Ancient Land, Sacred Whale: The Inuit Hunt and Its Rituals
In the North Alaskan wilderness on a tiny peninsula called Tikigaq an ancient people evolved an intricate densely woven system of rites to accompany ... Show synopsis In the North Alaskan wilderness on a tiny peninsula called Tikigaq an ancient people evolved an intricate densely woven system of rites to accompany their hunting. For fifteen hundred years, till late last century, elaborate myth and magic were integral to the Tikigaq way of life. Tom Lowenstein began to tap this rich and sacred lore in 1973 when he met Asatchaw, born in 1891, the last great singer and story-teller of his people. Packed close for half the year in underground whale-bone iglus connected by tunnels, Tikigaq people formed complex webs of kinship and alliance. But they were also connected to ancestor spirits, the spirits of the sun and moon, and the animals they both worshipped and ate. To follow the Tikigaq for half the year from storytellings, ritual athletics, dances, shaman seances, puppet shows and divinations, through spirit quests, encounters with the souls of animals, and lunar rites conducted by women, to the climax in spring with the annual whale hunt, is to enter a disorientating world where ritual and symbols become a daily reality. "Ancient Land: Sacred Whale" is a work unique in contemporary literature. Its pages team with the rich detail of ancient life. To the grandeur of Tikigaq imagination, Lowenstein has brought the insight of a scholar and a poet's mastery. Written in a variety of styles and voices, the book is packed with lyrical and dramatic sequences of power and haunting beauty. This "ancient" and yet most modern of texts culminates with a long poem of the whale hunt itself.