Eskimo Life/Chapter 13
Religion and religious ideas are among the most remarkable products of the human spirit. With all their reason-defying assertions and astounding incongruities, they seem at first sight inexplicable. Time out of mind, therefore, men have found it difficult to conceive them as having arisen otherwise than through a supernatural or divine revelation, which, it would follow, must originally have been imparted to all men alike. But gradually, as people became acquainted with the more or less rudimentary religions of the various races, which often differ greatly on the most essential matters, they began to doubt the accuracy of this assumption, and came more and more to consider whether religious ideas must not be reckoned as a natural product of the human mind itself, under the influence of its surroundings.
The first theory was that they arose from a religious craving common to all human beings, which was itself, therefore, in a certain sense supernatural. It is a mysterious incomprehensible presentiment, says Schleiermacher, which drives mankind across the boundaries of the finite world, and leads everyone to religion; only by the crippling of this natural proclivity can irreligiousness arise. 'Religion begins in the first encounter of the life of the All with that of the individual; it is the sacred and infallible intermarriage—the creative, productive embrace—of the universe with incarnate reason.'
Gradually the explanations became less vague and high-sounding. Peschel and others held that religious ideas arose from the need of conceiving the cause or beginning of all things, or, in other words, that it was the sources of movement, life, and thought, which mankind sought after, with its inborn longing to realise the absolute. Others hold, with Max Müller, that a longing for the infinite, a striving to understand the incomprehensible, to name the unnameable, is the deep spiritual bass-note which makes itself heard in all religions. Others again, like O. Pfleiderer, see in mankind's inborn and incomprehensible thirst for beauty, its fantasy, and its æsthetic sense, the first germs of religious consciousness. Some theorists, finally, have sought to explain religious ideas as an outcome of the moral sense of mankind, of its thirst for righteousness.
In the light of a moderately penetrating study of the religious ideas of the Eskimos, as of every other primitive people, all these philosophic theories vanish away. In our empirical age, people have come more and more to recognise that religious ideas must be ascribed to the same natural laws which condition all other phenomena, and to hold, as David Hume first maintained, that they can be traced for the most part to two tendencies in our nature —or perhaps we should rather call them instincts—which are common to all animals; to wit, the fear of death and the desire of life. From the former instinct arises fear of the dead and of external nature with its titanic forces, and the craving for protection against them. From the latter arises the desire for happiness, for power, and for other advantages. Thus, too, we understand the fact that the early religions are not disinterested, but egotistical, that the worshipper is not so much rapt in contemplation of the enigmas of nature and of the infinite, as eager to secure some advantage to himself. When, for example, amulets and fetishes are supposed to possess supernatural power, they are not only treasured, but worshipped.
It is difficult, not to say impossible, to search back to the first vague forms in which religious ideas dawned in the morning of humanity, when thought began to emerge from the primal mists of animal consciousness. It was with religious ideas in that time as with the first organic beings which arose upon our earth—they had not yet assumed such determinate forms, their component parts were not yet so definitely fixed, as to leave traces behind them; what we find are the more advanced stages of development. The first ideas must have been exceedingly obscure impressions, dependent upon many outward chances, and we can no more reason ourselves back to them, than we can conceive the appearance of the first organisms. Nor can we determine at what stage of the development of humanity these first vague germs of religious ideas appeared—whether, for example, they were present in our simian forefathers. It does not even seem to me certain that the lower animals are devoid of all superstitious feeling. We cannot, therefore, expect to discover in any now existing race a total lack of even the most rudimentary superstitious conceptions. We must rather wonder that in a people otherwise so highly developed as the Eskimos, they should still remain on such a remarkably low level.
In the light of our knowledge of the primitive religions, it seems to me best not to regard the aforesaid instincts as the direct cause of superstitious conceptions, but rather to distinguish between at least three germs or impulses, which have provided the material out of which these instincts—in reality resolvable into one, the instinct of self-preservation—have fashioned all religious systems. The three germs are: our tendency to personify nature, our belief in its and our own duality and in the immortality of the soul, and the belief in the supernatural power and influence of certain inanimate objects (amulets). In order to recognise the great importance of these germs, especially at a primitive stage of development, we must try to throw our minds back to the standpoint of the child, which most nearly answers to that of primitive man. To personify nature is for the child no mere passing fancy; he consistently regards all surrounding objects, animate and inanimate, as persons, and will, for example, carry on long conversations with his toys. A child of my acquaintance, standing one day in the kitchen watching some long sausages boiling in a pot, exclaimed to the cook: 'I say, are these sausages killed yet?' All of us, probably, can remember from our childhood how we personified trees, certain mountains, and the like. It is the same proclivity, as Tylor says, which reappears in our often irrational desire or thirst for vengeance upon inanimate things which in one way or another have caused us pain or injury. For example, when we were crossing Greenland, Sverdrup and I had a sledge which was heavy to draw; it would have caused us quite real satisfaction to have destroyed it, or otherwise revenged ourselves upon it, when we at last left it behind. Another inseparable characteristic of the child-mind is its determination to see in every movement or occurrence in its little world the activity of a personal will.
In the first childish philosophy of the human race, the same method of regarding all natural objects as persons must have been quite inevitable. Trees, stones, rivers, the winds, clouds, stars, the sun and moon became living persons or animals. The Eskimos, for example, believe that the heavenly bodies were once ordinary men and women before they were transferred to the sky.
But after or along with this proclivity there must also have arisen quite naturally the tendency to conceive a twofoldness, a duality, in nature and in man, the feeling of a visible and tangible, and of an invisible and super-sensible, existence. Let us, for instance, with Tylor, conceive an ignorant primitive man hearing the echo of his own voice; how can he help believing that it is produced by a man? He knows nothing of the theory of sound-waves. But when he hears it time after time, and can find no man who produces the sound, it is inevitable that he should attribute it to invisible beings.
Or take, for example, the dew, which he sees appearing and disappearing, he cannot tell whence or whither; the stars which are lighted in the evening, and put out again at morning; the clouds which gather all of a sudden, and of a sudden are dispersed; the rain, the wind, the currents in the water — must not all these arouse in him the thought or conception of visible and invisible existences? When the primitive Eskimo first met with the glacier which he saw gliding out into the sea, and giving birth, from time to time, to mighty icebergs, could he see in this anything else than the activity of a live being? He attributed life to the thing itself, and regarded these monstrous births as voluntary and awe-inspiring actions.
Or, to take another example, when a primitive man saw his own shadow or his own image in the water, now here, now gone again, eluding alike his touch and his grasp, how could this fail to arouse in him the conception of tangible and intangible existences, things that could now be here and at the next moment could vanish away?
There were plenty of grounds, in short, for the evocation of the idea of duality in nature, of a visible and an invisible phase of existence. But this belief in the duality of nature must have been greatly strengthened by the primitive man's conceptions of himself. When he slept, and dreamed that he was out hunting, was dancing, was visiting others, in short, was wandering far and wide, and then awoke and discovered that his body had not moved from his cave or hut, and heard his wife or his companions corroborate this, he naturally could not but believe that he consisted of two parts, of one part which could leave him at night and go through all these experiences, and one which lay still at home. To distinguish between dreams and reality was far more than could be expected of him. The speech of many primitive races cannot to this day, as Spencer points out, express this distinction, having no means of saying 'I dreamed that I saw' instead of 'I saw.' When he had further noticed that his shadow followed him by day but not by night, it was quite natural that he should give to the part that was separable from him the name of 'shadow' or 'shade,' which, therefore, came to mean the same thing which others denominate soul or spirit. We shall presently see that the Eskimo has acquired in this way his belief in, and his name for, the soul. The conviction of his own kinship with all the objects around him is further strengthened by the observation that they have shadows as well as himself.
But when primitive man was brought face to face with death it must have made a powerful impression upon him, and the belief in his own duality must have been confirmed in a still higher degree. Here, he saw, was the same body, the same mouth, and the same limbs; the only difference was that in life they spoke and moved, whereas now all was still. Their speech and motion must be due to some life-giving principle, and this must of course be the soul, which, as he knew from dreams, had the power of quitting the body. We must also hold it only natural that the soul, which at death departed from the body, came to be associated with the breath of the mouth, which was now gone; and therefore (as for example among some of the Eskimos) man was endowed with two souls, the shadow and the breath. This belief in the duality of the soul, which is sometimes also traceable to the shadow and the reflection in the mirror, is very widely spread, and to it we may probably trace our own distinction between soul and spirit, psyche and pneuma.
It might at first sight seem natural for primitive man to conclude that the soul no less than the body dies at death. There are, in fact, some who think so; but most of them, on meeting the dead again in their dreams, were driven to the conclusion that their souls still lived. Furthermore, it was not at all difficult to conceive that, as the soul was temporarily absent from the body in sleep, delirium, and so forth, it was permanently absent in death. Thus the belief in the continued life of the soul has quite naturally and inevitably arisen; and as the idea of annihilation is very unattractive to every living creature, this conception of immortality has appealed forcibly to the human mind.
But as most men are afraid of death and of the dead, they do not like to meet them again as ghosts; and, terror stimulating the imagination, a supernatural power is attributed to them, mainly hurtful, but sometimes helpful as well. People therefore come to think it wisest to propitiate and make friends with them. Thus has arisen that worship of the dead which plays so great a part in the religion of most races, and which lies, if not at the foundation, at any rate, very near to it, in almost all religions—as, for instance, among the Eskimos.
It cannot be thought unnatural that the spirits of the dead, and especially those of the more eminent among them, such as chiefs and princes, were gradually converted into gods.
The word for God among the Hebrews (il or el), among the Egyptians (nutar), and among many other peoples, meant only a powerful being, and could be applied as well to heroes as to gods. As there were upon the earth peculiarly powerful men, so there must be in the spirit-world peculiarly powerful spirits; and these naturally became the divinities par excellence whom it was specially important to worship. Thus we arrive at last at the belief in one God, at the moment when absolute monarchy is established in the spirit world.
But alongside of this ancestor-worship, we recognise as a powerful factor in the development of superstitious ideas the marked tendency of the human race to attribute supernatural power to certain inanimate objects, which, in the primitive stage, are used to avert or influence the power of the dead or to attain other advantages; and from this has developed the whole wide-spread belief in amulets, and possibly also, in a measure, fetish-worship. We shall consider later how the belief in the power of the amulet may have arisen.
An important force tending towards the continuance and development of superstitious conceptions, when they have once arisen, is of course to be found in the authority of the medicine-men (spirit-exorcisers), or of the priests, over their fellow-men. Some minds, and these the ablest, naturally came to have a better understanding than the others of supernatural things, and to stand in a closer relation to the dead. It was clear that they could thus help their neighbours, when, for example, there was question of applying the powers of the dead to the benefit of an individual or of a body of men; and the priest thus attained power and influence in the community, and often advantages of a more material nature as well. It has thus always been to the interest of the medicine-men and priests to sustain and nurture superstitious or religious ideas. They must themselves appear to believe in them; they may even discover new precepts of divinity to their own advantage, and thereby increase both their power and their revenues.
Among people like the Eskimos, yet another influence comes into play, which colours their superstition; the influence, to wit, of the natural surroundings among which they are placed, and of the hard and hazardous life they lead. It is a recognised fact that a race which lives by hunting and fishing has a special tendency to become superstitious; of this we have a striking example in our own country. Compare the men of the west and north coasts with those of the eastern districts. The former have to look mainly to the sea for their livelihood, they are dependent on wind and weather, on the coming of shoals of fish, &c.—in short, on a whole series of influences unfathomable by man, which they describe in one word as chance, and which may be not only unfavourable but even fatal to them. Inevitably, therefore, they become superstitious; nor is there any part of the country where pietism and obscurantism find such fertile soil as on the west coast. When we turn to the peasant of the eastern districts we find a remarkable difference. He dwells at ease upon his farm; somewhat dependent, it is true, on wind and weather, but in a comparatively secure position; and therefore he is less superstitious. How much more strongly must the stimulus towards superstition act upon the Eskimo, whose whole life depends upon hunting and fishing! And it is still further intensified by the perpetual danger in which he lives, and by his Arctic surroundings. Nature so wild and majestic as that of Greenland—with its glaciers, icebergs, mirages, tempests, and the long winter nights with the shimmering Northern Lights—obtains an irresistible power over the mind, evokes reverence and terror, and feeds the imagination. We look upon all these marvels in the dry light of reason; but primitive man, like a child, ekes out defective comprehension with wild fantasy, and his belief in the supernatural is strengthened and developed.
Morality, which many believe to be intimately connected with religious conceptions, has in its origin little or nothing to do with them. As already indicated in Chapter X. it springs from the social instinct, and is, among primitive races, quite distinct from superstitious ideas. Thus they have no rewards beyond the grave for a life of moral excellence.
