The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Inuit mythology

Inuit mythology has many similarities to the religions of other polar regions.

Inuit mythology is unlike the common conception of what the term "mythology" refers to. Unlike Greek mythology, for example, people have believed in it, without interruption, up to and including the present time. While there are few believers left when compared to Christianity, for example, many Inuit do still hold to their ancestral religious beliefs; there are also neopagans who have integrated some or all of the Inuit beliefs into their own belief structures. Many Inuit have merged those beliefs to a greater or lesser degree with Christianity or other religions, and may hold varying degrees of literal belief in what is described below. This occurs in any set of religious beliefs--a section believes all the stories and ideas contained within are the literal truth (see fundamentalism) and the rest believe in the ideas to a lesser degree of literal truth.

Basic beliefs

  • All people, animals and plants have souls (anua). The anerneq was the part of a soul that went to the underworld, while the tarneq (taren-raq) was the physical embodiment of the soul.
  • Taboos exist in order to ensure monetary prosperity, health and that animals will be available to hunters. Ritual ceremonies performed before, during and after hunting trips help to accomplish this.
    • Each species of animal has a deity, called a "Keeper" or a "Master." An example is Sedna, who is in charge of sea mammals (such as whales and walruses, both staples of the Inuit culture). Sedna ensures that the Inuit follow taboos regarding her domain; if the taboos are not followed, she will withdraw her animals.
  • The Angakut is the Shaman of his tribe. He remembers the taboos and guides his people in the following of them. He interprets omens, causes of illness or lack of success in hunting or other ventures. Interpreting these signs indicates which taboo an individual, family or entire tribe has violated. Often, the shaman will enter a trance state using drum beating, chanting or other methods and thereby astrally travel to alternate realms of awareness to determine the causes of the negative event or circumstance.


List of deities and other terms

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13