Totem Making

 

 

 

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by Ernest Thompson Seton 

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A general request for light on Totems and Totem-making has called for an article on the subject.

A Totem is the emblem of a man, a group of men, an animal, or an idea. It is perhaps the earliest form of signature that any man used. It reached its highest development in the form of heraldry.

Of course, a trained artist who has specialized in decoration is needed to get the best style of Totem; but most of us make one passably good by adhering to certain rules:

bullet1st. The Totem is a symbol, not a portrait.
bullet2nd. The simplest forms are the best.
bullet3rd. Any approach to realism or photography is sure to result in a failure.
bullet4th. Beauty is obtained chiefly by beautiful colors.
bullet5th. Printing or letters are always ugly; avoid them altogether, if possible.
bullet6th. Avoid any appearance of machine work--the varied and wavering touch of handwork is always better.
bullet7th. The Totem is usually meant for display at night or against a dark background; therefore it should be either in light colors, or on a light background.

For our purpose there are two principal kinds of Totems the silhouette carved out of wood, etc., and the emblem on the shield. If the design is to be in dark colors, it is better a shield. If something white, silhouette is more manageable.

Some complicated designs like Lightning or King-snake can scarcely be made in silhouette; they must be on a shield.

The shield should be 12 or 14 inches across and when finished should everywhere have the marks of knife never of a saw. The exact mathematical circle of a scroll saw with its sharp edges is always ugly; whittle them off.

The pole to carry the shield should be about 6 or 7 feet high, so as to hold the Totem well above the heads of the men; and it should never be a boughten, factory-turned, straight-edged, cross-grained rake handle, as one sometimes sees, but a real sapling cut in the woods, rather straight, peeled and trimmed smooth of knots and limbs, but showing the little variations of surface and thickness that tell us the real thing, with the real grain running along the main line and therefore strong.

I have added a number of totems to show the two types, silhouette and shield. Note that while White Buffalo, White Heron or White Fox may be best in silhouette, the same animals in any other color are best on a shield of which the background is white. The main thing is to have it clearly visible in the dim light of a Council fire, with the dark woods as a background.

The Birch Bark Roll 

 

 

   

 

 


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Activities ] Archery ] Axe, Boy Scout ] Axe, Saw, Forestry ] Axe, Saw,  Knife ] Axe Use: Beard ] Axe Use: Seton ] Axe Use: Traditional ] Axe Throwing ] Beds, Woodcraft ] Bedding Materials ] Bicycle Maintenance ] Birch-Bark Torch ] Birds ] Bird Houses ] Blocks Tackles Purchase ] Blood Red Cross ] Broom: Camp or Witch's ] Buttons ] Campcraft ] Camp Hygiene ] Camp Planning ] Campfire Programs ] Catapult ] Chainsaws ] Checklists ] Chuck Box Riddance! ] City-Craft ] Compass Bear Song ] Compass, Home-Made ] Cooking ] Cotton Kills Bear Song ] Deduction in Tracking ] Deduction & Detective ] Drum ] Dyes ] Edible Plants ] Equipment, Leader ] Equipment, Personal ] Equipment Maintenance ] Equipment, Lightweight ] Equip, Pickle Bucket Camp ] Estimation ] Field Signals ] Fire-Building ] Fire Building ] Fire Laying ] Fire Lighting ] Fire Starters ] Fire: Rubbing-Stick ] Fire Types, Wood Types ] Fire Council Ring ] Fires: Woodcraft ] First Aid ] First Class Journey ] Flint & Steel ] Flowers ] Forest ] Gesture Signals ] Ground to Air Signals ] Handicraft Stunts ] High Adventure ] Hiking ] Hike Planning ] Indian Sundial Clock ] Insect Collecting ] Insect Preserve ] Indian Well ] Knife & Hatchet ] Knots, Bends, Hitches ] Knots: Diamond Hitch ] Knots: Lashings ] Knots: Rope Work ] Knots: Seton ] Knots: Traditional ] Knots & Whipping ] Lashings ] Lashing Practice Box ] Lace or Thong ] Learn by Doing ] Leave No Trace ] Leave No Trace ] Lights ] Local Knowledge ] Log Ladders, Notched ] Log-Rolling ] Logs: Cut Notch ] Logs Split with Axe ] Loom and Grass Mats ] Lost in the Woods ] Manners ] Maps ] Map & Compass ] Maps: Without Compass ] Measurement ] Measurement Estimation ] Menu Worksheet ] Menu (Adult IOLS) ] Mosquitoes ] Mushrooms ] Night Tracking ] Observation ] Old Trails ] Paints ] Pioneering, Basic ] Pioneering Models ] Plaster Casts ] Preparations ] Proverbs ] Rake ] Rope Care ] Rope Making ] Rope Spinning ] Scout Reports ] Signal & Sign ] Sign Language ] Silent Scout Signals ] Smoke Prints ] Snakes ] Spanish Windlass ] Spoons ] Staff/Stave Making ] Stalking Skills ] Stalking & Observation ] Stars ] Stools ] Story Telling ] Stoves & Lanterns ] Summoning Help ] Sun Dial: Scientific ] Survival Kit ] Tarp Poles ] Teepee (4 Pole) ] Tent Care ] Tent Pitching ] Tom-Tom ] Tomahawk Throwing ] Tomahawk Targets ] [ Totem Making ] Totem Animals ] Totem Poles ] Training in Tracking ] Tracks, Ground, Weather ] Tracking & Trailing ] Trail Following ] Trail Signs & Blazes ] Trail Signs of Direction ] Trail Signs: Traditional ] Trail Signs for Help ] Trees of the NE ] Wall Hangings ] Watch Compass ] Weather Wisdom ] Wild Things ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.