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GENERAL IDEAS CONCERNING THE EXISTENCE OF THE WORLD, THE SUPREME POWERS, AND THE CONCEPTION OF GOOD AND EVIL.

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Only very scanty traces have been found of any kind of ideas having been formed as to the origin and early history of the world, and the ruling powers or deities, which seems sufficiently to show that such mythological speculations have been, in respect to other nations, also the product of a later stage of culture. Existence in general is accepted as a fact, without any speculation as to its primitive origin. Only the still acting powers concealed in nature, and to which human life is subordinated, are taken into consideration. Men, as well as animals, have both soul and body. The soul performs the breathing, with which it is closely allied. It is quite independent of the body, and even able to leave it temporarily and return to it. It is not to be perceived by the common senses, but only by help of a special sense belonging to persons in a peculiar state of mind, or endowed with peculiar qualities. When viewed by these persons, the soul exhibits the same shape as the body it belongs to, but is of a more subtle and ethereal nature. The human soul continues to live after death precisely in the same manner as before. The souls of animals also, to a certain degree, seem to have been considered as having an existence independent of the body, and continuing after its death. Here and there traces have also been found of a belief in the migration of souls, both between dead and living men, and between men and animals; but it remains uncertain whether this ought not rather to be explained as having an allegorical sense. Lastly, they say that the human soul may be hurt, and even destroyed; but on the other hand, it may also be fitted together again and repaired. We sometimes find it mentioned that the migration may be partial—viz., that some parts of the soul of a deceased p. 37 person may pass into another man and cause in him a likeness to the first. The whole visible world is ruled by supernatural powers, or "owners," taken in a higher sense, each of whom holds his sway within certain limits, and is called inua (viz., its or his inuk, which word signifies "man," and also owner or inhabitant). Strictly speaking, scarcely any object, or combination of objects, existing either in a physical or a spiritual point of view, may not be conceived to have its inua, if only, in some way or other, it can be said to form a separate idea. Generally, however, the notion of an inua is limited to a locality, or to the human qualities and passions—e.g., the inua of certain mountains or lakes, of strength, of eating. The appellation, therefore, quite corresponds to what other nations have understood by such expressions as spirits, or inferior deities. An owner or ruler conveys the idea of a person or soul, but it appears not necessarily that of a body. The soul of the dead seems to have been considered as the inua of the bodily remains. The earth, with the sea supported by it, rests upon pillars, and covers an under world, accessible by various entrances from the sea, as well as from mountain clefts. Above the earth an upper world is found, beyond which the blue sky, being of a solid consistence, vaults itself like an outer shell, and, as some say, revolves around some high mountain-top in the far north. The upper world exhibits a real land with mountains, valleys, and lakes. After death, human souls either go to the upper or to the under world. The latter is decidedly to be preferred, as being warm and rich in food. There are the dwellings of the happy dead called arsissut—viz., those who live in abundance. On the contrary, those who go to the upper world will suffer from cold and famine; and these are called the arssartut, or ball-players, on account of their playing at ball with a walrus-head, which gives rise to the aurora borealis, or Northern p. 38 lights. Further, the upper world must be considered a continuation of the earth in the direction of height, although those individuals, or at least those souls temporarily delivered from the body, that are said to have visited it, for the most part passed through the air. The upper world, it would seem, may be considered identical with the mountain round the top of which the vaulted sky is for ever circling—the proper road leading to it from the foot of the mountain upwards being itself either too far off or too steep. One of the tales also mentions a man going in his kayak to the border of the ocean, where the sky comes down to meet it. The invisible rulers by which the earth is governed can scarely be imagined without regarding them in some relation of dependency one on another. Inasmuch as we are allowed to consider almost every spot or supposed object a special dominion with its special inua ruling within certain limits, we might also be led to imagine several of those dominions as united, and made subordinate to one common ruler, by which means we would have a general government of the world under one supreme head ready organised. The mythology of the Greenlanders, however, does not contain any direct doctrine with such a tendency. Very scanty traces also have been found of any attempts towards explaining the origin of the world, as well as of things existing and their qualities, as, e.g., regarding some species of animals, besides the moon and several stars. Though it has been asserted the Greenlanders believe that the first of our race arose from the earth, and that the first man, called Kallak, created the first woman out of a tuft of sod, and also that some tradition exists about the Deluge, yet these statements cannot be accepted without doubt and reservation, because they may have partly originated from the questioners themselves, who pretend to have heard them from the Greenlanders, but have probably involuntarily acted upon the latter by p. 39 their prepossessed mode of questioning. Still, on looking at the whole religious views of the natives, they do seem to presuppose a single power by which the world is ruled. Certain means were believed to exist by which man was not only enabled to enter into communion with the invisible rulers, but could also make them his helpers and servants. Such supernatural assistance might be acquired in a more or less direct way—viz., either through men endowed with the peculiar gift called angakoonek (cor. spelling angákûneĸ, signifying angakok-wisdom or -power, or the state of being angakok). But these men only acquired this gift by applying to and calling on a yet more exalted power, which made these rulers become their helping or guardian spirits, or tornat (plural of tôrnaĸ). This supreme ruler was termed tornarsuk; and in his being thus enabled to dispose at will of all the minor powers, forcing them to serve the angakut, and in the same degree making the whole nature subordinate to mankind, some idea surely of the godhead must be connected with him. It also seems to have been ascertained that the Greenlanders have imagined him as having his abode in company with the happy deceased in the under world; but to this vague belief the whole doctrine concerning his existence seems to have been limited. The early authors on Greenland, indeed, have given utterance to different opinions concerning tornarsuk which they have gathered from the natives, some of them representing him as the size of a finger, others of a bear, and so on; but all these statements seem to rest upon error and superficial inquiry. As far as the traditions