The Inuit people, indigenous to the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland, and Alaska, have a rich and complex belief system deeply rooted in their connection to the natural environment. This essay provides an overview of Inuit beliefs, mythology, and rituals, with a particular emphasis on the deities, their personalities, and stories, as well as any unique aspects of the culture.


The Inuit belief system is characterized by animism, the belief that all objects and living things possess a spiritual essence or soul. Consequently, the Inuit pantheon is diverse and includes numerous deities, spirits, and supernatural beings. The following are some of the most significant and widely-recognized deities:

  • Sedna: Known as the Sea Woman or Sea Goddess, Sedna is the most important deity in Inuit mythology. She is the guardian of marine animals and the provider of sustenance for the Inuit people. Legends recount her transformation from a human woman to a powerful goddess after suffering abuse and betrayal by her father and husband. She resides in the underwater world known as Adlivun, where the souls of the dead must pass through to reach the afterlife.

  • Anningan: The Moon God, Anningan is the brother of the Sun Goddess, Malina, and is responsible for the phases of the moon. He is often portrayed as a relentless pursuer of his sister, causing the cyclical waxing and waning of the moon as he chases her across the sky.

  • Malina: As the Sun Goddess, Malina is responsible for providing light and warmth to the world. She is eternally pursued by her brother Anningan, which is the Inuit explanation for the alternating cycles of day and night.

  • Silap Inua: Known as the "Master of Breath" or "Owner of Souls," Silap Inua is an omnipresent deity believed to control the life force of all living things. He is essential for maintaining the balance between the physical and spiritual realms.

Mythological Figures

Inuit mythology also features an array of heroes and supernatural beings, each with its own unique characteristics and stories. Some of the most noteworthy figures include:

  • Kiviuq: An Inuit hero and shaman, Kiviuq is a central figure in many legends. He embarks on various adventures, often aided by his ability to transform into animals or use supernatural powers. His tales usually involve overcoming adversity, imparting important lessons about courage, resourcefulness, and resilience.

  • Amarok: The Amarok is a giant, mythical wolf-like creature that preys on those who hunt alone at night. It is often used as a cautionary tale to emphasize the importance of cooperation and community among the Inuit people.

  • Tornits: These mythical beings are believed to be a race of giants who possess extraordinary strength and the ability to control the weather. They are feared by the Inuit people for their potential to wreak havoc on their lives and hunting grounds.

  • Qallupilluit: These are malevolent sea creatures that are said to dwell beneath the ice. They are described as human-like beings with long hair, green skin, and sharp claws. Qallupilluit are known to snatch away children who venture too close to the shoreline or wander onto thin ice. This myth serves as a cautionary tale to keep children away from dangerous areas near the water.

  • Ijiraat: Shape-shifting beings that are known to confuse, frighten, or lead humans astray. Ijiraat are said to be able to take the form of any animal or person and often use their abilities to deceive or play tricks on unsuspecting people. Encounters with Ijiraat can be dangerous, as they can lure people into dangerous situations or drive them mad with fear.

  • Mahaha: The Mahaha is a malevolent, thin, and sinewy creature with a maniacal grin, long claws, and cold, icy skin. It is said to roam the Arctic, searching for victims to tickle to death with its sharp, frozen fingers. This creature is often used as a cautionary tale to remind people of the dangers of wandering alone or straying too far from the community.

  • Akhlut: This is a powerful and fearsome creature that is part wolf and part orca. The Akhlut is believed to have the ability to transform between its two forms, allowing it to move seamlessly between land and water. It is known as a voracious predator that hunts both humans and animals.

  • Nuliajuk: Also known as the Mother of Sea Beasts, Nuliajuk is a supernatural being that is responsible for the abundance of sea animals, such as seals and whales. She is a significant figure in Inuit mythology, often portrayed as a mermaid-like creature with a human upper body and a fish or sea mammal lower body. Hunters pay their respects to Nuliajuk to ensure successful hunts and the continued provision of food from the sea.

Unique Beliefs and Rituals

The Inuit belief system is also characterized by several unique beliefs and practices. For example:

The concept of inua, or spiritual essence, is central to Inuit beliefs. It is believed that all living things, as well as inanimate objects, possess an inua. When a person dies, their inua is released and returns to the spiritual realm, where it may be reborn into a new form or even inhabit an object.

The angakok, or shaman, plays a vital role in Inuit society. As a spiritual intermediary, the angakok communicates with the deities and spirits on behalf of the community. They possess unique knowledge and abilities, such as healing, divination, and controlling weather, and are responsible for performing various rituals and ceremonies to ensure the well-being and prosperity of the community.

The tupilak is a powerful form of Inuit magic that involves the creation of a supernatural creature from a variety of materials, such as bone, fur, and feathers. The tupilak is then imbued with a specific purpose, often to harm an enemy or protect the creator from harm. However, if the target of the tupilak is more powerful or skilled, the creature may turn on its creator instead.

Another unique aspect of Inuit beliefs is the strong emphasis on living in harmony with the natural world. This includes a deep respect for animals, which are considered to have their own spiritual essence. Inuit hunters perform rituals and offer thanks to the spirit of the animal they have killed to maintain this balance and to ensure successful future hunts.