Shamanism among Eskimo peoples

Shamanism among Eskimo peoples

Shamanism among Eskimo peoples refers to those aspects of the various Eskimo cultures that are related to the shamans’ role as a mediator between people and spirits, souls, and mythological beings. Such beliefs and practices were once widespread among Eskimo groups, but today are rarely practiced, and it was already in the decline among many groups even in the times when the first major ethnological research was done [Merkur 1985:132] . For example, at the end of 19th century, Sagdloq died, the last shaman among Polar Eskimos who was believed to be able to travel to the sky and under the sea, and many other shamanic capabilities such as ventriloquism and sleight-of-hand were lost then too .Merkur 1985:134]

The term "Eskimo" has fallen out of favour in Canada and Greenland, where it is considered pejorative and "Inuit" is used instead. However, "Eskimo" is still considered acceptable among Alaska Natives of Yupik and Inupiaq (Inuit) heritage, and is preferred over "Inuit" as a collective reference. To date, no replacement term for "Eskimo" inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people has achieved acceptance across the geographical area inhabited by the Inuit and Yupik peoples. The Inuit and Yupik languages constitute one branch within the Eskimo-Aleut language family and the Aleut language is another. (The Sireniki Eskimo language is sometimes seen as a third branchLinguist List's description about [ Nikolai Vakhtin] 's book: [ "The Old Sirinek Language: Texts, Lexicon, Grammatical Notes"] . The author's untransliterated (original) name is " [ Н.Б. Вахтин] ".] Representing genealogical relations of (among others) Eskimo-Aleut languages by tree: [ Alaska Native Languages] (found on the site of [ Alaska Native Language Center] )] [ Lawrence Kaplan: Comparative Yupik and Inuit] (found on the site of [ Alaska Native Language Center] )] [ [ Endangered Languages in Northeast Siberia: Siberian Yupik and other Languages of Chukotka] by Nikolai Vakhtin] , but sometimes as one of the Yupik languages [ Ethnologue Report for Eskimo-Aleut] ] .)

Connection to shamanism

The term "shamanism" has been used for various distinct cultures. Classically, some indigenous cultures of Siberia were described as having shamans, but the term is now commonly used for other cultures as well. In general, the shamanistic belief systems accept that certain people (shamans) can act as mediators with the spirit world,Hoppál 2005:45–50] contacting the various entities (spirits, souls, and mythological beings) that populate the universe in those systems.

The word "shaman" comes from a Tungusic language and its etymology is debated, [cite journal |last=Richard |first=Noll |authorlink=Richard Noll |coauthors=Kun Shi |title=Chuonnasuan (Meng Jin Fu). The Last Shaman of the Oroqen of Northeast China |journal=Journal of Korean Religions |year=2004 |issue=6 |pages=135–162 |url= |format=pdf It describes the life of Chuonnasuan, the last shaman of the Oroqen of Northeast China.] [Voigt 2000:41–45] one explanation analyzes it meaning "he/she who knows". [Hoppál 2005:15] Shamans use various means, including music, recitation of epic, dance, and ritual objects [Hoppál 2005:14] to interact with the spirit world - either for the benefit of the community or for doing harm. They may have spirits that assist them and may also travel to other worlds (or other aspects of this world). Most Eskimo groups had such a mediator function, and the person fulfilling the role was believed to be able to command helping spirits, ask mythological beings (e.g. Nuliayuk among the Netsilik Inuit and Takanaluk-arnaluk in Aua's narration) to "release" the souls of animals, enable the success of the hunt, or heal sick people by bringing back their "stolen" souls. "Shaman" is used in an Eskimo context in a number of English-language publications, both academicKleivan & Sonne 1985] Merkur 1985] [Freuchen 1961: 32] and popular,Vitebsky 2001] generally in reference to the angakkuq among the Inuit. The IPA|/aˈliɣnalʁi/ of the Siberian Yupiks is also translated as "shaman" in both Russian and English literature. [Рубцова 1954:203–19] Menovščikov 1968:442]

Shamanism among the Eskimo peoples exhibits some characteristic features not universal in shamanism, such as soul dualism (a dualistic or pluralistic concept of the soul) in certain groups, and specific links between the living, the souls of hunted animals and dead people.Oosten 1997: 86] Vitebsky 1996:14] The death of either a person or a game animal requires that certain activities, such as cutting and sewing, be avoided to prevent harming their souls. In Greenland, the transgression of this "death taboo" could turn the soul of the dead into a "tupilaq", a restless ghost which scared game away. Animals were thought to flee hunters who violated taboos. [Kleivan & Sonne 1985:12–13, 18–21, 23]

