AMONGST MOUNTAIN SPIRITS
was an orphaned boy who always wept. His father, a great hunter, had
one day been dragged into the depths by a narwhal, and the boy had
become poor. You never saw him where other children were playing. He
was always lonely, and he always had red eyes.
**Then one day, an
old sorcerer approached him and said: 'It's a bad life you live, by
mourning your father every day. Become an Angakkoq, I will show you
how.' An Angakkoq is an Inuit sorcerer.
**'I dare not,' replied
**'There is nothing to be afraid of. Just go down
to the sea and find a stone that is black on one side and white on
the other. It must never have been out of the sea, and you must be
able to wade out to it. When you pick it up, it is best if it has
seaweed stuck to it.
**You must then shed your clothes and wash
your body with seaweed and salt water, and you must then go into the
mountains and find an isolated lake. There you must find a smooth
rock and sit down and grind the stone around to the left, towards
you, in the same direction as the sun - and here you must remain,
grinding continuously, without regard to hunger or fatigue, until
**The secretive way in which the old sorcerer
described everything, gave the boy a great desire to do it; and he
did indeed do, as the old man said. When he had found a stone that
was as it should be, he went to the mountains, enthralled and timid
about what would happen.
**Suddenly he heard a voice, and
discovered a small dwarf walking beside him.
* *'My name is
Qataatsaaq Diskant,' said the dwarf.
* *Missuarniannga, who knew,
you must touch everything supernatural you meet, immediately stroked
his hand over the dwarf's head, and had, in that instant, his first
* *The dwarf went with him, repeating everything
the old sorcerer had told him, and Missuarniannga became even more
determined, to get to know the mountain spirits. He easily found a
lake that lay as it should, and immediately began to grind his stone
around. But he ground it in vain all that day. Being disappointed, he
did not sleep the following night, and early the next morning he
hurried back up to the same place. This time, he had not ground the
stone for long, before the water in the lake began to move and strong
currents began to bubble and boil. Then, like a depression in the
water, a vortex appeared, and the water in the lake began to rise and
sink. Now and then great waves emerged and broke against the beach.
There was the sound of a deep sigh from the sky, and soon after,
there appeared a monster in the middle of the lake, a spirit in
bearskin. It was so terrible to look at, that Missuarniannga wanted
to flee, but he was petrified and couldn't move a limb.
Spirit, who had first had its back to Missuarniannga, now came
swimming towards the shore, and when it set foot on the ground, drew
Missuarniannga away with irresistible force. Missuarniannga felt the
hot breath from its nose, and a bite in the neck; and then he fainted
and sensed no more.
* *How long he lay unconscious, he didn't
know, but when he came to himself again, the dwarf Diskant sat beside
him, singing magical songs over him. He was completely naked, and so
exhausted that he couldn't get up. As he regained his strength, he
went on his way home. Along the way his clothes came flying after
him, and stopped in front of him, so he could put them on; first his
shirt, then his trousers and boots. On returning he kept everything
secret, but he visited the spirit three times, and allowed himself to
be eaten alive every time.
* *This opened his eyes, to that witch
otherwise is hidden from other people.
was now made, and the treatment the spirit in bearskin had given him,
made his mind think about, how he could get dominion over all the
spirit-helpers a sorcerer must have.
* *'I wish I could get an
Angiut, I wish I could get an Angiut, an Angiut, an Angiut.' It was
the only thing, he could think about all day.
An Angiut is a
spirit, in the guise of a fjord-seal that sorcerers can call upon
when they want to know if someone is sick, or if anyone has caught
(seals etc). It is quite indispensable, because these things are what
people most of all ask, and no sorcerer must be ignorant.
Missuarniannga went to the mountains again, and stopped by a slippery
ledge overlooking a small lake. Here he sat down and began to grind
the black and white stone, witch he had brought with him, around.
