Gustav Holm - The Angmagsalik Eskimo
Type of Spiritual Experience
Gustav Holm visited the Angmagsalik Eskimos of Greenland between 1884 and 1885. There he encountered Sanimuinak, whose training to become a shaman was arduous but vision provoking.
Before being given access to his helper spirits, the trainee shaman is apprenticed to a master shaman, an elder who can teach the shaman both how to attain the skills he needs as well as how to interpret, control and use what he perceives. The apprenticeship could last ten years or more. The first three to four years are spent attempting to contact the trainee’s spirit helpers. Once this cooperation has been obtained, the trainee is then taught how to heal the sick, control the weather, help with fishing or co-operate with marine life through the helper. The following description is of how he attains contact with his helpers
A description of the experience
Gustav Holm – Ethnological sketch of the Angmagsalik Eskimo from ‘Contributions to the Ethnology of the east Greenland Natives
We were living in those days at Umivik, having previously had our home at Norsit. I then went out to Norsit to a certain cleft in the mountain which faces the sun-rise, laid a large stone over the cleft, and another on top of it. I now began to rub the upper stone round against the lower "the way of the sun” and continued till I was almost lame in the arms.
I now heard a voice from the depths of the cleft calling to me; but I understood not the words, grew numb with fear, and the bowels jumped up into my throat. When the voice died away, my bowels dropped down again from my throat, but I had no strength left to bear me up on my way home.
Henceforth I ate no more entrails, hearts, nor livers of seals, nor did I work in iron.
The next day I went out again to the cleft, and ground the stones against each other, as on the previous day. Once more I heard the voice from the depths of the cleft; my bowels and heart flew up to my throat, and I was seized with the most horrible pains.
The following day all went in the same manner as before, but . . . I now heard the voice say: “Shall I come up?”
I was numb with terror, but said: "Yea, come up!”
The stones lifted and a sea-monster armed with claws like shears came up and looked towards the sun-rise. It was much larger than those which are to be found in the sea.
Presently the monster vanished, and I travelled back home. This was my first spirit helper (tartok).
The source of the experienceInuit
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
Suppression of learning