Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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The following account of the religious belief of the Eskimo is principally founded upon the traditions—the author having made inquiries among the natives as to all that appeared doubtful and obscure, and lastly, completing this information with the help of the oldest authors. The whole information thus brought together has been divided and arranged with a view to making it as convenient and intelligible to the reader as possible: a more complete understanding of several portions of it must be sought in the tales themselves.
1. GENERAL IDEAS CONCERNING THE EXISTENCE OF THE WORLD, THE SUPREME POWERS, AND THE CONCEPTION OF GOOD AND EVIL.
Only very scanty traces have been found of any kind of ideas having been formed as to the origin and early history of the world, and the ruling powers or deities, which seems sufficiently to show that such mythological speculations have been, in respect to other nations, also the product of a later stage of culture. Existence in general is accepted as a fact, without any speculation as to its primitive origin. Only the still acting powers concealed in nature, and to which human life is subordinated, are taken into consideration.
Men, as well as animals, have both soul and body. The soul performs the breathing, with which it is closely allied. It is quite independent of the body, and even able to leave it temporarily and return to it. It is not to be perceived by the common senses, but only by help of a special sense belonging to persons in a peculiar state of mind, or endowed with peculiar qualities. When viewed by these persons, the soul exhibits the same shape as the body it belongs to, but is of a more subtle and ethereal nature. The human soul continues to live after death precisely in the same manner as before. The souls of animals also, to a certain degree, seem to have been considered as having an existence independent of the body, and continuing after its death. Here and there traces have also been found of a belief in the migration of souls, both between dead and living men, and between men and animals; but it remains uncertain whether this ought not rather to be explained as having an allegorical sense. Lastly, they say that the human soul may be hurt, and even destroyed; but on the other hand, it may also be fitted together again and repaired. We sometimes find it mentioned that the migration may be partial—viz., that some parts of the soul of a deceased p. 37 person may pass into another man and cause in him a likeness to the first.
The whole visible world is ruled by supernatural powers, or "owners," taken in a higher sense, each of whom holds his sway within certain limits, and is called inua (viz., its or his inuk, which word signifies "man," and also owner or inhabitant). Strictly speaking, scarcely any object, or combination of objects, existing either in a physical or a spiritual point of view, may not be conceived to have its inua, if only, in some way or other, it can be said to form a separate idea. Generally, however, the notion of an inua is limited to a locality, or to the human qualities and passions—e.g., the inua of certain mountains or lakes, of strength, of eating. The appellation, therefore, quite corresponds to what other nations have understood by such expressions as spirits, or inferior deities. An owner or ruler conveys the idea of a person or soul, but it appears not necessarily that of a body. The soul of the dead seems to have been considered as the inua of the bodily remains.
The earth, with the sea supported by it, rests upon pillars, and covers an under world, accessible by various entrances from the sea, as well as from mountain clefts. Above the earth an upper world is found, beyond which the blue sky, being of a solid consistence, vaults itself like an outer shell, and, as some say, revolves around some high mountain-top in the far north. The upper world exhibits a real land with mountains, valleys, and lakes. After death, human souls either go to the upper or to the under world. The latter is decidedly to be preferred, as being warm and rich in food. There are the dwellings of the happy dead called arsissut—viz., those who live in abundance. On the contrary, those who go to the upper world will suffer from cold and famine; and these are called the arssartut, or ball-players, on account of their playing at ball with a walrus-head, which gives rise to the aurora borealis, or Northern p. 38 lights. Further, the upper world must be considered a continuation of the earth in the direction of height, although those individuals, or at least those souls temporarily delivered from the body, that are said to have visited it, for the most part passed through the air. The upper world, it would seem, may be considered identical with the mountain round the top of which the vaulted sky is for ever circling—the proper road leading to it from the foot of the mountain upwards being itself either too far off or too steep. One of the tales also mentions a man going in his kayak to the border of the ocean, where the sky comes down to meet it.
The invisible rulers by which the earth is governed can scarely be imagined without regarding them in some relation of dependency one on another. Inasmuch as we are allowed to consider almost every spot or supposed object a special dominion with its special inua ruling within certain limits, we might also be led to imagine several of those dominions as united, and made subordinate to one common ruler, by which means we would have a general government of the world under one supreme head ready organised. The mythology of the Greenlanders, however, does not contain any direct doctrine with such a tendency. Very scanty traces also have been found of any attempts towards explaining the origin of the world, as well as of things existing and their qualities, as, e.g., regarding some species of animals, besides the moon and several stars. Though it has been asserted the Greenlanders believe that the first of our race arose from the earth, and that the first man, called Kallak, created the first woman out of a tuft of sod, and also that some tradition exists about the Deluge, yet these statements cannot be accepted without doubt and reservation, because they may have partly originated from the questioners themselves, who pretend to have heard them from the Greenlanders, but have probably involuntarily acted upon the latter by p. 39 their prepossessed mode of questioning. Still, on looking at the whole religious views of the natives, they do seem to presuppose a single power by which the world is ruled. Certain means were believed to exist by which man was not only enabled to enter into communion with the invisible rulers, but could also make them his helpers and servants. Such supernatural assistance might be acquired in a more or less direct way—viz., either through men endowed with the peculiar gift called angakoonek (cor. spelling angákûneĸ, signifying angakok-wisdom or -power, or the state of being angakok). But these men only acquired this gift by applying to and calling on a yet more exalted power, which made these rulers become their helping or guardian spirits, or tornat (plural of tôrnaĸ). This supreme ruler was termed tornarsuk; and in his being thus enabled to dispose at will of all the minor powers, forcing them to serve the angakut, and in the same degree making the whole nature subordinate to mankind, some idea surely of the godhead must be connected with him. It also seems to have been ascertained that the Greenlanders have imagined him as having his abode in company with the happy deceased in the under world; but to this vague belief the whole doctrine concerning his existence seems to have been limited. The early authors on Greenland, indeed, have given utterance to different opinions concerning tornarsuk which they have gathered from the natives, some of them representing him as the size of a finger, others of a bear, and so on; but all these statements seem to rest upon error and superficial inquiry. As far as the traditions are concerned, the name of tornarsuk is very rarely mentioned in any of them.
