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Sisiutl

Three headed serpent: /
brash change to stone; but brave turn/
invulnerable.//

Great gifts, great curses:/
pain or protection follow/
sea-snake’s winding paths.//

Image:  Sisiutl dance mask made out of cedar by Oscar Matilpi.  Wikipedia.

Image: Sisiutl dance mask made out of cedar by Oscar Matilpi. Wikipedia.

Taniwha

Dangerous sea here:/
bring green twigs and taro so/
she may keep us safe.//

Beautiful daughters,/
beware: Taniwha may be/
looking for a wife.//

Image:  The Taniwha shown on a carved house post from the inside of a Ngati Maru meeting house.  New Zealand.  Wikipedia.

Image: The Taniwha shown on a carved house post from the inside of a Ngati Maru meeting house. New Zealand. Wikipedia.

Explanation

Sisiutl is a two-headed sea serpent (or snake) who has, in the middle of its body, an additional head (that is human-like) as well as hands.  All three heads have “horns of power”.   It gives warriors invincibility and guards the house of the sky people. In addition, it has a canoe that can go underwater.  Sisiutl is a shape-shifter that can be as small as a worm or as big as a bay; it can take the form of a human, a salmon, or a self-propelled canoe.  A person who looks directly at Sisiutl may turn into stone (Wikipedia).

Taniwha “live in deep pools in rivers, dark caves, or in the sea, especially in places with dangerous currents”.  Sometimes a Taniwha is a highly respected protector; at other times it might prey on women by kidnapping them to be his wife.  (Wikipedia.)

2 thoughts on “Sisiutl and Taniwha: Haiku of Legendary Creatures

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