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When moon chases sun

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (June 02/03) - It's an epic chase, rooted in the very fabric of Inuit mythology.

On May 30th it came to an end with a solar eclipse, only to begin anew.

NNSL Photo

Inuit legend explains that the moon, personified as a male, chases the sun, represented by a female, and ends with an eclipse, before starting all over again.

The story recounted by Inuit elders in John MacDonald's book Arctic Sky, Inuit Astronomy, Star Lore and Legend, is the creation of the sun and the moon.

"The moon is personified as male and sun as female," said MacDonald who also heads the Iglulik Research Institute.

The legend tells the story of Anningaat and his sister Siqiniq.

The story spun by George Kappianaq in MacDonald's book is, like many myths, filled with violence, taboo and eventual punishment.

Siqiniq is plagued by constant visits of an obscene nature while staying in her birthing house.

Her attacker would sneak into the room and extinguish the light of her qulliq, thus hiding his identity.

In an attempt to trap him the next time he entered, she put soot from a cooking pot on her nose.

To Siqiniq's horror she discovered the attacker is her brother Anningaat.

Both lit torches and Siqiniq chased her brother around the Qaggiq (a large iglu used for communal activities).

Anningaat's torch extinguished during the chase while his sister's continued to burn.

Eventually, the two ascended to the heavens where Anningaat became the moon and Siqiniq the sun.

There in the sky the chase is said to continue and a solar eclipse occurs when the brother finally catches up with his sister.

Aside from the legend of the siblings, eclipses were also viewed with some foreboding by Inuit.

"Generally there was a fear of eclipses until such time as contact occurred," said MacDonald.

Europeans could predict the celestial events, and that reduced Inuit fears.