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Angakkuuniq: The powers of the angakkuq

Mariano Aupilaarjuk
An evil spirit could pretend to take the form of a good spirit. When you start visualizing the tuurngaq that is going to be assisting you, you cannot accept this tuurngaq immediately. You have to investigate first to find out if it is good or evil. As soon as you know it is a good tuurngaq then you can accept that tuurngaq as your assistant. But be careful, because they can take the form of a good spirit even if they are evil. So I, through thinking wisely, would check all aspects of that tuurngaq. Even though it was an animal, it could appear in a different form if it was evil. It is very difficult to determine whether or not it was a good tuurngaq. If I was in the process of becoming an angakkuq and another angakkuq was going to give me a tuurngaq, I would know in advance it was a good tuurngaq because it was being given to me. Trying to turn into an angakkuq by oneself is very dangerous, I can tell you this. (Page 40)

Chapter 2: Angakkuuniq: The powers of the angakkuq

 A person became an angakkuq through the words and incantations of another shaman. Some were destined to become angakkuit before birth; some had to ‘bump heads’ with another shaman. Aupilaarjuk’s father discouraged him from becoming a shaman. Too much power only shortens your life, and as a boy, he had a quick temper. He might have been tempted to use his powers for evil deeds. Angakkuit were said to have qaumaniq, bright auras. They also had helping spirits, or tuurngait, which could be any object:  living or dead, animate or inanimate. The tuurngaq would approach you first. It was important to take the time to discern whether the spirit was good or evil, through consultations with the elders. If a tuurngaq was a gift from another person, however, it was certain to be a good spirit. Accepting a powerful tuurngaq could shorten your life. An angakkuq with an animal tuurngaq could take the form of an animal. Sometimes, people can hear voices in their heads, but this does not mean that they are crazy or unwell. Aupilaarjuk hears them sometimes; they call his name, they speak of many things, but he says, ‘These are not my thoughts.’ A distinction is made between hearing voices and uimmaktut, losing one’s mind. Incantations such as tuksirauti, prayer, and qinngaqtauti, shouted prayer, are both requests, but qinngaqtauti would be used to remedy a situation such as an illness, hunger, or a spate of poor weather.