Shamanic intiation

Unlike many Siberian traditions, in which spirits "force" individuals to become shamans, most Eskimo shamans "choose" this path.Diószegi 1962] Even when someone receives a "calling", that individual may refuse it. The process of becoming an Eskimo shaman usually involves difficult learning and initiation rites, sometimes including a vision quest. Like the shamans of other cultures, some Eskimo shamans are believed to have special qualifications: they may have been an animal during a previous period, and thus be able to use their valuable experience for the benefit of the community.Barüske 1969: 19–23 (= tale 7: "Die Seele, die alle Tiere durchwanderte")] Vitebsky 1996, p. 106] [Rasmussen, Knud, ed. and coll. 1921 "The Soul that Lived in the Bodies of All Beasts", in "Eskimo Folk-Tales", ed. and trans. W. Worster, with illustrations by native Eskimo artists, 100. London: Gyldendal.]

The initiation process varies from culture to culture. It may include:

* a specific kind of vision quest, such as among the Chugach.
* various kinds of out-of-body experiences such seeing oneself as skeleton, exemplified in Aua's (Iglulik) narration and a Baker Lake artwork [Kleivan & Sonne 1985:38, plate XXIII] [Vitebsky 1996:18]

Special language

In several groups, shamans utilized a distinctly archaic version of the normal language interlaced with special metaphors and speech styles, [Freuchen 1961: 227, 228, 277] Merkur 1985:7] [Kleivan & Sonne 1985:14] Freuchen 1961:277] for example "the shadow is ripening" (the shaman is returning from his spiritual journey during a seance). [Freuchen 1961:228] Expert shamans could speak whole sentences differing from vernacular speech. Also the shamans among Asiatic Eskimos had a special language, using periphrastic substitutions for names of objects and phenomena; they used it for conversation with the IPA2|tuʁnɨʁaqs (spirits).Menovščikov 1968: 442] These spirits were believed to have a special language with certain substitutes for ordinary words (“the one with a drum”: shaman, “that with tusks”: walrus). [ Bogoraz 1913] : 437, 442, 444, 446, "448–449"] The Ungazigmit (belonging to Siberian Yupiks) had a special allegoric usage of some expressions. [Rubcova 1954:128]

Observing Sorqaq shaman's seance in a community at Thule, Peter Freuchen explains the motivation in that case: cquote|During their seances angakoks are not allowed to mention any objects or beings by their regular names, since it could bring disaster upon the ones mentioned. In this case, the special language was understood by the whole community, not restricted to the shaman or a few “experts”. [Freuchen 1961: 227]

In some groups such variants were used when speaking with spirits invoked by the shaman, and with unsocialised babies who grew into the human society through a special ritual performed by the mother. Some writers have treated both phenomena as a language for communication with "alien" beings (mothers sometimes used similar language in a socialization ritual, in which the newborn is regarded as a little "alien" - just like spirits or animal souls). [Kleivan & Sonne 1985:6, 14, 33] The motif of a distinction between spirit and "real" human is also present in a tale of Ungazigmit (subgroup of Siberian Yupik) [Рубцова 1954:175, sentences 34–38]


Techniques, séances varied among cultures.Kleivan & Sonne: 25] Sleight-of-hand, ventriloquism,Rasmussen 1965: 176] might be used to impress the audience. In some cultures the shaman was pinioned before the séance.Kleivan & Sonne: Pl XXX, XXXIII] The shaman might hide behind a curtain. Holding the séance in dark with extinguished lamps was not obligate everywhere, but familiar and widespread.

