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Shamanic Voices – Eskimo


pp. 65-70 – 3.1 (REPORT OF THE FIFTH THULE EXPEDITION, 1921-1924, Vol. 7[, pt. 2] = Knud Rasmussen : Intellectual Culture of the Hudson Bay Eskimos. transl. by W. E. Calvert. Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1930. pp. 52-5) [Caribou Eskimo]

p. 67 [during month’s (new-moon-to-new-moon) winter-isolation of novice in a snow hut :] "to think of one single thing all the time I was to be there, to want only one single thing, and that was to draw Pinga’s attention to the fact that there I sat and wished to be a shaman, pin.a:p qaijumaniArmana : Pinga should own me. ... Only towards the end of the thirty days did a helping spirit come to me, a lovely and beautiful helping spirit ...; it was a white woman; she came to me whilst I ... was sleeping. {dream of "false awakening"?} But still I saw her lifelike, hovering over me, and from that day I could not ... dream without seeing her. There is this remarkable thing about my helping spirit, that I have never seen her while awake, but only in dreams. She came to me from Pinga and was a sign that Pinga had now noticed me and would give me powers that would make me a shaman. ...
p. 68 For a while year ... my wife ... had to make my food. For a whole year I had to have my own little cooking pot and my own meat dish; no one else was allowed to eat of what had been cooked for me. ...
p. 69 On my travels I have sometimes been present at a seance among the saltwater-dwellers, for instance among the coast people at Utkuhigjalik (Back River, or Great Fish River). These angatkut ... jumped about the floor and lisped ... in their so-called spirit language".


pp. 107-110 – 4.4 (Knud Rasmussen : The People of the Polar North : a Record. comp & ed. by G. Herring. Philadelphia : Lippincott, 1908. pp. 305-9) [Greenland Eskimo]

p. 108 "One day, up among the rocks, I heard someone begin to sing; I looked, but could see no one. ... The next morning, ... I heard the same thing again; it was someone beginning to sing. ... Just then I saw two men coming toward me. They were inland-dwellers. ... they became me first helping-spirits. ... They year afterwards ... an old and much venerated magician ... went ashore up ... to a cave, and the old man took off his clothes and crept inside. ... I saw a great bear come swimming along, crawl ashore, and approach the magician. It flung itself upon him, crunched him up, limb for limb, and ate him. Then it vomited him out again and swam away. ... On the way back he told me that every time he allowed himself to be devoured alive by the bear he acquired greater power of his helping-spirits. Some time afterwards, he took me on a journey again, and this time it was so that I myself might be eaten by the bear ... . ...
p. 109 We rowed off and come to the cave; the old man told me to take my clothes off ... . I had not been lying there long before I heard the bear coming. It attacked me and crunched me up, limb by limb, joint by joint, but strangely enough it did not hurt at all ... . From that day forth I ... ruled my helping-spirits. After that I acquired many fresh helping-spirits and no danger could any longer threaten me, as I was always protected. ... Once I had been ... far out at sea in my kayak ... among the strange kayaks; they belonged to the fire people, who live in a country which is said to lie between the sea and the land. The fire people began to flee, and ... I saw that they were pursued by a kayak of remarkable appearance. The prow of it was like a great mouth, which kept opening and shutting all the time; ... the umiaq and the kayaks ... were gone at once. This is the peculiarity of the fire people; they can appear suddenly, but they can disappear again just as suddenly. Then afterward the man with the dragon in his prow came back to me and told me that he ... had helped me because he knew that I was a great magician. After that he became my helping-spirit."


pp. 110-113 – 4.5 (Gustav Holm : "Legends and Tales from Angmagsalik". In :- MEDDELSEROM GREENLAND SERIES, Bind XXXIX & XL = The Ammasalik Eskimo. ed. by William Thalbitzer, transl. by Johan Petersen. pp. 298-300) [Anmagsalik Eskimo]

