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Sedna: a widely distributed and beloved Inuit legend

This compilation begins with a version of the legend from Sedna of Labrador ( and ends with a version from Glen Welker ( The two versions are marked in the text.

(Sedna of Labrador's version begins here.)

Sedna was a beautiful Inuit girl who lived with her father. She was very vain and thought she was too beautiful to marry just anyone. Time and time again she turned down hunters who came to her camp wishing to marry her.

Finally one day her father said to her "Sedna, we have no food and we will go hungry soon. You need a husband to take care of you, so the next hunter who comes to ask your hand in marriage, you must marry him." Sedna ignored her father and kept brushing her hair as she looked at her reflection in the water.

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Woman brushing her hair. Hashiguchi Goyo, 1920.

Jungian analysis Jungian therapy in new york: narcissism narcissistic order

Eskimo Man: Noatak. Edward Curtis, 1929,

Soon her father saw another hunter approaching their camp. The man was dressed elegantly in furs and appeared to be well-to-do even though his face was hidden. Sedna's father spoke to the man. "If you wish to seek a wife I have a beautiful daughter . She can cook and sew and I know she will make a good wife."

Under great protest, Sedna was placed aboard of the hunters kayak and journeyed to her new home. Soon they arrived at an island. Sedna looked around. She could see nothing. No sod hut, no tent, just bare rocks and a cliff. The hunter stood before Sedna and, as he pulled down his hood, he let out an evil laugh. Sedna's husband was not a man as she had thought but a raven in disguise. She screamed and tried to run, but the bird dragged her to a clearing on the cliff.

Sedna's new home was a few tufts of animal hair and feathers strewn about on the hard, cold rock. The only food she had to eat was fish. Her husband, the raven, brought raw fish to her after a day of flying off in search of food.

photo of flying black raven,Jungian analysis

Common Raven (Corvus Corax): Saffey Sound, Seward Peninsula, Alaska, Glen Tepke, 2007.

Sedna was very unhappy and miserable. She cried and cried and called her father's name. Through the howling arctic winds Sedna's father could hear his daughter's cries. He felt guilty for what he had done as he knew she was sad. Sedna's father decided it was time to rescue his daughter. He loaded up his kayak and paddled for days through the frigid arctic waters to his Sedna's home.

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Inuit seal hunter with atlatl lashed to kayak. Edward S. Curtis, ca. 1929.

When he arrived Sedna was standing on the shore. Sedna hugged her father then quickly climbed into his kayak and paddled away. After many hours of travel Sedna turned and saw a black speck far off into the distance. She felt the fear well up inside of her for she knew the speck was her angry husband flying in search of her.

The big black raven swooped down upon the kayak bobbing on the ocean. Sedna's father took his paddle and struck at the raven but missed as the bird continued to harass them. Finally the raven swooped down near the kayak and flapped his wing upon the ocean. A vicious storm began to brew. The calm arctic ocean soon became a raging torrent tossing the tiny kayak to and fro. Sedna's father became very frightened. He grabbed Sedna and threw her over the side of the kayak into the ocean. "Here, he screamed, here is your precious wife, please do not hurt me, take her."

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Sedna screamed and struggled as her body began go numb in the icy arctic waters. She swam to the kayak and reached up, her fingers grasping the side of the boat. Her father, terrified by the raging storm, thought only of himself as he grabbed the paddle and began to pound against Sedna's fingers. Sedna screamed for her father to stop but to no avail. Her frozen fingers cracked and fell into the ocean. Affected by her ghastly husband's powers Sedna's fingers, while sinking to the bottom, turned into seals.

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Cape Fur Seals. photo: BBC, planet-earth/images.

Sedna attempted again to swim and cling to her father's kayak. Again he grabbed the paddle and began beating at her hands. Again Sedna's hands, frozen by the arctic sea again cracked off. The stumps began to drift to the bottom of the sea, this time turned into the whales and other large mammals. Sedna could fight no more and began to sink herself.

(Glen Welker's version begins here.)

But Sedna was not drowned. Instead, she became the Spirit of the Sea and Mother of the Sea Beasts. She lives still at the bottom of the sea, jealously guarding the creatures which came from her fingers. Because of her father's cruelty, she has no love for human beings. Their wicked deeds trouble her, affecting her body with sores and infesting her hair like lice. Lacking fingers, she cannot brush her hair and it becomes tangled and matted. In revenge, she calls up storms to prevent men from hunting, or keeps the sea creatures to herself.

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Sedna and seal. Davidee Amittu: Quebec, 2008. Soapstone.

At such times shamans must travel to the land below the sea to confess men's sins and to beg her forgiveness. Only the most powerful, who fear nothing, can undertake this journey for the way is long and dangerous, blocked by great rolling boulders, and evil spirits guard the entrance to the Sea Mother's sealskin tent.

To sooth Sedna's rage and pain, the shaman must first comb her hair until it hangs clean and smooth once more. Then Sedna may feel more kindly and release the whale, walrus and seal from the great pool below her lamp, so that for a time, until they forget and sin again, people may hunt freely and without fear.

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Hitler, Himmler at Nuremberg September, 1938.

It is for this reason in the north that after a hunter catches a seal he drops water into the mouth of the mammal, a gesture to thank Sedna for her kindness in allowing him to feed his family.