Some authors suggest that a shaman could be honest in his tricks, believing in the phenomena he himself mimicked, moreover, he could consciously cheat and honestly believe at the same time. Knud Rasmussen mentioned about Arnaqaoq, a young Netsilik living in King William Island, that he smeared himself with the blood of a sea or reindeer, telling people that he had a battle with spirits. Rasmussen conjectured that he could honestly believe in this spirit battle experience which he himself mimicked with smearing blood. The personal impression of Rasmussen about this man was that he honestly believed in the forces and spirits. As Rasmussen asked him to draw some pictures about his experiences, even his visions about spirits, Arnaqaoq was first unwilling to do so (having fear of the spirits). Later he accepted the task, and he spent hours to re-exprience his visions, sometimes so lucidly that he had to intercept drawing because he began to quiver in his whole body.Rasmussen 1965: 165–166]

Social position

The boundary between shaman and lay person was not always clearly demarcated. Non-shamans could also experience hallucinations, [Merkur 1985:41–42] [Gabus 1970:18,122] and almost every Eskimo can report memories of ghosts, animals in human form, or little people living in remote places. [Merkur 1985:41] Experiences such as hearing voices from ice or stones were discussed as readily as everyday hunting adventures. [Gabus 1970:203] Neither were ecstatic experiences the monopoly of shamans (reverie, daydreaming, even trance were not unknown by non-shamansMerkur 1985c] ), and laic people (non-shamans) experiencing such were welcome as well to report their experiences and interpretations. [Freuchen 1961: 210–211] The ability to have and command helping spirits was characteristic of shamans, but laic people could also profit from spirit powers through the use of amulets. In one extreme instance a Netsilingmiut child had eighty amulets for protection.Kleivan & Sonne:43] Rasmussen 1965:262] Some laic people had a greater capacity than others for close relationships with special beings of the belief system; these people were often apprentice shamans who failed to complete their learning process.Kleivan & Sonne 1985:24]

Soul concepts

In generally, some of the various cultures termed "shamanistic" can be understood better if we understand also the soul conceptMerkur 1985: 4] [Vitebsky 1996: 11, 12–14, 107] Hoppál 2005:27, 30, 36] and the beliefs about spirits [Hoppál 2007: 18] in the researched culture.

This applies also for some Eskimo groups. [Freuchen 1961:206] It must be noted that Eskimo cultures are not alike, neither are their soul concepts.


In some of them, shamans may fulfill multiple functions, including healing, curing infertile women, and securing the success of hunts. These seemingly unrelated functions can be grasped better by understanding the soul concept which, with some variation, underlies them.

;Healing:It is held that the cause of sickness is "soul theft", in which someone (perhaps an enemy shaman or a spirit) has stolen the soul of the sick person. It takes a shaman to retrieve the stolen soul. [Rasmussen 1965:177] The person remains alive because people have multiple souls, so stealing the appropriate soul causes illness or a moribund state rather than immediate death. According to another variant among Ammassalik Eskimos in East Greenland, the joints of the body have their own small souls, the loss of which causes pain.Gabus 1970:274]

;Fertility:The shaman provides assistance to the soul of an unborn child to allow its future mother to become pregnant.Merkur 1985:4]

;Success of hunts:When game is scarce the shaman can visit (in a soul travel) a mythological being who protects all sea creatures (usually the Sea Woman), who keeps the souls of sea animals in her house or in a pot. If the shaman pleases her, she releases the animal souls thus ending the scarcity of game.

Soul dualism is held in several cultures (including Eskimo, Uralic, Turkic peoples). [Hoppál 2005: 27–28] Hoppál 1975: 225] There are traces of beliefs that human have more than one souls. Of course the details have variations according to the culture under discussion. In several cases, a "free" soul and a "body" soul are distinguished: the free soul may depart body (during life), the body soul manages body functions. In several Eskimo cultures, it is the shaman's "free soul" that undertakes these spirit journeys (to places such as the land of dead, the home of the Sea Woman, or the moon) whilst his body remains alive.Oosten 1997: 92] According to an explanation, this temporal absence of the shaman's free soul is tackled by a substitution: the shaman's body is guarded by one of his/her helping spirits during the spirit journey, also a tale contains this motif while describing a spirit journey undertaken by the shaman's free soul and his helping spirits. [Barüske 1969: 24 (= Tale 8: “Das Land der Toten im Himmel”)]

When a new shaman is first initiated, the initiator extracts the shaman's free soul and introduces it to the helping spirits so that they will listen when the new shaman invokes themMerkur 1985:121] ; or according to an another explanation (that of the Iglulik shaman Aua) the souls of the vital organs of the apprentice must move into the helping spirits: the new shaman should not feel fear of the sight of his new helping spirits.Rasmussen 1965:170]


