Sunday, April 20, 2014

Inuit Cosmos

Source: Wikipedia
The Inuit practiced a form of shamanism that was based on animist principles. They believed that all things, animate or inanimate, had a spirit of some kind. They also believed in a group of supernatural entities, almost like gods, unlike the traditional Christian belief, which is monotheistic (believing in only one God).The closest thing that the Inuit had to a central "god" or deity was the "Old Woman" or "Sedna," who was believed to live underneath the sea. There are several myths/stories that explain how the "Old Woman" came to be and how she ended up living in the ocean. The Inuit associate water with many great gods in their belief system/mythology.

Each community had its own shaman/healer type person, or angakkuq. This person acted as a healer and a psychotherapist, someone who tended to wounds and gave advice when needed. But the main role of the angakkuq was to see and interpret the subtle and unseen ways in which the supernatural entities contacted them. These people were not trained in these abilities; they were believed to have been born with special powers. The Inuit believed that all spirits were sacred, and not giving them the proper recognition or respect (in both life and death) would only give reason for the spirit to avenge itself and bring bad luck to the community.

The aurora borealis, or northern lights (pictured above) were very important in traditional Inuit mythology. Some Inuit would look into the lights and see images of their friends and family members dancing in their next lives. Some considered the aurora to be a sign of evil, however. Some even thought that if one were to whistle at the lights, they would come down from the sky and cut his/her head off! But for others, the northern lights were considered to be a guide for hunting, and a spirit to assist the angakkuq in healing.

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