Sedna – Goddess of Sea and Marine Animals (Inuit Mythology)
Inuit mythology tells of Sedna the goddess of the sea and marine animals, Sedna known also as the “Mother/ Mistress of the Sea,” is the star of what is essentially creation mythology, and the tale of the events that led to her becoming the mighty ruler of the Inuit underworld – Adlivun.
The mythology of Sedna exists in several different forms but they all contain common factors.
Sedna the daughter of Anguta, a creation god, takes the form of a giant, who under the influence of an insatiable hunger attack her parents in a misguided attempt to assuage her raging appetite.
An alternative version alleges that she was so frustrated and unhappy with her father’s choice of men for her to potentially marry that she chooses instead to marry a dog!
Still more versions of Sedna mythology portray her as a beautiful young woman living in a village of hunters, and whom despite receiving many eager proposals of marriage from the village’s male hunters, rejects them all. Consequently her disillusioned father hands her over to a new and previously unknown hunter as his wife in exchange for a plentiful supply of fresh fish. Unfortunately for Sedna her newly betrothed hunter-husband proves in reality, to be a mighty bird spirit who resides in a large cliff top nest. He is filled with a great wrath which ultimately leads to his vengeful stirring up of a huge storm designed to destroy both Sedna and her father when Sedna’s remorse-ridden father tries his best to rescue her from the plight he has unwittingly plunged her into.
In another version again, Sedna is the abducted and imprisoned on a floating ice island by a different bird like being. In its absence her father sails valiantly to her rescue in a kayak. Consumed by furious outrage at her escape the bird being, calls up a great sea spirit to assist him in wreaking terrible revenge on Sedna and her father, seeking to drown them both in mighty and violent waves of the like that had never before been seen.
Although the exact nature of the assortment of myths regarding Sedna are many and varied, they all have in common three important points:
1. Her father tossing her out of the kayak and into the ocean waves.
2. Her father chopping off her fingers when she fights to climb back into it, so that she sinks to the ocean depths, down to the sea bed itself.
As she does so, what had been her fingers undergo a miraculous transformation into the sea animals that the Inuit regularly hunt – Walruses, Seals and Whales. She is sometimes said to have had her head chopped off or to have grown a tail before her descent to the sea bed.
3. She becomes a mighty sea goddess who commands every mammal of the sea.
Sedna considered a vengeful goddess, is the “Mistress of Life and Death” to the Inuit people because she is their provider. Consequently she is worshiped and prayed to by the hunters who seek to please her so that she will liberate the sea and marine life they rely on for their food supply.
She does so happily if she is treated with due respect and concern. But she also expects that one person be willing to undertake the dangerous journey to her home to relieve the torturous pain she experiences in her hands when she is not respected. If this does not happen, and as a result of her pain and suffering, she in turn punishes the people with a combination of storms, starvation and sickness.
There are many great riches to be found if we are but willing to take a risk and venture deep into the dark, cold places each one of us harbours, and that we fear the most. No matter what illnesses and disabilities we may have the misfortune to experience, or the stupid and thoughtless mistakes we may make in life, we are still worthy of love and respect and have every right to expect, and even demand, that others treat us well.