The Eskimos are in some measure an example of this. It is true that we find hints in the Greenland legends of punishment in this life for evil-doing, and especially for witchcraft, at the hands of supernatural powers. The dead may possibly to a certain extent requite survivors for benefits conferred upon them during their life; the souls (or inue?) of animals can revenge a too cruel slaughter of their offspring; the soul or spirit of a murdered man demands that his murder shall be avenged; wrong done to the weak is punished in divers fashions, and so forth. But all these notions are so vague that they cannot be conceived as primary or fundamental, but rather as a sort of occasional overgrowth, due to the natural mingling of social relations and laws with the primitive legends. They may therefore be regarded as the first hesitating steps of the religious ideas towards morality. It is not until a considerably later stage that religion has consciously and in earnest entered into an alliance with morality which helps to strengthen both. Religion has thereby acquired a strong back-bone, and moral precepts produce a deeper impression when they come from an exalted and divine source, and are moreover reinforced by promises of rewards and punishments beyond the grave.
A remarkable feature in all religions is that in spite of their great differences in many essentials, there are also such great and important similarities spread over the whole earth. This may be explained in two ways: either on the theory that all religion is the result of the same causes, acting independently in different places, or on the theory that religious conceptions have arisen in one place and have thence spread all the world over. For my part I believe that we may have recourse to both theories in order to explain this similarity of religions. The human brain and nerve-system are astonishingly similar among all races; the differences consist chiefly in the development which must be associated with the progress of the higher races. It follows that we must assume the same laws of thought to hold good throughout, especially in earlier and less complex stages of development; and as experiences must in a certain measure have been everywhere identical, people must not only have arrived at the same right conclusions, but must have also, when the right explanation did not lie on the surface, have everywhere fallen into the same fundamental errors; and upon these errors religions are built. But in addition to this, certain definite religious conceptions have presumably shaped themselves in particular places, and have, in the form of mouth-to-mouth traditions and legends, permeated all races of the earth. We shall subsequently find speaking evidence for the belief that they may have reached even such remote races as the Eskimos.
The faith of the Greenland Eskimo is of great interest towards the elucidation of the questions above touched upon. It is so primitive that I doubt whether it deserves the name of a religion. There are many legends and much superstition, but it all lacks clear and definite form; conceptions of the supernatural vary from individual to individual, and they produce, as a whole, the impression of a religion in process of formation, a mass of incoherent and fantastic notions which have not yet crystallised into a definite view of the world. We must assume that all religions have at one time or another passed through just such a stage as this.
The Greenlanders, like all primitive races, originally conceived nature as animate throughout, every object—stone, mountain, weapon, and so forth—having its soul. We still find traces of this belief. The souls of tools, weapons, and clothes, follow the dead on his wandering to the land of the shades; therefore they are laid in the grave, that there they may rot and their souls may be set free. Gradually, however, this belief has, in the confused and illogical way peculiar to primitive races, mixed itself up with a totally different one: the belief, to wit, that the souls of the dead can take up their abode in different animals, objects, mountains, and the like, which they subjugate to themselves, and from which they can issue from time to time, even showing themselves to the living. There has thus arisen the belief that in every natural object there dwells a particular being, called its inua (that is, its owner)—a word which, characteristically enough, originally signified human being or Eskimo.
According to the Eskimos, every stone, mountain, glacier, river, lake, has its inua; the very air has one. It is still more remarkable to find that even abstract conceptions have their inue; they speak for example of the inue of particular instincts or passions. This may seem surprising in a primitive people, but it is not very difficult to explain. When, for example, a primitive man suffering from violent hunger, feels an inward gnawing, it is quite natural that he should conceive this to be caused by a being, whom he therefore describes as the inua of hunger or appetite. As a rule, these inue are invisible, but when they are seen, according to Rink, they take the form of a brightness or fire, and the sight of them is very dangerous.
Man himself, according to the Greenlanders, consists of at least two parts: the body and the soul—and these they hold to be quite distinct from each other. The soul can only be seen by aid of a particular sense which is found in men under certain conditions, or in those who possess a special gift: to wit, the angekoks. It appears in the same shape as the body, but is of a more airy composition. The angekoks explained to Hans Egede that souls were quite soft to the touch, indeed scarcely tangible at all, just as if they had neither muscle nor bone.' The people of the east coast hold that the soul is quite small, no larger than a hand or a finger. The Greenlanders' word for the soul is tarnik; this resembles the word tarrak, which signifies shadow, and I think there can be no doubt that they have originally been the same word, since the Eskimo, as before indicated, used to regard the soul and the shadow as one and the same thing. This tallies exactly with what we find among other peoples. The Fijian, for example, calls his shadow his dark soul, which leaves him during the night; his image in the mirror is his light soul. Tarrak in the Greenland language means both shadow and reflection, so that the original word for soul meant all these three things. According to Cranz, some of the Greenlanders believed that man had two souls: his shadow and his breath (compare above, pp. 216, &c). The general belief in Egede's and Cranz's time seems to have been that the soul was most intimately connected with the breath. For instance, the angekok used to blow upon a sick man in order to cure him or give him a new soul.
It is worth noting that Hanserak, a native catechist from West Greenland who accompanied Captain Holm on his journey along the east coast (in 1884–85), stated in his diary (written in Eskimo), with reference to the Angmagsaliks' belief in the soul, that 'a man has many souls. The largest dwell in the larynx and in the left side, and are tiny men about the size of a sparrow. The other souls dwell in other parts of the body and are the size of a finger joint. If one of them is taken away, its particular member sickens.' Whether this belief has ever been widespread among the Eskimos does not appear from other sources of information.
The soul is quite independent, and can thus leave the body for any time, short or long. It does so every night, when, in vivid dreams, it goes hunting or joins in merrymakings and so forth. The soul can also remain at home when the man is on a journey, a notion which Cranz believes to arise from home-sickness. It can also be lost, or stolen by means of witchcraft. Then the man falls ill and must get his angekok to set off and fetch his soul back again. If, in the meantime, any disaster has happened to it, for example if it has been eaten up by another angekok's tornarssuk, the man must die. An angekok, however, had also power to provide a new soul or exchange a sick soul for a sound, which, according to Cranz, he could obtain from, say, a hare, a reindeer, a bird, or a young child.
The strangest thing of all is that the soul could not only be lost in its entirety, but that pieces of it could also go astray; and then the angekok had to be called in to patch it up.
Among the Greenlanders of the east coast, according to Holm, a third element in addition to these two enters into the composition of man: to wit 'the name' (atekata). 'The name is as large as the man himself, and enters into the child after its birth, on its mouth being damped with water, while at the same time the "names" of the dead are spoken.' Among all the Greenlanders, even the Christians, the first child born after the death of a member of the family is almost always called after him, the object being to procure peace for him in his grave. The East Greenlander believes that the 'name' remains with the body or migrates through different animals, until a child is called by it. It is therefore a duty to take care that this is done; if not, evil consequences may follow for the child to whom the name ought to have been given.
This belief is remarkably similar to one which (as Professor Moltke Moe informs me), is current in Norway: to wit, that the dead 'seek after names.' A pregnant woman dreams of one or other departed relative who comes to her ('seeking after a name'), and after him she must call her child; if not, she is guilty of an act of neglect, which may injuriously affect the child's future. The same superstition is also found among the Lapps. Among the Koloshes in North-West America, the mother sees in a dream the departed relative whose soul gives the child its likeness. Among the Indians also the naming of children is made to depend on a dream.
In Greenland, as everywhere else, the name is of great importance; it is believed that there is a spiritual affinity between two people of the same name, and that the characteristics of a dead person are transmitted to one who is called after him, who, moreover, is specially bound to defy the influences which have caused his predecessor's death. Thus the name-child of a man who has died at sea must make it his special business to defy the sea in his kaiak—a notion which is also found among other races, for example, the Indians.
The Greenlanders are very much afraid of mentioning the names of the dead. On the east coast, according to Holm, this fear goes so far that when two people have borne the same name the survivor must change his; and if the deceased has been named after an animal, an object, or an abstract idea, the word designating it must be altered. The language is thus subjected to important temporary changes, for these re-christenings are accepted by a whole tribe. The same custom is very widely diffused among the Indians of North America and of Patagonia, among the Samoyedes in Asia, and the Gipsies in Europe. It is also found in Eastern Africa, in Madagascar, Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, and the Society Islands. When Queen Pomare of Tahiti died, the word po (night) was dropped from the language, and mi took its place.
The fear of mentioning the names of the dead is also found in Europe—in, Germany, the Shetland Islands, and elsewhere—and, no doubt, among us in Norway as well. In Greenland, as among some native races in America and in the Sunda Islands, sick people who bear the same name as one who is dead change it in order to cheat death.
The East Greenlanders are also afraid to speak their own names. Holm says that when they were asked what they were called they always got others to answer for them. When a mother was asked 'what was the name of her child, she answered that she could not tell. The father likewise refused to say; he intimated that he had forgotten it, but that we could learn it from his wife's brother.'
Among the Indians, the name plays a great part; they even try to keep it secret, and therefore a man is often called by a nickname. Among many races, custom forbids the mention of the names of relations, as, for instance, a husband's, a mother-in-law's, a son-in-law's, the names of parents, or the name of the king. This potency of the name goes to considerable lengths amongst certain races. When the King of Dahomey, Bossa Ahadi, ascended the throne, he had everyone beheaded who bore the name of Bossa.
The fear of mentioning names is common to humanity; we find it in many of our legends, and it prevails among us even to this day, especially upon the west coast. It may probably be traced to the fact that the name and the thing are apt to melt into one. People come to think that when once the name is known the thing is known as well, so that the mention of its name comes to exercise an influence upon the thing itself. A man may thus lose his strength by revealing his name. Therefore, too, we may suppose that dead people do not like to be called by their names, and that to name them may be a means of summoning them from their graves or of disturbing them in their rest. The Greenlanders dare not even speak the name of a glacier (puisortok) as they row past it, for fear lest it should be offended and throw off an iceberg. A similar notion is very prevalent among the Indians and others, who dare not speak the names of places or of rivers.
With reference to the soul's life after death, the Greenlanders seem to have had diverse opinions. Some, whom the missionaries call stupid and brutish people, thought that all was over at death, and that there was no life beyond the grave. Most of the Greenlanders, however, seem to have thought that even if the soul was not quite immortal, it was yet in the habit of continuing to live after leaving the body, or at any rate of coming to life again even if it had died along with the body. In that case it went either to a place under the earth and the sea or to the upper world in the sky, or rather between the sky and the earth. The former place is regarded as the better of the two; it is a very good land, where, according to Hans Egede, there is 'lovely sunshine, excellent water, animals and birds in abundance.' To many it may seem strange that, unlike us, they should place their happiest region under the earth or the sea; but this, it seems to me, may easily have arisen from their having seen the heaven and the mountains reflected in the water, and believed that it was another world they saw. No doubt they have in process of time discovered that it is only a reflection, but the original belief in an under-world has maintained itself none the less. It is particularly characteristic that this under-world is placed under the water, and that there is much sunshine in it; for it must have been chiefly in the sunshine that they saw the reflection.
The other region, in the over-world, is colder; it is like the earth with its hills and valleys, and over it is arched the blue heaven. There the souls of the dead dwell in tents round a lake, and when the lake overflows it rains on earth. There are many crowberries there, and many ravens, who always settle on the heads of old women and cling on to their hair; it is difficult to drive them off, and they seem to fill the place of lice here on earth. The souls of the dead can be seen up there by night, in the form of northern lights, playing football with a walrus head. On the east coast, however, it is believed that the northern lights are merely the souls of stillborn or prematurely born children, or of those who are killed after their birth. These children's souls 'take each other's hands and dance around in mazy circles. They play at ball, too, and when they see orphan children, they rush upon them and throw them to the ground. They accompany their sports with a hissing, whistling sound.' Therefore, the northern lights are called alugsukat, which appears to mean untimely births, or children born in concealment. This notion of the Greenlanders seems to be closely related to the Indians' belief that the northern lights are the dead in dancing array.
The Eskimos have no hell. Both the above named regions are more or less good, and whether the soul goes to the one or to the other does not seem to depend particularly upon the man's good or evil acts.
Egede, however, asserts that to the lovely land under the earth there go only 'women who die in childbirth, men who are drowned at sea, and whale fishers, as a reward for the evil they have suffered here on earth; all others go to the sky.' It seems doubtful whether this was ever a general belief. An exactly analogous idea is to be found among ourselves. An old woman in Telemark said to Moltke Moe, speaking of her son: 'Ah, yes, he is certain enough to have gone straight to heaven; for you know it's said in God's Word that those who are drowned at sea or die in childbirth go straight away to the Kingdom of God.'
