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Tony Otuk playing the drum. Arviat.

Shamanism and the life-cycle: names, souls and spirits

Mariano Aupilaarjuk
If there was a real sickness in a person, that person might be carrying a name that was not right for him. The angakkuit wouldn’t be aware of this but the tuurngaq would find out that the person shouldn’t have had that name. That’s how it was in the Nattilik area. We also have to be aware that there are different ways that the angakkuit would saka, perform shamanism. Qilaujjarniit, songs that were sung with a drum, were mistaken as sakajjutiit, the songs of angakkuit. These were not used to saka. In the Nattilik area if we were an angakkuq and our tuurngaq, helping spirit, came and was close by, the sound of the tuurngaq would come out of us. We wouldn’t be singing. We would be using the voice of the tuurngaq. Other regions had different ways of doing this. (Page 13)
Chapter 1: Shamanism and the life-cycle: names, souls and spirits

Aupilaarjuk and Nutaraaluk both speak of atiit, personal names, and aqausit, nicknames. They also speak of the actual process of naming, and its importance for the individual. Namesakes, or two individuals who share the same name, have a special bond. Names are given to prevent misfortune. To heal a sick child, the angakkuq, shaman, would change the child's name. Just as his helping spirits, tuurngait, would help the shaman, so the individual's name was a source of strength and power. As names and nicknames are passed down through generations, so are the positive and negative acts of those who bear them. Female angakkuit were said to be more powerful than male angakkuit, according to Aupilaarjuk. There have even been instances of husband and wife who were both angakkuit. The power of an angakkuq who has used his spirit for evil can last for many, many years. An individual may be destined to "come back home," or angirraq- if they have died before their time, then they could come back. "Before Christianity," says Aupilaarjuk, "the Inuit knew there was a place that was very bright that people went to when they died."