Among the supernatural powers was another constituting the source of nourishment, supplying the physical wants of mankind. These being almost exclusively got from the sea, we cannot wonder that this power had its abode in the depths of the ocean; and its being represented p. 40 as a female is probably emblematical of the continual regeneration of life in nature, as well as of economy and household management, generally devolving on women. This being is named arnarkuagsak (cor. sp. arnarĸuagssâĸ, also signifying old woman in general); but the common opinion among the older authors, describing her as a demon of evil, is quite erroneous. She sits in her dwelling in front of a lamp, beneath which is placed a vessel receiving the oil that keeps flowing down from the lamp. From this vessel, or from the dark interior of her house, she sends out all the animals which serve for food; but in certain cases she withholds the supply, thus causing want and famine. Her retaining them was ascribed to a kind of filthy and noxious parasites (agdlerutit, which also signifies abortions or dead-born children), which had fastened themselves around her head; and it was the task of the angakok to deliver her from these, and to induce her again to send out the animals for the benefit of man. In going to her he first had to pass the arsissut, and then to cross an abyss, in which, according to the earliest authors, a wheel was constantly turning round as slippery as ice; and then having safely got past a boiling kettle with seals in it, he arrived at the house, in front of which a watch was kept by terrible animals, sometimes described as seals, sometimes as dogs; and lastly, within the house-passage itself he had to cross an abyss by means of a bridge as narrow as a knife's edge.
According to the religious notions just given, there must have existed a generally established belief in the presence of some ruling power to which mankind and nature were alike subjected, as well as in certain modes of obtaining assistance from this power. This supernatural aid, as well as all the actions of men with a view to call it forth, were in social estimation considered as being good and proper. But besides this, there existed another supernatural influence, which was wholly p. 41 opposed to that which had its source from tornarsuk; and the art of summoning it was practised and taught from mouth to mouth by people not acknowledged or authorised by the community. It was always invoked in secret, and always with the object of injuring others, and wholly in favour of the practiser. This art was called kusuinek or iliseenek (cor. sp. ilisîneĸ), corresponding very exactly to witchcraft, and representing the worst form of evil, both with regard to the help obtained and the means of procuring it. The essence of it was selfishness in the narrowest sense, being alike adverse to the interest of the community and to the supreme rule of things existing in which the people believed. When we look at these ideas, as very strongly discerned and maintained by the Greenlanders, certain opinions not unfrequently professed by authors as to the religious creeds of the more primitive nations are shown to be utterly erroneous,—viz., first as regards confounding the practice of witchcraft with their calling to their aid supernatural powers, authorised and acknowledged by their religious beliefs; and secondly, the maintaining that those nations on a lower stage of civilisation were wholly without any conception of moral good and evil, and limited their regards to physical evil.
In the practice of iliseenek, or witchcraft, a power was applied to which was superior to mankind; and we might thus be led to suppose that this power represented an evil being or ruler in opposition to tornarsuk. Some mystical tradition is related by Egede, mentioning two men engaged in dispute, one desiring man to be subjected to death, and the other insisting upon his becoming immortal. The words spoken by them may perhaps be considered as magic spells, and the one of them is represented as having made death enter into the world. This legend is rather obscure, both with regard to its authenticity and its meaning; but the idea of death was closely connected with that of witchcraft, this latter always more p. 42 or less having death for its aim. Sickness or death coming about in an unexpected manner was always ascribed to witchcraft; and it remains a question whether death on the whole was not originally accounted for as resulting from it. The fact that witches were punished as transgressors of human laws, and were persecuted by the angakut, makes it possible that they represent the last remains of a still more primitive faith, which prevailed before the angakut sprang up and made themselves acknowledged as the only mediators between mankind and the invisible rulers of the world. These primitive religious notions may in that case have amounted to a belief in certain means being capable of acting on the occult powers of nature, and through them on the conditions of human life. Traces of the same belief were perhaps also preserved among the people in the shape of some slight acquaintance with the medical art, and superstitions regarding amulets, the knowledge of which was likewise peculiar to women. And allowing this supposition, we shall find the most striking analogy between the persecution of witches by the angakut and the persecution of the angakut by the Christian settlers, with this exception, that the Christian faith exhibits a personification of the evil principle which enabled the missionaries to vanquish for ever the authority of tornarsuk as the supreme ruler and source of benefits, by transforming him into the Christian devil, who for this reason henceforth was termed tornarsuk.
In the folk-lore of the Greenlanders, as well as of other nations, divine justice principally manifests itself in the present life. According to the older authors, they had also some faint ideas of punishment and reward after death. We learn from these that witches and bad people went to the upper world; whereas those who had achieved any great and heroic actions, or suffered severely in this life, such as men who had perished at sea, or women who had died in child-birth, went to the world below. At p. 43 the same time, some tales seem to hint at a belief that the manner in which the body of the deceased is treated by the survivors influences the condition of his soul. When closely examined, this belief is akin to the idea of punishment and reward corresponding to the actions performed in this life.
