Sedna, The Arctic, and Shell

Sedna by Germaine Arnaktauyok

Sedna by Germaine Arnaktauyok

Apropos of Shell poking around in the Arctic – and perhaps an explanation of their 2012 foibles it may be worthwhile to remember the Inuit Sea Goddess Sedna. There are quite a few versions of this story; certain key elements are found in all of them.

As I was told, Sedna was raised by a strong and creative mother, and a father who was a good hunter. She of course was beautiful and many of the young men of her tribe courted her – without success. Then one day there arrived a suitor from the Fulmar tribe – royal in presentation and demeanor. He courted Sedna, promising her a thick bed of furs and a warm home. She acquiesced and married the man and was taken away to where the Fulmar lived. It was there that she learned of her unfortunate fate – because in truth the Fulmar were stinky birds with the demeanor of seagulls – only greedier. So Sedna found herself living on a ledge on a cliff, sleeping on cold fish skins amongst a disgusting group of neighbors.

After some time her Father came to see how she was faring. Finding her in this horrible state of affairs he nabbed her to take her back home. As he and Sedna were crossing the sea the Fulmar people set out upon the boat – flapping their wings and creating a great storm of waves. The father, fearing for his own life threw Sedna out of the boat and into the water. But the Fulmar did not cease. And as Sedna attempted to climb back into the boat her father hacked her fingers off and she sank to the bottom of the sea.

Her fingers became the beasts of the ocean – the seals, and whales, and porpoises; and Sedna now sits miserable on the bottom of the sea in a nasty mood. Without fingers she can’t comb her tangled hair. When people want to hunt, or cross the sea, or do anything on the water they have to ask Sedna. The shaman will dive down to her and comb and braid her hair. If the people do not ask Sedna and appease her, and treat her with reverence and respect, she gets into a bad mood – and things happen. Hawsers snap. Engines catch fire. Giant icebergs appear out of nowhere and crush down upon certain activities that don’t please Sedna.

Heading into the Arctic again this summer, Shell doesn’t know this. But now we do.

This Independence Day offer up some blessings to Sedna.