inuit/greenland mythology

Inuit mythology is a repository of Inuit culture, passed down by elders through generations to enrich and enlighten. Traditionally used in all aspects of daily life, Inuit mythology has undergone a resurgence in popularity as community groups aim to preserve traditional teachings as a method of cultural and political solidarity. The definition of a myth is as fluid as myths themselves. Myths are usually seen as narratives used to explain characters, experiences or phenomena of religious or spiritual importance that are illustrative of a certain community’s belief system. A legend is a story handed down by tradition, yet loosely based on history.

Inuit Myths Come Out of the Shadows

“When a culture loses sight of its own myths, it’s a sign that it’s in danger.”

QALUPALIK – This hooded deity of the drowned

List of Gods







KANAJUK –     


ISITOQ –    



KWEETOO –      


POMPEJA – The god of the east wind and another son of Sila. Since the winds coming off the sea were often warmer compared to the north and west winds Pompeja’s winds were said to be caused by the god’s flatulence.   

Inuit mythology is a repository of Inuit culture, passed down by elders through generations to enrich and enlighten. Traditionally used in all aspects of daily life, Inuit mythology has undergone a resurgence in popularity as community groups aim to preserve traditional teachings as a method of cultural and political solidarity.

Pantheon of Deities

Legendary Places

Demons and Creatures


An old woman lived with her grandson in a small hut. As they had no kinsmen they were very poor. A. few Inuit only took pity on them and brought them seal’s meat and blubber for their lamp”. Once upon a time they were very hungry and the boy cried. The grandmother told him to be quiet, but as he did not obey she became angry and called Qallupilluk to come and take him away. He entered at once and the woman put the boy into the large hood, in which he disappeared almost immediately.
Later on the Inuit were more successful in sealing and they had an abundance of meat. Then the grandmother was sorry that she had so rashly given the boy to Qallupilluk and wished to see him back again. She lamented about it to the Inuit, and at length a man and his wife promised to help her.

When the ice had consolidated and deep cracks were formed near the shore by the rise and fall of the tide, the boy used to rise and sit alongside the cracks, playing with a whip of seaweed, Qallupilluk, however, was afraid that somebody might carry the boy away and had fastened him to a string of seaweed, which he held in his hands. The Inuit who had seen the boy went toward him, but as soon as he saw them coming he sang, “Two men are coming, one with a double jacket, the other with a foxskin jacket” (Inung maqong tikitong, aipa mirqosailing. aipa kapiteling). Then Qallupilluk pulled on the rope and the boy disappeared. He did not want to return to his grandmother, who had abused him. Some time afterward the Inuit saw him again sitting near a crack. They took the utmost caution that he should not hear them when approaching, tying pieces of deerskin under the soles of their boots. But when they could almost lay hold of the boy he sang, “Two men are coming, one with a double jacket, the other with a foxskin jacket.” Again Qallupilluk pulled on the seaweed rope and the boy disappeared. The man and his wife, however, did not give up trying. They resolved to wait near the crack, and on one occasion when the boy had just come out of the water they jumped forward from a piece of ice behind which they had been hidden and before he could give the alarm they had cut the rope and away they went with him to their huts. The boy lived with them and became a great hunter.


There was once a man who had a giant dog; it could swim in the sea, and was so big that it could drag whales and narwhals to land. The narwhals it just hung on its grinders, when it wanted to swim to land with them. The man who owned it had cut holes in its jaws and fastened thongs to the holes, so he just pulled at these thongs when he wanted it to turn. When they wished to go on a journey, he and his wife sat on its back. The man had long wished for a son, but as he could not get one, he gave his dog the amulet that the child should have had. It was a knot of wood from a tree, and it was to make the dog hard against death. Then one day the dog ate a person, so the man had to go away and settle down elsewhere. One day while he was living in that place a kayak came in sight a long way off, and the man had to make haste and hide his dog, so that it should not eat the stranger. He led it a long way up in the hills, and gave it a large bone that it could gnaw and amuse itself with. But one day the dog smelt the stranger, all the same, and came down from the hills; and its master then had to hide the man and his kayak far away, so that the dog should not tear them to pieces; so dangerous was it.

