Circumpolar Animism and Shamanism, II


pp. 67-91 – 6. David M. Smith : "Aspects of Chipewyan Ontology".

inkonze (‘spiritual power’)




"The hunters that I knew among the Chipewyan of Great Slave lake deliberately tried to dream about what they needed to know to bring about success."


"In the case of the Chipewyan of Great Slave Lake, most animals are regarded as being superior to humans rather than the reverse. ... The superiority of the animals relates to the fact that they have more inkonze (medicine power or knowledge) than humans and are the chief source of this essential for maintaining successful connectedness with reality."

"As an old man ... told me : "... It’s the animals that give inkonze to the people. Animals are always the best medicine people."" "But the animals are more than mentors ...; they are models for proper moral conduct."


"The Chipewyan term inkonze ... may be translated, "to know something a little." This means, as well, to have power. In its most important form this knowledge comes to a person in his or her dreams."


"Medicine power dreams can come to any hunter, and any hunter can try to dream in order to discover that which he needs to know to be more successful. Every hunter I knew had a medicine bundle (or "bag," as they themselves referred to them in English) for hunting, and it was my understanding that the contents of these bundles – which are never shown to, or discussed in depth with, anybody – were based upon what they had learned in their dreams."

"The especially gifted have much more intensive and extensive communion with an animal (or animals) ... than the average person because their dreams are much more vivid and eventful. They also are those who are "called to the roots" ... . In most cases, these dreams begin in childhood as the same animal appears over and over in the person’s dreams. ... These specially gifted people – whom I hereafter call inkonze helin ("one is inkonze" ...) ... – are the ones preeminently able to serve society through curing, improving hunting, seeing things and events at a distance (and in the furture), effecting weather changes, and much more, all based on what they learn from the animals who are their special mentors. ... The inkonze helin can also can use their knowledge to ... bring about an enemy’s ... insanity".

"However it may be used, inkonze is a gift from the animals which, because they are persons (and because they have more power than they need to survive), they are obliged to share with those humans who have maintained a proper reciprocity and a proper state of moral rectitude ... . The proper moral state means that humans make certain sacrifices (such as sprinkling tobacco in the place where one has taken power roots, placing ... meat offerings into the fire, and ...


trying always to be generous ...). ... Bad or immoral actions mean that no animals will appear in dreams, and that no animals will offer themselves to hunters, or permit themselves to be trapped."


"Animals come as helpers only to individuals." "Because of their great inkonze, the animals are capable of assuming human guises ... . Some of the inkonze helin are able to transform themselves into the guise of the "animal that helps them"".

"The particular kind of animal who communicates with the inkonze


helin in dreams often accounts for the nature of one’s abilities in using inkonze. Thus, if one is a curer, one is apt to have an animal such as a mouse for a helper, for mice people live on and in the ground and therefore know root medicines quite well. {Apollon "is represented carrying a mouse in his hands" (AT, s.v. "Smintheus"); and is a god of medicines.} ... Eagle power would be important for, say, locating a caribou herd or finding a lost possession".


[Slave-Lake C^ipewyan autobiography about inkonze] "The calling comes to me like a chopping ... . I hear it – chopping, chopping; ... I know ... that it’s the animal that I dream ... . I feel like I’m on fire".


"inkonze helin who are reputable curers ... use dreams and sing and play on their tambourine drums to ... cure".


"When someone goes to the roots it is a real place in the bush, and the person is fully awake ... . ...


The animal appears – not the animal’s vaporous spirit but the entire animal – and communicates with the person, giving instructions on the use of power roots, power songs, decorations for one’s tambourine drum".


"it’s inkonze. The old man dreams the mink who tells him what is going to happen. The mink likes him, wants to be his helper. After that, ... their luck gets better and better."

AT =


pp. 93-104 – 7. Henry S. Sharp : "Non-Directional Time and the Dene Life-Cycle".




"The Dene think that inkoze will keep men active and able to participate in bush subsistence activities until they reach an extremely advanced age."


"inkoze is the term applied to the use of power / knowledge to kill by sorcery."


