Knud Rasmussen - The story of Igjugarjuk
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Knud Rasmussen – Across Arctic America
The story of Igjugarjuk
Later, when I had quite become myself again, I understood that I had become the shaman of my village, and it did happen that my neighbours or people from a long distance away called me to heal a sick person, or to "inspect a course" if they were going to travel.
When this happened, the people of my village were called together and I told them what I had been asked to do. Then I left tent or snow house and went out into solitude: away from the dwellings of man, but those who remained behind had to sing continuously: just to keep themselves happy and lively. If anything difficult had to be found out, my solitude had to extend over three days and two nights, or three nights and two days.
In all that time I had to wander about without rest, and only sit down once in a while on a stone or a snow drift. When I had been out long and had become tired, I could almost doze and dream what I had come out to find and about which I had been thinking all the time. Every morning, however, I could come home and report on what I had so far found, but as soon as I had spoken I had to return again, out into the open, out to places where I could be quite alone.
In the time when one is out seeking, one may eat a little, but not much. If a shaman "out of the secrets of solitude" finds out that the sick person will die, he can return home and stay there without first having allowed the usual time to pass. It is only in cases of a possible cure that he must remain out the whole time.
These days of "seeking for knowledge are very tiring, for one must walk all the time, no matter what the weather is like and only rest in short snatches. I am usually quite done up, tired, not only in body but also in head, when I have found what I sought.
While I was at Utkuhigjalik, people there had heard from my wife that I was a shaman, and therefore they once asked me to cure a sick man, a man who was so wasted that he could no longer swallow food. I summoned all the people of the village together and asked them to hold a song-feast, as is our custom because we believe that all evil will shun a place where people are happy.
And when the song-feast began, I went out alone into the night . They laughed at me, and my wife was later on able to tell me how they mocked me, because I would not do tricks to entertain everybody. But I kept away in lonely places, far from the village, for five days, thinking uninterruptedly of the sick man and wishing him health. He got better, and since then nobody at that village has mocked me.
The source of the experienceInuit
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
Loneliness and isolation
Sleep deprivation, insomnia and mental exhaustion
Enacting ritual and ceremony
Suppression of learning