Again he sat all day, and ground and ground the stone around in a
ring, toward himself again and again, still following the sun's
direction. When he was so tired, that he could hardly lift his right
arm anymore, the mountain suddenly turned soft. He felt no resistance
anymore, and when he lifted the stone up, he discovered that there
had formed a hole into the mountain; a hole that went all the way
through the depths, and looked like one of the blowholes, seals keep
open through thick ice.
* *No sooner had he lifted the stone,
before a strange creature stuck its head out of the hole. The body
was just like that of a little fjord seal, but the head was without
skin and meat, like the skeleton of a ghost. It looked scary, but
happy, and Missuarniannga began to talk to it. Its speech was like
that of a human. He touched it and learned what he wanted; who was
ill and who had caught, and afterwards he pushed the spirit back into
the mountain and put the stone back in the hole. As with the spirit
in bearskin, he also sought out this new spirit three times, and it
became his spirit-helper.
Now the next
step was to get a Toornaarsuk. The name sounds like the nickname,
'the dear little spirit,' but in reality it is Toornat Naalagaat,
witch means the master of all the spirits, and it is used more
frequently than any other spirit-helper. If no other spirit can
handle a case, you just call Toornaarsuk. But it is difficult to get
hold of, and you must search in vain, up amongst the mountains, for a
long time, and live in great solitude before it shows itself. You
must be tenacious and fearless. Thus it happened that Missuarniannga
almost gave up.
* *But one day, as he sat on top of a mountain
near a small cove, there was a sudden movement in the water, and a
living creature came up, and he saw a mighty back shoot up, and a
face that was half animal and half man - and this face came out of
the sea and smiled at him. Missuarniannga knew that you had to hit
it with a small white stone, thrown with your left hand, and he
immediately did this, to get it as a spirit-helper. The stone hit the
monster right in the back, and it slipped quietly back under the
water. Missuarniannga stood up to go home, but now heard a rumbling
sound like rocks falling, but underneath the cliff. Something beneath
the ground was writhing in pain. It was Toornaarsuk, who was breaking
his way, and swimming through the mountain. Missuarniannga began to
run towards home, as fast as he could; he had never been so
frightened in all his life. A strange dizziness seized him, and his
entire body felt light, and it was, as if he wasn't really touching
the ground. He ran as fast as a bird can fly, and it was because
Toornaarsuk kept swimming through the ground directly below him, and
took the weight of his body from him. It didn't leave him, until he
reached the houses, and then Missuarniannga was so stiff and heavy in
his limbs, he nearly fell. Once again he was a man with a heavy body.
* *Thus Missuarniannga got his strongest spirit-helper. When he
had haste, would it to follow him; at sea below his kayak, in the
mountains below the ground, right under him.
* *When he met
danger, in human or animal shape, it came all the way up into the
daylight, and fought for him. Also, he used it to thieve souls with,
whether he had enemies who had to be avenged, or to thieve back
souls, others had stolen.
Missuarniannga had come so far, that he began to think about getting
an Aajumaaq. Its body looks much like that of a human, but it only
has three fingers and three toes. Its head looks like a dog's, and
its arms and legs are black. It doesn't walk, but moves hovering over
the ground, and everything it touches, must rot and die.
wish I could get an Aajumaaq! I wish I could get an Aajumaaq - an
Aajumaaq - an Aajumaaq!'
* *One day, as he sat on a stone near a
deep ravine, he was suddenly overcome by a great fear. His whole body
started shaking, but he didn't know what was causing the fear. Then
the fear suddenly disappeared, and from deep down in the ravine, he
heard a voice that whispered.
* *'I am Aajumaaq. Everything I
touch must rot and die.' The voice was distant and faint.
* *Without knowing what he did, Missuarniannga repeated, 'Everything I
touch must rot and die.'
* *Immediately the voice returned, but
lauder than the first time, and it repeated the words again; they
came as a shrill cry from the troll.
* *'I am Aajumaaq.
Everything I touch must rot and die.'
* *Missuarniannga stared
spellbound at the ravine, and saw the spirit glide slowly toward him.