From other accounts, in any case, it seems that these are not the only souls which go to the under world. The destination of the soul may partly depend on the treatment of the body. Paul Egede says (Efterretninger om Grönland, p. 174) that 'it was their custom to take people who were sick unto death gently out of bed, and, laying them on the floor, to swathe them in their grave-clothes. This lowering them down from the bed probably symbolises their wish that after death they may descend beneath the earth. But if a man dies before he is taken from the bed, his soul goes upward.' On his inquiring why a dog's head was laid beside the grave, he was answered 'that it was a custom among some of their fellows to lay a dog's head beside a child when it was buried, in order that it might scent about and guide the child to the land of spirits when it came to life again, children being foolish and witless, and unable to find their own way.' It seems as though Captain Holm doubted the correctness of this trait (which, however, he quotes from Hans Egede), on the ground that he could discover no such poetical custom among the East Greenlanders. But in this he does not seem to be quite justified; for, on the one hand, we are scarcely entitled to doubt so definite a statement by a man like Paul Egede, who knew the Greenlanders and their language so well, while, on the other hand, we must always remember how fluctuating and changeable are religious conceptions. Analogous customs, moreover, are found among the Indians. The Aztecs killed a dog at funerals, and burned or buried it along with the body, with a cotton thread tied around its throat. Its function was to lead the deceased over the deep waters of Chiuhnahuapan on the way to the land of the dead.
The journey to the beautiful region is, however, no easy matter. Egede says that there is on the way a high sharp rock, 'down which the dead must slide on their backs, wherefore the rock is bloody.' Cranz asserts that it takes the souls five or even more days to slide down this rock or mountain; and those luckless ones are especially to be pitied who have to make the journey in winter or in stormy weather, for then they can easily come to harm. This they call the second death, after which nothing is left of them. They fear this very much, and, in order to avert it, the survivors, during the critical days, are bound to observe certain precautions. Similar legends as to the many difficulties besetting the long journey of souls to the land of the dead are to be found amongst most races. It seems probable that these difficulties have arisen in order to serve as tests through which the good can pass more easily than the wicked. But since, among the Eskimos, the difficulties afford no touchstone of moral qualities, we must conclude that the legend describing them must be borrowed from others, and most probably from the Indians. The sharp rock in particular reminds us of the Indians' 'mountain ridge, which was as sharp as the sharpest knife,' along which the souls had to pass on the way to their dwelling-place, Wanaretebe.
The Greenlanders seem generally to have attributed a soul to animals, which, like the human soul, could survive the body and journey to the regions beyond. This appears clearly enough from the bear story related in Chapter XII (see p. 206). It also appears from the custom mentioned on p. 237 of laying dogs' heads in the graves of children; for it is of course the dog's soul, dwelling in its head, which is to accompany the child. For the rest, this is a general belief among primitive peoples. The Kamtchatkans, for instance, believe that the souls of all animals, even of the smallest fly, come to life again in the under-world.
The Greenlanders know of many supernatural beings of a higher order. Among those who stand nearest to man, and are most useful to him through the medium of the angekoks, we must first name the so-called tôrnat (the plural of tôrnak). These are the angekoks' ministering spirits, who impart to them their supernatural power. They are often said to be souls of the dead, especially of grandfathers or other ancestors; but they may also be the souls of various animals, or other supernatural beings, either of human origin, like the kivigtut, to be hereafter mentioned, or independent spiritual essences dwelling in the sea or far inland. They may also be the souls of absent Europeans. An angekok would as a rule have several, some acting as councillors, others as helpers in danger, and others, again, as avengers and destroyers. These last were despatched by the angekok to show themselves in the form of ghosts, and thus to frighten to death those against whom the vengeance was directed.
In connection with, or superior to, the tornat, we find the tôrnârssuk, which is generally held to be their master, or a particularly powerful tornak. The tornarssuk was regarded as, on the whole, a benevolent power; through his tornak the angekok could get into communication with him and obtain wise counsels. But evil deeds seem often to have been attributed to him. With him, as with all the other supernatural beings, it probably depended on the angekoks whether he should be beneficent or the reverse. His home lay in the under-world, in the land of the souls. As to his appearance, ideas were very vague; some holding that he had no form at all; others that he was like a bear; others, again, that he was huge and had only one arm; and some, finally, that he was no larger than a finger. As to his nature, according to Hans Egede, there was no less difference of opinion; for while some held that he was immortal, others believed that it needed very little to kill him. Thus Egede relates that during an angekok's magic operations, or while he is communing with the tornarssuk, 'no one must scratch his head, or fall asleep; for by such means they say the wizard may be killed, and even the devil [that is, the tornarssuk] himself.' Dr. Rink holds that all this is founded upon misunderstandings on the part of Egede and the other missionaries, and that, on the whole, very little was known either as to the tornarssuk's appearance or as to his nature. The heathens on the east coast, however, seem, as we shall see, to know all about him.
In this tornarssuk many have been fain to see a beneficent supreme being whom the Eskimos worship; answering, accordingly, to our God. Nevertheless he was, on the introduction of Christianity, transformed into the devil, with whom he is now synonymous. I cannot help believing that Egede and the first missionaries have had some hand in working-up this conception of him as God. They no doubt started, as many missionaries do even to this day, from the hypothesis that every people must have a conception of God or of a beneficent supreme being, and, assuming this, they probably cross-questioned the poor heathen so long about their tornarssuk, that they at last came to answer just what their questioners desired. Moreover, they doubtless talked so much of their good and almighty God that the heathen priests, in order not to be beaten, began to maintain that they, too, had such a God to help them. That the tornarssuk was not so great a spirit as is commonly stated seems evident from Captain Holm's account of the heathen East Greenlanders' belief. Their tornarssuk is a much less imposing creature, who dwells in the sea, and whom many people, both angekoks and others, can see and have seen. They therefore describe him with great exactitude, and have even numerous representations of him. He is long, like a large seal, but fatter than a seal, and has, among other things, long tentacles. Holm, judging from their descriptions, has come to the heretical opinion that he must be an ordinary cuttle-fish. He devours the souls of those whom he can capture, and is often quite red with blood. One must admit that if this creature is descended from our innate conception of God, he has deplorably degenerated. Moreover, he is not, on the east coast, one and indivisible; but every angekok, according to Holm, has his tornarssuk. He has also a coadjutor, aperketek, a black animal as much as two ells in length, and with great 'knife-tongs in his head.' Holm says expressly that he could discover no trace of a conception of the tornarssuk as the master of the tornak; and we are thus forced to subtract a little from the power and importance attributed to this spirit by former authors.
It seems to me clear that this belief in the tornarssuk, no less than in the tornat, must be traced to a belief in the spirits or ghosts of ancestors. We may possibly find evidence of this in the words themselves. It seems probable that tôrnak may have been the same word as tarnik or tarne (that is, soul), which again resembles tarrak (shadow—compare p. 226). We find some support for this theory in the fact that tôrnak appears on the east coast in the form of tartok or tartak, which is the same word as tarrak. Thus it appears to me probable that all these words were originally one and the same, signifying shadow, reflection, or soul, and also designating the souls of the dead. Tôrnârssuk, again, is certainly a derivative of tôrnak, having probably been in its origin the same as tôrnârssuak, that is to say, ' the big, or the bad and horrible, tornak.' This implies that he was originally a particularly powerful tornak, which, among some tribes, has gradually obtained a sort of dominion over the other tornat or souls of the dead.
That these souls should have become the subject of peculiar superstitions is readily comprehensible when we observe the fear with which they still regard the dead, and still more, of course, their spectres. These gengangere are often visible and may be very dangerous, though sometimes, too, they are tolerably well disposed. The most amiable way in which they can manifest themselves is in a whistling sound, or a singing in people's ears. In the latter case they are begging for food, and to such a request a Greenlander will reply: 'Help yourself'—meaning 'from my stores.' That the ghost is not always hostile appears from what Niels Egede relates of a boy at Godthaab who, playing one day with several others in the neighbourhood of his mother's grave, suddenly saw a shape rising up from it. He and the others took to their heels, but the ghost ran after them, caught her son, 'embraced him, kissed him, and said, "Do not be frightened of me; I am your mother, and love you";' with more to the same effect.
Their customs at the death and burial of their friends show how much they fear the dead, and especially their souls or ghosts. The dying are often dressed in their graveclothes—that is to say, in their best garments—a little while before death. The legs too, are often bent together, so that the feet come up under the back, and in this position they are sewed or swathed in skins. The object is, no doubt, that they may take up less space and need a smaller grave; and it is done during their life in order that the survivors may have to handle their corpses as little as possible. This dread of touching a dead body goes so far (as before mentioned on page 137) that they will not help a man in danger—for example, a kaiak-man who is drowning—when they believe that he is at the point of death.
When they are finally dead, they are taken, if it be in a house, out through the window; if in a tent, through an opening cut in the skins of the back wall. This corresponds remarkably with the common custom in our own country of carrying a body out through an opening in the wall made for the purpose. The reason is, no doubt, the same in both cases—namely, that these openings can be entirely closed again, so that the spectre or soul cannot re-enter, as it might if the body were carried out by way of the passage or the door. It is not improbable that the Greenlanders may have borrowed the habit from the ancient Norwegian or Icelandic settlers in Greenland. It is mentioned in several sagas as having been the custom of the heathen Icelanders. In the Eyrbyggja Saga it is said: 'Then he [Arnkel] let break down the wall behind him [the body of Thorolf], and brought him out thereby.' The clothes and other possessions of the deceased are also at once thrown out, that they may not make the survivors unclean. This recalls our death-bed burning, which is also a widespread custom among our kindred races in Europe.
The survivors also carry their own possessions out of the house, that the smell of death may pass away from them. They are either brought in again at evening, or, as on the east coast, are left lying out for several days. The relatives of the dead man, on the east coast, go so far as to leave off wearing their old clothes, which they throw away.
When the body is carried out, a woman sets fire to a piece of wood, and waves it backwards and forwards, saying: 'There is nothing more to be had here.' This is, no doubt, done with a view to showing the soul that everything belonging to it has been thrown out.
Bodies are either buried in the earth or thrown into the sea (if one of the dead man's ancestors has perished in a kaiak(?)). The possessions of the deceased—such as his kaiak, weapons, and clothes; or, in the case of a woman, her sewing materials, crooked knife, &c.—are laid on or beside the grave, or, if the body is thrown into the sea, they are laid somewhere upon the beach. This seems to be partly due to their fear of a dead person's property and unwillingness to use it; partly, too, as Hans Egede says, to the fact that the sight of these things and the consequent recollection of the dear departed would be apt to set them crying, and 'if they cry too much over the departed they believe that it makes him cold.' This idea reminds one strongly of the second song of Helge Hundingsbane, where his widow Sigrun meets him wet and frozen, and wrapped in a cloud of hoar frost, by reason of her weeping over him. ('Helge swims in the dew of sorrow.') Compare also the well-known Swedish-Danish folk-song of 'Aage and Else,' in which we read:
'For every time that in thy breast
Thy heart is glad and light,
Then all within my coffin seems
With rose-leaves decked and dight.
For every time that in thy breast
Thy heart is sad and sore,
Then all within my coffin seems
To swim in red, red gore.'
But, beyond this, it was doubtless the belief of the Greenlanders that the deceased had need of his implements, partly for earthly excursions from the grave, partly also in the other world. They saw, indeed, that the implements rotted, but that only meant that their souls followed the soul of the deceased. Those who carry the body out, or have touched it or anything belonging to it, are for some time unclean, and must refrain from certain foods and occupations, which the angekoks prescribe; indeed, all those who live in the same house must observe the like precautions, partly to avoid injury to themselves, partly in order to place no hindrance in the way of the departed soul on its journey to the other world.
They must weep and mourn for a stated time over the deceased; and if they meet acquaintances or relatives whom they have not seen since the death took place, they must, even if it be a long while after, begin to weep and howl as soon as the newcomer enters the house. Such scenes of lamentation must often be exceedingly ludicrous, and are, in fact, the merest comedy, ending in a consolatory banquet. They have also many other mourning customs, which exercise a tolerably powerful influence upon their lives. Those, for example, who have carried out a body must do no work in iron for several years. Moreover, we must remember the before-mentioned dread of uttering the name of the deceased.
The great object of all this is no doubt, as the East Greenlanders said to Holm, 'to keep the dead from being angry;' whence we see what a powerful influence over this life they attribute to the departed. There is, therefore, nothing improbable in the theory that the whole belief in the tornat and tornarssuk may have developed from this fear. In process of time, however, other kinds of superstition have doubtless come to play a part in the matter.
The Greenlanders believe in a whole host of other supernatural beings. Of these I can only mention a few.
Marine animals are under the sway of a gigantic woman whom some call 'the nameless one,' others Arnarkuagssâk, which simply means 'the old woman.'
