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An Ancient Bond with the Land

Arctic Whalers

Spiritual Whalers

Whaling was more than a practical union of skill and technology - it had spiritual aspects that were equally important. Inuit believed that animals have souls, which, if mistreated, could become bloodthirsty monsters. They also believed that animals deliberately gave themselves up to be killed by human beings. By treating an animal and its spirit with the proper respect, the good hunter ensured that he could continue hunting that animal, because it would be reborn to be hunted again.

These beliefs reached their highest expression in the various rules and rituals surrounding the hunting of the bowhead whale - the largest and most powerful animal of the Arctic seas.

An Alaskan whaling captain clutches a whaling amulet meant to be suspended in the boat as a magical lure for whales.

Illustration by Frédéric Back, from Inuit: Glimpses of an Arctic Past, by David Morrison and Geroges-Hébert Germain, Canadian Museum of Civilization, S96-26584

Whaling Captain - Drawing: Frédéric Back - S96-26584

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