Ravens Symbolic Meaning to the Inuit

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Professor: Lori Barkley
Anthropology 101
November 27th 2012

A Deeper Look into Ravens Symbolic Meaning to the Inuit:
Contextual Analysis of Indigenous Mythology

Raven was an incredible animal to the Native North American Inuit culture; he was extremely symbolic in many ways. One of the most important things Raven could do was transform; he was the barrier of magic to many, being able to transform could bring happiness to everyone. The Inuit culture believed that Raven could heal many due to his magic and great level of intelligence. Raven is the keeper of secrets, and can assist the Inuit people in finding their own hidden thoughts. Raven is also amazing for being able to keep track of ancestral memories and with his intelligence be able to tell the stories back to younger generations. The Inuit people recognize that everything in the universe holds a deeper meaning, as a result, all objects and beings deserve one's attention and respect. As Samuel Wilson mentioned in Trickster Treats “Trickster tales often serve to entertain and instruct children, teaching them how to behave and how the world works” (pg.1). When a child learns how the world works, it will expand their knowledge. In fact, the Inuit culture looked at raven as being a culture hero more then they looked at him being a “selfish buffoon”. Raven is a revered and benevolent transformer god, his spirits can transform him into anything he wants or needs. In Dictionary of Anthropology by Winick god is defined as “a particular god was believed to be in charge of various parts of the world or of specific activities or qualities. Communication with them is necessary to insure that they are on our side. ” (pg.235). I believe they call Raven a god because he has such great power and often the Inuit talk to him. Raven is a trickster character and almost all his stories have to do with his frivolous or poorly thought out behaviour that would get him in trouble. When Raven got into trouble in the stories it taught the children what actions they could perform or not perform in regards to respecting proper morals. As outlined in Write it on Your Heart (1989) by Harry Robinson and Wendy Wickware, trickster tales often serve to entertain and instruct children, teaching them how to behave and how the world works in a more complex and mature way. As Levi-Strauss mentions in Myth and Meaning(1979), “culture and its members must be convinced of their originality and even, to some extent, of their superiority over the others” (pg. 20). In my opinion there are many different types of Gods in the world and to which people believe in, in each different culture belongs an individual god. In Canadian culture children are taught values and how the world works mainly through education and books. In my opinion, the Canadian culture is less difficult than the Inuit because most Canadian children have everything handed down to them and do not have many rules to follow or goals to obtain at a young age. As I learned in Anthropology, the stories of the Native American people make it easier, then Canadians, to learn and grasp a concept because most young children look up to their ancestors for advice; through storytelling there is lots of advice given. From hearing stories on a daily basis I realize how memorable they are. Ancestors are by far the most intelligent people from any tribe, because they have been around the longest. In Native American stories, as elsewhere, the trickster is often the underdog, but never the most powerful or beautiful animal. From reading Raven the Trickster (1983) I got the point of view that the trickster is the one who through cleverness defeats more powerful forces, using their very power, arrogance, or vanity as a weapon against them. As Samuel Wilson said in Trickster Treats (1991) “Long before there were any people on the earth, a huge monster came down from the North, eating every animal he could find. He ate all the...
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