But as it was so large and so ferocious, its master made many enemies, and one day there came a strange man in a sledge with three dogs as large as bears, to kill the giant dog. The man went to meet the sledge with the dog after him. At first the dog pretended to be afraid, and only when the strange dogs lunged for it did it fling itself upon them and bite through the skulls of all three. At last the man noticed that the giant dog used to disappear occasionally on long excursions inland, and sometimes it came back with the leg of an inland-dweller. Then he understood that it attacked the inland-dwellers, and brought its master their legs. That they were the legs of inland-dwellers he could tell by their having boots on with long hairs. From this giant dog dates the great terror that the inland-dwellers have of dogs. It always used to show itself suddenly in the opening of the window and haul them out. But it was a very good thing for the inland-dwellers to get a little fright sometimes, for they were very much given to carrying off people who were alone, especially women who had lost their way in the fog. Now I do not know any more about the giant dog.

Koodlowetto, the Giant.

At Anganichen, beyond Aggo, lived a man of monstrous size, whose name was Koodlowetto. His sister was as large as he. One day he went hunting, and came to a place where a number of walrus had made a hole through the ice. He got ready to harpoon them, and as soon as one appeared, he harpooned it. Then he took hold of his line, and got in position to hold the walrus when it should dive. While he was standing there, he stumbled on a small piece of ice which was probably thrown out by the walrus when they made the hole. He fell down, and, as the end of his line was fastened round his left wrist, he was dragged into the water. He was so large, however, that he was able to take hold of the ice at one side of the hole with one hand, while he held on to the opposite side with the other. Thus he held on until the line eased up. Then he was able to crawl out of the hole, haul in the walrus, and kill it. When he reached home, he told the people what had happened. Another day he went off with the other people to seal. In the evening a man by the name of Ikalakjew passed him on his way home. He invited him to sit down on his sledge; but as soon as he sat down, the sledge broke to pieces, and both had to walk home.


The Mahaha is a creature with origins in Inuit mythology, legend and folklore. The Mahaha resembles an emaciated Inuk (‘Eskimo’), dressed in torn Inuk clothes. Their skin appears at least mildly blue (putrid and badly frostbitten), and their hair is often long, brittle and frozen stiff. Their eyes are often pale blue, or gray, or perhaps white without irises. They have a long, sharp set of fingernails, to boot. Mahaha are singular creatures, roaming solitary across the Arctic. The Inuit saw this spirit from time to time, always with minimal clothing.

He giggles and smiles at the Aboriginals with a creepy appearance about him. Elders say that these nails are responsible for the Mahaha’s victims, as he constantly tickles those he encounters to death. If an Aboriginal was found dead with a bizarre smile across his or her face, the tribe assumed it was the work of the Mahaha. Even though the little creature is vicious, he could be fooled easily. In fact, many of the tales told by Elders explain how the Mahaha was fooled into his demise. For instance, many say that the Mahaha was tricked to bend over to drink water, and pushed by the Aboriginals into the currents.

The Inupasugjuk

The Inupasugjuk are northern giants. Very little is known of these huge creatures. Inupasugjuk are rarely seen and almost never talked about by elders. It seems the males are larger and less common than the females. Very little is known of the males. Perhaps that is because no one has ever survived to talk about them? Female Inupasugjuk seem to be more common.

These Inupasugjuk find humans amusing and will catch them to use as playthings. Some elders warn that the females will grab people and carry them away in their amoutiqs. If you ever see an Inupasugjuk, crouch down and remain very still, your best chance of escape is to avoid being seen.

Adlet – Inuit Werewolf

The Adlet are bloodthirsty creatures based in Inuit mythology. they are also known as Erqigdlit to the peoples of Greenland and Baffin Island. Werewolf-like in appearance, it is said they are the result of a union between an Inuit woman and a giant dog. According to the myth, the woman gave birth to ten children: five were dogs, and five were Adlet – they bore the lower halves of a dog’s body and the upper halves of a man’s body. Terrified, she set five of them adrift in the sea. these five managed to cross the Arctic and Atlantic and spawned the European races. the other five children that stayed with their mother became ferocious, flesh-eating canine hominids who would attack anyone they encountered. the Adlet and their offspring (also called Adlet) now wander the tundra in packs, seeking out Inuit villages to feed on.