Her dwelling is under the sea, where she sits beside a lamp under which, as under all Greenland lamps, there is a saucer or stand to catch the dripping train-oil. In this saucer whole flocks of sea-birds are swimming, and out of it proceed all the sea animals, such as the seal, the walrus, and the narwhal. When certain impurities gather in her hair, she keeps the sea animals away from the coasts, or they remain away of their own accord, attracted by the impurities; and it is then the angekok's difficult duty to seek her out and appease or comb her. The way to her abode is perilous, and the angekok must have his tornak with him. First he passes through the lovely land of spirits in the under-world; then he comes to a great abyss, which he can cross only (by the help of the tornak) on a large wheel as smooth as ice, and whirling rapidly. Then he passes a boiling cauldron with live seals in it; then either through a dangerous picket of angry seals who stand erect and bite on every side, or else past a huge dog which stands outside the woman's house, and gives warning when a great angekok approaches. This dog takes only a few winks of sleep every now and then, and one must be ready to seize the opportunity; but this only the highest angekoks can manage. Here, again, the tornak must take the angekok by the hand; the entrance is wide enough, but the further way is narrow as a thread or the edge of a knife, and passes over a horrible abyss. At last they enter the house where the woman is sitting. She is said to have a hand as large as the tail-fin of a whale, and if she strikes you with it there is an end of you. According to some accounts, she tears her hair and perspires with fury over such a visit, so that the angekok, aided by his tornak, must fight with her in order to get her hair cleaned or combed; while others hold that she is accessible to persuasions and appeals. His task achieved, the return journey is comparatively easy for the angekok. This myth reminds us strongly of the visits to the under-world or Hades which play so prominent a part in European legends, for example, in those of Dionysos, Orpheus, Heracles, and others (compare also Dante), and to which we have a parallel in our own mythology in Hermod's ride to Hel to bring back Balder. Similar legends are also found, however, among the Indians. From information given me by Moltke Moe, it seems scarcely doubtful that this Eskimo conception is coloured by, or even borrowed from, European legends. The smooth wheel, for example, and the bridge which is narrow as a thread or a knife-edge, reappear, sometimes in the same words, in mediæval legends of journeys to the under world. In an old ballad of the north of England mention is made of 'the bridge of dread no wider than a thread.' Tundal sees in purgatory a narrow bridge over a horribly deep, dark, and malodorous valley, and so forth. The oldest appearance in legendary literature of this hell-bridge is in Pope Gregory the Great's Dialogues, dating from the year 594 (lib. iv. cap. 36). But these mediæval conceptions, in their turn, are indubitably coloured by Oriental traditions. The Jews speak of the thread-like hell-bridge, and the Mahommedans believe that in the middle of hell all souls must pass over a bridge narrower than a hair, sharper than a sword, and darker than night. According to the Avesta, the souls of the old Parsees, on the third night after death, had to cross the 'high Hara'—a mountain which surrounds the earth and reaches right to heaven—in order to arrive at the Tsjinvatbridge which is guarded by two dogs. In the Pehlevi writings, this bridge is said to widen out to nearly a parasang when the souls of the pious pass over it, but it narrows in before the ungodly until they topple down into hell, which lies right under.
An analogous conception is found (compare Sophus Bugge, op. cit.) in the old folk-song 'Draumekvædi,' as to the Gjallar bridge on the way to the land of the dead. It hangs high in air so that one grows dizzy upon it ('Gjallarbrui, hon henge saa högt i vinde'), and in some variants of the song it is expressly stated to be narrow, whilst in others it is said to be 'both steep and broad.' In the Eddas we are told that Hermod, on the way to Hel, rode over the Gjallar-bridge, which was roofed with shining gold, and which thundered under his horse's hoofs not less than if five squadrons of dead men (that is to say 250) had been passing over it.
It seems probable that this belief of the Greenlanders in a narrow bridge or pass must be coloured by these European, or partly Oriental, conceptions, imparted to them by the ancient Scandinavians. At the same time there may also be something more original at the root of it. Thus we find among the Indians the notion of a snake-bridge, or a tree trunk swinging in the air, which leads over the river of the dead to the city of the dead.
The notion of the huge dog who guards the entrance to the woman's house reminds us strongly of Hel's terrible dog Garm, with the bloody breast, who barks before the Gnipa-cave. For the rest, this notion of the dog in the other world is a common one. Among the Hindoos, two dogs watch the path to the abode of Jama, and among the old Parsees, two dogs guard the Tsjinvat bridge (see last page). The Indians station a huge and furious dog at the other end of the above-mentioned snake bridge.
In European folk tales, and especially in those of Scandinavia, we often meet with an old woman who bears rule over animals. She likes to be called 'Mother,' is fond of being scratched or washed, and is glad to get hold of a pair of shoes, a piece of tobacco, or the like. If the Ash-Lad meets her and does her any such service, she requites him with a 'motherly turn,' making her animals help him or giving him gifts. But besides this common theme which reappears in a majority of our folk-tales, we can also point to a particular story which is founded on similar conceptions. The Ash-Lad comes to the ogress with a whole company of animals, the stoat, the tree-bear (the squirrel), the hare, the fox, the wolf and the bear, to try to rescue his sister whom she has carried off. While he is eating, the ogress cries 'Scratch me! scratch me!' 'You must wait till I've finished,' says the boy; but his sister warns him that if he does not do it at once the ogress will tear him to pieces. Then he makes the animals scratch her, one after the other; but none of them content her until it comes to the turn of the bear, who claws her till her itch departs. In several variants, three brothers make the attempt one after the other, and she kills the first two of them. Even at first sight this Scandinavian group of stories seems suspiciously like the Greenland legends, the scratching and washing especially reminding us strongly of the hair-combing; but when we also find that Arnarkuagssak is unknown to the Alaskan Eskimos, the connection seems to be clear. According to one Greenland legend she was the daughter of a powerful angekok who, being overtaken by a storm, threw her out of the woman-boat to save himself. She clung on to the gunwale, whereupon he, one by one, cut off her fingers and her hands. These were transformed into seals and whales, over which she obtained dominion; and when she sank to the bottom, she took up her abode there for good. Among the Eskimos of Baffin's Land the same legend is told of a woman named Sedna, who has, however, become a different being from Arnarkuagssak. The latter seems to be unknown on the Mackenzie river. 'If it should appear,' says Dr. Rink, 'that the Greenland myth is not known in Alaska either, we must conclude that it was invented during the course of the emigration to Greenland.' It seems more natural, however, to conjecture, as I have done above, that it descends from the old Scandinavians.
On the whole, then, it seems probable that this Greenland divinity was originally a character in old Norwegian folklore, and that the description of the journey to her abode is descended from, or at least coloured by, European myths and legends, imported by the old Scandinavian settlers; but more original Eskimo elements may also be mixed up in it, having their origin in the west, and resembling the myths of the Indians.
The souls who go to the over-world have to pass the abode of a strange woman who dwells at the top of a high mountain. She is called Erdlaversissok (i.e. the disemboweller), and her properties are a trough and a bloody knife. She beats upon a drum, dances with her own shadow, and says nothing but 'My buttocks, &c.,' or else sings 'Ya, ha, ha, ha!' When she turns her back she displays huge hindquarters, from which dangles a lean sea-scorpion; and when she turns sideways her mouth is twisted utterly askew, so that her face becomes horizontally oblong. When she bends forwards she can lick her own hindquarters, and when she bends sideways she can strike her cheek, with a loud smack, against her thigh. If you can look at her without laughing you are in no danger; but as soon as anyone begins to smile she throws away her drum, seizes him, hurls him to the earth, takes her knife and rips him up, tears out his entrails, throws them into the trough, and then greedily devours them. In this story, too, we meet with more than one trait of Scandinavian tradition. Thus 'the underground folk' cannot endure laughter; the human being who wounds them by laughing at them must pay dear for his thoughtlessness. And in two names for the Jotun-woman which are preserved in Snorro's Edda, Bakrauf and Rifingafla ('the woman with the cleft or torn hindquarters') we find exactly the same idea which is represented in the ogress of the Greenland legend.
On the same journey the souls also pass the dwelling of the Moon Spirit. The way they have to go is described as very narrow, and one sinks in it up to the shoulders. This reminds us of the bogs which are said in our 'Draumekvædi' to lie in the neighbourhood of the Gjallar-bridge, and into which the wicked sink.
Hög'e æ den Gjallarbrui,
High is the Gjallar-bridge; it hangs,
In Denmark, too, popular legend speaks of these hell-bogs or hell-mosses. Thus it seems that here again we can trace the influence of the ancient Scandinavians, to whom the conception of such penitential swamps in the under-world no doubt came from the ecclesiastical vision-fictions of the middle ages.
When kaiak-men are at sea, they believe themselves to be surrounded by the so-called ignerssuit (the plural of ignerssuak, which means 'great fire'). These are for the most part good spirits, inclined to help men. The entrance to their dwellings is on the sea shore. 'The first earth which came into existence had neither seas nor mountains, but was quite smooth. When the One above was displeased with the people upon it, he destroyed the world. It burst open, and the people fell down into the rifts and became ignerssuit, and the water poured over everything. When the earth reappeared, it was entirely covered by a glacier. Little by little this decreased, and two human beings fell down from heaven, by whom the earth was peopled. One can see every year that the glacier is shrinking. In many places signs may yet be seen of the time when the sea rose over the mountains.'
In this myth we can trace influences from no fewer than four different quarters. The conception of the ignerssuit, who resemble men and live under the earth, suggests the Indian legend that men formerly lived under the earth, but began one day to climb to the surface by means of a vine which grew up through a fissure or chasm in a mountain. When a fat old woman (or man) tried to clamber up, the vine broke off, and the rest had to remain below, while those who had reached the top peopled the earth.
The two beings who fall down from heaven appear to belong to the cosmogony of the Finnish-Ugrian races, or to be borrowed from the same source. Among the Vogulians, the two first people descended from heaven in a cradle of silver wire. The idea that heaven is the birthplace of humanity is also found in the myths of other Finnish-Ugrian tribes in Asia and Europe.
Similar ideas have also reached the Indians (perhaps through the Eskimos?) Thus the Hurons believe that the first human beings came from heaven. The idea that the earth was originally flat and then split up also reminds us of the Finnish-Ugrian cosmogony, according to which the earth, when first created, formed a quite smooth and level crust over the water, but was afterwards made to billow by an internal convulsion, and stiffened in its billowy form, whence the origin of mountains and valleys.
We may distinguish a third element in the people who originally dwelt upon this flat earth, in its displeasure with whom the Power above caused the earth to split and the water to rush forth. It seems scarcely doubtful that this conception is due to a direct intermixture of the Christian or Jewish legend of the Deluge, which might, of course, have passed from the west coast up along the east coast. Possibly, however, the notion of the flood may have been supplemented by touches from a very widespread legend in Europe, and especially in Scandinavia, as to how the subterranean or invisible people (huldre-folk) came into existence. The Lord one day paid a visit to Eve as she was busy washing her children. All those who were not yet washed she hurriedly hid in cellars and corners and under big vessels, and presented the others to the visitor. The Lord asked if these were all, and she answered 'Yes'; whereupon He replied, 'Then those which are "dulde" (hidden) shall remain "hulde" (concealed, invisible).' And from them the huldre-folk are sprung. Be this as it may, the ignerssuit cannot but remind us of the subterranean people in our Scandinavian folk-lore.
Finally we have as a fourth element the glacier, which must belong exclusively to Greenland itself.
Among other supernatural beings may be mentioned the different sorts of inland-folk who live in the interior of the country or upon the ice-fields. Some of these are called tornit (the plural of tunek) or inorutsit, or, upon the east coast, timersit. They are of human aspect, but of huge stature. Some say they are 4 metres (13 feet) in height, and others that they are as tall as a woman-boat is long, that is to say at least 10 metres (more than 32 feet). Their souls alone are as big as ordinary people. They live by hunting both land and sea animals. They can run exceedingly fast. On the sea they do not use kaiaks, but sit in the water 'with the fog for their kaiak.' They can catch seals from the land (in great traps), and they can carry two huge saddlebacks or bladder-noses inland with them in a sealskin bag upon their shoulders. As a rule they stand on a hostile footing towards men, but they are also open to friendly intercourse, and will sometimes even exchange wives with them.
Another class of inland folk are the igaligdlit (the plural of igalilik), who go about with a whole kitchen on their backs. The pot alone is so huge that they can boil an entire seal in it; and it boils even as they carry it about. A third class are the erkigdlit (the plural of erkilek), who, according to some, are like men above and dogs below, but according to others have dogs' heads or dogs' noses. They are expert archers, and carry their arrows in quivers on their backs. They are hostile to men. I may also mention the isserkat (the plural of isserak), who 'blink lengthwise'—which probably means that their eye-holes are perpendicular instead of horizontal.