The black arms were stretched out at him; the claw like hands with
three fingers waving, and the head, that was pointed and sharp as a
dog's, without hair and with large glowing eyes, nodded and swayed
under the body's silent movement through the air. When Missuarniannga
felt its warm breath on his face, he collapsed and fainted. All he
felt was Aajumaaq walking over him. When he came to, he immediately
looked towards the ravine, but there was nothing to be seen. The
troll had disappeared.
* *Later he visited the site twice more,
and when he had seen Aajumaaq three times, it became his
apprentice, who has an Aajumaaq, must also have an Amuu; a spirit
invoked when the lights are out in a house where sorcery is being
practised. While the spiritual flight is going on; and the sorcerer's
body is back-bound, without its soul, Amuu keeps the spectators at
* *Now that the nature-spirits had begun to come to him, he
no longer needed to make any special effort; and he was indeed to see
this for himself, as one day he sat on a hillside facing the sea,
watching the big-ice, that the west wind gathered outside the mouth
of the fjord. From under the beach he heard a voice gently
whispering: 'Amuu - Amuu! I'm haling you to me; I'm haling you to
* *He repeated the words, and immediately the sound grew,
until it became a deafening cry. 'Amuu – Amuu!'
* *Then he
saw an ugly troll come up from the depths. Its eyes were large, and
rolled and shone like fire. It came toward him. Its head was huge.
It was almost all head, but with a small withered body, short legs,
and long arms, it stretched up against children with the cry: 'I'm
haling you to me; I'm haling you to me!'
* *Then he lost fainted,
and when he regained consciousness, he was laying by the water.
A long time had
passed, since that which is described here, had happened, and
Missuarniannga was still working at developing his skills as a
* *Once he stayed at the settlement called Itilleq near
Kulusuk. As usual, he went over land, and came to a lush and
beautiful valley witch lay in front of a canyon, through which a
river flowed. Here he saw a small man, a dwarf that was no larger
than a thumb. He was dressed in beautiful clothes with pants and
boots of garish skin. On the upper body, he had a blue anorak that
seemed to not be made of skin.
* *'Where are you from?' asked
'I come from the interior, from a place near
Umiivik. I came here by folding the lands together, so the mountain
peaks kiss each other.'
* *When dwarves are in a hurry, they have a
Tikkuut, a small pointer, which they hold in front of them, thus
shrinking the lands together, so they become able to walk long
distances in one step. The dwarf had his pointer in his hand. It was
hollow, and into it, was stuck something that looked like three
fingertips. It was his weapon.
* *He told that he had stolen some
dried meat near Umiivik, and that the man he had stolen it from, had
become so enraged, he had shouted: 'Let the thief come forward!' He
then appeared and pointed his stick at the man, who immediately
* *At that moment the dwarf disappeared so
suddenly, that Missuarniannga quite forgot to touch him; and
therefore, he did not get him as a spirit-helper.
was now grown up, and had begun to hunt with his fellow hunters in
the settlement. Often times he was far out to sea, and it was now his
greatest wish to get an Innersuaq, but many times he rowed in vain
without managing to get one.
* *Once he visited a place near
Ikerasak where there was an old house lot. From here he noticed a
kayak-man rowing towards him. He looked strange, for he had almost no
nose and his cheeks were hollow. They got to talking with each other.
* *'What's your name?'
* *'Nakkalia.' Witch means, he who is
made to fall down.
* *'Where do you have land?'
* *'By that
reef over there, you should come and visit us. We are only two, my
wife and me.'
* *Missuarniannga rowed together with him to the
reef. The 'undergrounding' swept across the stones with his hand, and
immediately it seemed as if the lands rose, and before them was a
grassy valley with a small house; a beautiful little house, that they
rowed up to. When the 'undergrounding' stepped out of his kayak, it
turned out he was lame in both hips, and had to crawl over the
ground. He said it was because he had tried to cast disease over
someone, but his enemy had been stronger than he was, and had struck
him with the disease, witch he had intended for the other.