"The reality of time created by inkoze is, in some aspects of Dene cultural usage, more like the West thinks of place. In the realm of inkoze, space can fold upon itself and connect parts of itself in ways that bridge time. ... Within inkoze, time has this character of place and connection within what is always true ... . Events exist "simultaneously" regardless of how human senses perceive them." {cf. Priestly’s "dream-like ... theories about time" : "time ... is actually an illusion in the way that we perceive reality".}


"Newborn infants are watched, ... to see if they display physical characteristics or mannerisms reminiscent of deceased Dene. If such are noted, the infant’s living kin identify the infant with the decedent – usually a close relative – and publically name the decedent as now embodied in the infant. Such identifications between living infant and decedent Dene often cross gender categories".


"... ghosts lurking around Dene habitations, awaiting pregnant women in whom they can be reborn."


Dene "who were not satisfied with the manner and timing of their death, were able to intentionally seek out pregnant women for rebirth. ... The deceased must appear to the mother-to-be in a dream and ask her permission to be born again in the fetus she is carrying."


"At death, the deceased move back into that realm of inkoze from which they emerged".


pp. 105-120 – 8. Robin Ridington : "Narratives of Transformation in Northern North America".


dreams & spirit-power


types of transformative experience : "a human easily transfers ... waking experience into ... dreaming (type one). Later, the dreamer may transform that experience ... into ... a dream narrative ... (type 2). He or she may also experience contact with


... spiritual and myth beings, ... as in the Northern Algonquian shaking tent ... (type three). In addition ..., a person may experience a transformation of perspective. In this case, the person sees and hears the world from the perspective of another being. Such a shift in perspective is ... characteristic of shamanic experience."


[Naskapi (Innu)] "The hunting dream is ... communication with the unseen world." "In Naskapi theory, ... the "active soul" which guides a person through life is called Mistapeo ("great man" ...). Because dreams are integral to Naskapi hunting ..., practices such as "fasting, dancing, singing, drumming, rattling, the sweat bath, seclusion, meditation, eating certain food, as well as ... various kinds of medicine" are used to induce dreaming. "When dreams are obtained, ... interpretation is required" ... . A person’s Mistapeo directs the interpretive process through "mutone>itcigun," ... "the power of thought.""


"Shamans are people who ... have learned to experience the world through the eyes and ears of mythic and spiritual beings."


[Dunne-za] "While the Dunne-za recognize the special powers of prophets or Dreamers who have the ability to "dream ahead for everybody," every person is expected to "little bit know something." ... The archetypal vision quest story in Dunne-za tradition is that of the culture hero Saya, whose name means ... "sun ...". Another name for him, Yamadeya {cf. AMADIs of Gaula}, refers to the journey he makes across the heavens. ... Saya begins life as a boy named Swan. The name has shamanic implications, since the Dunne-za say that their Dreamers have the power to fly, like swans, from one world to another and return ... . The Dreamer’s flight, though, is spiritual ... . While his body remains on earth, his spirit follows yagatunne, the trail to heaven, which he experiences as a trail of


song. When he returns, he wakes up singing. ...

Swan’s father takes him to a remote island because he believes that Swan has had sexual relations with his stepmother. {cf. Hippo-lutos, who was exiled by his father Theseus because (GM 101.f) Hippo-lutos was believed to have sexually violated his own stepmother Phaidra.}... When he got to the place he found forty ducks and geese stuck in the pitch wherever the sun had made it soft. ... Then he returned home and shot flaming arrows into a stream where his stepmother was standing. {cf. <AMAD ‘standing’, etymon of AMAThos, town in Kupros of "the first strumpets" the Propoitides (M 10:220)} ...


When Saya finished killing all the monsters he turned to stone. {cf. "the Molurian Rock" (GM 101.g)} ... Through conversation with ... an old woman {cf. "Saronian Artemis" (GM 101.g)} who may still be found wherever one spruce tree is standing by itself {cf. the "barren olive-tree ... rhachos" (GM 101.g)}, he succeeded in overcoming the giant animals that eat people." {cf. the "great dog-seal" (GM 101.g)}


"Cree spiritual empowerment" : "They dream and meet a man who asks them ..., "Dost thou know me? (who or what I am)?" "No." "Follow me then," replies this stranger. The indian follows – the other leads him to his abode and ... Then the Stranger assumes his proper form, which is perhaps that of a tree, a Stone, a fish, &c, &c, and after rechanging several times in this manner, till such times as the 2nd becomes perfectly to know him, then the Stranger gives him to smoke, learns him his Song, &c, thus addressing him : "... Whenever you wish to call upon me, Sing this Song, and ... I will come to do for you what you require"".