2 ON THE SUPERNATURAL AGENCIES BY WHICH HUMAN LIFE IS INFLUENCED.
By supernatural we understand such agencies as do not work according to the usual laws of nature, and accomplish their deeds in a manner imperceptible to the common organs of sense, except in a few rare instances, but only manifest themselves to certain individuals peculiarly gifted, or in some cases to animals; also endowed with a peculiar sense. This sense is generally called nalussaerunek, and the individual possessing it nalussaerutok, signifying, "not being unconscious of anything," consequently nearly the same as clairvoyant. Such agencies may be divided into those which are performed by the inue (plural of inua) of nature in general, and those belonging to witchcraft.
(1.) The Supernatural Rulers, or Inue.
These have already been mentioned. As far as they may be perceived by the common senses, they generally have the appearance of a fire or a bright light; and to see them is in every case very dangerous, partly by causing tatamingnek—viz., frightening to death—partly as foreshadowing the death of a relative (nâsârneĸ). Moreover, some of these powers are able, even at a distance, to sever the soul from the body (tarnêrutoĸ, he who is bereft of his soul; and perhaps also signifying, the soul in this way temporarily separated from the body). Heavy grief often produced a state of mind called suilârĸineĸ, in which the sufferer deliberately p. 44 went out in search of horrors and dangers, in order to deafen grief by means of excitement.
Although all the supernatural rulers may be considered as the inue each of their special domains, they also lead an independent existence as individual beings wholly apart from these, In the first place, it is possible even for man, and in certain cases animals, to practise a supernatural power from some motive or other; and secondly, some of the supernatural beings must no doubt be considered as having originated from real beings, only transfigured through the traditional tales.
As to men, they are invariably free after death to reappear as ghosts; but certain persons are in this respect more dangerous than others: and besides, some persons or people in a peculiar state of existence are even in life endowed with superhuman properties. Individuals belonging to this class in general are commonly called imáinaĸ íngitsut, which signifies, who are not only such,—meaning, as others; or, not of common kind. The dead man is considered as the inua of his grave, and of the personal properties he left, it is no doubt for this reason that things belonging to absent persons can by certain signs announce the death of their owners or their being in distress. The soul even appears to remain in the grave during the first days. The most harmless way in which a ghost can manifest himself is by whistling, the next by a singing in the ears (aviuiartorneĸ), by which performance he simply asks for food; and generally when singing in the ear is perceived, it is the custom to say: "Take as thou likest"—viz., of my stores. But more dangerous are the ghosts that appear in a true bodily shape, especiaily those of delirious people and of angakut. The deceased must also be considered fully able to recompense the benefits bestowed upon them during their lifetime, being a kind of guardian spirits to their children and grandchildren, especially to those who are p. 45 named after them. But a slain man is said to have power to avenge himself upon the murderer by rushing into him, which can only be prevented by eating a piece of his liver. Danger is more or less connected with everything appertaining to, or having been in any contact with, dead bodies, or used at funerals, the invisible rulers in some cases being apt to take offence, or have smoke or fog of it—viz., causing bad weather and bad hunting on this account.
Persons in an extraordinary state were as follow:—
A kivtgtok (correct spelling, ĸivigtoĸ), or a man who fled mankind and led a solitary life alone with nature, generally in the interior of the country, obtained an enormous agility, and became nalussaerutok, learned to understand the speech of animals, and acquired information about the state of the world-pillars. The reasons which led men to become kivigtok, were being unjustly treated, or being merely scolded by kindred or housemates, who in this case were always in danger of vengeance from the hand of the fugitive.
An anghiak (correct spelling, ángiaĸ) was an abortion, or a child born under concealment, which became transformed into an evil spirit, purposely to revenge himself upon his relatives. Akin to the anghiak were those who, either when new-born or at a maturer age, were converted into monsters, devouring their former housemates.
An angherdlartugsiak (correct spelling, angerdlartugsiaĸ) was a man brought up in a peculiar manner, with a view to acquiring a certain faculty, by means of which he might be called to life again and returned to land in case he should ever be drowned while kayaking (also called anginiartoĸ), For this purpose the mother had to keep a strict fast, and the child to be accustomed to the smell of urine, and be taught never to hurt a dog. Lastly, when placing him in the kayak for exercise, the father mumbled a prayer, beseeching his deceased p. 46 parents or grandparents to take the child under their protection. On coming back to shore certain things might scare him, whereas the dogs protected and took care of him.
As to animals, if in the tales they are represented as speaking, or in the shape of men, this is not always to be understood as analogous to fable. Partly it is in the power of beasts to show themselves in a supernatural shape, partly they may appear as ghosts, or in some state akin to that. Probably they must also be considered as the inue of their own kind, having the power of avenging their destruction. The so-called umiarissat (plural of umiariaĸ) is a supernatural "umiak," or women's boat and its crew, who are, in some cases at least, represented to be seals transformed into rowers.
