Nunatta Katersugaasivia Allagaateqarfialu
Greenland National Museum & Archives



Greenlandic Inuit used amulets to bring them strength and protect them against danger and evil forces and spirits. Amulets prevented and protected against disease, ensured a long, healthy life, as well as bringing luck in hunting. The amulets were personal, secret and usually sewn onto a strap worn on the body, on clothing, or inside a skin tent, qajaq or umiaq.

Amulets protected against death, which was a constant threat in the unpredictable, changeable nature of the Arctic. Greenlandic Inuit used all kinds of objects as and in amulets – not all necessarily rare, valuable or beautiful. Amulets could be made of feathers, wood or pieces of plants, bones or animals. They could also be made of stones or beads. Amulets made from parts of a specific animal gave their owner the strength of that animal. The amulets were to be as potent as possible in the face of a given danger or situation.


Amulets could not be handed over to others, and were not buried with the dead. If someone took an amulet that did not belong to them, this could bring bad luck. One story about the use of amulets is that of Kuungaseq. Since birth Kuungaseq had had his own placenta as an amulet. He always kept it in the stern of his qajaq (kayak). When Nulooq, one of the old hunters in the settlement, stopped using his beautiful qajaq, Kuungaseq swapped it for his own. But he forgot to remove the amulet from his own qajaq before they swapped, which was fateful for Nulooq. When on rare occasions Nulooq set out in his new qajaq he rowed about at random as if trapped in a bag. The people where he lived found this so disturbing they decided to hide his qajaq. Just a few days later Nulooq died. His confusion and death were caused by an amulet that actually belonged to Kuungaseq.


Some people still use amulets today. Some wear a lucky coin, whereas others still carry something in their pockets or bags to protect them from bad luck. People can still be seen wearing necklaces with amulets, and others with carved claws or the heads of bird or polar bear.


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