[Cree] "kwashapshigan, the shaking tent or "conjuring lodge," which ... translates literally as "trying to see." "the Cree personage known as Mistabeo (... Mistapeo), with whom a knowledgeable person converses there. The Mistabeo ... "involves the intuitions and perceptions, on the part of a Cree man, of an essentially spiritual person and power that is, at once, outside of himself and intimately related to himself" ... . It is "a way of explaining a potent personalized power, ‘belonging’ to an individual, but with whom he is in only partial rapport" {cf. the Vajra-yana deities, who are explained as aspects of one’s own awareness, but who can also appear to be somewhat distinct from one’s self} ... . This Mistabeo ... is distant because he "may observe events not known or accessible to the conjurer"". {so, is this one’s own observer-praesence viewed as located another time and place?}


"Mistabeo ... "was the first one on earth; ... The only thing he could find was a wolverine." Because of that, "... a Wolverine always entered a conjuring tent"".


"The fact that the shaking tent sways only when spirit beings are present emphasizes that the wind persons are powerful, intermediate beings, who are partly of the world "down here" where humans live and partly of the world "up there" where spirit beings reside."


[Okanagan vision-quaest] "a boy who was taken out to gain power from a stump that had survived for centuries in an avalanche-strewn gully" : "The boy stays until he sees a chipmunk who ... speaks to him as a friend and guardian spirit. ... This stump – you think it’s a stump – but that’s my grandfather."


[Dunne-za] "Swans, like Saya, "the sun in the sky," die and are miraculously reborn. ... Dreamers are like swans because they "fly to heaven and come back in the same body.""

GM = Robert Graves : The Greek Myths. 1955.

M = Ovidius : Metamorphoses.


pp. 121-150 – 9. Harvey A. Feit : "James Bay Cree Shaking Tent Performers and Their Audiences".




"The performer enters alone into a specially-built cylindrical, barrel-shaped, tent where he is visited by various spirit beings and by the spiritual helpers of other persons who are not physically present at the site; or he may visit others at sires far removed and return with news of distant people and events. The ceremony, held after dark, includes singing and verbal exchanges heard from within the tent, both in contemporary Cree and in various archaic or personal languages ... . The audience sits around the outside listening, and may be invited to question the spirit visitors. The voices inform the audience of events in the future, or events which have happened at a distance and which are not yet known about."

"In the shaking tent the performer sits at the bottom of the tent, where (it is said) he can see the various spirit beings which visit as "little lights" up near the top of the tent; the performance thus makes visible to the performer those beings".


"It is said that a person who does the shaking tent has a personal spirit, mistapeo (literally "big man"). When the Waswanipi speak of these mistapeo in English, the use the term "helper," although the term noes ... mean ... that performers have a special guardian spirit."

"The special forms of respect which performers must show, such as certain food avoidances, or avoiding the hunting of particular animals -- ... are also found among other individuals with other special spirit guardians".


"The performers treats the spirit beings who visit in a friendly manner, using highly informal conversational references, joking, and referring to the long duration of their relationship."


"The Cree have a term for this anticipatory knowledge : "nikanchischeitam," literally "future knowledge," which is explained as being able to "see ahead" or "know ahead." Humans get future knowledge from spirit beings through dreams, daytime thoughts, and ceremonies ... . To have such kinds of knowledge one is said to be "powerful" or to have "powers."


[shaking-tent performance at Waskaganish :-] "From the beginning mistapeo refers to the performer as "the-one-who’s-kneeling-there," ... Mistapeo ... predicts a long life for the performer."


[same shaking-tent performance :-] "Various joking comments are exchanged ... . Five more mistapeos enter ... . A seventh mistapeo arrives ... .