Among the purely supernatural or fabulous beings, the following must be particularly mentioned:—
The ingnersuit (plural of ingnerssuaĸ, properly, great fire) have their abodes beneath the surface of the earth, in the cliffs along the sea-shore, where the ordinarily invisible entrances to them are found. They have also been noticed entering through mounds of turf. Probably these abodes have some connection with the real under world itself. They are divided into two classes, the upper and the lower ingnersuit. The former, called mersugkat or kutdlit, are benevolent spirits, protecting the kayakers. They have the shape of men, but a white skin, small noses, and reddish eyes. Their mode of life is like that of the Greenlanders themselves, only their houses and furniture are finer and richer. They often accompany the kayaker, assisting and taking care of him, but invisible to himself, and only to be seen by others at some distance. The lower ingnersuit, called atdlit, have no noses at all; they persecute the kayakers, especially the most skilled whom they know, dragging them down to their home in the deep, where they keep them in painful captivity.
The kayarissat (plural of ĸajariaĸ) are kayakmen of an extraordinary size, who always seem to be met with at a distance from land beyond the usual hunting-grounds. They were skilled in different arts of sorcery, particularly in the way of raising storms and bringing bad weather. Like the umiarissat, they use one-bladed paddles, like those of the Indians. Pieces of bark from American canoes, which are sometimes brought ashore on the coast of Greenland, are named after both kinds.
The kungusutarissat (plural of ĸungusutariaĸ), or mermen, are considered as the proper inue of the sea. They are very fond of fox-flesh and fox-tails, which therefore are sacrificed to them in order to secure a good hunting. They are also declared enemies to petulant and disobedient children.
The inugpait are giants inhabiting a country beyond the sea, where all things have a size proportionate to them, and where also one-eyed people are found.
The tornit (plural of tuneĸ) are the most eminent among the inue of the interior. Their dwellings are partly situated in the tracts visited by men, but the entrance to them is hidden by vegetation and soil. They are twice the size of men, or even more, but lead the same kind of life. They also go hunting at sea, but only in foggy weather and without kayaks, sitting on the surface of the water. They are wise men, and know the thoughts of men before they are spoken.
The igaligdlit (plural of igalilik) are inlanders, who wander about with a pot on their shoulders, cooking their meat in it at the same time.
The isserkat (plural of isseraĸ) are inlanders also, called tukimut uisorersartut, those who twinkle or blink with their eyes longwise or in the direction of length.
The erkigdlit (plural of erĸileĸ) have the shape of man in the upper part of their body, but of dogs as to their lower limbs.
The inuarutligkat (plural of inuarutdligaĸ) are a kind p. 48 of dwarf, possessing a shooting-weapon, with which they are able to kill a creature by merely aiming or pointing at it.
Among the inlanders are also to be included the tarrayarsuit, or shadows, and the narrayout, or big-bellies. Several monsters reside at the bottom of lakes and inside certain rocks, and are named the inue of these places. Among these are to be ranked the amarsiniook and the kuinasarinook, referred to in the tales.
The amarok, which in other Eskimo countries signifies a wolf, in Greenland represents a fabulous animal of enormous size, also repeatedly referred to in the tales.
The kilivfak, also called kukoriaĸ, kukivfâgâĸ, ataliĸ, is an animal with six or even ten feet.
The kugdlughiak (correct spelling, ĸugdlugiaĸ) is a worm, sometimes of enormous size, with a number of feet, and extraordinary speed.
Other similar monsters mentioned in the tales are: The kukigsook, agshik, avarkiarsuk; the monster-foxes, hares, and birds, and the ice-covered bears.
The upper world is also inhabited by several rulers besides the souls of the deceased. Among these are the owners or inhabitants of celestial bodies, who, having once been men, were removed in their lifetime from the earth, but are still attached to it in different ways, and pay occasional visits to it. They have also been represented as the celestial bodies themselves, and not their inue only, the tales mentioning them in both ways. The owner of the moon originally was a man, called Aningaut, and the inua of the sun was his sister, a woman beautiful in front, but like a skeleton at her back. The moon is principally referred to in the tales.
The erdlaveersissok—viz., the entrail-seizer—is a woman residing on the way to the moon, who takes out the entrails of every person whom she can tempt to laughter.
The siagtut, or the three stars in Orion's belt, were p. 49 men who were lost in going out to hunt on the ice. These are mentioned in the tales in the same way as the igdlokoks, who have the shape of a man cleft in two lengthwise.
Among the rulers who are named only according to special domains, and whose number appears almost unlimited, are the inua of the air, the inua of appetite or eating, and the inerterrissok or the prohibitor—viz., he who lays down the rules for abstinence.
The practice of witchcraft has already been explained in the preceding pages as representing the principal source from which all the evils to which mankind is subject have their origin—viz., death, and what will more or less immediately lead to death, as sickness and famine. Generally, it is called kusuinek, and its performance may be limited to a single act; but those who have practised it to a certain degree are called iliseetsut (plural of ilisîtsoĸ), witches or wizards. It appears to have been also practised by supernatural beings as well as by mankind. Witches, however, in part acquired the powers of these—their souls being able to leave the body, and to approach those whom they intended to injure without being visible to any but the nalussaerutut or clairvoyants, to whom the witches themselves appeared as breathing fire, and with their hands and the lower parts of their arm blackened.
In practising witchcraft some magic words were spoken, but it remains uncertain if words were thought necessary in every case, or if words alone sufficed; and lastly, whether witches were able to work their wicked ends by merely touching. Generally, different materials were considered necessary for the performance of witchcraft, such as (1) parts of human bodies, or objects that had been in some way connected with dead bodies, as if some remnant of that power which had caused death p. 50 still attached to them. (2) Worms and insects, perhaps on account of their apparent annual coming out of the soil, the common grave of all that lives and breathes, or possibly on account of their mysterious nature and destination; spiders were used for creating sickness; and insects swallowed in drinking water could be made to eat the entrails, kill the man, and reappear from out his body enlarged in size. (3) Parts of the animals caught by the person to whom mischief was intended. In most cases this was done by cutting a small round piece out of the skin. This, when put down into graves, caused the total failure of the owner's hunt from that time. From this kind of witchcraft the name of kusuinek is derived, signifying, taking away from, or diminishing something. In all cases witchcraft was an art handed down by tradition, but taught as well as practised in perfect secrecy.