* *Inside the house everything was neat and clean, the woodwork gleamed
white. Skins were hung over the entrance hole and rolled up, and this
was a sign that Nakkalia was an experienced sorcerer.
* *He told,
he had had five sons, but they had all been killed by enemies.
* *'When were you born?' asked Missuarniannga.
* *'The day before
yesterday,' replied Nakkalia.
* *In the language of the
'undergrounders', this means the same as Itsarsuaq, a long, long time
* *'How long do you live?'
* *'Atanitta naggataat
nalunarpoq. We can know nothing about, when our union with life
* *And this means, that dying is unknown to them.
* *Missuarniannga stayed for some time with the 'undergrounders', and
since went home. He was too new a sorcerer to have anything to eat,
for he would have forgotten his return, had he done so.
* *As he
rowed away, he was not aware of coming out of the earth, and he had
now gotten an underground spirit-helper.
Missuarniannga was to travel from Amitsuarsuit to Tasiusaq. When he
came across the place called Ptarmigans' Hollow, he heard a loud
rushing in the sky, and went ashore to examine what it was.
a small lake, he saw a huge giant lying comfortably, with his hand
under his cheek. Now and then he patted the turf beside him, and it
was this that made the strange sound in the air. The giant was a
Timerseq of medium size. That is to say, one of those who live
nearest the sea. As soon as he saw the sorcerer, he beckoned him
over. The giant's name is forgotten, but they talked together for a
long time, and he asked Missuarniannga if he had learned to fly and
move through the air.
* *No. No one had taught him that.
* *'Then I will teach you,' said the giant.
* *Then he blew with his
mouth over the fjord, and immediately a thick cloud of smoke
appeared, like a band of mist stretching from the top of
Killuisaajuit to Akulliit. Then the 'inlander' bent his legs, and
gathered them under himself, and rose into the air, as he flew over
the narrow belt of fog; that quite looked like a slide made from
new-ice. The belt of fog followed the 'inlander' all the way to
* *'This is how we move, when we have a long way to go.
When you see a belt of fog stretched out over the mountain peaks, it
is we who are air travelling. Touch me now, and I will be your
spirit-helper, and you will be able to move through the air, as I.'
* *Thus, this 'inlander' became his spirit-helper.
happened that his uncle was going on a long journey that would take
many years. And when Missuarniannga wanted to say goodbye to him, he
rowed into the bay in his kayak. As he passed Eqqualand, he heard a
whistle and a hiss from the other side of the fjord, and saw a mighty
giant on the shore. The giant sat whistling happily, and every time
he paused for a moment, he slapped the ground with his hand.
* *Missuarniannga rowed over to him, took out his little knife, and got
out of his kayak to go up to the giant; but when the giant saw the
knife, he beckoned to him to let him know, that here was no need for
* *The giant smiled and laughed and roared, almost like
* *'Don't be afraid of me. I'm just laying here enjoying
the view of the land and the sea.'
* *Scarcely had he said this,
before an even greater and mightier giant appeared, up on the
mountain. They both looked just like humans, but were as big as
mountains, and wore blue clothes. This last giant also smiled at him,
and Missuarniannga was not afraid.
* *But then came a third
giant. He came creeping and scowling, and had red cheeks, witch was a
sign, that he was evil. Missuarniannga shuddered at the sight, but
had no time to be afraid, for soon there came an even bigger giant,
the biggest of them all, and it came up from his kayak. This time he
almost fled, so huge was this mountain in human form. But his fear
vanished, when he heard a rolling sound through the air, saying:
'Don't be afraid of me. I am the oldest of us all. We are brothers
and we only want to be kind to you.'
* *They stayed a long time
together, and Missuarniannga learned many things.
* *They stoked
him over the eyes, so that the whole world became brighter to him,
and he became clear-sighted, and could detect things, that other
people can not see.
* *Then he touched all of them, and they
became his spirit-helpers.
* *He then returned to his kayak and
paddled away. From the bay, he looked back to see what had become of
the giants, and he saw how they all, with bent knees and legs, rose
into the air; and as they flew over the mountain, they sang a song
and drifted away into the large clouds in the distance.
