The Totems Speak

The Totems Speak

The Totem Pole seems to strike awe in most people, regardless of nationality.  For some it is the artistic quality of design and carving, while for others it is the meaning, mystery and spiritual intent of the Totem Pole.

The native communities of the northwest coast are famous for the quality of carvers among the Haida, Gitxzan, Tsimshian, Tlinglit, Kwadiutl, to name some, all of which have their own interpretation and mythology.  The Totem Pole is also known as the cosmic tree or world tree because of the connection between heaven and earth, or also seen as the underworld of water and upper world of land. 


The Totem Poles designed by Pat Bavin reflect upon his studies of five native cultures with personal meaning or artistic attraction to him.  The Totems created by the Bavin Team include Haida, Inuit, Navajo, Mayan and Inka (Laika/Quero) with whom Pat has studied under, researched, sketched and painted.  

This is a collaboration between Pat Bavin as “designer and interpreter of indigenous mythology,” his son, Ryan, and Ryan’s “hot shop team” as builders. 

The techniques developed by Ryan and his team have taken their work to a new dimension and also elevated the muscle and technical abilities of assistant Leah Allison.

The totems are lit internally with LED strip lighting, which offers a startling presentation of symbols and primitive, animistic shapes. The team at Bavin Glassworks are artistic messengers who express the importance of a mindful attitude for artists doing research on Indigenous lands, promoting others to ask for permission to record subject matter that may expose cultural or sacred beliefs or sites.

Each totem design is unique to the Bavin team’s own visual interpretation and not a copy of any specific crest of a native tribe or clan depicting a private story.
Commonality of history and use of mythology among many cultures offers a cohesive message of ancient stories and symbols to help us see each day of our modern lifestyle in a more simple, fundamental way.


The perspective seemed to resonate though us in a unified way, whether looking at a cliff-dwelling hanging high in a canyon wall in the southwest or listening to the waves crashing on the shore while sitting speechless, looking at a cluster of totem poles standing proudly, full of feeling of ancient spirituality among the cedars and tall grasses of Haida Gwaii.

The series has eight totems standing on a variety of bases made of metal or sand-casted glass. They display themselves powerfully with internal LED lighting. They are in varying sizes, from one to three feet tall and have been blown in shorter cylinder shapes, which have been hand-sculpted in hot glass (no moulding or casting) to form each bird or animal shape.


A considerable amount of diamond drilling is required to accommodate the LED lighting to be internally installed, which really enriches the glass presentation. The cylinders are then specifically selected and shaped to stack in an order to acknowledge the protocol of the mythological stories of the Raven and Eagle Clans. Each glass totem has been given a specific name and will include an interpretation by the Bavin Glassworks Team.

Each totem is a one-of-a-kind collectible art piece.

Following are translations of each of the crests presented in these Totem Poles:


The Frog is the master of wealth and transformation.  They are noted for their long tongue making them great communicators which, when exposed and sharing is expressing the transfer of power from one spirit to another.  Frog is able to transform from visible to invisible (ocean and land).  In Nootka mythology the frog was a watchman and would croak loudly to warn its master of approaching visitors.


In the Haida social order, Eagle and Raven are coequal, standing as the two halves as seen in the clans named after them.  Eagle is Lord of the Heavens, reigning over all other bird spirits of the air.  Eagle possesses many of the character traits of Thunderbird who is known as a super natural eagle.  Eagle and Raven play an equal role in the Shamanic Rituals of soul travel and positioning on the world tree (Totem Pole).  Eagle is also recognized as one of the Guardian Spirits of the Shaman.  Eagles represent intelligence, peace, vigilance and power as well as superb vision.


Raven is the creator and master of transformation to the Haida.  Raven can be killed, but as quickly, he is promptly reborn.  He is capable of being plant or animal or male or female.  Many of the tales and legends of Raven reflect on his involvement with the sun and fire.  Raven is known as the one who organizes the details of the world having the personality and powers of a hero – trickster – transformer.


Beaver is a member of the eagle clan and acts as the guardian spirit within the cosmic world tree (Totem Pole) so he is positioned at the base of the eagle memorial totem poles.  He is the uncle of Raven.  The Beaver was known for his endless supply of wealth but regularly lost its possessions to Raven.  Beaver is able to reside in the underworld (under water) and upper world (on land) plus temporarily take on human form.

Grizzly Bear

The Bear is not merely an animal but also has the ability to form a link between humans and the spirit world.  The Haida viewed Grizzly Bear as the ruling chief or principal of the physical plane.  This spirit has left its mark physically engraved on many Totem Poles (territorial markers) strategically positioned around the globe.


The watchmen were known to have supernatural powers.  From their lofty position on top of the pole they could look out in several directions keeping watch on the village and look out to sea.  The high crowned hats worn by the Watchman symbolize the status of the chief whose house they guard.  The Rings or Skils on the top cylinder of the hat signify the number of Potlatch Ceremonies that honored the hat and its owner.

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