3. OF THE MANNER IN WHICH MAN BY SUPERNATURAL ASSISTANCE CAN AVERT EVIL AND OBTAIN BENEFIT.
Certain agents or means are given to mankind by which they are enabled to avert impending misfortune and obtain prosperity, in a manner deviating from the ordinary laws of nature. These means are gained by aid of a knowledge the highest stage of which is called angakoonek. But an angakok being not only able himself directly to procure specially desired advantages, but also acting as the leading authority in all matters of religion, the angakoonek will be separately treated of hereafter. The fair and righteous means to which mankind in general may have recourse are thus to be considered as having their source in tornarsuk, with the angakut as mediators. Their general aim may be said to be the counteracting and defeating of witchcraft, at the same time serving to appease and influence the inue of nature, partly for the purpose of averting the danger p. 51 arising from these powers, especially that of being frightened to death, partly in order to obtain what may be desired. Moreover, they may be divided into two classes: first, the general religious means to be used by people in general for certain purposes or in certain cases; secondly, some peculiar faculties, which are possessed only by certain individuals.
(1.) The General Religious Means.
The general religious means may again be divided into three separate classes, the first consisting of words to be spoken—viz., prayer and invocation; the second, in the possession and application of certain material objects called amulets; and the third, of certain actions, such as the following out certain rules as to the mode of life, sacrifices, and different other observances for appeasing the ruling powers and defeating witchcraft.
In the prayer or serranek, as far as we know, only the desired object is pronounced, without any direct mention being made of the fulfiller; whereas the invocation (ĸernaineĸ) is merely an appeal for aid to some special owner of power (ĸernarpâ, he invokes him). It is not known whether in any of these cases words of the pronouncer's own choice could be employed. The general custom, at all events, was to use distinct spells with peculiar tunes belonging to them. Such a prayer was called serrat (in the tales translated by spell, magic lay, or song), and might have reference to health, hunting, assistance against enemies or dangers—in short, whatever purpose might be desired within the limits of what was deemed right and proper. A serrat was supposed to have a power by itself, independent of the person who happened to know or make use of it. It was therefore considered an object of possession and barter; but it had also a deeper significance, in so far as a man in using it applied to a certain power, or had his thoughts fixed upon the fulfiller or the original giver of the spell, these persons p. 52 being generally identical—viz., the nearest deceased kindred of the user. The serrats were in some cases expressly directed to the invoker's ancestors, and are also known to have been the hereditary property of the same family. In the same way, invocations were generally addressed to the souls of the grandparents, and were principally employed as a preventive against being frightened to death. A serrat had to be originally acquired by a revelation to some individual who possessed a certain degree of angakok-wisdom, and in most cases they probably dated from very remote ages. The serranek was chiefly practised by old men, who, while performing it, partly uncovered the head.
The amulets, or arnuat (plural of arnuaĸ), were small articles which either permanently belonged to the individual, and in this case were always carried about his person or worn on the body or inserted in his weapons, or were sometimes only acquired for certain special occurrences. The efficacy of an amulet depends firstly on the nature of the original thing or matter from whence it has been derived. To serve this purpose, certain animals or things which had belonged to or been in contact with certain persons or supernatural beings were chiefly chosen; and sometimes, but more rarely, also objects which merely by their appearance recalled the effect expected from the amulet, such as figures of various objects. Undoubtedly the original inua of the objects was believed to be still acting by means of them. Those in most esteem were objects pretended to have belonged to the ingnersuit and the inuarutligkat. Very precious amulets were got from the avingak, which in Labrador signifies a kind of weasel, but in Greenland a fabulous animal, and the application of which in a tale from both countries exhibits a most striking similarity. It is also said to serve the western Eskimo for amulets. Probably the choice and appreciation of things most useful and appropriate for amulets was p. 53 akin to their faith in different medicines, both kinds of knowledge being principally professed by old women, and was perhaps, like witchcraft, a remnant of the older religion which was tolerated by the angakut. Although the articles thus used had a power of their own because of their origin, they still required the application of a serrat, which was pronounced by him who gave the amulet to its final proprietor. If it was only to be used in particular cases, a special serrat was also required in order to make it work; and in some cases, when the owner happened not to have the amulet at hand, he might have recourse to invocation. Among the amulets probably we should also include what was called pôĸ, or bag, signifying the skin of some animal, enabling a man to acquire its shape. Amulets were ordinarily acquired from the parents during early childhood.
It remains somewhat doubtful how to class the art of making artificial animals, which were sent out for the purpose of destroying enemies. In the tales we meet with bears and reindeers of this description; but most common is the belief in the tupilak, composed of various parts of different animals, and enabled to act in the shape of any of those animals which was wished. The tupilak differed from the amulet in being the work of its own user, and being secretly fashioned by himself. It therefore might seem to belong to witchcraft; but according to the opinion of the present Greenlanders, it is considered as having been a just and proper remedy, made by help of a serrat. It must always be remembered that its secret origin and traditional teaching, and not the immediate intention of it in every single case, constituted the evil of witchcraft. The serrat and arnuak might be used with a good intention, though at the same time pernicious to their immediate objects—viz., the enemies. On the other hand, they could certainly also be used with evil designs: and moreover, even angakoks were known to have practised witchcraft; p. 54 but all such cases were condemned by public opinion as evil abnormities and abuses.