As Rink has shown, there can be very little doubt that these inland folk, who all play a prominent part in the Eskimo legends, were originally different races of Indians with whom the forefathers of the Greenlanders, while they still dwelt on the north coast of America, had dealings, sometimes amicable, but generally hostile. They brought with them to Greenland stories of these adventures, and they still laid the scene in the interior of the country, where the Indians in process of time became entirely mythical beings. The word tunek seems simply to mean Indian, and is so used to this day by the Eskimos of Labrador. By the Eskimo tribes on the west coast of Hudsons Bay and further west the word erkigdlit is applied to the Indians of the interior. The description of the tornit as large and swift applies well to the Indians, who are taller than the Eskimos, and have the upper hand of them by land. The fact that the erkigdlit are clever with the bow and carry their arrows in quivers—a custom not in use among the Greenlanders—also suggests the Indians. So, too, do the dogs' legs or dogs' faces attributed to them, these having no doubt arisen from the Indians' own belief that they are descended from a dog (see p. 271). The isserkat, 'those who blink lengthwise,' may originally have been Indian races with remarkably oblique or otherwise peculiar eyes; such tribes are described by travellers. Here, then, we have supernatural or mythical beings who may be assumed to be of historical origin. The legends of wars with them have also, no doubt, a certain historical foundation. In the same way, probably, did the classical peoples come in contact with the mythical races of their legends.
The kivitut (the plural of kivitok) are beings of a peculiar nature. They have at one time been ordinary men, who for some reason or other, often quite insignificant, have fallen out with their families or their companions, or have felt aggrieved by them, and have therefore turned their backs upon their fellows and fled to the mountains or into the interior. Here they henceforth live alone, feeding upon animals which they kill without ordinary weapons, simply by throwing stones at them, an art in which they become very skilful. While the kivitok has only been a short time away, it is still open to him to return to his fellows; but if he does not within a certain number of days obey the voice of his homeward longing, he loses the power of resuming his place among men. Some hold that a year is the allotted period. He now acquires supernatural faculties; he becomes so swift of foot that he can leap from one mountain peak to another, he can catch reindeer without weapons, and whatever he aims at he hits. He grows to a great size, clothes himself in reindeer skins, and, according to some, his face turns black and his hair white. Furthermore, he becomes omniscient or clairvoyant; he can hear the speech of men from any distance, and comes to understand the language of the animals. But he pays for all this in his inability to die, and he is always mournful, shedding tears of longing for humankind to which he can never return. He can, however, when opportunity offers, especially at night, make his way into houses or store-rooms to pick up something to eat, or perhaps a little tobacco. Those who have wronged him are always in danger of his vengeance.
The remarkable feature of this belief is that it probably has a certain foundation in fact. Suicide is almost unknown in Greenland, except in the case of a few old or hopelessly infirm people, who, finding themselves at death's door, sometimes throw themselves over a precipice into the sea (compare p. 170) in order to put an end to their sufferings and assure themselves burial. On the other hand, it now and then happens that someone or other, wounded, perhaps, by a single word from one of his kinsfolk, runs away to the mountains, and is lost for several days at least. I myself know Greenlanders who have done this; and authentic examples are given of people who have lived for years as kivitoks. About twenty-five years ago, on the island of Akugdlek in North Greenland, a cave was found which bore evidence of having been a human habitation for a considerable time. A well-trodden path led up to it, and within it was a hearth, a hole in the ground which had served as a store-room, a soft bed of moss, remains of dried fish, edible roots, &c. A few paces away, there was found a smaller cave with stones piled up against its mouth. In this the kivitok had buried himself when he found death approaching. There he lay, still in his sealskin jacket; he had himself, from within, closed up the entrance to the sepulchre with a stone. The Greenlanders recognised him, and concluded that he must have lived there as a kivitok for two or three years. His reason for turning his back upon mankind is said to have been that, as a bad hunter, he was looked down upon and slighted by his kinsfolk; and, after the death of his little son, life became so hard for him that he fled.
As Moltke Moe has pointed out to me, there is a remarkable resemblance between these kivitut and the utilegumenn, 'out-liers' so common in the Icelandic popular legends—criminals, that is to say, who have fled to the mountains and live in the wilderness far from mankind. The great part which these 'out-liers' play in the popular fantasy, and the mystic fear with which they are regarded, has caused them, from a very early period, to be in great measure confounded in common belief with trolls, huldrefolk, and other legendary creatures, in whose supernatural faculties they partake. They can see into the future, they know what is happening in distant places, they can conjure up mists and lead the traveller astray, and they possess superhuman strength. Like the kivitok, they seek the abodes of men in order to pick up something to eat; they steal sheep, food, and clothes from the people of the settlements. The most characteristic feature of both the Greenland and the Iceland legends is that men, by being cut off from society, obtain supernatural power. The coincidence becomes still more striking when we observe that both in Greenland and in Iceland these legends form an essential part of living popular tradition and belief. Among other races (with the partial exception of Norwegians of the west coast, and especially of Nordland) similar ideas are scarcely to be found at all. The conclusion, then, is almost inevitable, that the belief in the kivitok is derived from the ancient Scandinavians, or rather from the Icelanders in particular.
I have still to mention, among the remarkable beings known to the Greenlanders, the igdlokok, who is like half a human being, with half a head, one eye, one arm, and one leg. Precisely similar beings are also to be found among the Greeks, the Mohammedans, the Zulus, and the Indians.
As to the creation of the world, the Greenlanders had no definite opinion. The earth and the universe must either have come into existence of their own accord, or must have existed from all time and be destined so to endure.
Nor had they any clear idea as to the creation of man, or of the Eskimo race itself. Some were of opinion that the first man grew up out of the ground and mated with a mound of earth. It brought forth a girl, whom he took to wife. This notion of growing; up from the ground is quite common, occurring in Scandinavia and Iceland, among other places. We say: 'He who strikes the earth with a stick beats his mother; he who strikes a stone beats his father'—an idea which closely corresponds with the Eskimo conception, in which, no doubt, the man should properly be represented as rising from a rock.
As to the origin of us Europeans, they have a legend which is not altogether flattering to our vanity. An Eskimo woman, with whom no husband would remain for any time, at last took a dog to mate, and was brought to bed of a mingled litter of human children and puppies. The puppies she placed on an old shoe-sole and pushed them out to sea, saying, 'Be off with you and become kavdlunaks' (i.e. Europeans). Therefore it is, say the Eskimos, that the kavdlunaks always live on the sea, and that their ships are shaped like a Greenland shoe, round before and behind. The human children she placed upon willow-leaves and despatched them in the opposite direction, so that they became inland-folk or Indians (erkiligdlit or tornit) Precisely similar legends are to be found among the Eskimos of Baffinsland, and also on the north coast of Alaska; though there they refer to the Indians alone, not to the Europeans. Analogous myths of descent from dogs (or wolves, or bears) occur among many races, Aryan as well as Mongolian or American. They lie at the root of the mythology of many Indian tribes, who hold that the first woman took a dog to mate, and that they themselves are descended from this connection. It seems to me evident that the Eskimos have taken their legend from this source, and that they originally applied it to the Indians alone. When, subsequently, they fell in with another strange race (the Europeans), they extended it so as to account for them also. It is noteworthy that the shoe which turns into a ship occurs in the Baffinsland versions as well.
The Eskimos, according to some authorities, trace the origin of death to a woman who once said: 'Let people gradually die, or else there will be no room for them in the world.' Others believe that two of the first human beings quarrelled, the one saying 'Let there be day and night and let men die.' the other 'Let there be night alone, and let men live for ever;' and after a long quarrel the former gained the victory. Others, again, hold that there was a race between a snake and a louse as to which should first reach mankind; if the snake arrived first they should live for ever, if the louse arrived first they must die. The snake got a long start, but fell over a high precipice by the way, and had to make a long detour, so that the louse won the race and brought death with it. These myths, by their very meaninglessness and incoherence, seem to show that they come from elsewhere, and are fragments of older beliefs whose original point and meaning is forgotten. If we look around in the world, we shall find remarkable analogies among the most distant races. The second myth (that of the quarrel) reappears in the Fiji Islands, where the moon wrangles with a rat, maintaining that men ought to die and come to life again as she herself does; while the rat maintains that they ought rather to die like rats—and he gets the best of it. Among the Indians it is two wolf-brothers, ancestors of the race, who quarrel. The younger says: 'When a man dies, let him come back the following day so that his friends may rejoice.' 'No,' says the elder, 'let the dead never return.' Then the younger kills the son of the elder, and that is the beginning of death.
We find remarkable analogues in South Africa to the myth of the snake and the louse. On the Gold Coast, among the Zulus, and elsewhere, it is related that the first great Being sent an animal (a chameleon) to mankind with the message that they were to live and never die. But then the Being changed his mind, and sent after it another animal (the fleet-footed salamander) with the message that they were to die; and as the latter arrived first, so it was. There are several forms of this myth. Among the Hottentots it was the moon who sent the message to mankind: 'You, like me, shall die and come to life again.' But the hare heard this, and ran ahead and said: 'You, like me, shall die and never come to life again.' This myth, again, is remarkably similar to the Fiji legend quoted above; and thus we have a bridge between the second and third Greenland myth, which must accordingly be taken to be two variants of one original—an exceedingly ancient one, since it has spread so far.
The Eskimos trace to their fellow-countrymen the origin of almost everything in external nature. It was an old man hewing chips from a tree that brought into being the fishes and other marine animals. He rubbed the chips between his legs ('sudore testiculorum') and threw them into the water, upon which they turned into fishes. The Greenland shark, however, is of different origin: 'One day a woman was washing her hair in urine. A gust of wind carried away the cloth with which she was drying her hair, and it became a shark; wherefore the flesh of this fish still smells of urine.'
The heavenly bodies were once ordinary Eskimos, living upon the earth, who, for one reason or another, have been translated to the skies. The sun was a fair woman, and the moon her brother, and they lived in the same house. She was visited every night by a man, but could not tell who it was. In order to find out, she blackened her hands with lamp-soot, and rubbed them upon his back. When the morning came, it turned out to be her brother, for his white reindeer-skin was all smudged; and hence come the spots on the moon. The sun seized a crooked knife, cut off one of her breasts, and threw it to him, crying: 'Since my whole body tastes so good to you, eat this.' Then she lighted a piece of lamp-moss and rushed out; the moon did likewise and ran after her, but his moss went out, and that is why he looks like a live cinder. He chased her up into the sky, and there they still are. The moons dwelling lies close to the road by which souls have to pass to the over-world; and in it is a room for his sister the sun. This myth seems to have come to the Eskimos from the westward. Among the North American Indians the sun and moon are brother and sister, and even so far away as among the Indians of the Amazon district we find the same myth, only that there the moon is a woman who visits her brother the sun in the darkness. He discovers her criminal passion by drawing his blackened hand over her face. (Compare also the myths from Australia and the Himalayas on the following page.) Among the Incas of Peru, the sun and moon were at the same time brother and sister and man and wife. (Compare also the Egyptians' Isis and Osiris.) It is remarkable that among the Greenlanders the sun is conceived as being beautiful in front, but a naked skeleton behind. This so strongly suggests our beautiful 'huldre,' who are hollow when seen from behind, that it seems as though the idea must be a European and especially a Scandinavian one, imported into Greenland by the old Norse settlers. According to the East Greenlanders, the reason why the sun has nothing but bare bones behind is that, when she is at her lowest point, that is to say on the shortest day, people cut her back with knives in order to make her rise again. The flesh is thus cut away, and only the bones remain.
The moon has not yet turned over a new leaf, but still pays frequent visits to the earth in search of amorous adventures. Therefore, it behoves women to beware of him, not to go out alone in the moonlight, not to stand looking at his orb, and so forth. This erotic proclivity of the moon's seems to be of very ancient date. In Australia he is a tom-cat who, on account of an intrigue with the wife of another, was driven forth to wander for ever. Among the Khasias of the Himalayas, the moon every month commits the unpardonable sin of falling in love with his mother-in-law, who throws ashes in his face, thus causing the spots upon it. According to a Slavonic legend, the moon was the sun's husband, who, on account of infidelity with the morning star, was cleft in twain. Among the old Greeks and Romans the moon was of female sex, indeed, but the fair Luna was by no means exempt from amatory tendencies. Among the Eskimos, again, the moon is supposed to be the cause of cold weather. He produces snow by whittling a walrus tusk, and strewing the shavings upon the earth, or else by blowing through a reed; and when he visits the earth, he always comes driving in a sledge over the winter ice. It is quite natural that such associations should attach to the moon, since it is in the ascendant during the night and in winter. As a frigid and austere influence, too, he is naturally enough regarded as a man; while further south, where heat is more dreaded than cold, it is the sun who is supposed to be of the sterner sex.