Qalupalik: The Inuit Child Snatcher of the Deep

The Qallupilluk or Qallupilluit are marine creatures from Inuit mythology. They are often described as having scaly and bumpy skin, not unlike a sculpin. It is said that these are ugly creatures and that they reek of sulfur. The Qallupilluk is a child-snatcher. No one really knows why these creatures love to take children. Perhaps they take children because they are lonely and like the company, or maybe they like how children taste? Or is there perhaps an even darker reason for the snatching? Many stories of the Qallupilluk tell of them wearing eider duck clothing with large pouches on their back to carry children in. The Qallupilluk hides in the ocean, waiting for children to play alone on the beach or near the breaking ice.

Usually, the Qallupilluk jump out of the water and grab children without any warning. Sometimes, however, you can hear them knocking under the ice. Some elders have said that if the ocean begins to become wavy in an area or steam begins to rise from the ocean, a Qallupilluk might be hiding underneath the water. The main signal of their approach, however, is a distinct humming sound. One thing is certain, whether a Qallupilluk is hiding in the water or not, it is never safe to play alone on the beach or near the broken pans of sea ice. The Qallupulluit is almost definitely a version of a water-dwelling bogeyman. This creature was likely made up to scare children from playing alone at the coast and especially wandering on cracking and unstable sea ice.


Among the Canadian Inuit, a spiritual healer is known as an angakkuq (plural: angakkuitInuktitut syllabics ᐊᖓᑦᑯᖅ or ᐊᖓᒃᑯᖅ) in Inuktitut or angatkuq in Inuvialuktun. The duties of an angakkuq include helping the community when marine animals, kept by Takanaluk-arnaluk or Sea Woman in a pit in her house, become scarce, according to the Aua, an informant and friend of the anthropologist Rasmussen. Aua described the ability of an apprentice angakkuq to see himself as a skeleton, naming each part using the specific shaman language.


Below is a list of Inuit deities believed to hold power over some specific part of the Inuit world:

  • Agloolik: evil god of the sea who can flip boats over; spirit which lives under the ice and helps wanderers in hunting and fishing
  • Akna: mother goddess of fertility
  • Amaguq/Amarok: wolf god who takes those foolish enough to hunt alone at night
  • Anguta: gatherer of the dead; he carries them into the underworld, where they must sleep for a year.
  • Igaluk: the moon god and brother to the sun, Malina. He chases her across the sky.
  • Malina: the sun goddess and sister to the moon, Igaluk.
  • Nanook: (Nanuq or Nanuk in the modern spelling) the master of polar bears
  • Pinga: the goddess of the hunt, fertility and medicine
  • Qailertetang: weather spirit, guardian of animals, and matron of fishers and hunters. Qailertetang is the companion of Sedna.
  • Sedna: the mistress of sea animals. Sedna (Sanna in modern Inuktitut spelling) is known under many names, including NerrivikArnapkapfaalukArnakuagsak, and Nuliajuk.
  • Silap Inua or Sila: personification of the air
  • Tekkeitsertok: the master of caribou.
  • Pukkeenegak: Goddess of domestic life, including sewing and cooking.

Qualupalik and the Father

The Ijiraat are the shape-shifters. These land spirits are elusive and can transform into any arctic animal to disguise themselves. Most often they take the shape of a raven, bear, wolf or even a human. The only part of the Ijiraat that it cannot disguise is its red eyes. In all of it forms, both human and animal, its eyes always remain red. These hidden creatures are portrayed as evil and malicious in many stories. These stories warn that the Ijiraat lie in wait for lone travelers, changing shape to fool and get close to the travelers. Some elders argue that these land spirits and are not inherently evil, but rather misunderstood. One elder warned that these spirits are surrounded by mirages. When mountains or islands on the horizon look bigger or closer than they really are, an Ijiraat might be near. It seems some elders believe that the Ijiraat often appear to bring messages to travelers. Although many interpretations of the Ijiraat exist, one thing seems to be certain: After an encounter with the Ijiraat people tend to experience memory loss and quickly forget the details of what happened. If you ever encountered an Ijiraat, remember to talk to as many people as possible before you memory begins to fail and you forget the experience.

The Ijiraat



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