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Angekkok


In some legends the first famine caused by Sedna brought about the emergence of the first angekkok (Inuit Shaman) who in his attempt to save humanity went to the Mother of all sea-creatures. He went through the ground making his way to the "abode of sustenance" and brought food back to feed humankind. Now, whenever famine threatens, angekkoks follow the same course.

The angekkok's path usually is treacherous being filled with many obstacles. The more skilled the angekkok is, the easier his path. At the goddess' gate he meets Cerberus, her dog-husband, who sometimes stands guard. Then further on Sedna's father attempts to grip the intruder. When finally reaching Sedna the angekkok sometimes uses violence, and sometimes gentleness. He may untangle and wash her hair which cleanses away men's sins. He also may comfort her with promises and pledges, and also is said to capture her with the aid of a hook and releases her on certain conditions. If this does not work the angekkok may repeat the process of cutting off her fingers in order to get her to release the animals which humanity needs.

In other versions the angekkok, or shaman, during times of famine enters a trance and his soul ventures under the sea until he finds a great whirlpool which draws him down into a beautiful tent furnished with skins of all of the sea animals. There, seated on a bench, was Sedna. The angekkok's soul sung as a hymn the requests of the people to her. He would dance and contort himself before her to gain her attention and amuse her so she would be inclined to feel favorably toward the people. Eventually the dark sea-goddess would relay a message to him for the people: either she threatened they would die unless they moved to another place or promised that food would become abundant from her inexhaustible stores. Afterwards the soul of the angekkok returned to his body, he came out of the trance and sang Sedna's message to his people. Then they would abide by her wishes. A.G.H.


Sources:

Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, p. 443
Burland, Cottie. North American Indian Mythology. "Library of the World's Myths and Legends." {Revised by Marion Wood) New York. Peter Bedrick Books. 1965. p. 18



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