The rules concerning their mode of life were principally concerned with fasting and abstinence, but also included certain regulations as to clothing, out-of-door life, and daily occupations in general. They partly referred to the ordinary routine of daily life, particularly that of the wife, the child, and the mourners after death; partly to special or accidental occurrences, such as sickness. The powers worshipped through these observances appear to have been, besides the inerterrissok, the inue of the air, the moon, and other domains, supposed to influence the weather and the chase, and also the souls of the deceased. The lying-in woman was not allowed to work, nor to eat any flesh excepting from the produce of her husband's chase, and of which the entrails had not been wounded; but fish was allowed. Two weeks subsequent to her delivery she might eat flesh, but the bones of it were not to be carried outside the house. In the first child-birth they were not allowed to partake of the head or the liver. They were permitted neither to eat nor drink in the open air. They had their separate water-tubs; and if any one else should happen to drink out of these, what remained was thrown outside. The husbands likewise were not permitted to work or do any barter for some weeks. They also used to pull off one boot and put it beneath the dish they were eating, in order to make the son grow up a good hunter. During the first few days of the child's life no fire must be lighted at their stall, and nothing be cooked over their lamp. Bartering was likewise not customary where there was a person sick. Immediately after birth, a name was given to the child; and it was always a matter of great importance to have it called by the name of some deceased relation, one of the grandparents being generally preferred. But, on the other hand, names belonging to persons recently dead must not be pronounced, p. 55 for which reason a second name was generally given for daily use, and even this, for the same reason, was apt to be afterwards changed. The navel-string of the child must not be cut with a knife, but with a mussel-shell, if not bitten off, and was often used as an amulet. A urine-tub was held above the head of a woman in labour, in order to ward off all manner of evil influences. When the child was a year old, the mother licked it all over its body, in order to make it healthy. If any one happened to die in a house, everything belonging to the deceased was brought outside to avoid infecting the living. All the housemates likewise had to bring out their belongings, and take them in at night after they had been well aired. The persons who had assisted in carrying the corpse to the grave, for a time were considered to be infected, and had to abstain from taking part in certain occupations. All the kindred and housemates of the deceased for some time had also to abstain from certain kinds of food and occupation. During the time of mourning, the women had to abstain from washing themselves, and were not allowed in any way to make themselves smart or even dress their hair; and when going out they wore a peculiar dress. The bodies of those who died in a house were carried out through the window, or if in a tent, underneath the back part. According to an account from Labrador, a small child must not eat the entrails nor blubber kept in stomach-bladders, nor the flesh on the inner side of the ribs, nor the upper part of the shoulder-blade. At the birth of a child, some of the heart, lung, liver, intestine, and stomach was provided; and the child having been licked all over, the mother ate a dish of the mixture as a means of procuring health and long life to the baby.
To the customs just enumerated may be added various regulations regarding the chase, especially that of the whale—this animal being easily scared away by various kinds of impurity or disorder. As to all kinds p. 56 of hunting, the belief was general that liberality in disposing of what had been taken secured future success. If a person who used to have ill-luck visited a successful hunter when an angakok was present, the latter used to cut a piece out of the liver of a seal caught by the lucky hunter and give it to the unlucky one, who chewed and swallowed it slowly.
Sacrifices (mingulerterrineĸ or aitsuineĸ) were not much used. Besides the fox-flesh to the kungusotarissat, gifts were offered to the inue of certain rocks, capes, and ice-firths, principally when travelling and passing those places. Certain marks of homage were, moreover, observed towards the inue of various localities, such as abstaining from laughing, from pointing at them, &c.
The expelling, capturing, and destroying of evil and dangerous spirits was ordinarily incumbent upon the angakut. The traditions, however, mention similar operations as practised also by other people; and even in our own day, there are cases of this among the Christian inhabitants, such as shooting at tupilaks and umiarissat. Several fetid and stinking matters, such as old urine, are excellent means for keeping away all kinds of evil-intentioned spirits and ghosts.
(2.) Men gifted with Special Endowments.
The persons now to be spoken of belong to the class. we have already referred to as imáinaĸ ingitsut, or not of common kind—not like other people. They may be regarded as much the same as canny folk of the Scottish peasant, wise men or clairvoyants.
Tarneerunek, the act of taking the soul out of the body, may be achieved either by external means, or by dreams or several states of the soul. When delivered in this way, especially by the power of the moon or by dreams, the soul is enabled to roam all over the universe, and return with news from thence.
Pivdlingayak means a fool or "natural;" and pivdlerortok, p. 57 a mad or delirious person. By degrees as madness increases, disturbing the operation of the senses, and clouding the judgment and insight into things present, the absent or concealed things, and the events of the future, unfold themselves to the inner sight of the soul. A pivdlerortok was even gifted with a faculty of walking upon the water, besides the highest perfection in divining, but was at the same time greatly feared; whereas the pivdlingayak, being also clairvoyant, was esteemed a useful companion to the inhabitants of a hamlet.
Piarkusiak was a child born after several others had died off at a tender age. It was considered specially proof against all kinds of death-bringing influences, especially witchcraft, and therefore employed in persecuting witches. A child like this was even more than ordinarily petted, and had all its wishes complied with.
