Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Death of a Shaman


A long, long, time ago, there lived two brothers. They were very close in age, being only 10 months apart. When the oldest was born, his father immediately took a huge liking to him, maybe it was because he saw himself in the little boy. However, when the second boy came along, the father didn’t seem to have as much interest in him as he did with the first.

As time passed the father’s attitude towards the youngest boy didn’t change, in fact, he almost ignored the youngest boy all together. The father showed very little interest in teaching the youngest boy the ways of men and the work they had to do in order to survive. For the most part, the father left the youngest boy home with his mother when he and the oldest boy went hunting.

But what the youngest boy didn’t know, and this was because he was always left out from whatever his older brother and father were doing, was that the father was a shaman. Not just any shaman, but a very powerful and respected shaman. The father was very helpful to the community in helping them to find the caribou when others could not. And he was also a healer - when someone took ill, he was summoned to help them get better.

It wasn’t until the youngest brother was a young man that he realized his father was a shaman, and to make matters worse, that his father was teaching his oldest son the ways of the shaman. This made the younger brother very angry. So angry in fact, he decided to leave his community and seek another.

After days of travel, the young man came upon another community. As he walked he noticed a very small house all on its own, far from the community and up on the hillside. As he came closer to the camp, the people there seemed to avoid him - to the point where he felt quite unwelcome. So, the he decided to go up to the small house on the hillside.

As he approached the small house, he noticed a man standing outside it. Getting closer he noticed that the man was small, frail, and poorly clothed. As he came up to the man outside the house the old man suddenly asked, ” why is it you come here, boy? What is it you seek? ” The young man was uncertain how to respond at first, but then replied, ” I come looking for help - help in obtaining the powers of a shaman. Do you know of one that may help? “

The old man asked, ” why is it you seek these powers? ” To which the young man replied, ” my father has abandoned me and is teaching my older brother the ways of the shaman. Only I don’t want to know the ways that will help people, I want to learn how to take revenge on my father for abandoning me.”

With that the old man turned and went inside his house, but left the door open behind him. The young man followed the old man inside. On closing the door, the young man noticed how little light there was inside, with only one small window in the far corner of the house facing north, with the least amount of light of the day.

But the young man did notice all the amulets and feathers there were all about the house. ” Sit “, said the old man, ” tell me more.”

As the night grew darker, the young man and the old man sat and talked and listened to each other’s stories. They found a bond within each other - one that seemed to mean that one was meant for the other. After much talking the old man said, ” yes, I am a shaman. The people here do not like me, in fact, they despise me, which is why I live way up here on the hillside. This is where they want me, as far from them as possible. “

“Can you teach me? ” the young man asked.

“As long as you treat me better than they do, as long as you hunt for my food, I will teach you, but you must do as I say, always never stray from my words. For if you do, there are consequences, consequences you would not like ” said the old man.

With that, years passed - and so did the old man. The young man had become a man, a man with revenge in his heart. With all the powers the old man had taught him he now set off to find his older brother. He found that he was still living in his home community and learned that his mother and father had both passed. Upon finding this out, he set off to find his older brother.

Arriving home, to that house where his father and brother would simply leave him when he was small, things still looked the same after all these years. But, there was no one here. The younger brother went outside to ask where his brother might be. After some asking, he found out that his brother was off seeking the help of the spirits, for the community was going through a hard time of no food. Asking where his brother might possibly be, the people said that he was down by the river - but that he should not go there at this time. His older brother preferred to be alone when seeking the spirits help.

The younger brother thanked them and left. He walked towards the house but, as he got there, he instead turned towards the river. As he turned, he grabbed his brother’s harpoon - the one their father had helped him make.

Arriving at the river, he noticed his older brother’s boots at the river’s edge. The younger brother knew what his older brother had to do in order to resurface, so he waited until he saw him coming up to the surface of the water. As his brother came closer, he gripped the harpoon hard and waited for the right moment to thrust the harpoon into his older brother. He made sure to reach his heart, as the old man on the hillside told him. This is the only way to make sure he was dead.

This was the ” death of the shaman “…his brother. Afterwards, he thought he would feel better for having had his revenge, but he did not. He knew he could not go back to his home community, so instead, he returned to the old man’s house on the hillside. There to live until he himself passed.


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Michael Massie

Michael Massie


Inuit, Métis

Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

(1962- )

Massie’s work is a reflection of his mixed Inuit, Métis and Scottish heritage. In it, he investigates both traditional and contemporary themes. He has achieved renown for his innovative teapots that combine themes and symbols from his native Inuit culture with European traditions. Massie has been twice short-listed for the coveted Prix Saidye Bronfman and has an extensive international reputation. His work has been shown in North America and Europe, including the National Gallery of Canada. He was elected a member of Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2011.