Thunder they believe to be produced by two old women fighting for a dry and stiff skin, and tugging each at her end of it; in the heat of the contest they upset their lamps, and thus cause the lightning. The origin of fogs they trace to a tornarssuk who drank so much that he burst. As to the cause of rain, they have on the east coast another legend in addition to that already mentioned. Rain, according to this account, is produced by a being named Asiak, who dwells in the sky. In ancient days, after a long drought, the angekoks would set out for his abode to beg for rain. When they arrived, they would peep in, and would usually see his wife sitting on the edge of the sleeping-bench, while Asiak himself would be lying covered up close to the wall. On their imploring her aid, she would ultimately reply: 'Last night he wetted his rug a little, as he usually does;' whereupon she would take up the piece of bear-skin on which he had been sitting, and would shake it, thus causing it to rain upon earth. The very fact that the angekoks are represented as begging for rain, which is of no service whatever to a people of hunters and fishers like the Eskimos, seems to prove that this myth must have originated in other latitudes, where agriculture is practised. It is not impossible, as Holm conjectures, that Asiak may be identical with the rain-gods of several of the American aboriginal races—deities who lived on the tops of high mountains. The Mayas of Yucatan, it may be noted, called their rain-god Chac. But it is also possible that the whole myth may come from further west. Among primitive races, rain was very generally traced to a similar origin. In Kamtchatka we meet with the idea in its crudest form. When the modern Greek peasant indicates rain by the phrase κατουράει ὁ θεός, he is merely employing an image at least as old as Aristophanes, who makes one of his characters in 'The Clouds' (v. 373) remark that formerly when it rained he used to believe Zeus διὰ κοσκίνου οὐρεῖν. The same idea, more or less disguised, and generally with a touch of the jocose in it, reappears in many popular expressions current in Germany, Belgium, Norway, and elsewhere. They have all their root in a belief of primeval antiquity which can also be traced among many other races—for example, among the old heathen Arabians, and even among the Jews.
In their beliefs or superstitious the Eskimos used to be, and still are on the east coast, instructed by their priests or exorcisers, the angekoks (angakok, 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, and rub a stone round upon another stone, following the sun, for several days on end, whereupon a spirit comes forth from the mountain. Then he must die of fright, but afterwards come to life again; and thus he gradually obtains the mastery of his tornat. He must not reveal that he is going through this probation until it is completed, but then he must make public announcement of the fact. If he is to be a regular tip-top angekok, it is highly desirable that he should be seized and dragged to the seashore by a bear; then there comes a walrus, buries its tusks in his genital organs, drags him away to the horizon, and eats him up. Thereupon his bones set off homewards, and meet the shreds of flesh upon the way; they grow together again, and he is whole once more. Now he is at the head of his profession.
The influence of these angekoks of course depended upon their adroitness; but they do not seem to have been mere charlatans. It is probable that they themselves partly believed in their own arts, and were even convinced that they sometimes received actual revelations; although Egede is not inclined to believe that they had 'any real commerce or understanding with the devil.'
They can also cure diseases by reciting charms, give a man a new soul, and so forth. Among the diseases which they profess to cure are reckoned inability to catch seals, in a man, and, in a woman, inability to bear children. In the latter case, the East Greenland angekok, even to this day, has to journey to the moon, from which a child is thrown down to the woman, who becomes pregnant of it. After this laborious journey, the angekok has the right to lie with the woman. This visit to the moon is, of course, connected with the aforesaid erotic proclivities of that luminary. Among the Indians, too, the moon seems to possess an influence over procreation.
In order that the angekok may heal diseases he must be well paid; otherwise his arts will be of no avail. It is of course not he himself that receives the gifts, but the tornak, for whom he merely acts as agent.
By reason of their connection with the supernatural world, the most esteemed angekoks have considerable authority over their countrymen, who are afraid of the evil results which may follow any act of disobedience. For it is in Greenland as it used to be here, with priests who were really masters of their craft—they were not only the servants of God, but knew 'the black book' as well, and had power over the devil. The angekoks, indeed, are for the most part well disposed; but they may also work evil by robbing other people of their souls and giving them to their tornarssuk to eat, by sending their tornat to frighten the life out of their enemies, and so forth. Thus we find even among the Eskimos the beginnings of priestly rule.
For the most part, however, it is people of another class who are guilty of such misdeeds as killing others by magic, bewitching their weapons, and the like. These are the so-called ilisitsoks, who may be either male or female. These wizards and witches are much hated. It used to be held that most evils, especially death and disease, were due to them; and if an old woman was suspected of being an ilisitsok she was remorselessly killed. This cannot surprise us, when we remember how our own ancestors, with the priests at their head, used to burn their witches. While the angekoks commune with the spirits in the presence of other people, the ilisitsoks' dealings with the supernatural powers are carried on in the deepest secrecy and always to noxious ends. They must be instructed in secrecy by an older ilisitsok and must pay dear for the teaching. It does not seem to be clear what supernatural powers they have dealings with; they are doubtless different from those known to the angekoks, and are purposely kept secret. In their diabolical arts they use many different properties, as for instance human bones, the flesh of corpses, skulls, snakes, spiders, water-beetles, and the like; but their most potent device consists in making tupileks. A tupilek is prepared in the deadliest secrecy of various animals' bones, skins, pieces of the anorak of the man who is to be injured or portions of the seals he has caught; all this being wrapped together and tied up in a skin. Finally, it is brought to life by dint of singing charms over it. Then the ilisitsok seats himself upon a bank of stones close to the mouth of a river. He turns his anorak back to front, draws his hood up over his face, and then dangles the tupilek between his legs. This makes it grow, and when it has attained its proper size it glides away into the water and disappears. It can transform itself into all sorts of animals and monsters, and is supposed to bring ruin and death upon the man against whom it is despatched; but if it fails in this, it turns against him who sent it forth.
These tupileks remind us strongly of the widespread belief both in Norway and Iceland in gand or 'messengers,' and it seems scarcely doubtful that the Eskimos have borrowed this conception from our ancestors in Greenland. The 'gand' in Iceland is also a fabulous, magic creature, sent forth by wizards, with the power of transforming itself into every possible shape; and if it does not succeed in destroying the person against whom it is sent, it returns and kills the sender. It can, however, in Greenland, no less than in Iceland and Norway, be snapped up by other wizards or witches, and its evil influence thus averted.
Rink sees in these ilisitsoks and their connection with the powers of evil a possible survival from an older or primæval faith in Greenland, which is persecuted by the priests of the new faith, the angekoks. Just so do we find that witchcraft among us consisted largely of remnants of the old heathenism and was, therefore, bitterly persecuted by the Christians. There seems to be much in favour of this ingenious conclusion of Rink's. It appears to me possible, however, that as the tupilek is descended from the ancient Scandinavians' belief in gand or 'messengers,' so the origin of the whole witch-lore may be found in the same quarter. There seem to be sufficient points of likeness to justify such a conjecture. It is by no means improbable that precisely this belief in the power of the Evil One, the contract with Satan, the Black Book and so forth—in a word the whole belief in wizardry which lay, and to some extent still lies, at the very root of the superstitions of our race, even deeper, one might almost say, than the belief in God—might have been the first thing borrowed by the Eskimos in their dealings with our forefathers. This rapid and easy way of obtaining supernatural power must have been particularly attractive to them. So far as I have been able to learn, too, witchcraft does not play anything like such a prominent part among the more western Eskimos, if it is to be found at all(?).
I have still to speak of the Greenlanders' belief in amulets. They are used by almost every one, and consist of particular objects, generally portions of animals or of human beings. Charms are sung or muttered over them, and they are given by parents to their children while they are still quite little; or young people are instructed by their elders how to find amulets for themselves. They are worn all through life, as a rule upon the body or among the clothes. The men, for example, often have them sewn into skin pouches made for the purpose, and worn upon the breast, while women often tie them into the topknot of their hair. Others are placed in the house-roof or in the tent; or in the kaiak to prevent it from capsizing. One man as a rule will have several amulets. They are supposed to have power to protect one against witchcraft, and against injury from spirits, to be of assistance in times of danger, and to endow their possessor with certain peculiar faculties. Some amulets can even be used to disguise their possessors in the shape of animals, and thus remind us of the 'hamlöbing' (the putting on of falcon-skins, swan-skins, &c.) in our old mythology. If, for example, a man has a bird or a fish for his amulet, he may by calling upon it transform himself into a bird or a fish; or he may transform himself into a tree, seaweed, or the like, if his amulet consists of a piece of wood or of seaweed. The belief in amulets, as we all know, is spread over the whole world, and can be traced from the most primitive right up to the most highly developed races. Among the Eskimos it no doubt dates from a very early stage of development, and is the most primitive of their existing religious conceptions. The origin of this belief appears to me quite explicable. Some times, of course, it may have arisen from a mere external accident, for example the observation of a series of fortunate events—that a man who is in possession of some particular object has always been lucky in his fishing, and so forth. But as a rule its source lies deeper. When, for example, a man sees that a bird, such as the falcon, cleaves the air with incredible ease and has extraordinary powers of attack with beak and claws, he is apt to attribute these powers to every part of the animal, and especially to the head, with the soul inhabiting it, to the beak, and to the claws. It is not at all unnatural that barren women, in order to have children, should take pieces of a European's shoesole and hang them round their necks. Seeing that Europeans are prolific, they think that through these shoesoles, on which our strength has rested, some part of it will 'pass into their garments and serve them to the like end.' When a boy who spits blood, and whose family is consumptive, is given a seal-blood plug as an amulet (the plug which is used to stop the flow of blood from the wounds of a captured seal), and when this is sewn into the anorak upon his breast, the reason is surely clear enough. It is based upon the same belief in sympathetic transference which plays so great a part in the popular superstitions of all countries. The Eskimos often have for amulets portions of their forefathers' clothes or other possessions, as a rule of their grandfathers'. This has no doubt its origin in the belief that the souls of the dead can protect them, and that when they carry some portions of the dead man's possessions about with them, it is easier to come into rapport with him. Cases are also recorded of the carrying about of small male and female figures to serve as amulets. The transition from this belief in amulets to fetish-worship, or rather idol- and image-worship, does not seem to me to be very difficult.
The Greenlanders also think they derive supernatural help from their charms. These are employed in sickness, in danger, against enemies, &c, and have about the same influence as the amulets. Even less than the amulets, however, have they any connection with spirits, and the method of their action is unknown—no one knows even the meaning of the words which are spoken. They are simply old formulas which have been handed down by means of sale from generation to generation. They have to be learned in secrecy, and must be paid for on the spot and at a very high rate, else they have no efficacy. They are uttered slowly in a subdued, mystic tone; it seems as though they were connected to a certain extent with witchcraft. They remind us forcibly of our old witch-crones and their often meaningless formulas. It seems to me probable that they must be reminiscences of old customs, imported from outside, whose original signification has been lost. According to Rink, charms may also be learnt by listening to the song of birds.
Besides these formulas, magic songs are also in use. The words of these, however, are comprehensible, and they may be sung in the hearing of others.
According to Rink, it is as a rule the deceased relations and ancestors of the person using the charm, and especially his grandparents, whose help is invoked in these formulas and in the songs. From Holm's account, on the other hand, we gather nothing of this sort. It seems to me not unreasonable, however, to suppose that they, and also the amulets, have often a certain connection with the dead, and may thus be the beginning of (or a survival from) a more developed ancestor-worship. When a boy is for the first time placed in a kaiak, the father, by means of magic songs, will invoke for him the protection of his deceased grandparents and great-grand parents.
Offerings to the supernatural powers are very infrequent among the Greenlanders. The most common form of offering is made to the inue of the sea, the so-called kungusutarissat (the plural of kungusutariak). They are fond of foxes' flesh and foxes' tails, which are, therefore, offered to them whenever a fox is caught, that they may make the fishing successful. In travelling, too, the Eskimos will make offerings to certain headlands, glaciers, and the like, which they regard as dangerous, in order to get past them unharmed. The offering is as a rule thrown overboard into the sea; it often consists of food, but may also take the form of beads or other things which they value.
Besides these religious ceremonies the Greenlanders have others, especially certain rules of life as to fasting, abstinence, and the like, which must be observed, for example, by women immediately before or after the birth of a child. It would, however, lead us too far to go in detail into these matters.
From this survey of the religious conceptions of the Greenlanders, it will doubtless appear that they are not so exempt from foreign influences as many have been inclined to think. We can trace in them admixtures from many quarters; we have found myths whose place of origin is certainly as distant as Central Asia; nay we have even found some which unquestionably bridge the distance between Greenland, South Africa, and the Fiji Islands. The migrations of such myths presuppose immense periods of time. What is perhaps most interesting for us, however, is the traces which we find of our own forefathers' visits to Greenland. It is not only a few ruined buildings that bear witness to their presence; they have also left an unmistakable imprint on the spiritual life of the natives. I shall cite one or two more examples of remarkable resemblances to European, and especially Scandinavian, superstitions, which must in all probability have arisen from intercourse with our forefathers.
The Greenlanders believe that children born in secresy, or murdered after birth, become dangerous spectres (angiak). Among other things, they are in the habit of seeking out a dog's skull, which they use as a kaiak, in order to persecute and kill their kinsfolk—either their mother's later-born children, or, it may be, their mother's brothers, who, by reproaching her for her misconduct, have led her to conceal the birth. Sometimes, too, they pursue people in the form of a feather, a mitten, &c. This conception is very like the belief in what is called utburden, which is very widespread in Norway. These are children who, being born in concealment and killed, have not received a name. They cannot rest, but, in the form of visible or invisible ghosts, they pursue either the mother or people who pass by the place where they have been laid. The resemblance between this Norwegian conception and the Greenland superstition is so great that there is every probability of its having been imported into Greenland by the old Scandinavians.
