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INUIT SPIRITUALITY AND ART

 

Twilight in the Far North doesn't go away- at least not during the winter. The moon shines and its reflection on the snow casts long shadows behind the winter dwellings. There
are no sounds..The wind has died, leaving the landscape in utter silence. Someone emerges from a shelter, and the silence is cracked by the sound of loud,crunching footsteps....INUIT.......

Inuit were intimately bound to the natural environment and in tradional religion this same emphasis was apparent. Religion took the form of nature worship. The unpredictable forces of nature were thought to be controlled by powerful spirits. It was necesssary to appease these spirits when they had been angered.This responsibility to protect people from Spirits fell to the shamans-the Inuit medicine men or women.

The shaman was the intermediary between the human world and the spirit one. When the seagoddess ,Sedna, showed her anger by causing storms over the ocean or by denying the Inuit the seamammals,it was the shaman's duty to divine what had made her angry and what would appease her.This involved performing certain rituals and observing certain taboos. It was hoped that once the sea goddess was happy, the animals would become available to hunters.

It was believed that the shamans possessed magical powers, such as the ability to fly,turn themselves into animals or read people's minds.Good shamans were said to have healing powers and be able to cure illnesses by expelling evil spirits from the body. Evil shamans, however,were capable of murderous acts.

Another traditional Inuit religious belief was that human spirits lived on after people died.The spirit of a deceased person would eventually occupy a newborn who had received the spirit's mortal name. The child, it was believed,would acquire its namesake's soul and abilities.

ART:

Closely tied to the religion were the early art forms.Charms and masks were created as a vehicle \for communication with the spirits. Charms carved out of stone or bone were worn as good luck pieces. Masks were worn by shamans during ceremonies to frighten away bad spirits who were causing sickness or other misfortunes.

 

"Listen to the North Wind. It has come to take us away.
The name, Inuvialuit,will only be heard in the wind.
The lands will still be there,
the moon will still shine,
the Northern lights will still be bright
and the Midnight Sun will still be seen.
but we will be gone forever..."

 

Anthony Aparkark  Thasher
( Foreword from Skid Row Eskimo)


Photo by Terry Elliot ( copyright '98)
Info compiled by Joni Stelter from numerous sources on the net...

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