Agdlerutig(h)issak—viz., having been the cause of agdlerneĸ, or of certain rules of abstinence observed by the mother—was a child fostered in a manner similar to the angherdlartugsiak, and also considered to have a peculiar faculty for resisting witchcraft.
Kiligtisiak was a man brought up by an angakok with the purpose of training him for a clairvoyant, which on the part of the angakok was performed by taking him on his knee during his conjurations.
Kilaumassok and nerfalassok were people who, having failed in becoming angakok, had nevertheless acquired a faculty for detecting hidden things and causes. In cases of sickness, the head of the invalid was made fast by a thong to the end of a stick, and on lifting it up (ĸilauneĸ), the nature of the sickness was discovered.
4. ANGAKOONEK OR PRIESTHOOD.
With regard to the name angákoĸ (plural, angákut), it cannot be traced back in the usual way to any positive root, but it appears to be closely akin to angivoĸ, he is great; angajoĸ, the older one; angajorĸat, the parents, p. 58 In a vocabulary of the language spoken by the inland Eskimo on the borders of the river Kuskokwim, or the tribe farthest from the Greenlanders, the "Shamans" are called tungalik and analchtuk, which words afford a striking instance of similarity, showing the unity of all the Eskimo tribes, the latter sounding somewhat akin to angakok, the first corresponding to the Greenlandish word tôrnaliĸ—viz., one who owns tornaks, a quality that constitutes the real definition of an angakok. Another tribe nearer to Behring Strait, denominated by the rather curious name of Tschnagmiut (probably a corruption of a word like the Greenlandish sinamiut, coast people), is also said to use the word tungalik for a "Shaman," and a third tribe in the same district to use the word angaigok for a "chief."
Women as well as men might become angakut; and this profession appears to have two, or even more, different stages. But the highest of these, described by the older authors as that of an angakok poolik, is not confirmed as being known by the present Greenlanders. The "studies" necessary before becoming an angakok were in most cases begun in infancy, an angakok educating the child as kiligtisiak. Afterwards, self-application was required, consisting in strict fasting and invoking tornarsuk while staying alone in solitary places. In this way the soul became partly independent of the body and of the external world; finally, tornarsuk appeared and provided the novice with a tornak—viz., a helping or guardian spirit, whom he might call to his aid by taking certain measures any time he chose. While this revelation was being made, the apprentice or pupil-angakok fell into a state of unconsciousness, and on regaining his senses, he was supposed to have returned to mankind. Some of the old people speak of angakussarfiks, or caves, containing a stone with an even surface and a smaller one, the angakok apprentice having to grind the first with the second until tornarsuk p. 59 announced himself in a voice arising from the depths of the earth. Others maintain that only the inferior angakut perfected themselves in these caves, while the higher grade was obtained by allowing vermin to suck the blood of the apprentice in a dried-up lake, until the unconsciousness just referred to came on.
On returning to men subsequent to this meeting with tornarsuk, before he became an acknowledged angakok, he had still to show his power by calling forth his tornak. During this interval, his state would sometimes be revealed by the fact of his feet sinking in the rocky ground just as in snow; and according to others, he was liable to die if he did not manifest himself within a certain time. The clairvoyants could detect the angakut from their breathing fire like the witches; they had not, however, black arms like these. If an incipient angakok failed ten times in succession to call forth his tornak, he had to give up his claims to become an angakok, but still remained a canny or peculiarly gifted individual.
An angakok had more than one tornak, and most of the inue of land and sea could be made such, and also the souls of kivigtut, of the dead, and of animals. As to the services rendered by these, some of them were only advising and informing spirits, others assistant ones in danger, and others, again, revenging and destructive powers. The first kind, called eĸungassoĸ, were indispensable on account of their skill, but were without strength, though they boasted of their bravery, and were therefore ridiculed. According to the early authors, an angakok was raised to a higher grade, becoming poolik, by being able to invoke or conjure a bear and a walrus. The bear at once seizing him, throws him into the sea; and the walrus, devouring them both, afterwards throws up his bones again on the beach, from which he comes to life again. The word poolik has already been mentioned.
The angakut were acknowledged or authorised teachers and judges on all questions concerning religious belief; p. 60 and this belief in many ways acting upon the customs and social life of the people, the angakut necessarily became a kind of civil magistrate: and lastly, they had not only to teach their fellow-men how to obtain supernatural help, but also to give such assistance directly themselves.
With regard to the mode of practising their art, it has to be remarked that they partly made use of the same medical appliances or remedies which are accessible to mankind in general, partly that they had recourse to a means peculiar to the angakut—viz., summoning their tornaks. The first kind of acts may more or less be ranked among those explained in the preceding section, only distinguished by being still more marvellous than those performed by ordinary people. Of course the art often degenerated into mere imposture, with a view to impress the credulous with awe. To the acts of this kind belonged the angmainek, or taking out the entrails of a sick person, and returning them to their place after having them cleaned, the repairing of a soul, or from a tub of water divining information as to persons lost or missing articles. The other kind of deeds were performed by means of what is termed tôrnineĸ, or conjuring, the angakok either merely summoning a tornak and asking counsel of him, or himself starting for an ilimarneĸ, or spirit-flight, for the purpose of examining or accomplishing what was required, or finally calling forth evil spirits, such as witches and anghiaks, in order to defeat and destroy them. The art of torninek ordinarily had to be performed before a company of auditors in a house, this being made completely dark, while the angakok was tied with the hands behind his back, and his head between the legs, and thus placed on the floor beside a drum and a suspended skin, the rattling of which was to accompany the playing of the drum. The auditors then began a song, which being finished, the angakok proceeded to invoke the tornak, accompanying p. 61 his voice by the skin and the drum. The arrival of the tornak was known by a peculiar sound and the appearance of a light or fire. If only information or counsel were required, the question was heard, as well as the answering voice from without, the latter generally being somewhat ambiguous, in some cases also said to proceed from tornarsuk himself. If, on the other hand, the angakok had to make a flight, he started through an opening which appeared of itself in the roof. Whether his flight was supposed to be a bodily one, or by his spirit alone, for the time severed from its mortal frame, is a question which, like many others connected with religious matters, has to be answered differently, according to the intelligence of the individuals applied to for information. Not until the torninek had been finished was the house allowed to be lighted as before, on which the angakok showed himself released from his bands. During the following days no work was allowed to go on in the house. Evil spirits could exceptionally be summoned at daylight and in the open air, in the same way as the angakok at any time could invoke his tornaks, in case he himself required their assistance.