are concerned, the name of tornarsuk is very rarely mentioned in any of them. Among the supernatural powers was another constituting the source of nourishment, supplying the physical wants of mankind. These being almost exclusively got from the sea, we cannot wonder that this power had its abode in the depths of the ocean; and its being represented p. 40 as a female is probably emblematical of the continual regeneration of life in nature, as well as of economy and household management, generally devolving on women. This being is named arnarkuagsak (cor. sp. arnarĸuagssâĸ, also signifying old woman in general); but the common opinion among the older authors, describing her as a demon of evil, is quite erroneous. She sits in her dwelling in front of a lamp, beneath which is placed a vessel receiving the oil that keeps flowing down from the lamp. From this vessel, or from the dark interior of her house, she sends out all the animals which serve for food; but in certain cases she withholds the supply, thus causing want and famine. Her retaining them was ascribed to a kind of filthy and noxious parasites (agdlerutit, which also signifies abortions or dead-born children), which had fastened themselves around her head; and it was the task of the angakok to deliver her from these, and to induce her again to send out the animals for the benefit of man. In going to her he first had to pass the arsissut, and then to cross an abyss, in which, according to the earliest authors, a wheel was constantly turning round as slippery as ice; and then having safely got past a boiling kettle with seals in it, he arrived at the house, in front of which a watch was kept by terrible animals, sometimes described as seals, sometimes as dogs; and lastly, within the house-passage itself he had to cross an abyss by means of a bridge as narrow as a knife's edge. According to the religious notions just given, there must have existed a generally established belief in the presence of some ruling power to which mankind and nature were alike subjected, as well as in certain modes of obtaining assistance from this power. This supernatural aid, as well as all the actions of men with a view to call it forth, were in social estimation considered as being good and proper. But besides this, there existed another supernatural influence, which was wholly p. 41 opposed to that which had its source from tornarsuk; and the art of summoning it was practised and taught from mouth to mouth by people not acknowledged or authorised by the community. It was always invoked in secret, and always with the object of injuring others, and wholly in favour of the practiser. This art was called kusuinek or iliseenek (cor. sp. ilisîneĸ), corresponding very exactly to witchcraft, and representing the worst form of evil, both with regard to the help obtained and the means of procuring it. The essence of it was selfishness in the narrowest sense, being alike adverse to the interest of the community and to the supreme rule of things existing in which the people believed. When we look at these ideas, as very strongly discerned and maintained by the Greenlanders, certain opinions not unfrequently professed by authors as to the religious creeds of the more primitive nations are shown to be utterly erroneous,—viz., first as regards confounding the practice of witchcraft with their calling to their aid supernatural powers, authorised and acknowledged by their religious beliefs; and secondly, the maintaining that those nations on a lower stage of civilisation were wholly without any conception of moral good and evil, and limited their regards to physical evil. In the practice of iliseenek, or witchcraft, a power was applied to which was superior to mankind; and we might thus be led to suppose that this power represented an evil being or ruler in opposition to tornarsuk. Some mystical tradition is related by Egede, mentioning two men engaged in dispute, one desiring man to be subjected to death, and the other insisting upon his becoming immortal. The words spoken by them may perhaps be considered as magic spells, and the one of them is represented as having made death enter into the world. This legend is rather obscure, both with regard to its authenticity and its meaning; but the idea of death was closely connected with that of witchcraft, this latter always more p. 42 or less having death for its aim. Sickness or death coming about in an unexpected manner was always ascribed to witchcraft; and it remains a question whether death on the whole was not originally accounted for as resulting from it. The fact that witches were punished as transgressors of human laws, and were persecuted by the angakut, makes it possible that they represent the last remains of a still more primitive faith, which prevailed before the angakut sprang up and made themselves acknowledged as the only mediators between mankind and the invisible rulers of the world. These primitive religious notions may in that case have amounted to a belief in certain means being capable of acting on the occult powers of nature, and through them on the conditions of human life. Traces of the same belief were perhaps also preserved among the people in the shape of some slight acquaintance with the medical art, and superstitions regarding amulets, the knowledge of which was likewise peculiar to women. And allowing this supposition, we shall find the most striking analogy between the persecution of witches by the angakut and the persecution of the angakut by the Christian settlers, with this exception, that the Christian faith exhibits a personification of the evil principle which enabled the missionaries to vanquish for ever the authority of tornarsuk as the supreme ruler and source of benefits, by transforming him into the Christian devil, who for this reason henceforth was termed tornarsuk. In the folk-lore of the Greenlanders, as well as of other nations, divine justice principally manifests itself in the present life. According to the older authors, they had also some faint ideas of punishment and reward after death. We learn from these that witches and bad people went to the upper world; whereas those who had achieved any great and heroic actions, or suffered severely in this life, such as men who had perished at sea, or women who had died in child-birth, went to the world below. At p. 43 the same time, some tales seem to hint at a belief that the manner in which the body of the deceased is treated by the survivors influences the condition of his soul. When closely examined, this belief is akin to the idea of punishment and reward corresponding to the actions performed in this life.

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1 Sara Di Diego = "Since all humans and animals are perceived to have the same soul, they are thus on the same level of each other.  So when Eskimos kill seals, or other animals, for food the animal must give its life in return of the proper treatment of its soul.  So after the animal dies, fresh water is fed to the body so the soul will not be thirsty.Work Cited:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inua"
2 Sara Di Diego = "Also known as "the happy dead" who live in the underworld.Source:Reincarnation Beliefs of North American Indians: Soul Journey, Metamorphosis, and Near Death Experience by Warren Jefferson"
3 Sara Di Diego = "These people were considered mediators within the community, given their knowledge.Work Cited:Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo: With a Sketch of their Habits, Religion, Language and Other Peculiarities by Hinrich Rink"