... the performer’s mistapeo says, ... Nobody will be able to do anything when his last day comes. He can’t give himself any more days. I guess when our time comes short, we’ll all think back where we’ve been. Nobody can have his days longer than what they are set." {this latter is a common Muslim remark}


[shaking-tent performance at Waswanipi :-] "The ceremony ... involved communications with ... the performer’s mistapeo, a second unidentified mistapeo, and the mistapeo of a deceased ... relative. ... Among the topics and information disclosed were : the performer’s anticipation that death was near, and his instructions on how and where he wished to be buried; ... his desire and plans to turn his spiritual powers over to his grandsons".


[same shaking-tent performance :-] "Our Keeper in heaven, that’s our Friend". {cf. [As^anti] Nyame ‘God’ (literally, ‘Friend’)}


[author’s remarks] "the visit from the mistapeo of a particular relative (who was a performer when he was alive) suggests a certain relationship among performers". {mutual visiting in the world of the dead?}


"Songs could be given to any respectful and attentive hunter by animal spirits, in dreams or by other means". "stories and songs recounting the "luck" that hunters have had acknowledge that their success depends ... on the spirits. ... Performers’ songs thus celebrate and thank the spirits".


151-166 – 10. Nobuhiro Kishigami : "Personal Names, Name Souls ... of the Akulivik Inuit".




"Canadian Inuit believe that their world is composed of a variety of good and evil souls and spirits ... . Wild animals ... are thought to have their own souls, too ... . When an animal dies, its soul leaves its body, trying to find another one in which to live, and then reappears in it. ...

The Inuit believe that an individual Inuit name has its own name-soul. A personal name or name-soul is called "atiq" in Inuttitut. They think that each name-soul has its own character, sensitivity, will, personality, and ability and that these features of the soul will be transmitted to the newborn baby ... . Once a person dies, his / her name-soul will leave his / her body and live in another body".


"some Netsilik Inuit individuals in the pre-contact period were known to have twelve or more names".


"special terms for address and reference are used among namesake persons. These terms for namesake persons usually take precedence over other relational terms. If a father and son share a name, they use the special terms for namesake persons to address each other rather than kinship terms for father and son. ... Among the Akulivik Inuit, namesake persons call each other "sauniq" (which means "bone" in Inuttitut), and also use "sauniq" when introducing their namesake persons to others. When the namesake persons are of almost the same age ..., they will address each other and refer to the other with the word "appakuq," which means "half of the whole thing," rather than "sauniq.""


"Among Akulivik Inuit, a person named after the deceased is generally regarded as a reincarnation of the dead."

164, n. 2

"In the eastern arctic regions of Canada, Inuit seem to distinguish between a name and its name-soul, calling the former "atiq" and the latter "tarnik"".

164, n. 4

"Most of the personal names of Inuit and Yup>ik are not sex-specific. However, ... several groups distinguish between men’s and women’s names. These groups are Polar Inuit ..., Labrador Inuit ..., Inuvialuit ..., Nunamiut Inuit ..., and Yup>ik"".


pp. 167-181 – 11. Ann Fienup-Riordan : "The Human hand in Yup>ik Eskimo Iconography and Oral Tradition".




"A common Yup>ik mask appendage is the human hand, usually thumbless or with a truncated thumb and a hole in its center. {cf. Christian stigmata} Yup>ik oral tradition identifies this hole as the source of the animals that humans hunt. ... the masks ... in western Alaska ... have wooden models of thumbless hands attached to their sides, the palms of the hands pierced with large circular holes; ... the holes in the palms indicate that the being {divine owner of the game-animals} will not hold the game, but will let it pass through to the earth."


[C^ugac^] "a hole in the human hand provided animals with a passageway to the good hunter" : "a sleeping hunter ... awoke to find a spirit-woman standing by his feet. {the dream-deity is usually described as standing over the sleeper in Hellenic lore (Iliad, etc.)} The woman took him by the wrist and asked him if he wanted more animals. ... The man wondered how the woman could read his mind, and she replied, "You talk to me in your wrist" {cf. traditional Chinese medical diagnosis of ailments by feeling the pulse at the patient’s wrist} – by which she was still holding him. Then she turned his hand around, wet her finger and drew a circle on the back of his hand, saying : "There is where in animals you are going to get are staying." The circle was full of animals. ... Then she took something resembling two blue eggs from her breast and gave them to him. Just as he was keeping them in his hand they were gone – disappeared into himself. ... She added that it was difficult for any people to see her and that she was nunam-yua [the land’s person]".


