The helping spirit, Issitoq, assists in locating those who have breached taboos. Known as Giant-eye, his melancholy nature and peculiar appearance was portrayed by the Eskimo Arnaqaoq… (Drawing by Arnaqaoq from Rasmussen, Rasmussens Thulefahrt.) 

‘The Big Lemming’, stonecut print by Pudlo, Cape Dorset, Eskimo, 1961

Carving of a tupilak (spirit), Eskimo, collected in Angmagssalik, E. Greenland, 1931-2. National Museum of Denmark, Department of Ethnography

An Eskimo shaman spirit, with leg bones and inner organs revealed, seems to stalk his prey with sacrificial blade in hand. The … deer mask reveals the transcendental nature of the spirit’s bloody mission. Stonecut print by William Noah, Barnabas Oosuaq and Martha Noah, Baker Lake, Eskimo, 1970. Sanavik Cooperative, Baker Lake, on loan to the Winnepeg Art Gallery

Screen print after a canyon painting. S.E. Utah

The spirit that attacks and destroys the shaman-neophyte can become instructor, ally, and helper after the trials and ordeals of initiation have been endured. Among many Eskimo peoples, for example, the acquisition of spirits was often a violent process involving maiming and dismembering, The Eskimo shaman Niviatsian reported that, when he was being attacked by a walrus two other spirits ravaged him. This carving depicts a spirit wielding a knife of initiatory dismemberment. (Whalebone, antler,  sinew, ivory, and stone carving by Karoo Ashvak, Spence Bay, Eskimo, 1972) 

Reading Shaman: The wounded healer by Joan Halifax. 


  • Monday, 30th June, 2008 - 12:15 am | Permalink

    Hi Lucy, Your blog gets more and more interesting! I love the images that you find. Have you seen ‘Shamanism’ ed. by S Nicholson? There are some good dismemberment details in there. After my first dismemberment I was very glad to find the academic data as I thought this was only happening to me! Have a look at my latest post on http://www.shaman.uk.net which mentions X-ray petroglyphs in Goa. Skeletonisation and X-ray imagery seems a recurring motif in shamanis art and journeys. I ahve added yo to my blogroll, I hope that’s OK?

  • Monday, 30th June, 2008 - 12:16 am | Permalink

    Sorry for typos! Keyboard buggered!

  • lucy
    Tuesday, 1st July, 2008 - 7:10 pm | Permalink

    of course thats ok!

    haven’t seen that book around my local library, will have to go on my to-read list…

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