Passing on to their fairy tales, we find many which resemble Norwegian and other European legends. For example we have in Norway an as yet unpublished tale of three sisters who were bent upon getting married. The one said, 'I am minded to marry even if I got only a fox for a husband;' the second said she would marry if she got only a goat, and the third if she got only a squirrel. Thereupon there came a fox, a goat, and a squirrel, and took each his wife. Their father afterwards paid a visit to each of his sons-in-law. When he came to the squirrel's house, the squirrel bade his wife hang a pot over the fire, and then all three went out and came to a river, into which the squirrel dived and brought up a trout. When the man reached home he bade his wife put a pot on the fire and go out with him. On reaching a river, the man tried to dive as he had seen the squirrel do, but was drowned. In Greenland we find this story split into two. In the one it is two sisters who go down to the shore and wish, the one for an eagle, the other for a whale, as a husband; and these animals at once come and carry them off. In the other we are told of a pair of old people who live alone with their daughter. One day there comes a big unknown man, who says that he lives near them to the southward, and asks for their daughter in marriage. He obtains her, and on leaving her home asks his father-in-law to come and pay them a visit. This the father-in-law does. When he enters the house, his daughter hangs a kettle over the fire and her husband goes out. The old man looks after him through the window, but sees only a cormorant which flies over the water, dives, and comes up with a sea-scorpion. Presently the son in-law comes in with the sea-scorpion, which he gives to his father-in-law to eat. On the old man's return home he asks his wife to hang the pot over the lamp, then rows with her a little way out from the land, and ties a stone round his neck and a long rope round his waist, saying to his wife: 'I will dive into the water, and when I tug at the rope you must haul me up again.' He jumps overboard and sinks, and when his wife hauls him up again he is drowned. The resemblance between this story and the latter part of the Norwegian one is so great that there can scarcely be any doubt as to its origin. We must, however, take into account the possibility that it did not come through the old Scandinavians, but through Hans Egede and his people, or even later.
The following story resembles both Asiatic and European legends. A reindeer-hunter once saw a number of women bathing in a lake. He took away the clothes of the fairest of them, who had therefore to follow him home and become his wife, whilst the others rushed to the shore, put on their clothes, and were transformed into geese or mergansers and flew away. His wife bore him a son; but presently she set to work collecting feathers, by means of which she changed both herself and her son into birds, and flew away with him one fine day, when the man was out hunting. He set forth to search for them, and came upon a man who was cutting chips of wood which were transformed into fishes. This man placed him upon the tail of a big salmon which he made out of a chip, and told him to close his eyes, whereupon the fish brought him to his wife and son. The American Eskimos have an altogether similar story. Among the Samoyedes it is related that a man went out on a journey and came upon an old woman who was felling birch trees. He helped her, and went with her to her tent, where he hid himself. Then in came seven girls, who talked to the old woman and went away again. She said to him: 'In the darkest part of yonder wood there is a lake; there the seven girls will bathe; take away the clothes of one of them'—and he did so. The remainder is quite different from the Greenland story, and there is nothing at all about their being changed into birds, though their home was in air or in the sky. This story, whose likeness to the Greenland legend is remarked by Dr. Rink, is not, however, so like it as an Icelandic story, in which we are told that a man was walking early one morning beside the sea and came to the mouth of a cave. He could hear sounds of dancing and merriment from inside the cave, and outside it lay a heap of sealskins, one of which he took home with him. Later in the day he came again to the mouth of the cave; there sat a fair young woman quite naked, and weeping. She was the seal who owned the skin. He gave her clothes, took her home with him, married her, and they had children. But one day when the man was out fishing his wife found the old sealskin; the temptation was too strong for her, she said good bye to her children, put on the skin and threw herself into the sea. The Greenland story, for the rest, resembles the swan legends which are spread over almost the whole world, and of which we have several in Europe. That it cannot have been introduced into Greenland of recent years, is proved by the fact that Paul Egede heard it there so long ago as 1735. The possibility that it may have been brought to Greenland by the old Scandinavians seems to me strengthened by the fact that swan-legends and stories of a like nature do not seem to have been common in America. Powers, for example, in his book about the Indians of California, says that he can find no stories of this nature among them.
If space permitted I could adduce several other remarkable coincidences between the folk-lore of Greenland and that of Europe, and especially of Scandinavia. It appears, then, that the intercourse between the old Scandinavians and the natives must have been greater than has generally been believed.
- As to the constitution of the soul see also Paul Egede, Efterrelinger om Grönland, p. 149, and Cranz, Historie von Grönland, p. 258.
- Paul Egede says expressly (Efterretinger om Grönland, p. 126) that the natives make no distinction between tarrak and tarnek (tarnik), and he himself uses the two words indifferently. See also the same work, p. 92.
- Historie von Grönland, p. 257.
- See Holm, Meddelelser om Grönland, pt. 10, p. 112.
- A similar idea is also current on the west coast (compare Meddelelser om Grönland, pt. 10, p. 342), but seems there to have reference to the ordinary soul of the deceased. The distinction between the soul and the name cannot, therefore, be sharply drawn among the different tribes.
- Throughout the foot-notes to this chapter, Dr. Nansen is profuse in his acknowledgments of the assistance rendered him by Professor Moltke Moe. I have ventured to concentrate these recurrent acknowledgments into this one note, and shall refer to Professor Moe only where he figures as the authority for a statement of fact.—Trans.
- See also Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 311.
- Klemm, Culturgeschichte, iii. p. 77; Tylor, Primitive Culture (1873), ii. p. 4; Antiquarisk Tidsskrift, 1861-63, p. 118.
- It appears to me that exogamy between two of the same surname, which is found among many races (see p. 175), can easily be explained on this principle, since the same name creates a close spiritual affinity, which may, like blood-affinity, act as a bar to marriage.
- See Holm, op. cit. p. 111, where examples of such re-christenings are given. Holm thinks that 'the old names reappear when the deceased is quite forgotten.' It seems to me more natural to suppose that this occurs as soon as a child has been called after the dead man.
- Nyrop, Mindre Afhandlinger udgivne af det philologisk-historiske Samfund, Copenhagen, 1887, pp. 147-150.
- Nyrop, op. cit. pp. 136 & 137.
- Liebrecht, Academy, iii. (1872), p. 322.
- Meddelelser om Grönland, pt. 10, p. 113.
- See Schoolcraft, in Antiquarisk Tidsskrift, 1861-63, p. 119, &c., Also Andrée, Ethnographische Parallelen und Vergleiche, p. 180; Tylor, Early History of Mankind, p. 142.
- The reluctance prevailed among our forefathers. 'Sigurd concealed his name because people believed in the old days that a dying man's curse had great power, when he called his enemy by name.'—Sæmundar Edda, ed. by Sophus Bugge, p. 219.
- Information received from Prof. Moltke Moe.
- The way in which name and thing melt into one appears clearly, to mention one instance, in the Swabian custom of 'throwing the names of three shrewish women' into the wine, in order to turn it into good vinegar.
- Compare Nansen: The First Crossing of Greenland, i., p. 328; abridged edit., p. 160.
- As to the significance of the name and its mention among the different races, compare Kristoffer Nyrop's comprehensive essay, 'The Power of the Name,' in Mindre Afliandlinger udgivne af det philologisk-historiske Samfund, Copenhagen, 1887, pp. 119-209. See also B. Gröndahl in Annaler for nordisk Oldkyndighed, 1863, p. 127, &c.; Moltke Moe, in Letterstedtske Tidsskri, 1879, p. 286, &c.; S. Grundtvig, Danmarks gamle Folkeviser, ii. p. 339, &c.; H. Spencer, Principles of Sociology, vi. p. 701.
- Compare Rink, Aarböger for nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie, 1868, iii. p. 202.
- Compare Paul Egede, Efterretninger om Grönland, p. 149.
- Holm, Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 113.
- Communicated to me by Moltke Moe.
- See on the same subject Paul Egede, Efterretninger om Grönland, p. 117. According to some accounts, witches and 'wicked people' go to the over-world.
- Communicated by Moltke Moe. Compare also J. Flood, Grönland, Kristiania, 1873, p. 10, note. Similar notions are said to be current in Bavaria and in the Marquesas islands. Compare Liebrecht, in the Academy, iii. (1872), p. 321.
- P. Egede, Efterretninger om Grönland, p. 109. See also H. Egede, Det gamle Grönlands nye Perlustration, p. 84. Cranz, Historie von Grönland, p. 301.
- Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 106, note.
- Tylor, Primitive Culture (1873), i. p. 472.
- This conception of a second death, or the death of the soul, is found among many races: Hindus, Tartars, Greeks, Kelts, Frenchmen, Scandinavians, Germans, &c.
- Tylor, Primitive Culture, ii. p. 44.
- Knortz, Aus dem Wigwam, Leipzig, 1880, p. 183; compare p. 142.
- It is interesting to note that the Alaska Eskimos seem to believe in a being similar to this tornarssuk of the east coast of Greenland, with long tentacles, &c. See Holm: Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 115, note 1.
- Tartok means properly 'dark.' Among the Eskimos of Southern Alaska, the same word, taituk, means 'mist.' In East Greenland târtek means 'black.' (Compare Rink: Meddelelser om Grönland, part 11, p. 152.)
- Rink: Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, p. 44. In Scotland a singing in the ears is called 'the dead-bell,' and portends the death of a friend. Hogg: Mountain Bard, 3rd ed. p. 31.
- Tredie Continuation, &c., p. 74.
- Holm, however, tells us (Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 105), that on the east coast the body is sometimes dragged out through the house-passage by means of a thong looped around the legs. In such cases, I take it, the dread of touching the body must have conquered the dread of taking it out through the passage, for if it is taken through the window it must be lifted and handled. By dragging it with the feet foremost and pointing outwards they probably think to hinder the soul from effecting a re-entrance.
- From information given me by Moltke Moe. Compare also Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 372.
- Morris and Magnússon, The Saga Library, vol ii. 'The Ere-Dwellers,' p. 88.
- See Moltke Moe's paper in the Norske Universitets- og Skoleannaler, 1880, and the works there cited.
- Holm, Meddelelser om Grönland., part 10, p. 107.
- Hans Egede, Det gamle Grönlands nye Perlustration, p. 83.
- See P. A. Gödecke's translation of the Edda, p. 170, and notes on p. 335.
- Paul Egede, Continuation af Relationerne, &c., p. 45; Hans Egede, Grönlands nye Perlustration, p. 118; Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, pp. 40, 466.
- The Dakota Indians relate that on the way to Wanaratebe there is a wheel which rolls with frightful velocity along the bottom of the abyss below the mountain ridge mentioned on p. 239. To this wheel are bound those who have treated their parents despitefully. See Liebrecht, Gervasius Otia Imperialia (1856), p. 91, note.
- Reference communicated by Moltke Moe.
- See Sophus Bugge, Mythologiske Oplysninger til Draumekvædi, in Norsk Tidsskrift for Videnskab og Literatur, 1854-55, p. 108-111; Grimm, Mythologie, p. 794; Liebrecht, Gervasius Otia Imperialia, p. 90. Compare also H. Hübschmann, Die parsische Lehre vom Jenseits und jüngsten Gericht, in Jahrbücher für protestantische Theologie, v. (Leipzig, 1879), p. 242.
- Compare H. Hübschmann, op. cit., pp. 216, 218, 220, 222.
- Tylor, Primitive Culture, ii. 50 . Compare, too, the Indians' conception of a mountain ridge as sharp as the sharpest knife (see p. 239). It is of course possible that the Indians may have got this idea from the Eskimos, or more probably, perhaps, from the Europeans after the discovery of America.
- Sophus Bugge, op. cit., p. 114 .
- Tylor, op. cit. p. 50. Compare Knortz, Aus dem Wigwam, p. 142.
- Communicated by Moltke Moe, from his unpublished collection of folk-tales. See also a tale reported from Flatdal in Fedraheimen, 1877, No. 18; a Hardanger tale (watered down) in Haukenæs's Natur, Folkeliv og Folketro i Hardanger, ii., 233. Danish variants in Kl. Berntsen, Folke-Æventyr, I. (Odense, 1873) p. 116; Et. Kristensen, Jyska Folkeminder, v. 271 .
- Rink, Meddelelser om Grönland, part 11, p. 17. Compare Boas, Petermann's Mittheilungen, 1887, p. 303; Rink and Boas, 'Eskimo Tales and Songs,' in Journal of American Folk-Lore, 1889 (?), p. 127.
- Note by Glahn in Crantz's Historie von Grönland, Copenhagen, 1771, p. 348. Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, p. 440; Danish edit. pp. 87, 166, suppl. p. 44.
- Communicated by Moltke Moe.
- I. 551, 553.
- Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, p. 440; Danish edit. p. 87.
- Compare Sophus Bugge, op. cit., p. 115.
- Noted by Moltke Moe.
- Holm, Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 144.
