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Myth / Inuit Mythology

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Inuit shaman communicating with deities and spirits.

Inuit mythology is the shared spiritual beliefs and practices of the Inuit, which are the indigenous people from Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Their religion shares many similarities with religions of other North Polar people. Traditional Inuit religious practices include animism and shamanism, in which spiritual healers mediate with spirits. See also Native American Mythology for the mythologies of other North American indigenous people.



  • Bears Are Bad News: The Inuit and other Arctic peoples had mixed opinions about polar bears. On one hand, they are the biggest living terrestrial carnivore, so they were obviously feared. On the other, their mythologies usually held the polar bear with a lot of respect, as a sacred shamanic symbol. Inuit people worshipped Nanook the god of hunting, whose totemic animal was the polar bear, and who decided whether or not the hunt would be successful.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Many Inuit gods and spirits were once humans. Malina became sun goddess when she escaped to the sky from her brother Igaluk, who tried to rape her. He continued his chase and turned into the moon spirit. The goddess of the sea, Sedna, was a mortal who changed when her father tried to sacrifice her to calm down a storm. As she clung to the boat he cut off all of her fingers, creating seal from the severed parts.
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  • Fingore: Sedna, the sea goddess. There are many versions of the story of how she came to rule over the sea, but all the versions involve her father throwing her into the ocean from a kayak, then cutting off her fingers to prevent her from climbing back in. After drowning, she ascended to a higher plane of existence, and the fingers she lost turned into the creatures of the sea. Most of these creatures remember that a man killed their mother, and thus avoid humans out of fear. But one — the polar bear — seeks revenge instead, so wise Inuit know that Bears Are Bad News. The polar bear fittingly came from Sedna's middle finger, so when you see one, it's the goddess Flipping the Bird (or maybe flipping the bear?).
  • An Ice Person: This is a given considering where the Inuits live. In particular, the god Nootaikok that presides over icebergs and glaciers.
  • Lord of the Ocean: Sedna is described as being the ruler of the underworld. Legends say that all marine mammals were born from her fingers when they were severed by her father, thus giving her command over the whales, seals, and walruses so important to Inuit survival.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Akhlut, a malevolent spirit that often takes the form of a wolf/killer whale hybrid. Myths of it vary widely, but most people agree on the one fact that Akhlut preys upon human beings.
  • Psychopomp: The goddess Pinga that brought souls of the newly dead to Adlivun, the underworld. She was also the goddess of other things like the hunt, fertility and medicine.
  • Savage Wolves: The Amarok/Amaroq is a giant wolf who hunts in solitude and prefers to not be antagonized by anyone. Sometimes an Amarok plays the role of a Noble Wolf instead but is usually treated as a villain. There is one story in which it being both a mentor to a young boy who wanted to become strong as well as a vicious predator of anyone foolish enough to hunt alone at night.
  • Shapeshifting Lover: There is a legend about a petrel who is in love with a beautiful maiden, and transforms himself into a man so that he may marry her; however, his eyes are still those of a petrel and so he wears snow goggles to hide them. When the maiden takes them off one day, she sees his bird eyes and the spell is broken.
  • Solar and Lunar: Sibling deities Igaluk the moon god and Malina the sun goddess.


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