"On most Central Yup>ik masks the hands appear in pairs, one projecting from each side of the face of an animal yua or spirit person. The mouth, hoops, and hands (sometimes excepting the fingertips) often are painted red."


"Kuskokwim ... masks themselves form the shape of complete human hands. ... A wooden cover opens and closes over the mask’s face during performances to indicate its concealed character – the ... yua ... .

The third mask ... is iconographically comparable to ellam iinga, the eye of the universe. This ... mask itself frames a single eye".


"Yup>ik dancers never perform without either covering their hands with gloves or holding a pair of dance fans."


"At first menses a girl wore thumbless mittens ... . A woman also wore mittens during her five-day postpartum seclusion ... . At the end of life, men and women alike went to their graves wearing mittens".


[Central Yup>ik tale] "efforts of a young boy to bring a dead woman into the world of the living" : "He was unable to grasp her until he had rubbed his arms with food scraps from the floor of the cache in which he found her".


[another Central Yup>ik tale] "The boy hides under a large wooden bowl and, from his hiding place, sees Itqiirpak, a huge human hand with a mouth on the end of each finger. It enters the qasgiq and devours all his companions. After the hand leaves, ... the people ... set to work making a huge uluaq (woman’s knife), which they poise over the door of the qasgiq. {cf. [Sumerian] the door which jambed the hand of Enkidu} ... As in enters, the people let the uluaq fall, killing the hand."


[Nunivak legend] corresponding "the five days of the Nunivak Bladder Festival to five fingers of a supernatural hand" : "the man brought out these bladders and inflated them. That night, as the couple were sitting by the fire, they were startled to see a hand with outstretched fingers appear above the entrance hole."


[Yup>ik] "A person might acquire healing ... through an encounter with magical worms. ... When a person opens a mouse food supply and finds a ball of squirming worms, ... darkish, black, gray ... Your hands will feel like little spines are going it.


... then you have powers to heal any broken bones or other ailments. If the would-be healer allowed the worms to penetrate the hands, the hands ... acquire the power to draw out illness."


"Just as healers derived their power from worms, so carvers rubbed wood worms [actually beetle-larvae] into the palms of their apprentices’ hands to enhance their talents."


"Along with sucking or lifting illness out of the human body, the angalkuq might breathe on the affected area. People referred to a person with such power as someone with "strong breath.""


[Yup>ik] "When one sees an alangruq [apparition or ghost ...], one must put one’s hand inside, even though it is cold, and take something away. To make the apparition go down, one must press it by its head slowly. Do not press fast – it will come back up again." "If the apparition was a male, people were instructed to stick their hands in here [neck] and touch it on the skin. ... They say their hands would get very cold ... and sting after they stuck them in there briefly trying to touch [the ghost’s] skin."


[C^ugac^] "meeting between a poor hunter and "Imam-shua" (the sea’s person), who appeared in the form of a woman" : "The spirit-woman told the man that his bad luck was due to his stay among menstruating women when he was a child. ... She then ... told him that from the on he would be a good hunter and that the animals would come to him. ... Also significant, the spirit’s hand – possessing four fingers – touched the man four times, comparable to the four days of mourning and the four steps separating a man from the land of the dead. Just as the human body became gradually transparent as one


journeyed ... toward the land of the dead, so the hunter became lighter following the spirit-woman’s touch."


"A woman could make holes in the sky {cf. the spell, "Open the sky from the center." (Sh, p. 150, quoting RC, p. 44)} and let in good weather by touching her two little fingers to her mouth, blowing on the tips, and then turning her fingers outward and performing a tearing motion, moving them apart."