- Compare K. Knortz, Aus dem Wigwam, p. 130. H . de Charencey (Melusine, i. 225) mentions (quoting from Malthæus, Hidatsa Grammar, 1873, Intr. p. xvii.) that the forefathers of the Minnetarees, a tribe belonging to the Missouri region, lived at the bottom of a great lake, and climbed up to the surface of the earth by help of a big tree, which ultimately broke, so that many of them had to remain below. (From an unpublished manuscript by Moltke Moe.) This legend presents an even closer analogy to that of the ignerssuit, who dwell under the sea.
- See J. Krohn, Finska Litteratur-Historie, 1st Part, Kalevala (1891), p. 165. Moltke Moe has directed my attention to this similarity, and has lent me the MS. of an as yet unpublished essay on legends of this class. As a rule, the connection between earth and heaven is effected by a great tree, by which people climb up and down. The myth of such heaven-trees is to be found in almost every quarter of the world. We find it in Scandinavia (Ygdrasil) no less than in Polynesia, Celebes, Borneo, New Zealand, &c. Among the Vogulians, the son of the first two human beings (see above) transforms himself into a squirrel, climbs up a tree to heaven, and afterwards climbs down again. (Compare A. Lang, Myth, Ritual and Religion (1887). i. 182, note 2.) Among the Indians the first man climbs into a tree, in chase of a squirrel, and so reaches heaven, whence he returns with the elements of civilisation, or, according to some, in order to take his sister up with him again. (Compare Tylor, Early History of Mankind (2nd ed.), p. 349.) The gipsies on the borders of Transylvania have a legend of a great tree from which flesh fell down to earth, and from whose leaves human beings sprang forth (H. von Wlislocki, Märchen und Sagen der transsilvanischen Zigeuner, No. 1.) There is probably some connection between these myths and the Greenland legend; it is quite natural that in the Eskimo version the tree should have disappeared.
- Compare A. Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion, i. 181.
- Compare J. Krohn, op. cit., pp. 163-173.
- Communicated by Moltke Moe. Others relate that it was the ugly children whom Eve concealed, or that she was ashamed of having so many. (See Faye, Norske Folkesagn, 2nd ed. p. xxv.; Söegaard, Fra Fjeldbygderne, p. 102; Dölen, 1862 (III.) No. 17; Storaker and Fuglestedt, Folkesagn fra Lister og Mandals Amt, p. 51; Finn Magnusen, Eddalæren, iii. p. 329; Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, 4th ed. iii. 163, &c.) The legend is originally Jewish, and may be traced to the Rabbis; see, for example, Liebrecht on Gervasius Tilberiensis Otia Imperialia, p. 70.
- Paul Egede gives a somewhat different account of the ignerssuits fall from human estate. They 'formerly dwelt upon earth, until the time of the great flood, which caused the earth to capsize, so that what had formerly been uppermost was now below.'—Continuation af Relationerne, p. 96.
- This suggests our Norwegian 'draug' which sails in a half boat (i.e. a boat split in two longitudinally); and it does not seem impossible that we may here trace the influence of the old Scandinavian settlers.
- Paul Egede: Efterretninger om Grönland, p. 172.
- Legends of dog-men being widely spread over the world (they are found, for instance, among the Greeks), it is possible that the Eskimos may have received them from some other quarter, and applied them to the Indians, who, they knew, claimed descent from a dog.
- Compare Tobler: 'Ueber sagenhafte Völker des Altertums,' &c., in Zeitschrift der Völkerpsychologie, vol. xviii. (1888), p. 225.
- See Hammer, Meddelelser om Grönland, part 8, p. 22; E. Skram in Tilskueren, October, 1885, p. 735. As to kivitut, see also Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo.
- See Arnasen, Íslenzkar þjóðsōgŭr, ii. 160-304, translation by Powell and Magnússon (London, 1866), pp. cxlvi, and 101-231. Maurer Isländische Volkssagen, p. 240; Carl Andersen, Islandske Folkesagn, 2nd ed., p. 258.
- P. Egede, Efterretninger om Grönland, p. 172; Tylor, Primitive Culture, i. 391; Tobler, op. cit., p. 238; Liebrecht in The Academy, iii. (1872), 321.
- P. Egede, Continuation af Relationerne, p. 97; H. Egede, Grönlands Perlustration, p. 117.
- Compare Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 332, and the authorities there cited. See also Moltke Moe in Letterstedtske Tidsskrift, 1879, pp. 277-281.
- H. Egede, Grönlands Perlustration, p. 117; P. Egede, Continuation af Relationerne, p. 47; Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, p. 471; Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, pp. 290, 342.
- Rink and Boas, Journal of American Folklore (1888?) p. 124.
- F. Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, 1879, pp. 17-25; J. C. Müller, Geschichte der americanischen Urreligionen, pp. 134, 65.
- P. Egede, Continuation af Relationerne, pp. 32, 80; Efterretninger om Grönland, pp. 127, 106. H. Egede, Grönlands Perlustration, p. 117.
- Tylor, Primitive Culture, i. 355; A. Lang, La Mythologie (Paris, 1886), pp. 204, 206; Smithsonian Institute, Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1879-80, p. 45. The choice between day and night in the Greenland form of the myth may possibly be borrowed, directly or indirectly, from the biblical cosmogony.
- Christaller in Zeitschrift für afrikanischen Sprachen, I. 1887-88, pp. 49-62. Compare also Bleek, Reineke Fuchs in Afrika (Weimar, 1870): Tylor, op. cit'., p. 355; A. Lang, op. cit., p. 203.
- Hans Egede, Grönlands Perlustration, p. 117; P. Egede, Continuation af Relationerne, pp. 20, 60. As to washing in urine (see p. 29), I may remark that it seems to have been a custom of untold antiquity. We find allusions to it even in the sacred writings of the Parsees. Thus it is said (Vendidad, 8, 13) that corpse-bearers shall wash themselves with urine 'not of men or women, but of small animals or beasts of draught.'
- P. Egede, Continuation af Relationerne, p. 16; H. Egede, Grönlands Perlustration, p. 121; Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, p. 236; Holm, Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 268.
- A. Lang, Custom and Myth, p. 132; Tylor, Primitive Culture' i. 288.
- Compare Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, pp. 237, 440. Danish ed. suppl. p. 44. Liebrecht in Germania, vol. 18 (1873), p. 365.
- Holm, Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 142.
- This myth is so strikingly like the Greenland legend that there can scarcely be a doubt of their having sprung from the same source. Among the Khasias to love your mother-in-law is the direst sin, while among the Greenlanders it is worst to love your sister.
- Tylor, Primitive Culture, i. 354. See also A. Lang, Myth Ritual, and Religion, i. p. 128.
- P. Egede, Efterretninger om Grönland, pp. 150, 206.
- Holm, Geografisk Tidsskrift (Copenhagen, 1891), xi. 16. The idea that rain is due to the overflow of a lake in the over-world may possibly be traceable to more southern regions, where agriculture and artificial irrigation are practised, and where accordingly the mountain lakes have been dammed up. In the Greenland myth there is also mention of the lake being closed by a dam. (Compare Egede and Cranz.)
- See Schwartz, Die poetischen Naturanschauungen, i. pp. 138, 259; ii. p. 198; Schmidt, Das Volksleben der Neugriechen, i. p. 31; Belgisch. Museum, v. p. 215; Ign. Goldziher, Der Mythos bei den Hebräern, p. 88.
- This idea recurs in several parts of the world. Compare Christ's forty days' solitude in the wilderness.
- So in original (Trans.).
- Holm, Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 131.
- Angekoks, too, might be of either sex, but women seem always to have been in the minority among them.
- Holm, Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 135; Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, pp. 53, 151, 201, 461; N. Egede, Tredie Continuation af Relationerne, pp. 43, 48; P. Egede, Efterretninger om Grönland, p. 18, &c.
- Compare Carl Andersen, Islandske Folkesagn og Eventyr, 2nd edit. (1877) pp. 144-149. It is interesting to compare these Icelandic tales with the East Greenland legend related by Holm (Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 303), which is very similar in matter, though of course adapted to the conditions of life in Greenland. Analogous tales are also to be found in Norway, according to Moltke Moe, who has directed my attention to this remarkable similarity.
- Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimos, p. 42.
- One of the characteristics of the ilisitsoks, as well as of the angekoks, is that they breathe fire. In the mediæval legends, and even in more recent European folk-lore, this faculty was attributed to the Devil, and was often extended to those who had sold themselves to him. The Greenland fire-breathing is probably connected with this mediæval superstition. The ilisitsoks, moreover, when seen by the angekoks during their exorcisms, are observed to be black from the hands up to the elbows—a trait which may also have its origin in the popular European conception of the Devil and his host as black in colour.
- Hans Egede, Grönlands Perlustration, p. 116.
- Compare Holm, Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 118.
- Holm, Meddelelser om Grönland, part. 10, p. 119.
- Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, p. 51; Danish ed. suppl. p. 194.
- As regards the greater part of these myths, the theory that they were invented independently in different parts of the world seems quite inadmissible; the coincidences are too numerous and too characteristic. Examples may be cited, indeed, of the same invention having been made independently by different races remotely situated from each other; but they are remarkably rare. On the other hand, it is surprising how certain tools, cultivated plants, and arts or accomplishments have been handed on from people to people over immense tracts of the earth. (Compare Peschel, Abhandlungen zur Erd- und Völkerkunde, 1877, i. p. 468).
- Glahn, Nye Samling af det kongelige norske Videnskabelige Selskabs Skrifter, i. 1784, p. 271. Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, pp. 45, 391, 439: Kleinschmidt, Den grönlandske Ordbog, p. 33.
- See Moltke Moe's Introduction to Qvigstad and Sandberg: Lappiske Eventyr og Folkesagn, p. vii; Nyrop, Mindre Afhandlinger udgivne af det philologisk-historiske Samfund, Copenhagen, 1887, p. 193; Liebrecht, Zur Volkskunde, p. 319.
- I must not omit to note, however, that similar conceptions are to be found in different parts of the world. In Tahiti, Oromatus, the mightiest of spirits, is said to have come into existence in this way, and among the Polynesians generally the souls of children are regarded as being especially dangerous. (Compare F. Liebrecht, in The Academy, iii. 1872, p. 321.) One of my reasons for thinking that the Greenlanders may have borrowed their angiak from the Scandinavians is that, so far as I can ascertain, other Eskimo tribes have no such belief—at least it cannot be common among them. There is no mention of the angiak even among the legends collected by Holm on the east coast. On the other hand, there are several apparently more primitive myths of ordinary children who are turned into monsters. (Compare Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 287; Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, p. 258; Danish ed. suppl. p. 125.) One of these, who on the east coast is the child of the moon by a human mother (Meddelelser om Grönland, part 10, p. 281), has on the west coast become an angiak. This is, no doubt, a late recasting of the legend—a theory which is borne out by the fact that variants occur on the west coast in which the angiak is an ordinary child.
- Communicated by Moltke Moe.
- Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, p. 126; Holm, Meddelelser on Grönland, part 10, p. 276.
- Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, Danish ed. suppl. p. 119.
- P. Egede, Continuation af Relationerne, p. 19; Efterretninger om Grönland, p. 55; Rink, Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, p. 145; Meddelelser om Grönland, part 11, p. 20, Suppl. p. 117.
- Castrén, Ethnologiske Foreläsningar, Helsingfors, 1857, p. 182.
- Meddelelser om Grönland, part 11, Suppl. p. 117.
- C. Andersen, Islandske Folkesagn, 1877, p. 205.
- The Iroquois, however, have a legend of seven boys who were transformed into birds and flew away from their parents. They have also a tale of a young man who goes out fishing and comes upon some boys who have put off their wings and are swimming. They give him a pair of wings which enable him to fly away with them; but they afterwards take his wings away from him and leave him helpless. Compare Rink, Meddelelser om Grönland, part 11, p. 21.
- It has hitherto been supposed that there are no traces of such intercourse except in the Eskimo legends (mentioned in Chapter I), of their encounters with the old Scandinavians, and in the three following words: nîsa for nise (porpoise), kuánek for kvanne (angelica) and kalâlek (meaning Greenlander). The derivation of nîsa (old Norse nisa) and kuánek seems probable enough, though some doubt is thrown on the latter by the fact that in Labrador the word is applied to an eatable sea-weed. Kalâlek was supposed to be the same as the Norwegian skrælling—the name given by our forefathers to the Eskimos, which in an Eskimo's mouth would sound something like kalalek. It is rather surprising, however, to find the same word among the Eskimos of Alaska in the form of katlalik or kallaaluch, meaning an angekok or chieftain (Rink, Meddelelser om Grönland, part 11, Suppl. p. 94; Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, Danish ed. suppl. p. 200). It is possible, however, that the word may have been imported into Alaska from Greenland in modern times. Another thing which, as it seems to me, may possibly be a relic of the old Scandinavians, is the cross-bow which Holm found upon the east coast, and which was formerly in use on the west coast also. So far as I know, it is not found among the Indians.