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Observations placeholder

Nick Jans - The Last Night Breaking - Maniilaq Part 1



Type of Spiritual Experience


These were not shamans they had become sorcerors

A description of the experience

Nick Jans - The Last Night Breaking

Maniilaq was born in the early 1800s near a place called Qala, not far from the present village of Kobuk. He and three younger sisters were raised by their mother, Qupilguuraq. As the eldest child in a fatherless household, responsibility came early to Maniilaq. He helped to build their winter sod house and became adept at snaring rabbits and ptarmigan, often going out alone. As he rested in the woods one day, a small bird spoke to him.

"Taatagiik, taatagiik,"it called- "Father and son, father and son."

Mesmerized, the young Maniilaq returned to the place many times, and sometimes sat all day, listening, filled with a strange, radiant calm. Soon the message became

"Taatagiik, taatagiik. Isrummiqsuqti, isrummiqsuqti "-

"Father and son, father and son, the source of intelligence, the source of thought."

When he finally told his mother about the bird, she worried that he was becoming an anjatkut, a shaman, one who moved between the worlds of spirits and men. He reassured her, and went on listening.

As Maniilaq grew into a young man, his "source of intelligence" guided his thoughts. He found he could catch any animal he wished, and he obeyed when his inner voice chose a wife for him. For a time, he and his family lived peacefully. But, although he kept to himself, others began to notice what Beatrice Mouse calls "the brilliant light within him." Inevitably, the anjatkut sought him out, demanding he show them his powers.

The Inupiat of the northwest arctic had no true religion, no deities or rituals of worship. Yet they had a profound belief in the supernatural which verged on dread. The land swarmed with spirits (tuungak) and ghosts (piinjihk), all potentially hostile. Even normal actions, performed improperly, could bring illness or death to an entire camp.

Any bad fortune -from poor hunting to difficulty bearing children - had its roots in spiritus mundi. To protect themselves, The People observed an elaborate system of taboos. An upper Kobuk man named Kahkik told anthropologist Louis Giddings, "Those people think if they cut a piece of caribou skin during fishing season and tan it, they will die …. When the moon gets dark those people, if they forget and leave food out in the cache, they have to throw it away."

In such a world, the anjatkut reigned supreme. Only they had the power to intercede with the spirits, warn of invisible dangers, and offer protection to ordinary people.  With the help of kila (familiars) and the ruungah (spirits) themselves, anjatkut could travel by astral projection into the world beyond and set things right. The most powerful among them flew to the moon and waged fierce, sometimes fatal battles with other shamans. Some anjatkut were evil, and killed people; others were healers. The services of either were available for a price. Payment might be in furs, meat, the favours of a daughter, or obedience to a special taboo.

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Activity not known