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Bella Coola Raven Chief's Dance Headdress

Bella Coola Raven Chief's Dance Headdress
Bella Coola Style Raven with Mirrors

Dłuwalaxa or "Returned-from-Heaven-Dances" aIso called Tła’sala or "Peace Dances"

The Dłuwalaxa has come to certain Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw families through marriage with the northern tribes mainly from the Awik̕inuxw and Hiłdzakw. Dłuwalaxa dancers wear masks representing the family crest myths and family długwe’, that are supernatural in origin, but the dancers are not supernaturally possessed as in the T̕seka. The supernatural gift passed on to the initiate was of a simpler sort, often being the dance or mimetic action, and the initiate did not have a lengthy disappearance or an elaborate seizure. A description of a Dłuwalaxa dance is given by Drucker (1940:215):

The second night of the potlatch is the time for the novices to dance. He dances, then returns to his room. Now the master of ceremonies (Alkw) is requested to call down the spirit of the dancer. He asks what he is to say, and the Chief tells him. So he shouts (for example), "Come down, come down, you great Moon-of-Heaven!" There is a roaring noise, and something lands with a crash on the roof. Spirit horns are blown in the house and from the novice’s room. Then a mask representing the moon appears above the screen. The Chief says to the master of ceremonies, "Blow the sacred eagle down on it, and ask if this is really the moon". So he blows down toward the mask, and asks, "Is this really you, great Moon-of-Heaven whom we called?" The mask replies, "Hm, hm, hm, hm", and waggles from side to side. The master of ceremonies announces, "Yes, this is the one". Now the musicians shout "Wey!" and the spirit vanishes. They strike up a song. The novice comes out of his room to dance. After the dance, he reenters the room. The Chief follows him in, emerging to report, "He is not speaking very plainly yet. You had better call down (for example) the Great-Swan-of-Heaven". So the master of ceremonies calls on the Great Swan in the same fashion as he did the Moon. The novice comes out to dance again. The Chief requests one of the guest Chiefs who is a healer (hayalikila) to "heal" the dancer. The guest Chief rises, and puts on his headdress and other regalia. Then he dances around and around the novice. He has a clapper (carved split-stick rattle) in each hand for keeping time. At the proper time he hands his clappers to an attendant, and takes a spirit (a wooden figurine, apparently) from the child’s mouth. (The "spirit" is really handed to him by the attendant). The healer displays the spirit three times and on the fourth, throws it (or pretends to) out the smoke hole, as all the people shout "Wo!" the spirit horns blow as the spirit departs.

Yaxwi’we’ or Dancing-Forehead-Mask

The traditional regalia for the Dłuwalaxa are finely carved crest figures attached to a head ring of mountain goat fur crowned with a cage of sea lion whiskers to hold sacred eagle down. The back of the headdress includes a long train decorated with valuable ermine pelts symbolizing chiefly wealth. The Yaxwi’we’ is the traditional attire of the Hilikalał or Healing-Dancer in the Dłuwalaxa ceremonies, also referred to as the Hoylikalał. This is the highest¬ ranking dancer who is the first to appear in these ceremonies. The Hoylikalał dances to welcome the guests who have come to witness and cleanse the dance house by the spreading of eagle down with flicking movements of his head. The Hoylikalał represent a shaman’s society and dress wearing the prestigious headdress and a cedar bark neck ring displaying membership to this sacred order. They wear a finely made button blanket or robe of their family’s rights, apron and leggings, the last two adorned with puffin beaks and deer hooves to rattle and assist the dancer in his spiritual role. It is the routine of the retired Hoylikalał to tease and question the new initiates to see if they have truly gained spiritual power. After being taunted enough, the new initiate will exit the building, after which the attendants will follow to see if anything will happen. After checking, the attendants find only an empty headdress indicating the dancer has been taken away. The attendants announce to the master of ceremonies the disappearance and are instructed to check again, to see if anything else has transpired. On this second time, a great sound of spirit horns blow, indicating something powerful has taken place. The attendants return and the master of ceremonies questions what they have seen. They announce to the house what type of creature the initiate has transformed into and that he has returned from heaven. The dancer enters in backwards as spirits do everything backwards and performs in his new spiritual form, thus proving the initiates spiritual power and worthiness in the Dłuwalaxa ceremonies. Creatures from the ocean enter through the front door while those from the forest enter from the back of the dance house. Many of these beings have their own special whistles and horns imitating the sounds of their being. After the new initiate has danced, members of his or her family will dance in celebration and the cycle begins again, displaying the family’s history and prerogatives through the Dłuwalaxa dances.

Knowledge from Chief Tom Willie

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