Sanna/Sedna

Sea Mother

As a young woman, Sanna refuses to marry. Finally, against her parents' wishes, she chooses a stranger, who turns into an evil bird and takes her far away. When Sanna escapes and tries to climb back inside her father's umiaq (whaling boat), her father cuts off her fingers. She sinks into the ocean. Her fingers fall beside her, becoming seals, walrus, and whales. Sanna lives now in the ocean, presiding over the sea animals. She has the power to give or withhold the animals from Inuit hunters. Although many modern representations show her with a fish/whale tail, few of the recorded myths describe her with one.

 

Name Variations: Although commonly known as Sedna in Western literature, Sanna or Sanak was the name recorded by ethnographers and explorers visiting Inuit communities in the 19th century. Many other names are used in communities across the polar region, including Nuliajuk, Taliilajuuq, Nerrivik, Uinigumasuittuq (“the one who did not want to marry”), and Takannaaluk arnaaluk ("the terrible woman down there”). 

 

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