Angekok

Angekok are the physicians, witches, and conjurers among the Greenlanders and Esquimaux. They can hardly be called priests, for there is no specific form of worship among these tribes. The Angekoks pretend to live in communication with the spirits, and understand the art of substantiating this assertion by various ceremonies and tricks, so that they are held in great respect and fear, and are consulted in all difficult cases, and never without receiving presents. In order to become an Angekok much work is necessary. He who desires to become an Angekok must pray the Great Spirit to send him a Torngak, i.e. a genius (spiritusfamiliaris); and for the reception of this spirit he must prepare himself by dwelling often for successive weeks in a quiet secluded place, separate from all human dwellings, without sleep or food, and await the coming of.the Torngak. One of the spirits Angekok selects for his guide, and now he is equipped with all wisdom and knowledge. It is in his power to heal the sick, foretell death, give success in fishing, make good weather, ascend into heaven, or descend into the infernal regions. In such opportunities he shows all his arts. In the middle of the night in mid-winter, when, according to the belief of the natives, the spirits have all retired to their habitations, and the rainbow, which constitutes the lowest heaven, is quite near the earth, the relatives gather about him for whom a conjuration is to be made. All the lamps save one are extinguished. After much drumming, yelling, and singing, the Angekok permits his scholar to tie his head between his knees and his hands behind his back. Then the last light is extinguished, and in the same moment the Angekok liberates himself from his bonds, and begins to drum and sing, in which all join. Hereupon he falls to the ground, apparently dead, for his soul has departed, and only the lifeless body remains. When he returns, it is always in company with this Torngak; whereupon he speaks in undistinguishable sounds and oracles, which those present are at liberty to interpret as they like. When that which they prophesy does not come to pass, the fault lies not with the Torngak, but with those who interpret. When a conjurer calls ten times without result to his Torngak, he is obliged to give up his office; on the other hand, if his call be always answered, he may become an AngeKok Poglit (q.v.)

 
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