Page:Eskimo Life.djvu/325

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281
RELIGIOUS IDEAS

plural, angakut). These men are the wisest and ablest among them, but also, as a rule, the craftiest. They assert that they have the power of conversing with spirits, journeying both to the under-world and to the sky and other places unattainable to ordinary mortals, conjuring up the tornarssuk and other supernatural beings, obtaining revelations from them, and so forth. They influence and work upon their countrymen principally through their mystic exorcisms and séances, which occur as a rule in the winter, when they are living in houses. The lamps are extinguished, and skins are hung before the windows so that it is quite dark. The angekok himself sits upon the floor. By dint of making a horrible noise so that the whole house shakes, changing his voice, bellowing and shrieking, ventriloquising, groaning, moaning, and whining, beating on drums, bursting forth into diabolical shrieks of laughter, and all sorts of other tricks, he persuades his companions that he is visited by the various spirits he personates, and that it is they who make the disturbance.

In order to become an angekok a long apprenticeship is naturally required, frequently as much as ten years. The neophyte must often and for long periods go into solitary retirement,[1] and rub a stone round

  1. This idea recurs in several parts of the world. Compare Christ's forty days' solitude in the wilderness.