Myths and religion
The story of their creation is the story of a brother, Anningat, and a sister, Ajut, who before they became the moon and the sun lived at the icefjord. Their transformation arose because Anningat lusted after his beautiful sister, and he continued to hunt Ajut until they were both sucked up into the air where he, the moon, still hunts her, the sun.
This story is a part of Inuit mythology and religion. Although the sun is the driving force in the world, the moon is the dominant person in the myths. He is more changeable than any other heavenly body as he grows, becomes round and shrinks before disappearing for a period. In West Greenland it was believed that when the moon disappeared he was down on the ice-covered sea hunting seals. That the moon brings about the changes in the tide and influences women’s menstruation was an observation that was common knowledge all over Greenland.
The Inuit believed that the world was divided into two - a visible world, which everyone could see with the naked eye, and an invisible world, which could only be seen by people who had an inner eye. The angakkoqs, the shamans, could use their inner eye to replace normal vision so they could see what was hidden, although they could not see both worlds clearly at the same time. However, in a trance-like state induced by traditional drum ceremonies the angakkoq could direct his inner eye at another person and see that person’s hidden world and inner circumstances, which could be in trouble and require treatment.
The most skilled angakkoqs could travel in the invisible world. The two worlds were mutually connected, and it was the life in the other world that put limitations on the visible world, manifested through the movements of the heavenly bodies and the changes of the seasons.
All the Inuit in Greenland had more or less the same understanding of their environment. When people from near and far gathered, they would entertain each other with stories and participate in the same shamanatic seances without problems of understanding.
De gamle fortællinger
The Inuit differentiate clearly between newer and older stories. The newer stories dealt with events that they had second-hand or third-hand knowledge about from the person who had experienced the events. On the other hand, the older stories (or legends) were handed down from their fore-fathers through many generations and - unlike the newer stories - had to be told without any changes.
That the stories nevertheless developed is inevitable in a verbal tradition. Different versions of the same basic story were written down in the colonial age. Every storyteller had his own personal style, but it was vital that the storyteller told his own version as he or she had understood it. The requirement was not so much a word-for-word rendition but a reproduction with unconditional respect for the original.
The idea was that the legends contained the wisdom of their forefathers, which should not be lost under any circumstances. The oldest of these forefathers, who lived when the world acquired its final form, were considered to be stronger and cleverer than the people of today. They had contributed to the world becoming what it is. It was these respected forefathers who had discovered the secret of how people should live with each other and with their prey, so that the Earth could continue to exist and life continue for their children, and their children’s children, for ever.