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The Private and Public Performances of the Angakkuit

Johanasi Ujarak
She had her mitts on when she came, as was the custom when an angakkuq performed sakaniq. They were brand new mitts. Amak&ainnuk told my sister to fasten a hook on the side of the tent to hold a blanket which would separate her from the rest of the people. She went behind the blanket at the back of the tent where we couldn’t see her. When she started to saka, she told me I was about to fall into a hollow. She said that my sister had given me food I was not supposed to eat and that this was going to cause me to die. My parents had remained in Iglulik while we travelled to the polar bear hunting area around Tununirusiq. It turned out my younger brother had died in Iglulik and I was eating food I shouldn’t have been eating. That’s why I was suffering from diarrhea and was in peril of dying from it. Amak&ainnuk found out through her tuurngaq that I was eating food I ought not to have after the death of my brother. I had helped butcher a polar bear when I ought not to have been working on it. My sister told Amak&ainnuk I had been doing this. She told me later that Amak&ainnuk had cured me. She brought me up out of the hole I was falling into. If Amak&ainnuk had not been a powerful angakkuq I would have died. (Pages 152-153)
Chapter 7: The Private and Public Performances of the Angakkuit

Private sakaniq séances were given in response to individual requests. Any gift, or tunijjuti, given when asking for the services of a shaman had to be given before the ritual began. They were offerings for the spirits, given through the shaman to find the reasons for an illness or to locate a lost object. Ilimmaqturniq was the term given to a shaman's flight through the skies, and was usually performed at the request of the whole community, in their presence. Often, the shaman would be asked to find hunters who were believed lost. The angakkuq would be solidly tied up behind a skin curtain. As they flew higher and higher, their voice would grow fainter, and the leather ties that had bound them would drop down the chimney. The thong would be tied in tight knots, resembling the helping spirit of the angakkuq. A shaman could also pavunngaarniq, fly up to the heavenly afterworld, and nakkaaniq, dive down in the sea to visit the souls of the dead. Only the most powerful shamans could nakkaaniq. Sometimes, angakkuit would saka to compete, to try and outdo each other. They would stab themselves, experimenting and competing using their power. This was done for entertainment, to perform. When a shaman was stabbed, either by himself or by others, he would lose a lot of blood and appear to be dead-only to come back to life without a trace of injury.