Although beliefs about unity between human and animal did not reach the amount of absolute interchangeability, [Oosten 1997: 99] but several Eskimo peoples had sophisticated soul concepts (including variants of soul dualism) that created links among (living) human, game, dead ancestors. Besides such synchronical beliefs, there were also diachronical notions of unity between human and animal: imaginations about an ancient time when the animal could take on human form at will: it simply raised its forearm or wing to its face and lifted it aside at the muzzle or beak, like a mask.Oosten 1997: 90–91] [Barüske 1969: 7, 9] Rituals could preserve this ancient unity: the masked person represents the animal, and as he/she lifts the mask, the human existence of that animal appears. Masks among Eskimo peoples could serve several functions, there were also "transformaton mask"s reflecting the mentioned unity between human and animal. [ Thomas 2008] : +4 (= third page after the opening page of the article)]

In some Inuit groups, animals may be believed to have souls that are shared across their species.


In some groups, babies were named after deceased relatives. [Barüske 1969: 48 (= Tale 15: “Asiaq, die Herrscherin über Wind und Wetter”)] This might be supported by the belief that the child's developing, weak soul must be "supported" by a "name-soul": invoking the departed name-soul which will then accompany and guide the child until adolescence. This concept of inheriting name-souls amounts to a sort of reincarnation among some groups, such as the Caribou Eskimos.

In a tale of the Ungazigmit, an old woman expresses her desire to become ill, die and then "come" as a boy, a hunter. After specific preparations following her death, a newborn baby will be named after her.Рубцова 1954: 270–271 / 274–275 (= № 19 (132)–(162))] Similarly to several other Eskimo cultures, the name-giving of a newborn baby among Siberian Yupik meant that a deceased person was affected, a certain rebirth was believed. Even before the birth of the baby, careful investigations took place: dreams, events were analyzed. After the birth, the baby's physical traits were compared to those of the deceased person. The name was important: if the baby died, it was thought that he/she has not given the "right" name. In case of sickness, it was hoped that giving additional names could result in healing. [Burch & Forman 1988: 90]

Some kinds of magic requiring secrecy (or novelty), and the neutralizing effect of publicity

It was believed in several contexts that secrecy or privacy may be needed for an act or an object (either beneficial or harmful, intended or incidental) to be effective, and that publicity may neutralize its effects. [Kleivan & Sonne 1985:10-11, 15, 16, 23, 26, 28; Plate XLIII, XLV]
* Magic formulae usually required secrecy and could lose their power if they became known by other people than their owners. For example a Chugach man experienced a sea otter swimming around, singing a song, a magic formula. He knew it is a help in hunting, whose efficiency will be lost for him if anybody else learns it.Merkur 1985: 65]
* Deliberately harmful magical acts ("ilisiinneq") had to be done in secrecy.
* If the victim of another detrimental magical act ("tupilaq"-making) had enough magical power (for example through amulets) to notice the act and "rebound" it back to the perpetrator, the endangered person could escape retribution only by public confession of his planned (and failed) sorcery.
* a rite of passage celebrating the first major hunting success of a boy often contained a "partaking" element: the whole community cut the dead animal or took part in its consumption. The function of this rite was to establish a positive relationship between the young man and the game animal; because the killed animal could bring danger to the hunter, this ritual lessened the danger by sharing the responsibility.

Some of the shaman's functions can be understood in the light of this notion of secrecy versus publicity. The cause of illness was usually believed to be soul theft or a breach of some taboo (such as miscarriage). Public confession (lead by the shaman during a public seance) could bring relief to the patient. Similar public rituals were used in the cases of taboo breaches that endangered the whole community (bringing the wrath of mythical beings causing calamities). [Kleivan & Sonne 1985:28]

In some instances, the efficiency of magical formulae could depend on their novelty. A creation myth attributes such power to newly created words, that they became instantly true by their mere utterance. [Freuchen 1961: 230] Also in shamanic practice, too much use of the same formulae could result in losing their power.Freuchen 1961: 277] According to a record, a man was forced to use all his magic formulae in an extremely dangerous situation, and this resulted in losing all his conjurer capabilities. [Freuchen 1961: 215] As reported from the Little Diomede Island, new songs were needed regularly for the ceremonial held to please the soul of the whale, because "the spirits were to be summoned with fresh words, worn-out songs could never be used...". [Freuchen 1961: 280]

hamanism in various Eskimo groups


Among the Canadian Inuit, the shaman was known as an Angakkuqcite web|url= |title=angakkuq|work=Asuilaak Living Dictionary|accessdate=2007-04-24] (Inuktitut) or Angatkuqcite web|url= |title=angatkuq|work=Asuilaak Living Dictionary|accessdate=2007-04-24] (Inuvialuktun) (Inuktitut syllabics ᐊᖓᑦᑯᖅ).