[Eskimo about Bering strait] "Before they acquired tools, the first man and his son caught and killed animals with their bare hands ... . In the beginning, when there was no light, raven would use his hand to hold the sun for two days at a time so that the people could hunt and get food ... . After the sun was released, Raven created the morning star by sticking a bunch of glowing grass that he held in his hand into the sky just before sunrise".


[Nunivak myth] "Raven ... impregnates his wife by flattening his hands on her stomach".


[tale from Norton sound] "a woman fleeing from her cruel husband was cared for by a giant, who supplied her wants by reaching out his great hand and capturing deer, seals, and whatever she wished for food".


[Nunivak myth] "A poor girl .. is approached by two terns, who transform themselves into men and tell the girl to slap them on the head if she wants one of them for a husband. ... Later the girl’s grandmother rubs her hands with along the girl’s back, and the girl acquires beads in her ears, nose, and lips, becoming beautiful in her husband’s eyes".


[Eskimo about Bering strait] "A person’s hands might also possess the power to read another’s mind, as in the story the husband who put his hand on his wife’s forehead and so learned that she was planning to kill him".


[C^ugac^] "hand games such as cat’s cradle were typical summer pastimes, as people believed that they delayed the movement of the sun".


"an angalkuq blew through cupped hands to clear the weather.


[St. Michael] legend "about a man who lost his children and subsequently became so gloomy that he traveled the world, scattering disease and eating his victims. Angalkut finally subdues him by binding him hand and foot." "To prevent evil spirits from ... taking possession of dead bodies and thus giving them a fictitious animation for evil purpose, ... the dead ... are tied hand and foot in the position in which the demon was bound and placed in the grave box."


[Iglulik] "the shaman wears nothing but mittens and boots when he journeys to the ocean floor to request Sea Woman to release the sea mammals."


[Yupiit] "hunters brought home their catch. A woman traditionally greeted sea mammals with pure snow ... . She placed this ... in the sea mammal’s mouth ... . {snow-flake = ‘Star of David’ is referred to in the words spoken by the priest as he is placing the eucharist-wafer into the communicant’s mouth : "I will give him the morning star." (Apokalupsis of Ioannes 2:28)}

Conversely, people ritually anointed the extremities of land animals with seal oil". {the hero who was anointed with oil was Yes^uwa< the son of (<ezra> 2:6)^>ab ( ‘pit-trap for catching game-animals on land’)}


"dance gloves ..., including shoulder-length mittens often without thumbs, trimmed with puffin beaks."


[In~upiaq legend & its ritual] "Quite a clever demon, he nevertheless ... could detect the approach of a human being only by the sight of his skin.


Upon making this discovery, the Eskimos donned masks and gloves, and ... went forth and conquered the demon. So in the dance reenacting this legend, the Eskimos wear gloves -- ... to protect themselves against the demon’s coming back to life again and finding them in the act of boasting about their victory".


[Inuit of the Keewatin district] "the shaman ... reached his familiar spirit deep in the earth. ... The spirit answered the shaman’s questions by controlling his ability to raise the wand.


[Central Eskimo] "shamanic session to find out who was guilty of transgressions" : "The lamps being lowered, the angakok ... pulls the hood over his head, and sits down in the back part of the hut facing the wall. {cf. facing the wall in Soto Zen} He claps his hands ... and, shaking his whole body, utters sounds".


[Iglulik] "angalkuq, whom the spirits instructed to wear a coat decorated with ... two gloved hands made from white caribou hair. ... the hands were to ward off invisible spirits, while ... the hands show how the caribou spirit sought to overpower the shaman." {likewise, among the 20 day-signs, [Yucatec] Manik (depicted as a hand gesturing) is aequivalent to [Aztec] Mazatl (‘deer’).}

180, n. 5

[Baffinland Eskimo tale] "In the hut was a partridge-skin which was drying. ... The he blew on it, and the partridge came to life and flew about."

Sh = John A. Grim : The Shaman. U of OK Pr, 1983.

RC = A. Irving Hallowell : The Role of Conjuring in Salteaux Society. U of PA Pr, 1942.


Takako Yamada and Takashi Irimoto : Circumpolar Animism and Shamanism. Hokkaido U Pr, Sapporo, 1997. pp. 65-181 Part II : "Northern North America".