ethnic groups, there is a high degree of homogeneity in Bantu cultures and customs, just as in Bantu languages. The phrase "Bantu mythology" usually refers to the common, recurring themes that are found in all or most Bantu cultures.

West African mythology Body of mythology of the West African people

West African mythology is the body of myths of the people of West Africa. It consists of tales of various deities, beings, legendary creatures, heroes and folktales from various ethnic groups. Some of these myths traveled across the Atlantic during the period of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to become part of Caribbean, Cuban and Brazilian mythology.

Mythology of Indonesia

The mythology of Indonesia is very diverse, the Indonesian people consisting of hundreds of ethnic groups, each with their own myths and legends that explain the origin of their people, the tales of their ancestors and the demons or deities in their belief systems. The tendency to syncretize by overlying older traditions with newer foreign ideas has occurred. For example, the older ancestral mythology might be merged with foreign mythology, such as Hindu, Islam, or Christian biblical mythology.


  1. "Tsimshian Legends (Folklore, Myths, and Traditional Indian Stories)". www.native-languages.org. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Jensen, Allan (1980). "A Structural Approach to the Tsimshian Raven Myths: Lévi-Strauss on the Beach". Anthropologica. 22 (2): 159. doi:10.2307/25605046.