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The Spirits of All Things

Traditional Inuit beliefs are a form of animism, according to which all objects and living things or beings have a spirit.

The belief is that all things happen though the involvement of some spirit. Spirits can affect people's lives and can be controlled by magical charms and talismans.

Various taboos were observed to make sure that animal spirits were not offended, and when animals were killed for food, it was done according to certain rituals. Communal rites centered on preparation for the hunt as this was the most important activity for survival in a hostile environment.

Although anyone with the appropriate charms or amulets could have some control over these spirits, the person best equipped to control spirits was the shaman - the central religious figure in traditional Inuit culture. His functions included blessing the hunt, treating sickness, and providing advice in times of crisis.

In Arctic Canada, Greenland, Labrador, and southern Alaska, large numbers of Inuit have converted to Christianity.

PICTURE: Shaman mask.

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