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The bringer of light: the raven in Inuit tradition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 August 2006

Jarich Oosten
Faculty of Social Sciences, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 Ak Leiden, Netherlands
Frédéric Laugrand
Department of Anthropology, Laval University, Ste-Foy G1K 7P4, Québec, Canada


In the western Arctic and in the northwest coast and Alaska, the significance of the raven as a creator and trickster is generally acknowledged. In the eastern Arctic there are no such elaborate mythical cycles concerning the bird. But the raven still plays an important role in myths and rituals. In this paper, some features of the Alaskan complex and the position of the raven in the eastern Arctic are discussed. The basic features of the Alaskan raven complex are used as heuristic principles guiding research into the situation in the eastern Arctic region. It is argued that in many respects the raven is responsible for society but without being part of it. As a predator and a scavenger it is often associated with eating dirt, excrement and human flesh, and yet it created light, enabling people to see and invented tattooing, enabling women to marry.

2006 Cambridge University Press

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