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Digital Subscriptions > BBC History Revealed Magazine > September 2019 > Time Piece

Time Piece

A look at everyday objects from the past


It was bad news for a Tsimshian to lose their soul, but there was hope

The Tsimshian - an indigenous people of British Columbia, Canada, and Alaska, on the northwest coast of North America - place great emphasis on the soul. According to Tsimshian tradition, a person can become unwell if their soul is separated from the body something which was thought to happen as a result of dreaming, fright or by witchcraft. Shaman were therefore trained to retrieve lost souls and used soul catchers such as the one shown here to do so. Made out of the femur of a bear and intricately decorated, soul catchers were worn around the neck and could trap a soul inside. The shaman would enter the spirit world and locate the lost soul, before returning to the patient and blowing the soul into their body.

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