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Angakoq


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America

One of the names of the Eskimo shaman, or medicine-man. Since the religious ideas of the inhabitants of the Arctic lands were never formalized, the angakoq is the repository of lore, the judge in matters of tradition, and the means of communication with the spirit world. Both men and women can become angakoq, magicians, but it is said that women lack the courage to do evil. An angakoq who can call down misfortune on his fellows is known as an ilisitsoq: his victim would be attacked by one of his magic animals, a tupilak, usually in the form of a seal.

A person becomes an angakoq by acquiring the protection of a tornaq, ‘guardian spirit’. There are three specific kinds: those in the shape of human beings, those in the shape of stones, and those who inhabit bears. The last are believed to be the most powerful of all. Through the agency of the tornaq, a medicine-man cures the sick, controls the weather, secures good hunting, and propitiates the hungry sea goddess Sedna.

Subjects: Religion.


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