Not long after
his encounter with the giants, Missuarniannga was out kayaking, on
the seaward side of Angiitit, and paddled close to the land, because
he still hoped to get more 'undergrounders'. It was good weather.
* *Then he heard a buzz, as from a fly, and a
little later, 'Ii-ii-ii! I will never come up!'
* *'Come up right
now, if you can,' replied Missuarniannga.
* *And then she came
up. It was a woman from the underground, and she came up with her
face turned away from him.
'Visit me,' she said.
sorcerer didn't really know what to reply, but then she stroked over
a ravine with three of her fingers, and immediately a large land
appeared. An entire settlement arose from the sea, and they saw a
large house with four windows.
* *'Surely, you don't live all
alone in that big house?' said Missuarniannga.
* *'Yes I do. Now,
just watch and see.'
* *They came to the house. At the
house-passage, there lay a shiny white piece of wood, which looked
like the rib from a narwhale. 'It's something I need to buy me an Ulu
for,' she said.
* *Then they went into the house. They had not
been there very long, before a face appeared in the window, and
immediately the woman said: 'My neighbours have discovered that I
have a guest - you must flee at once, otherwise you will be killed.'
* *The sorcerer tried to jump into house-passage, but it closed
itself, so he could not get out. Then he jumped over to one of the
windows, but it grew together, closed itself to him, and in this way,
he was hexed by witchcraft, witch blocked all the exits for him.
First at the very last window, did he manage to escape.
jumped into his kayak and paddled with all his strength, and kept on
rowing until he came to Amitsuarssuk, at the mouth of the Ammassalik
fjord. But before his escape, the underground woman had become his
Amitsuarssuk, he again went over land, until he came to a large gorge
that is called Uersat. Here, there is a granite block that sorcerers
often grind on to summon spirit-helpers. Here, it is said, there
lives a grim spirit called Uersat Inuat, the master of the
illegitimate born. At this place he began to grind, with his black
and white stone, and it was not long, before he heard a whistle and
hiss from the gorge. He kept on grinding until a naked man suddenly
came out of the rock in the gorge. At the sight of him, he fainted.
How long he was unconscious, he doesn't know, but when he awoke, he
lay shivering and exhausted.
* *Inside the dark
bottom of the gauge, naked and weak.
* *As usual he was awakened
by Diskant, who was singing to him. His clothes were lying beside
him, and he put them on and went home. But later, he was to seek out
the place two more times, to get the spirit as a spirit-helper.
* *Uersat's spirit, shields him against Tupilaat, and brings him back
to life, when death has touched him.
Now came the
time, for him to seek ghosts as spirit-helpers. He rowed in his kayak
from Immikkoortoq across the sound there, when he heard laughter
nearby. Soon after, he met two kayaks, who turned out to be rowed by
two ghosts of deceased people. For one of them, it was the first time
he was rowing a kayak after his death, and therefore he was afraid of
leaving the cost. He has stayed so close to the cost, that he had got
his oar stuck in a small hollow, and had nearly capsized, and that
was what they were laughing about.
* *This took place at
midsummer, and it is said that the dead, at this time of the year,
can return to their graves, and live there while it is warm and
beautiful on earth.
* *Missuarniannga went with the two ghosts,
and as they had came into a little bay, he noticed the air was
trembling. He almost fainted, and that was because they approached
the ghosts house, witch is the grave. They went up to the house, and
Missuarniannga saw that it had no house-passage. Inside, it looked
like the houses of the living, but the pots hung on strings, which
went all the way up to the sky.
* *Inside, on the couch, sat a
very old man who greeted them kindly.
* *'We suffer from
roof-drip,' said the old man.
* *'Someone has been playing on the
roof of our house, and has taken some of the stones away.'
was a good-natured man who didn't get angry; for otherwise, one must
beware to never take stones from a grave.
* *The man put forward
meat for the guests, and said: 'Missuarniannga. You are now so great
a sorcerer, that you can eat the food of the dead.'
