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Inuit Mythical Beasts and Creatures: Tupilaq & More
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  6/14/10
By: Yona Williams

The Inuit who live in the Greenland region speak of the Tupilaq, which is a monster that was born out of witchcraft or shamanism. It is believed that many different parts of animals and even the dead bodies of children were used to create the monster. With the help of ritualistic chants, the creature was brought to life. After it was born, the monster was put into the sea to find and take the life of a specific enemy.


Using a tupilaq came with its risks. For instance, if the creature was sent to destroy someone who had a greater level of magical power than the sender, then it could be diverted to kill its maker. The only way to escape death would be to publicly confess their misdeeds.

Depending on which Inuit group you speak to, the tupilaq is represented differently. The Iglulik believe it is an invisible ghost that only a shaman can catch sight of. It is also the soul of a deceased person that has become restless because someone has committed a violation concerning a death ritual. This version of the tupilaq has a knack for scaring away game and only a shaman can drive it away with a knife.

The Caribou Inuit see the tupilaq as an invisible entity and only a shaman has the power to see it. However, the creature resembles a chimera with the head of a human and different body parts belonging to various species of animals. The tupilaq was seen as a dangerous threat and had the potential to attack the settlement. Only the shaman could defeat the creature, who would devour it with the help of a few spirits.

Other mythical beasts and creatures associated with the Inuit culture include:

·    Akhlut: Taking the form of both a wolf and an orca, the Akhlut is a mean-spirited beast full of danger that is said to leave the tracks of a wolf behind when it travels away from the ocean to walk on earth. For this reason, dogs seen walking towards the ocean are thought to be evil.

·    Ishigaq: Measuring around 30 centimeters (or 1 foot) tall, the Ishigaq are often compared to fairies. They were hard to track because they left behind no footprints in the snow due to their small size. It was also thought that they were light enough to float above the ground.

·    Agloolik: Living under the ice, the Agloolik is a spirit thought to help fishermen and hunters.

·    Amarok: In Inuit myths, the Amarok is a huge wolf that is believed to hunt down and eat anyone who believes it is safe enough to hunt alone in the middle of the night. The Amarok is not to be confused with a real wolf, as they hunt alone, whereas wolves follow pack behavior.

·    Keelut: This evil spirit is described as resembling a dog without any hair.

·    Kigatilik: With a reputation for taking the lives of shaman, the Kigatilik is a violent demon.


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