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Cosmology and Shamanism

One of the best ways to come to an understanding of Inuit shamanism, angakkuuniq, is probably by examining beliefs and customs about personal names, atiit, and their relationship to the life cycle, inuusiq, and the way people conceive the person, inuk, the soul, tarniq, and the spirits, tuurngait. Some shamans would be given a helping spirit with the same name as their birth name. Thus, when Ava became a shaman, his helping spirit was also called Ava-a small female shore spirit. Similarly, Nanuq, a Natsilik from the Naujaat area, was named at birth after a close relative. When the relative died, he was given Nanuq as a helping spirit. A shaman who was training him at the time gave him a new personal name, Qimuksiraaq. If a shaman wished to save the life of a seriously ill child, it was not uncommon for him to give it the name of one of his helping spirits, as Aupilaarjuk will tell us further on. (Page 9)

The elders in these interviews are Mariano Aupilaarjuk, from Kangiq&iniq, and his wife, Tulimaaq. Both are of Natsilik ancestry and immigrated to the Aivilik area. They had known the last shamans and so were the repositories of much of the oral tradition. Also present was Lucassie Nutaraaluk, from Iqaluit, the son of Alariaq, one of the great shamans of South Baffin. Alariaq was born in Nunavik where he had spent part of his youth. When his father died, his mother married a man from Kinngait (Cape Dorset) on Baffin Island. Later he settled there and converted to Christianity in the late 1920s. Also, Célestin Erkidjuk (Iqijjut), the president of the Pairijait Tigummivik Elders Society, and a cousin of Aupilaarjuk, took part in one of the sessions. (Page 7)

Bernard Saladin d'Anglure

Mariano Aupilaarjuk
We use the word angakkuq in the Nattilingmiut dialect. It can only be used for a very wise discerning person. There are dangerous and powerful things that can happen when you are an angakkuq. I have seen angakkuit and I have seen an angakkuq tupilattuq. You can wish to be an angakkuq but you cannot just become one. You cannot see how a person becomes an angakkuq. You cannot see it, but it comes upon a person and then that person begins the process of becoming an angakkuq. Beginning to see invisible things and hearing things that others can’t, are the first signs of becoming an angakkuq. (Page 10)