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Dreams and Angakkunngurniq : Becoming an Angakkuq

Felix Pisuk
Some angakkuit really used their tuurngait as helpers. They could use them to make their feet swift. In the days when we would travel by dogteam, the angakkuit could be as fast as caribou. Some of them could actually fly. There is a place around a hundred miles from Kangiq&iniq. There are lakes there. Whenever Qimuksiraaq would need to go and find out where there were caribou, he would leave and come back in one day. He would come back before the sun had set. You know how far a hundred miles is. He would go that far. Ptarmigan are very fast. He said he would push away ptarmigan because they were so slow they were getting in his way. He said, whenever he wanted to walk really quickly, the ptarmigan would get in his way so he would hit them with his walking stick. He said the rifle he was holding would be whistling. Some of them would be really helped by their tuurngait. I’m telling you the truth. That’s the way it was. (Page 127)
In this chapter, the elders talk about shamanism and how one could become an angakkuq. In most cases, angakkuit did their own recruitment, identifying interesting potential candidates and offering to turn them into angakkuit (the person was always free to decline), although some people could become angakkuit on their own, as was almost the case with Agiaq’s mother. The selected candidate would start to see their tuurngaq. In some rituals, the person becoming angakkuq was stabbed (they would not bleed) or shot (their tuurngaq would intercept the bullet). Angakkuit had great powers, including the power to travel very far on foot in a very short time and the power to make objects appear. About the latter, Pisuk tells a story about the angakkuq Qimuqsiraaq.

People who had lived through hardships and mistreated orphans occasionally became angakkuit with the help of the tarniit of the dead who loved them. Pisuk mentions that the two greatest threats for children at the time were drowning and the abuse suffered by orphans. Pity towards orphans was thus common, and some of these children could be nagliktaujuq, protected in a supernatural way. This protection would make their abusers reconsider their actions and become good to them, for fear of dying themselves if they continued mistreating them.

Pisuk and Ka&&ak both had angakkuit in their families. Ka&&ak comes back to the fact that her father did not make her become an angakkuq because she did not believe in his powers. He did give her the ability to dream though, and she has also had visions, which she associates to Catholicism instead of shamanism.

The last pages of the chapter explain how angakkuit were able to interpret dreams. The person who had a dream that they considered important but could not understand would consult an angakkuq. With the help of their tuurngait, angakkuit could find out if the dream had good or bad implications.