Inuit

Inuit – Indigenous communities of the Arctic coasts of Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland (formerly known as Eskimos), well known for their hunter-fisher lifestyle and documented initially by such ethnographers as Martin Frobisher, G. F. Lyon, Franz Boas, Edmund James Peck, and Knud Rasmussen. These reporters tell us that the work of mediating between the animist worlds of humans and other-than-human persons is termed angakuniq (or derivations of this); Boas informs us that on Baffin Island, “the persons, who can see the souls of men and of animals and are able to visit Sedna [a Master of Animals] are called angakkut,” while according to Merete Demant Jakobsen, the Greenlandic angakkoq (“visionary and dreamer”) is a “master of spirits.” Consistently across Inuit cultures, shamans maintained harmony and made reparation for taboo breaking by acting as a broker between human and other-than-human people, having the ability to approach these beings in the correct way (without causing offense). The breaking of taboos might lead a spirit to steal the soul of the taboo breaker, so the shaman would undertake the journey to the spirit realm in order to restore the soul and therefore health of the patient. Famine might also result from offense caused to the spirits of hunted animals, and again the shaman would be called upon to restore the imbalance in relationships. Despite these benevolent actions, there are reports that some shamans used witchcraft in competing with other shamans and in order to kill enemies. Upon its arrival (from the 18th century in Labrador and spreading thereafter), Christianity had a massive impact on shamanistic practices, driving them underground in some places but with a creative fusion of the two evident elsewhere; today, there is a precarious relationship between them.

SOURCE:

Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007

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