Some of the Creatures and Supernatural Beings of Inuit Mythology

From the original article on November 29, 2021. Author: Stone Age Herbalist.

As #nunavutnovember draws to a close I thought we could look at some of the creatures and supernatural beings of Inuit mythology. These aren't gods or even esp important figures, but they reveal a lot about the psychology of living so far north.

First, The Adlivun - 'those who live beneath us'. These are the spirits of the dead who exist under the world. Here in this frozen wasteland they are purified for a year before travelling to Quidlivun, the 'Land of the Moon'.

The Ahkiyyini - a skeleton spirit of a long departed dancer. He now makes music with his own bones and is responsible for causing earthquakes and tidal waves.

The Akh'lut - a ferocious hybrid monster, part wolf and part orca. The Inuit believe it to be real by the number of wolf tracks that lead to the edge of the ice and disappear.

The Kigatilik - a malevolent and aggressive demon of the high frozen north who delights in hunting down and killing shamans.

The Amarok - a huge demonic wolf who preys on those foolish enough to wander alone at night.

The Atshen - similar to other Native American cultures, once a person has eaten human flesh they cease being a person. Instead they crave and hunger for more as an exiled and dangerous ghost, always yearning to eat.

The Ijiraq - the Inuit have many monsters dedicated to stealing children. The Ijiraq are shapeshifters, half of this world and half not, seen from the corner of the eye. They sometimes take the form of a caribou, taking a child and hiding them in the frozen wilderness.

The Qiqirn - a dog spirit. Appears as a large hairless canine and can send men and sledge dogs into fatal seizures.

The Qalupalik - another set of child snatchers, the Qalupalik are slender evil female creatures who live under the ice and attempt to grab and drown children.

The Tariaksuq - 'shadow people'. These are beings of shadow and invisibility who populate their own realm and world, but can occasionally be seen, but vanish as soon as your gaze is direct.

The Tizheruk - a long pale Arctic sea monster, in the form of a giant serpent. It's presence is said to be focused around Alaska and it has eaten Inuit out in their kayaks.

The Tupilaq - an avenging destructive spirit, summoned by a shaman who makes an effigy from human and animal remains and releases it to the sea to claim its victim. Modern carvings of Tupilaq were made to show Europeans what the spirit looks like, there are no effigies to study.

There are more creatures and monsters in the Inuit world, but this gives a taste of their character. Many practical reasons have been given for these, such as warnings to keep children away from the ice. But the harsh life of the Arctic also seems to breed a dark and paranoid view of nature, full of demons and malevolent forces. Creatures like the Atshen are also likely residue tales of times of starvation, amplified in the cold. The psycho-geography of the North is often mentioned, as a place of great dangers, even by people living in the Arctic region. Here truly be the realm of monsters!

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