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How To Make Your Own Miniature Totem Pole

picture progress
Cover of the original comic book published in 1955

Who says comic books don’t have educational value? As a public service, reprinted here are instructions for how to make your own miniature totem pole from clay, originally appearing in a 1955 comic, Picture Progress (circa 1955) and featured on the ComicBook Plus Website.

It’s a great project for making some of your own shaman gear. (In addition to the image directly below, there are larger images and instructions further down in this post that you may find helpful, should you wish to take on the project.)

The book attempts to feature an overview of Alaska, which wasn’t a U.S. state until four years after it was published. This isn’t to say that all of the material in the book itself is all that accurate, timely, topical or unbiased for our day and age. You will see many stereotypes appearing in it, a reflection of the mindset at the time. Regrettably, some of those stereotypes persist to this day!

make your own totem pole

Totems are very special spiritual helpers or family icons, so a totem pole reflects the likeness of such helpers in your life. (In some places, a totem is often referred to synonymously with a power animal, though the former more often than not reflects broader meanings and symbols in the context of totem poles.) Obviously, these instructions are a bit over-simplified, but they serve as a good guideline. Also, more modern materials may be substituted. And, of course, you may wish to draw your own design with your own totems instead of the ones shown here.

Here’s a larger image, with instructions reprinted below it.



1. Shape a piece of non-hardening clay until it has three sides. The piece of clay should be five inches long. It should be one and one-half inches wide on each side.  (See diagram)

totem pole detail
Totem Pole Detail

2. Trace the whole totem pole design on the left on a piece of paper. Cut it out around the outside edge.
3. Fold the totem pole design down the center, along the dotted line. The design should be on the outside of the fold.
4. Place the design flat against the piece of clay.
5. With a pencil, trace the design through the paper onto the clay.
6. Remove the paper from the clay.
7. Cut away the clay where the design is shaded. This should leave only the outline of the faces.
8. Go over all the lines in the clay with a pencil until they are smooth and deep.
9. Paint it any colors you wish.

Once you finish the pole, you can also carve a triangular space about 1 1/2″ to a side in a good block of lightning-struck wood to serve as a base in which to place your new totem pole. The block should be about 5 or 6″ square and a few inches deep. Of course, if you don’t have a piece of such wood lying around, any will serve the purpose. Or use more clay or other material to form such a base.

Sprinkle some herbs and tobacco around the completed piece once you place it on your altar or a sacred place in your home. It would be good to say a prayer of gratitude to your helpers, to Spirit, to All That Is while you are doing so.

I would love to see a photo of your creation once it’s complete, should you wish to share.

Aho & Namaste,

PS: Many thanks to Comic Book Plus for preserving digital copies of so many priceless comic books. So much of the modern day comic book culture has its roots in these old books, some of which were written and illustrated by authors and artists of note. It’s a terrific site, and a wonderful way to take a trip down memory lane.


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