Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": THE 'ENLIGHTENMENT' OF THE ESKIMO SHAMANS


During the shaman's initiation, the master helps the disciple to obtain 'lighting' or 'enlightenment,' angakok, also called quamanek.

The angakoq consists 'of a mysterious light which the shaman suddenly feels in his body, inside his head, within the brain, an inexplicable searchlight, a luminous fire, which enables him to see in the dark, both literally and metaphorically speaking, for he can now, even with closed eyes, see through darkness and perceive things and coming events which are hidden from others: thus they look into the future and into the secrets of others.'

The candidate obtains this mystical light after long hours of waiting, sitting on a bench in his hut and invoking the spirits. When he experiences it for the first time 'it is as if the house in which he is suddenly rises; he sees far ahead of him, through mountains, exactly as if the earth were one great plain, and his eyes could reach to the end of the earth. Nothing is hidden from him any longer; not only can he see things far, far away, but he can also discover souls, stolen souls, which are either kept concealed in far, strange lands or have been taken up or down to the Land of the Dead.'

M. Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (New York: Bollingen Series LXXVI, 1964), pp. 60-1, based on and quoted from Knud Rasmussen. Intellectual Culture of the Iglulik Eskimos (Copenhagen, 1930) pp.112-13

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