According to Aua (an informant and friend of the anthropologist Rasmussen), one of the shaman's tasks among the Iglulik Inuit is to help the community in times when marine animals, which are kept by the Sea Woman (Takanaluk-arnaluk) in a pit in her house, are scarce. If taboo breaches that displease her lead to the failure of sea hunts, the shaman must visit her. Several barriers must be surmounted (such as a wall or a dog) and in some instances even the Sea Woman herself must be fought. If the shaman succeeds in appeasing her the animals will be released as normal.

The Iglulik variant of a myth explaining the Sea Woman’s origins involves a girl and her father. The girl did not want to marry. However, a bird managed to trick her into marriage and took her to an island. The girl's father managed to rescue his daughter, but the bird created a storm which threatened to sink their boat. Out of fear the father threw his daughter into the ocean, and cut her fingers as she tried to climb back into the boat. The cut joints became various sea mammals and the girl became a ruler of marine animals, living under the sea. Later on her remorseful father joined her.

This local variant differs from several others, like that of the Netsiliks, which is about an orphan girl mistreated by her community.

Aua also passed on information about the ability of an apprentice shaman to see themself as a skeleton,Merkur 1985:122] naming each part using the specific shaman language.

Inuit at Amitsoq Lake

For the Inuit at Amitsoq Lake (a rich fishing ground) sewing of many items was seasonally prohibited. Boot soles, for example could only be sewn far away from settlements in designated places. [Rasmussen 1965:244] Children at Amitsoq had a game called "tunangusartut" in which they imitated the adults behavior towards the spirits, including shamanizing, even reciting the same verbal formulae as shamans. This game was not considered offensive because a "spirit can understand the joke." [Rasmussen 1965:245]

Netsilik Inuit

The Netsilik Inuit (Netsilingmiut - People of the Seal) live in a region with an extremely long winter and stormy conditions in the spring, where starvation was a common danger.

The cosmos of many other Eskimo cultures include protective guardian powers, but for the Netsilik the general hardship of life resulted in the extensive use of such measures, and even dogs could have amulets. [Rasmussen 1965:268] Unlike the Igluliks, the Netsilik used a large number of amulets. In one recorded instance, a young boy had eighty amulets, so many that he could hardly play.Rasmussen 1965:262] In addition one man had seventeen names taken from his ancestors that were intended to protect him. [Kleivan & Sonne 1985:15]

Among the Netsilik, tattooing provided power that could affect which world a woman goes to after her death. [Rasmussen 1965:256,279]

The Sea Woman was known as Nuliayuk "the lubricous one". [Kleivan & Sonne 1985:27] If the people breached certain taboos, she would hold the marine animals in the tank of her lamp. When this happened the shaman had to visit her to beg for game. The Netsilik myth concerning her origin stated that she was an orphan girl who had been mistreated by her community. [Rasmussen 1965:278]

Another cosmic being known as "Moon Man" was thought to be friendly towards people and their souls as they arrive in celestial places.Kleivan & Sonne 1985:30] [Rasmussen 1965:279] This belief differs from that of the Greenland Eskimos, where the Moon’s anger was feared as a consequence of some taboo breaches.

Sila was a sophisticated concept among Eskimo cultures (where its manifestation varied). Often associated with weather, it was conceived of as a power contained in people. [Rasmussen 1965:106] Among the Netsilik, Sila was imagined as male. The Netsilik (and Copper Inuit) held that Sila originated as a giant baby whose parents were killed in combat between giants. [Kleivan & Sonne 1985:31]

Caribou Eskimos

"Caribou Eskimos" (Caribou Inuit) is a collective name for several groups of inland Eskimos (the Krenermiut, Aonarktormiut, Harvaktormiut, Padlermiut and Ahearmiut) living in an area bordered by the tree line and the west shore of Hudson Bay. They do not form a political unit and contacts between the groups are loose, but they share an inland lifestyle and exhibit some cultural unity. In the recent past, the Padlermiuts did have contact with the sea where they took part in seal hunts. [Gabus 1970:145]

