Supernatural Spirits and Animals: Nuu-chah-nulth Ceremonial Masks
Ceremonies featuring masked participants were major rites during the winter months. These were dramas in which supernatural beings appeared in the villages, kidnapped children, took them to the ancestral homes of their lineages where they were instructed in some hereditary privilege, and finally returned to their families. The ceremonies were vehicles for transferring hereditary rights. Men wearing masks portrayed the various supernatural beings.
Shown here is a scene from a Nuu-chah-nulth ceremony called the Shaman’s Dance. The erect dancers represent supernatural bears; the crawling figure portrays Wild Man, a forest spirit. When these beings appeared, the people feigned great terror and created considerable confusion at which time the children were abducted.