Sedna is the Mother of the Deep, the Sea Woman, the Big Bad Woman. She was a woman of her own power, identity and determination and she suffered greatly for it. She made a sacrifice and became the very spirit and guardian of the sea – the global womb from which we are born. Her lessons are those of courage, independence, devotion, sacrifice, balance, restoration and natural harmony.
There are a few different versions of her story, but what they all have in common is Sedna – either the daughter of a deity, an abused orphan, or a beautiful maiden uninterested in marriage – ending up in a kayak with her father (or others) who, in some fear or other, throws her overboard. When she grasps at the edge of the kayak to pull herself back in, she gets her fingers chopped off which then fall into the raging sea to become whales, seals, otters and other warm-blooded marine creatures. And she herself becomes the mighty goddess of the seas who keeps the animals hidden from the hunters if her taboos are broken.
The cosmology of the Inuit was very closely linked to their everyday life and laws, like many aboriginal cultures, and their social customs varied greatly from that of the qallunaat (non-Inuit, specifically white/European). One of the most intriguing aspects of their justice system was the attitude towards death and revenge. For instance, execution was not viewed necessarily as “punishment” but as protection for others and, more importantly, a restoration of balance. Furthermore, revenge was not viewed as taboo or a punishable offense (though it was not encouraged). Some lessons are very harsh and rightly so depending on the seeds sown. “Fair” does not always mean “equal” and even where there is forgiveness (also a key feature of Inuit justice) there must also be restitution.
Sedna is concerned with balance and natural order, and we are a part of nature. Therefore, we have obligations. The Inuit understood these varying obligations to everything from personal possessions to family to the spirits of animals consumed. If these were neglected then Sedna would become angry and call all the creatures of the sea down to her and away from the offending humans, who would face starvation.
Sedna’s home is deep in the Inuit underworld of Adlivun, of which she is queen, and there stands her palace of whale bones and stone. It is to this place that the angakkuq (shaman) would take a perilous journey to meet with Sedna and attempt to set matters right. He or she (female angakkuit were rare, though considerably more powerful than males) would comb Sedna’s long, tangled hair. It was tangled and weighed down from all the broken laws, neglected responsibilities, abuse and destruction in the world above; the world that so desperately depends on her world.
That woman down there beneath the sea
She wants to hide the seals from us.
These hunters in the dance house,
They cannot mend matters
They cannot mend matters.
Into the spirit world
Will go I
Where no humans dwell.
Set matters right will I
Set matters right will I.
– Central Arctic song, trans. by James Archibald Huston*
As we easily see all over the world and throughout our daily lives, countless laws of nature are broken on a constant basis. So too are laws of simple compassion, honesty and respect, against not only the Earth but against each other. In fact, the turmoil, destruction, perversions and atrocities that riddle our precious planet and societies are reaching a boiling point – literally, in many cases; climate change is definitely happening, regardless of who wants to keep denying it. It will very soon be very undeniable.
How are we to continue? How can we even begin to set right all that has gone so terribly wrong in such a short time? I don’t think it will be unlike the dark journey down to the bone halls of Sedna, nor unlike grappling with her in her icy abode, struggling to sort out the painful mess of her hair and appease her righteous wrath…hoping to not simply be devoured instead of being forgiven anything.
Ocean Protection Directory
This portion of the page will be periodically updated with information and links to various organizations and campaigns that are dedicated to protecting the environment, primarily those focused on our oceans and their inhabitants.
If you have anything to contribute, if you wish to be one of Sedna’s Hands, then don’t hesitate to contact me with any suggestions, questions, relevant links or information, etc.
Oceana – Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation and was founded in part by actor Ted Danson, who has been a staunch conservation activist and defender of the sea and it’s inhabitants for over twenty-five years. Find his 2011 book Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them on Amazon.com or at your local library.
Sea Shepherd – Founded in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is an international, non-profit marine wildlife conservation organization and one of the few global environmental organizations that focuses primarily on direct action. Whether it is on the ground in Taiji, patrolling the Gulf of California, or fighting poachers in the Galapagos, they are in field working hard to protect our marine environment. Visit the website to find out how to volunteer, either on land raising funds and awareness or crewing one of their ships at sea.
Ocean Conservancy – Our vision is a healthy ocean that sustains life on our planet. We envision a world where we all work together to keep the ocean and our coastal communities healthy and prosperous. Join this year’s International Coastal Cleanup (dates will vary by area), and be part of the world’s largest volunteer movement for our ocean!
MarineBio – Since 1998, The MarineBio Conservation Society (MarineBio) has been a nonprofit volunteer marine conservation and science education group working online together to educate the world about ocean life, marine biology, marine conservation, and to provide a sea ethic that we should all attempt to follow.
The Nature Conservancy – The leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. We address the most pressing conservation threats at the largest scale. Thanks to the support of our more than 1 million members, we’ve built a tremendous record of success since our founding in 1951.
Pacific Wild – Founded in 2008 by Karen and Ian McAllister, Pacific Wild is a conservation voice dedicated to wildlife protection on Canada’s west coast, ensuring that the Great Bear Rainforest especially remains one of the planet’s greatest cradles of biodiversity.
Save Our Oceans – This is not a charity but an online store whose founders are passionate about the oceans and raising awareness about the threats to the oceans and marine life.
27 April 2017
– Mass die-off of whales in the Atlantic, several deaths resulting in collision with ships –
from the article: “Scientists have suggested that some whale deaths could be a result of marine noise, often a result of military activity, offshore drilling or exploration, which can disorient the animals and send them in the wrong direction, possibly toward beaches where they get stuck instead of into the deeper ocean.”
This may be just a grim foreshadowing of what is to come if Trump gets his way and expands dangerous offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. Please click here to visit Oceana’s website and enter your information to send a letter to Congress, telling them to oppose Trump’s plan!
Ocean Conservancy statement: Executive Order on Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing – click here to read the statement issued by Janis Searles Jones, CEO of Ocean Conservancy, in reaction to the briefing by Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke in advance of the Executive Order Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy
Legal Volumes from Arctic College’s Interviewing Inuit Elders – http://digitalcommons.osgoode.yorku.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1131&context=ohlj
Interviewing Inuit Elders: Cosmology and Shamanism –
© 2017 Meredith Everwhite – All Rights Reserved