Witchcraft, as well as certain other influences, such as the presence of a woman having an anghiak, could make the conjuration fail, and even become fatal to the conjuror as well as to his audience.
As regards their objects, the different branches of the craft consisted of the following:—
That of giving counsel in all cases connected with supernatural help.
That of discovering the cause of accidental disasters, including a certain judicial authority—viz., that of denouncing certain individuals as guilty either as regards witchcraft or any other violation of customs or rules.
Especially was their art exercised in discovering the whereabouts and the fate of persons who had disappeared, and in tracing out and defeating enemies in general, as p. 62 well as those who, like the anghiaks, could only be perceived and caught by the angakut.
Their other functions consisted in giving counsel and instructions as to the rules of abstinence and the mode of life, travels, hunting, and means of sustenance in general, as far as necessary on account of supernatural influence;
In procuring favourable weather (silagigsaineĸ);
In procuring success in hunting (angussorsaineĸ or pilersaineĸ), either by conciliating the arnarkuagsak or by invoking a tornak in the shape of an iceberg called kivingak.
An angakok called to a sick person of any renown, if he saw his state was hopeless, used to console him in a solemn manner, if possible in company with others, praising the happiness of the life to come in low-keyed song accompanied by drum-playing.
The angakut used a peculiar official language, chiefly made up of allegorical expressions and transformations of ordinary Greenlandish words.
The death of an angakok was believed to be generally attended by various strange phenomena. His soul, it appeared, had more than ordinary difficulty in disengaging itself from the body; and he might thus happen to lie in a half-dead state, reviving at intervals. Death having finally taken place, after five days had elapsed, he was apt to reappear in the shape of a ghost.
5. THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEF AS INFLUENCING LIFE, HABITS, AND CUSTOMS.
The nation being so widely spread, its traditions, and especially the religious element in them, formed the only connecting-link between the scattered tribes; just as the supporters of that belief, the angakut, in their persons afforded the means of connection between smaller communities. From this cause religion, more than could reasonably be the case with nations in higher stages of culture, became the standard by which p. 63 social and private life was alike regulated; and this circumstance also very likely accounts for the marked disinclination of the people to any change in their habits. It must be observed that, the angakut being the only authority who were acknowledged to derive their power from the supernatural world, naturally make the religious belief a governing principle in their actions. Their influence, of course, at the same time, rested upon their greater intelligence and talent. The unshaken faith with which the population regarded their marvellous deeds cannot be explained except by supposing them to have had a more profound knowledge of the laws of nature, enabling them to form a more accurate conception than others of what was likely to happen as regards weather, hunting, sickness, and everything depending upon physical laws; while as to their own belief, their skill in divination most probably was confounded in their own fancy with imagined revelations from superior beings. No doubt they themselves relied upon the reality of their supernatural performances, notwithstanding the necessity which, on the other hand, often caused them to act with the sole aim of more or less consciously deceiving others as well as themselves.
The rules and customs concerning property, position, and what represented the administration of justice, evidently bore a close relation to their religious belief. The customs according to which an individual became member of a family, partaking of its reputation as well as its means of subsistence, were supported and confirmed by the belief that the souls of ancestors remained guardian spirits to their descendants, having left them their amulets and serrats as a kind of pledges. The same ideas must be regarded as having formed the principal foundation for the avenging of blood.
The social institutions in connection with the local conditions leaving still ample room for arbitrary acts of violence, the fear of vengeance by ghosts, kivigtoks, p. 64 anghiaks, serrats, amulets, and tupilaks, must have powerfully contributed to prevent weak and helpless persons being wronged.
By the custom of naming a child after a deceased person, it was intended to secure rest in his grave for the latter. The child, when grown up, was bound to brave the influences which had caused his death. If, for instance, the deceased had perished at sea, his successor had only so much greater an inducement for striving to grow a skilful kayaker.
The education of children was apparently managed without any corporal punishment; but threatening them with the vengeance of malevolent spirits, principally the kungusotarissat, was one of the means employed to keep unruly urchins in check.
The various rules for abstinence in many instances certainly had a direct relation to health.
As to the funeral rites, the treatment of the body being considered in some way to influence the state of the soul after death, it was generally placed on the floor, for the purpose of guiding the soul on its road to the under world; but in the case of malefactors, the body was dismembered, and the separate limbs were thrown apart. Otherwise the funeral rites differed extremely, the Asiatic Eskimo, it is said, burning their dead, the East Greenlanders throwing them into the sea; whereas the rest and greater part of the nation buried them beneath a heap of stones, or in a kind of stone cell.