The Supernatural Traditions of the Alaskan Shaman

The Supernatural Traditions of the Alaskan Shaman

When the word ‘shaman’ is mentioned, it is common for one to visualize semi-naked cat-skin clad witchdoctors, wheeling around fires in mild southern climates. Less often does one picture holy men wearing seal skins with bear fur boots, fighting frost spirits in northern polar landscapes. The opaque persona of ancient Alaskan shamans have secretive supernatural arts worth investigating, for they are rapidly disappearing into oblivion.

Yup'ik medicine man exorcising evil spirits from a sick boy. Nushagak, Alaska, (1890s) (Public Domain)

Yup'ik medicine man exorcising evil spirits from a sick boy. Nushagak, Alaska, (1890s) (Public Domain)

 In ancient Alaska people’s world views were stitched together with beliefs, myths, rituals and ceremonies relating to the most prevalent wildlife in any given area. In this animistic world, animals were given complex personalities and characteristics and shamans believed they could communicate with animal spirits and acted as community conduits between this world, and many others.


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