* *The meat
was hard cooked, and looked like peat, but it was easy to suck. It
can be eaten three times, because it grows out on the bone again.
* *These ghosts did not become his spirit-helpers, but they told him
about an old grave behind Amitsuarssuk, where an old woman lay
* *'Go there and grind with your sorcerer's stone,' they
said, and Missuarniannga went and did so.
* *After he had spent
some time at the grave, and ground his stone; he heard a sound from
inside the grave that said: 'Hi-ii-ii!' and at the same time the
stones, the grave was built of, began to move. Suddenly, a small
streak of light became visible, and it showed itself as a rainbow in
the sky; a rainbow that led from the sun, and down to the grave, and
into the grave. Then the gravestones moved themselves, from the side
facing west, and a woman came up from the dolmen. Her face was black,
and her body was dried in. Swaying her hips slowly, she turned
towards him, but when she was quite near him, he fell over her by
accident, and then he fainted.
* *When he regained consciousness,
the dwarf Diskant sat beside him, singing magical spells over him.
* *'Why are you here?'
* *'The ghosts have sent for me, so I could
wake you. She is now your spirit-helper.'
* *And thus he got his
first ghost spirit-helper.
In this way,
the number of spirits who followed Missuarniannga, increased every
year. He came in contact with all the hidden life, up among the
mountains, which shows itself to people who seek the loneliness in
* *Everything became living beings, and came to him in
the shape of creatures of flesh and blood. But no one knew about it.
His apprenticeship had taken place in deep secrecy.
* *The last
spirit-helpers, he got, were also ghosts; who are considered to be
strongest in a great sorcerer's service. Corpses and skeletons became
alive, when he came to them. Life returned to them as light waves
that came drifting down from the sky and into the silent graves; and
pillars of northern light flared up, when the dead pushed the stones
away, and arose from their graves.
* *Now all that remained was
for Missuarniannga to step forth before his people, and reveal to
them, all he had learned.
* *When the lights were put out in a
hut, and he invoked his helpers, he could make spirit-flights through
the air to distant places.
* *If people were sick, because their
soul had been thieved, he could steal it back, and heal them.
* *He could fly to the moon, and get good weather, loose ice, or open
water; and he could dive down beneath the sea, to the ruler of
animals, the dangerous Immap Ukuaa, who distributes the whales,
walruses and seals.
* *And to harden his soul, occasionally, his
spirit-helper Equngasoq, the famous 'crooked one', took him to the
land of the dead, where life continued with good hunting and happy
He must now
show what he has learned, and the occasion came quite by itself.
* *He awoke one morning with a sharp pain in the head. His brain grew
and swelled inside his scull, and the woes of immense thoughts
pressed on to be released. He was compelled to speak, presage,
soothsay, and judge; to not be overcome by madness.
* *Then, in
accordance with the old traditions of the Inuit sorcerers, he called
all his people to a feast, and practised his art, with extinguished
lamps, while tied up like a helpless bundle.
* *They heard him
sigh and groan in the darkness, and the magic drum that was placed
beside him, became alive, and played, as if a thousand spirits were
beating it. And when the drum touched his heel, it was, as if he
could se the first white dawn rising out of the night. And when the
drum touched his hip, daylight it self came to him. Darkness on
longer existed for him in the night, and his eyes saw through
* *But when at last the evening came, and the drum
was led by invisible hands, and stood trembling and singing on his
shoulder, the sun poured in with all its light over his face, and all
the lands on earth gathered in a circle in front of him.
distances and all aloofness was no more.
had become all-knowing, and had the whole world within himself. A new
Angakkoq had arisen amongst men.
* *Knud Rasmussen: Myter og Sagn fra Grønland (Denmark). Myths
and Legends from Greenland.
new spirit-helper the Angakkoq apprentice acquires, he must make a
* *Jens Rosing: Sagn og Saga fra Angmagssalik (Denmark). Legend and
Saga from Angmagssalik.