Inuit Creation Myth: “How Sedna Became A Sea Goddess”
In a traditional oral culture, sacred stories were told and passed on from one generation to the next. For the Inuit, the world had infinite possibilities. Humans could travel between the physical and spiritual worlds and call upon spirit helpers and guardians. Humans could transform into animals and animals into humans.
Stories explained creation, taught lessons and ensured cultural continuity. This story, which is told throughout the Arctic, tells how Sedna became a sea goddess.
Sedna lived in the Arctic with her mother and father. She loved them and was happy. Her father was a skilled hunter so she had food and warm furs. Although many men asked her parents for permission to marry her, she refused to follow tradition.
One day, an Inuk man came and promised her food and fur and blankets. She agreed to marry him. After they were married, he revealed that he was not a man but a bird. Sedna was angry because he was, of course, not a good hunter and could only catch fish. One day Sedna’s father came to visit and saw what had happened. He killed the man and left with Sedna in his kayak. The birdman’s friends tried to avenge his death by beating their wings hard enough to swamp the small kayak. Sedna’s father was so frightened, he threw Sedna overboard to save his kayak. She would not let go of the side of the kayak so her father started cutting her fingers off. From each of her fingers sea creatures were born and that is how we have fish, seals, walruses and whales.
Sedna went to the bottom of the ocean and became a powerful spirit. She controls all the animals of the sea. Inuit rely on these animals so must maintain a good relationship with her and follow certain ceremonies. If hunters do not catch anything for a long time, the Shaman will transform himself into a fish and go to Sedna the Sea Goddess to soothe her by combing her hair so that she will allow the animals to be caught. Animals do not mind giving themselves up to provide food, clothes and shelter for the Inuit.