Sisutyl guarded the entrance to the homes of the supernatural.
Peter Jensen paints a double-headed sea serpent on our house in the Whittaker neighborhood
Peter Jensen paints a double-headed sea serpent on our house in the Whittaker neighborhood

I came home from a walk last week, and a double-headed sea serpent was appearing on the wall of our house.

A Sisutyl (also spelled Sisiutl) is a dramatic supernatural creature, and it is one of the most high ranking crests in Kwagiulth culture. It can shift shape and transform from animal to man at anytime.

A Sisiutl can change itself in to a self-propelled canoe, which the owner must feed with Seals.

Touching the serpent or even looking at it, or a glance from it, can cause death. Legends say Shamans tried to kill the Sisiutl for its healing power and magic. It is closely associated with war and strength, death and revival, so warriors try to kill it to rub its blood on themselves to attain its skillful strength and become invulnerable. A warrior would often wear a head band or belt in the image of a Sisiutl to provide protection from harm.

In this famous photograph by Edward Curtis, the chief is wearing a double-headed sea serpent headdress
In this famous photograph by Edward Curtis, the chief is wearing a double-headed sea serpent headdress

Flakes of shiny mica found on beaches were thought to be the discarded scales from the serpent’s body.

Whether carved or painted, the Sisiutl is depicted with a profile head, teeth and a large curled tongue at each end of its serpentine form and in the center is an ancestor face. Fins run along its back and curled appendages or horns rise from all three heads. The painted body represents scales and it may be carved horizontally, formed into a U-shape or coiled into a circle.

Sisiutl guarded the entrance to the homes of the supernatural. It was painted on the sides of canoes and hung over doorways to protect the inhabitants from evil spirits.

Here is a short digital story created on i-Movie for i-Pad. It is a recording of the poem I wrote about Peter’s project with some images of it growing on our house.

Sandy Brown Jensen

I am a retired writing instructor and faculty tech specialist from Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. I still teach and am also a photographer, poet, blogger and digital storyteller (short videos).

View all posts

6 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sandy Brown Jensen

I am a retired writing instructor and faculty tech specialist from Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. I still teach and am also a photographer, poet, blogger and digital storyteller (short videos).

Subscribe to my posts



Created by Webfish.