szmuxcs (Rattle)

About this object

History of use

Used in curing ceremonies by those who own the right to use it. Anthropologist Wayne Suttles notes that ritualist's rattles are used for cleansing. They are currently used by the Coast Salish at ceremonies or rituals, when families are doing work such as naming or honouring the dead. In the past, they had a different use and were primarily associated with winter dancing. He noted that horn rattles were previously used to: "induce possession in a person expected to become a 'new dancer' (1987:107)."


This rattle was collected from a woman who had married into West Saanich from Cowichan; it had originally belonged to her father. This type of rattle is supposed to have its wool renewed every ten years or so. The collector notes that the wool was falling away when he purchased it, so he hired the seller to replace it to its original condition since she had "done it three or four times before." The owner had stated that the rattles were "used in all celebrations like naming a baby, when a girl became a woman, and when a girl got married." There were originally about forty such rattles in her family. The collector noted that he bought eight from her, and she kept a ninth.

Cultural context

ceremonial; cleansing; purification

Physical description

Pair of very similar copper rattles. Both are fringed with wool on their sides and around their handles. The heads of the rattles are rectangular in shape, and have been hammered and then wired together. The goat wool fringes have coloured strings tied around their ends.