The Caribou had a dualistic concept of the soul. The soul associated with respiration was called "umaffia" (place of life)Kleivan & Sonne 1985:18] and the personal soul of a child was called "tarneq" (corresponding to the "nappan" of the Copper Eskimos). The "tarneq" was considered so weak that it needed the guardianship of a name-soul of a dead relative. The presence of the ancestor in the body of the child was felt to contribute to a more gentle behavior, especially among boys. [Gabus 1970:111] This belief amounted to a form of reincarnation. [Gabus 1970:212]

Because of their inland lifestyle, the Caribou had no belief concerning a Sea Woman. Other cosmic beings, variously named Sila or Pinga, take her place, controlling caribou instead of marine animals. Some groups made a distinction between the two figures, while others considered them the same. Sacrificial offerings to them could promote luck in hunting. [Kleivan &Sonne 1985:31, 36]

Caribou shamans performed fortune-telling through "qilaneq", a technique of asking a "qila" (spirit). The shaman placed his glove on the ground, and raised his staff and belt over it. The qila then entered the glove and drew the staff to itself. Qilaneq was practiced among several other Eskimo groups, where it was used to receive "yes" or "no" answers to questions. [Rasmussen 1965:108, Kleivan & Sonne 1985:26] [Gabus 1970:227–228]

Copper Inuit

As mentioned, shamanhood among Eskimo peoples was a diverse phenomenon, just like the various Eskimo cultures themselves. Similar remarks apply for other beliefs: term "silap inua" / "sila", "hillap inua" / "hilla" (among Inuit), "ellam yua" / "ella" (among Yup'ik) was used with some diversity among the groups.Kleivan & Sonne 1986: 31] In many instances it refers “outer space”, “intellect”, “weather”, “sky”, “universe”:Mousalimas 1997: 23–26] Nuttall 1997: 75] Merkur 1985: 235–240] Gabus 1970: 230–234] there may be some correspondence with the presocratic concept of logos. [ Saladin d'Anglure 1990] ] In some other groups, this concept was more personified (IPA|/s l̥am juɣwa/ among Siberian Yupik).Menovščikov 1968: 447]

Among Copper Inuit, this “Wind Indweller” concept has some relatedness to their shamanhood: shamans were believed to obtain their power from this indweller, moreover, even their helping spirits were termed as "silap inue".Merkur 1985: 230]


Like the Netsiliks, the Yupik also practised tattooing. [ Tattoos of the early hunter-gatherers of the Arctic] written by [ Lars Krutak] ] Another feature of them that is observable among several other Eskimo groups: also they used a special shamanic language (for talking to spirits, called IPA2|tuʁnɨʁaqs). These spirits were believed to have a special language with certain substitutes for ordinary words (“the one with a drum”: shaman, “that with tusks”: walrus).


The Siberian Yupiks had shamans. [ Духовная культура (Spiritual culture)] , subsection of [ Support for Siberian Indigenous Peoples Rights (Поддержка прав коренных народов Сибири)] — see the section on [ Eskimos] ] Compared to the variants found among Eskimo groups of America, shamanism among Siberian Yupiks stressed more the importance of maintaining good relationship with sea animals.cite web |last=Vajda |first=Edward J |title=Siberian Yupik (Eskimo) |work=East Asian Studies |url=] The Ungazigmit people, speaking the largest of the Siberian Yupik language variants, had IPA|/aˈliɣnalʁi/s, who received presents for their shamanizing. These payments were known as IPA|/aˈkiliːɕaq/. In the language spoken by Ungazigmit, there were many words to distinguish the different kinds of payments one might make or gifts one might give, depending on the nature and occasion (such as a marriage).Рубцова 1954:173] These included such fine distinctions as "thing, given to someone who has none", "thing, given, not begged for", "thing, given to someone as to anybody else" and "thing, given for exchange". [Рубцова 1954:62]

As for a special shamanic language known in several Eskimo groups, also the Ungazigmit had a special allegoric usage of some expressions. [Рубцова 1954:128]


