Meaning in the Cosmos
The Inuit created and believed many myths about the images they observed
in the sky.
Sun and Moon: The Inuit who lived in Greenland believed that
this myth explained the movement of the sun and moon across the sky, including
the phases of the moon and the solar eclipse:
The sun was a goddess named Malina, and her brother Anningan
was the god of the moon. When they were children, they played
together in the dark.
One night, Anningan raped his sister. They fought, and during
that struggle a seal-oil lamp broke and spilled oil on Malina's
hands. She rubbed her hands on Anningan's face during the
night and then ran away from him into the sky.
Anningan chased her into the sky, where the two siblings became
the sun and moon.
Anningan continues to chase his sister to this day, which is
why the sun and moon are rarely seen in the sky at the same time.
Sometimes Anningan forgets to eat because he is so obsessed with
his sister. As the days pass, he becomes thinner and thinner.
Eventually, he is forced to leave the sky for three days each
month. This pattern of changing sizes of the moon explains the
On rare occasions, the moon god reaches the sun. When this happens,
a solar eclipse occurs in the sky.
Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis): When the sun throws tiny
parts of itself off into the sky, a stream of solar winds containing tiny
particles called electrons and protons travels toward the north and south
poles. When that stream enters the atmosphere, it reacts with the gases
oxygen and nitrogen to produce a display of green, pink and blood red
in the sky. This phenomenon is known as the Northern Lights, or Aurora
The Inuit have many myths to describe the appearance of the Northern
Lights in the sky.
Most Inuit believe that the ribbons of light they see are spirits
moving about in the sky. Some believe that the spirits are playing
football with the skull of a walrus, or that walrus spirits are
playing football with a human skull. The display is also thought
to be a sign that good weather is to come.
The Inuit living in Alaska feel the opposite, however. They think
that the Aurora Borealis is evil. They carry weapons with them
when they venture outside during the display and hide away their
children until the light show is over.
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