Inuit Mythology: Sedna
All Eskimos speak the same language and Inuit mythology changes
little from place to place. The word Inuit means "people" and is the
name the Eskimo use for themselves. They have a myth about a sea
goddess called the Mistress of the Animals. The story begins with a
beautiful Inuit girl named Sedna who was old enough to be married.
She was very haughty, however, and none of the men of the tribe
were good enough for her. One day a very handsome man appeared
and Sedna lost her heart to him. They were soon married and left for
the man's home across the sea.
As soon as they arrived, Sedna discovered that her husband was not
a man at all but a bird. His "home" was a cold and damp nest. He
gave Sedna nothing to eat but raw fish. She was very disappointed
and awaited the day when her father would come to visit her. She was sure he would not allow his daughter to remain with this strange
being. (The theme of the disappointed bride is common in Eskimo myths.)
A year later, her father arrived. Sedna told him about her
husband and her new "home". Her father was very angry. He
agreed to take her back to their tribe. Sedna's bird husband was not
happy about this. When they set off in her father's canoe, he flapped
his wings and created a great storm. The strong winds threatened to
swamp the canoe and Sedna's father was terrified. Trying to save
himself, he threw his daughter overboard. She grabbed the side of the
boat and held on tightly. Her father cut off her finger tips, but still she
held on. He cut off her fingers to the second joint, and still she clung
to the boat. Finally, he cut them off altogether and Sedna sank into
the ocean. This story aside, personal relationships are important in Inuit mythology.
The cut finger joints became seals and walruses. Sedna, when she
came to the bottom of the sea, was transformed into the Mistress of
the Animals. She controls the number of animals that are available to
the Inuit to hunt. When the people break taboos she decreases the
number of animals. When there have been enough transgressions,
the Inuit must atone to bring the animals back, or starve.
Coarse, bloody and full of violent emotions, this is a primitive myth.
The Inuit are a primitive people and these features are common in