p. 110 "spirit-helpers (tartoks)" : "Tarajuatsiaktes can ... recover the lost soul of the one who is ill. Inersuaks ... assist the angakoq in getting marine animals close to the shore. Timerseks steal souls. Amortortoks, who act as oracles during shamanic performances, has long black arms; ... Ungatortoks ... walk with a heavy tread and cry like a baby." {cf. Vamana, whose tread sank into the earth, but who was small as a baby}
p. 111 "I then went out to Norsit to a certain cleft in the mountain which faces the sun-rise, laid a large stone over the cleft, and another on top of it. ... I now heard a voice from the depths of the cleft calling to me ... . ... The next day I went out again to the cleft, and ... Once more I heard the voice from the depths of the cleft; ... and I was seized with the most horrible pains. The following day all went in the same manner as before, but ... a "sea-monster armed with claws like shears," ["crab" (fn.)] {cf. "arthropod" (crab?) from river, who exterminated a tribe of ogres (NkMT, p. 130)} came up and looked towards the sun-rise . It was much larger than those which are to be found in the sea. ... This was my first spirit (tartok). ...
p. 112 ... when it was spring again, I went back to the same spot ... . There came a little man up from the ground; he looked towards the sun-rise. He was half as long {tall} as a man, was clad in a white frock, and had black arms {amortortok?}. His hair was curly, and in his hand he carried a wooden implement, with which he caught salmon. ... He was my second spirit. The following year I repaired to a place where a brook was flowing from a little lake. A little man with a pointed head, which was quite bald, came up from the stream. He cried like a little child {unatortok} : "Unga! unga!" He was my third spirit. Next year I went inland to Tasiusak. Here I cast a stone out into the water, which was thereby thrown into great commotion, like a storm at sea. As the billows ... opened, a huge bear was disclosed. ... when he then laid one of his paws upon the beach, the land gave way under his weight. He went up on land and circled around me, bit me in the loins, and then ate me. ... as long as my heart had not been eaten, I retained consciousness. But, when it bit me in the heart, I lost consciousness ... . When I came to myself again, the bear was away, and I ... stark naked ..., having walked a little, I heard someone running after me. It was my breeches and boots that came running, and, when they got past me, they fell on the ground, and I drew them on again. Again, I heard something running. It was my frock, and when it had got past me, it fell down, and that too I put on. Peering down the river, I saw two little folks, as big as a hand. One of them had an amaut on which there was a little child. {Titlacaoan "the sorcerer sits in the marketplace calling himself Tlacavepan. He makes a tiny boy dance in his hand ("they say it was Huitzilopochtli")" (Hu).} Both the bear and the three little folks became my spirits. Once when I was standing by the shore at Umivik, I saw three kaiakers coming in, dragging a narwhal. When they came in to
p. 113 shore, the kaiaks flew up in the air like three black guillemots, and the narwhal sank like an ovak (cod). At Pikiutdlek I got me two spirits, one of which was called Kuitek and shrieked : "Unga! Unga," like a new-born babe. The other was called Amortortok and shrieked : "Amo! Amo!" ... Amortortok is from the south, and speaks with the same tongue as the Kavdlunaks. At Tasiusak too I met a spirit with a pointed head and without hair. Once I have seen Tornarsuk. He was sitting bent over with his back towards me, holding his privy parts with both hands. I leapt up on his back, and then lost consciousness."
p. 113, fn. This shaman’s {ought to be a different shaman’s, judging from the difference in the spirits’ names} "chief spirit is Arrussak, and ataussak (?) living in the sea ... . His second spirit is Amok, who dwells in a crumbling stone, and his third spirit Ungortortok, who barks like a fox, dwells in a dried-out lake, and is as big as a hand".


NKMT = Brunhilde Biebuyck : Nkundo Mongo Tales. PhD diss, IN U, 1980.

Hu = quoting the Legend of the Suns

{In the first few of these episodes, the 2 stones on the cleft were used as rotary grinders; cf. the [Norse] mill of Amlo`di.}


pp. 113-120 – 4.6 (REPORT OF THE FIFTH THULE EXPEDITION, 1921-1924, Vol. 7, pt. 1 = Knud Rasmussen : Intellectual Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos. transl. by William Worster. Copenhagen : Gyldendal, 1930. pp. 116-20) [Iglulik Eskimo]

