The Inuit Shaman as a Guardian of the Tribe

The Inuit shaman or the Angakkuq , as it is called by the Netsilik people , plays a vital role in their society . Although his daily activities are not much different than these of the others , he is treated with respect and awe because of his supernatural powers .

Inuit shaman drumming

Angakkuq shamans always  observe the behavior of the young boys in the tribe .

inuit-shamanWhat they are looking for is a sign that a boy is suited for a shaman training . When a youngling is picked his training begins . The new found Inuit shaman is assigned to a master Angakkuq , who will be responsible for his training . The pupil moves to his master’s home , where he must get used to a variety of rules . He must not eat outside the house , not eat liver , heads , hearth or intestines , but most importantly , he is prohibited of having sexual intercourse . The pupil , supported by the spirits , starts to sleep  on phases and receives visions . Then he is allowed to move to a private igloo where for the next few weeks he is taught the special language of Angakkuq and the secrets of the Inuit shamanic practices . During that stage he receives his belongings as Angakkuq shaman – a hat and a belt . At the end his teacher connects the young shaman with his spirit protector  (tuurngaq) and they starting practicing together .

At the beginning the tuurngaq almost entirely controls the young Inuit shaman . With the time and the experience gained the Angakkuq starts learning to control his spirit . When that skill is obtained the young Inuit shaman is considered as a master shaman , who have skills equal to these of his teacher .

The Angakkuq works with the Tuurngaq during their whole life . They often obtain new spirit protectors during their path . Sometimes the Tuurngaq are received as gift from other shamans , sometimes it is the spirit who will to join a particular shaman . The relationship with this spirits isn’t an easy thing though , as the Tuurngaq spirits are hard to tame . There are numerous stories of spirits turning against their masters  .

The Netsilik Inuit culture is also aware of the evil entities roaming our realm .


They are the main reason for most of the people’s suffering . The reason for all the illnesses are the malicious spirits . When somebody angers the spirits or violates a taboo, they would attack the person and enter his body . Then a Inuit shaman is  needed to drive them away . 
One of these evil entities is called the Tupilait . tupilak evil spiritThe Tupilait is a spirit consisted of animal and human parts . He is able cause horrific deceases . Most frightening however are the tuurngaq spirits . They might be helpers of the shamans , but not all of the time .  When an Angakkuq sent his spirit to attack a bad spirit and he fails the tuurngaq turns to something new . He becomes a returning spirit  . A vicious entity , blinded by rage and infuriated by its failure . Uncontrollable , this spirit turns against his master and his family , spreading illness and death . In such cases the Angakkuq must ask for help to another shaman , with more powerful tuurngaq , which would be able to tame the raging spirit .

To purge the evil spirits away the shaman will perform a special ritual .

We would kneel at the corner of the igloo and would cover himself with a caribou hide . In the dark he will then call upon his tuurngaq , who will then enter the patient’s body . Then the shaman will start speaking through the patient’s mouth . We will speak the special shamanic language of the Angakkuq . The malicious spirits leave the body and the igloo . Then the shaman would send his spirits to chase the evil ones . With the aid of a deceased shaman’s spirit , he would be able to drive the spirits back to the igloo . All the attendances of the ceremony would help the shaman by inviting the malicious spirits to enter the igloo again , by saying : “come in , come in , there is someone waiting for you inside” . Once they enter the igloo again the shaman would attack them with his snow knife (pana) and will kill as much of them as possible . A proof of his success would be the blood of the evil spirits over his hands . Of course not every ceremony is successful . Sometimes the evil tuurngaq are too much for the a single shaman to deal with .

inuit shaman ritual

The spirits are inextricable part of the Inuit society . That’s why the Inuit shaman is an extremely important figure . In that cold and hostile environment  , only the most gifted are trained in the ways of Angakkuq , as the mistakes are severely punished there . To deal with the evil spirits require exceptional skills and inner powers . To be chosen as a Inuit shaman is a blessing and a curse in the same time .

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