The Chugach people live on the southern-most coasts of Alaska. Birket-Smith conducted fieldwork among them in the 1950s, by which time shamanism was already extinct. As among other Eskimo groups, Chugach apprentice shamans were not forced to become shamans by the spirits, but instead deliberately visited lonely places and walked for many days as part of a vision quest that resulted in the visitation of a spirit. The apprentice passed out, and the spirit took him or her to another place (like the mountains or the depths of the sea). Whilst there, the spirit instructed the apprentice in their calling, such as teaching them the shaman’s song. [Merkur 1985:125]

Sireniki Eskimos

Sireniki Eskimos are former speakers of a very peculiar Eskimo language in Siberia, before they underwent a language shift rendering it extinct. The peculiarities of this Sireniki idiom among Eskimo languages amount to the extent that it is proposed by some to classify it as a standalone third branch of Eskimo languages (alongside with Inuit and Yupik). The total language death of this peculiar remnant means that now the cultural identity of Sireniki Eskimos is maintained through other aspects: slight dialectical difference in the adopted Siberian Yupik language; [ Vakhtin 1998] : 162] sense of place, [ Binns n.d.] : 1] including appreciation of the anciency of their settlement Sireniki.

In a period, shamanism was prohibited by authorities, still, some knowledge about shamanistic practices survived. [ Berte n.d.] : 2] The last shaman in Sireniki died a decade before 2000, since then there is no shaman in the village. [ York 1999] ] Earlier in the 20th century, shamanistic practices could be observed by scholars in Sireniki, [Menovščikov 1968: 442] and also a folklore (tale) text mentions a feast that cold possibly include shamanistic features. [Меновщиков 1964: 161, sentence 128]

ee also

* Noaide
* Shamanism in Siberia
* Masks among Eskimo peoples
* Inuit mythology




* The tale title means: “The soul who wandered through all animals”; the book title means: “Eskimo tales”; the series means: “The tales of world literature”.
* The tale title means: “The land of the dead in the sky”; the book title means: “Eskimo tales”; the series means: “The tales of world literature”.
* The tale title means: “Asiaq, the mistress over wind and weather”; the book title means: “Eskimo tales”; the series means: “The tales of world literature”.
* The title means "Shamanism".
* Translation of Gabus 1944.
* The title means: “Uralic peoples. Culture and traditions of our linguistic relatives”; the chapter means “The belief system of Uralic peoples and the shamanism”.
* (The title means "Shamans in Eurasia", the book is written in Hungarian, but it is also published in German, Estonian and Finnish). [ Site of publisher with short description on the book (in Hungarian)]
* Hungarian translation of Rasmussen 1926.
* Translation of Vitebsky 1995
* In it, on pp 41–45: "Sámán — a szó és értelme" (The etymology and meaning of word shaman).
* Note that term “Inuit” is used here in an extended sense.


* The transliteration of author's name, and the rendering of title in English: cite book |last=Menovshchikov |first=G. A. |title=Language of Sireniki Eskimos. Phonetics, morphology, texts and vocabulary |publisher=Academy of Sciences of the USSR |location=Moscow • Leningrad |year=1964
* Rendering in English: cite book |last=Rubcova |first=E. S. |title=Materials on the Language and Folklore of the Eskimoes (Vol. I, Chaplino Dialect) |year=1954 |publisher=Academy of Sciences of the USSR |location=Moscow • Leningrad

External links

Books and articles

* Unabridged original. Tales rendered in English; the song texts both in English and in original. Large PDF file requiring considerable computation resources.
* HTML format, the original language versions of the song texts are omitted.
* Reduced to HTML by Christopher M. Weimer, Apr. 2003.

Old photos

* Rendering in English: "Ungazik settlement", Kunstkamera, Russian Academy of Sciences. Old photos about former life of a Siberian Yupik settlement, including those of a shaman, performing his séance. Larger images about it:
** cite web |title=Galmui shaman |url=
** cite web |title=Shaman séance. Galmui sings |url=
** cite web |title=Shaman séance. Galmui sings 2 |url=
** cite web |title=Shaman séance. Galmui in trance |url=
** cite web |title=Shaman séance. Galmui foresees |url=
** cite web |title=Galmui's family |url=


* cite serial |credits=Ковалева, Ирина & Богословская, Людмила |title=Животные и отражение их прихода к человеку в самых разных текстах |network=Эхо Москвы |station=Арсенал |airdate=2002-12-03 |transcripturl= A radio interview with Russian scientists about man and animal, examples taken especially from Asian Eskimos.

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