p. 118 Aua "was my guardian spirit, and took great care that I should not do anything that was forbidden. I was never allowed, for instance, to remain in a snow hut where young women were undressing for the night; nor might any woman comb her hair while I was present. ... I would sometimes fall to weeping, and feeling unhappy without knowing why. Then, for no reason, all would suddenly be changed, and I felt a great, inexplicable joy, a joy so powerful that I ... had to break into song, a mighty son, with only ... one word : joy, joy! And I had to use the full strength of my voice. {"manic-depressive"} And then in the midst of such a fit of mysterious and overwhelming delight I became a shaman ... . ... I could see and hear in a totally different way. I had gained my quamanEq, my enlightenment, the shaman-light of brain and body, and in this manner ... the same light also shone out from me, imperceptible to human beings, but visible to all the spirits of earth and sky and sea, and these now came to me and became my helping spirits. My first helping spirit was my namesake, a little aua. When
p. 119 it came to me, it was as if the passage and roof of the house were lifted up, and ... I could see right through the house, in through the earth and up into the sky; it was the little aua that brought me all this inward light, hovering over me as long as I was singing. Then it placed itself in the corner of the passage, invisible to others, but always ready if I should call it. An aua is a little spirit, a woman, that lives down by the sea shore. There are many of these shore spirits, who run about with a pointed skin hood on their heads; their breeches are queerly short, and made of bearskin; they wear long boots with a black pattern, and coats of sealskin. Their feet are twisted upward, and they seem to walk only on their heels. They hold their hands in such a fashion that the thumb is always bent in over the palm; their arms are held raised up on high with the hands together, and incessantly stroking the head. They are ... cheerful when one calls them ...; they are no taller than the length of a man’s arm. My second helping spirit was a shark. {cf. shark as [Hawai>ian] >aumakua (Sh-G; HM, pp. 121sq); and as Maya deity (MCO, pp. 180-182)} One day when I was out in my kayak, it came swimming up to me, lay alongside quite silently and whispered my name. ... These two, the shore spirit and the shark, were my principal helpers, and they could aid me in everything I wished."
p. 120 [When I was in mourning,] "my helping spirits forsook me, for they do not like live human beings to dwell on any sorrow. But one day the song about joy came to me all of itself and ... my helping spirits returned me".


Sh-G =

HM = Martha Warren Beckwith : Hawaiian Mythology. 1940.

MCO = Pudence M. Rice : Maya Calendar Origins. U of TX Pr, 2007.


164-169 – 6.3 (loc. cit.) [Iglulik Eskimo]

p. 166 "Only the greatest of the angakoq are able to make the out-of-body journey to the Land of the Day, the afterlife realm that lies toward the east of the dawn. [ "the People of the Day, those who have been drowned or murdered, live there joyfully laughing, singing, and playing ball with a walrus skull. Those who have not been purified by a violent death go first to the Narrow Land" of purgatory (p. 166, fn.).] The Pavungnartuts. flying shamans who can voyage to this paradise of the dead, often make their celestial journeys".
[se’ance] "The men who have bound him take a glowing ember on the point of a knife and draw rings in the air above his head. ... The lamps in the hut are then extinguished, and all sit in a deep silence, their eyes closed. ... When a rushing sound is heard, all who are in attendance know that the shaman’s soul is leaving his body, and flying up to the Land of Day. His ecstatic flight is assisted by stars who were men in an earlier time. ... When the wizard returns, ... he recounts his adventures in paradise."
p. 167 "The great shamans of our country often visit the People of Day ...; we call them pavunnArtut (those who rise up into heaven). ... strange sounds are heard by the listening guests; they hear ... humming and whistling sounds ...; then there is a sort of rushing noise in the snow hut, and all know that an opening has been formed for the soul of the shaman, an opening like the blowhole of a seal {read : "whale"}, and through it the soul flies up to heaven {cf. exit of soul of yogin through top of head}, aided by all those stars which were once human beings. ... the air is filled with a rushing, whistling sound : ... That is the stars whistling for the soul of the shaman, and the guests in the house must then try to guess the human names of
p. 168 the stars, the names they bore while living down on earth; and when they succeed, they hear two short whistles ... and afterwards a faint, shrill sound that fades away into space. That is the stars’ answer, their thanks for being still remembered. ... It is said that there is great joy in the Land of Day when a shaman comes on a visit. They do not perceive him at first, being preoccupied with their games and laughter ... . But then there is heard the cry : ... "Visitors, visitors." And at once people come running out of the houses. But the houses have no passage ways, no entrances or exits, and therefore the souls come out from all parts, wherever they fancy, through the wall or through the roof. ... And they run toward the visitor, glad to greet him, glad to bid him welcome, for they believe it is the soul of a dead man, like themselves. But then when he says : ... "I am still of flesh and blood," they turn away disappointed. Up in the land of Day, the thong with which the shaman was bound falls away of itself, and now the dead ones, who are always in high spirits, begin playing ball with it. Every time they kick it, the thing flies into the air and seems to take the shape of all manner of things ... . They are fashioned by a mass of tiny loops, which form of themselves at a mere kick from one of the dead."


Joan Halifax (ed.) : Shamanic Voices. E. P. Dutton, NY, 1979.