Spirits of the Night

Art Type
Baker Lake 1989
Certified Limited Edition Print # 27 of 50
Size (in)
Paper (H x W): 20 1/4 x 24
Size (cm)
Paper (H x W): 50 x 61 cm
Not Framed, please enquire
Product ID



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Condition:          No condition to report.

Product is ** SOLD **

Artist Description:           Description by artist not found.

Notes from DaVic Gallery:   Last print available.

In this print we see a woman fending off bad spirits with an amulet in her left hand.  One of the spirits has taken physical form leaving tracks on the snow that can be seen where the other two spirits may be of no physical form.

The harshness and randomness of life in the Arctic ensured that Inuit lived constantly in fear of unseen forces. A run of bad luck could end an entire community, and begging potentially angry and vengeful but unseen powers for the necessities of day-to-day survival is a common consequence of a precarious existence even in modern society. For the Inuit, to offend an anirniq was to risk extinction. The principal role of the angakkuq in Inuit society was to advise and remind people of the rituals and taboos they needed to obey to placate the spirits, since he was held to be able to see and contact them.

The anirniit were seen to be a part of the sila – the sky or air around them – and were merely borrowed from it. Although each person’s anirniq was individual, shaped by the life and body it inhabited, at the same time it was part of a larger whole. This enabled Inuit to borrow the powers or characteristics of an anirniq by taking its name. Furthermore, the spirits of a single class of thing – be it sea mammals, polar bears, or plants – were in some sense held to be the same, and could be invoked through a sort of keeper or master who was connected in some fashion with that class of thing. In some cases, it is the anirniq of a human or animal who became a figure of respect or influence over animals things through some action, recounted in a traditional tale.

Some spirits were by nature unconnected to physical bodies. These figures were called tuurngait (also tornait, tornat, tornrait, singular tuurngaq, torngak, tornrak, tarngek). Some were helping spirits that could be called upon in times of need. Some were evil and monstrous, responsible for bad hunts and broken tools. They could also possess humans, as recounted in the story of Atanarjuat. An angakkuq with good intentions could use them to heal sickness, and find animals to hunt and feed the community. He or she could fight or exorcise bad tuurngait, or they could be held at bay by rituals; however, an angakkuq with harmful intentions could also use “tuurngait” for their own personal gain, or to attack other people and their tuurngait.

Though once Tuurngaq simply meant “helping spirit”, it has, with Christianisation, taken on the meaning of demon in the Christian belief system.

The angakkuq, also angatkuq or angakuq; plural angakuit) of a community of Inuit was not the leader, but rather a sort of healer and psychotherapist, who tended wounds and offered advice, as well as invoking the spirits to assist people in their lives, or as often as not fighting them off. His or her role was to see, interpret and exhort the subtle and unseen. Angakkuq were not trained – they were held to be born with the ability and to show it as they matured. Rhythmic drums, chants and dances were often used in the performance of the duties of the angakkuq. Illumination (Inuktitut: qaumaniq) was often used by the angakkuq to describe a spiritual aura, the removal of which could, in their opinion, result in death. The function of the angakkuq has largely disappeared in Christianized Inuit society.

Qalupalik is a myth/legend that was told by Inuit parents and elders to prevent children from wandering to the shore where the Qalupaliks live. Qalupalik: human-like creatures that live in the sea, long hair with green skin and long finger nails. Qalupaliks wear an amautik so it can take babies and children who disobey their parents or wander off alone and takes the children in her amautik under water were she adopts them as their own. Qalupaliks have a distinctive humming sound, and the elders have said you can hear the Qalupaliks humming when they are near. Up to today the Qalupalik story is still being told in schools, books and by parents who don’t want their children to wander off to the dangerous shore. The myth was adapted as a 2010 stop motion animation short Qalupalik by Ame Papatsie.

Saumen kars or ‘Tornits’ are the Inuit version of the hairy man or yeti myth. Tizheruk are snake-like monsters. Tupilaq are avenging monsters which were invoked using Shamanic magic. “Qallupilluit” are “troll-like” creature that come after misbehaving children.