Inuit Culture and the Northern Lights
By Ashton Jenks
What is Inuit culture? It is a complex, and often stereotyped culture, located in the northern hemisphere. Also, there are two kinds of Inuits. The first type of Inuit have mythology that is more similar to the Vikings but still live in the arctic circle, such as places like Finland, Norway, Iceland,and Greenland. These are the people that are more often referred to as Eskimo.The second type, which is formerly known as “Inuit people” based on the language they speak, even though there are differences between tribes: some are located in Siberia, others in Russia’s Arctic Circle, Alaska, and the top half of Canada. The Alaskan Indigenous groups were the last to be touched by colonists, while the Canadians pushed their indigenous population into reservations. Inuits in Russia haven’t been bothered much. Although these people span over what seems to be half the globe, if looked at from above they actually aren’t too far apart. Those in Alaska and Canada are believed to be of Asian descent and to have crossed over the no longer existing Bering Strait. They all share the same values of family, open mindedness, and cultural elements like pescaterian diets, heavy clothing styles, Igloos in the winter and leather huts in the summer, a shared language, and the religious belief of Animism and the Spirit World.
Essentially, the Inuits believe that every animal has a soul and that all souls belong to one large energy force. Whenever the men go out hunting, they must make proper amends to the creatures they kill, otherwise the overlord of a species (careful to not call this a god) will alert all of the other animals of the species that this hunter is not deserving of their life. If they are proper in their treatment of their kill, the animals will know it is okay to be killed by them. Some examples of these animal overlords are Sedna, the girl who controls all animals under the sea, Narook, the lead soul of polar bears, and the Caribou Mother. The evil spirits of the arctic realm are called Mahaha and can cause all kinds of trouble as they cannot naturally inhabit humans, which makes them upset, although they may possess them. The Angakoks of every tribe were the only ones who were said to be able to control these spirits. Things like amulets, are used for this. Amulets can also signal being one with an animal kind and using the power from say, arctic foxes to aid a person in their endeavors. A common theme in their stories is that animal have souls, may have a human passing form, and sometimes decide to marry a human. In one story, a man marries a fox women, but she leaves after he insults her musky fox smell, reinforcing the idea that divorce and gender roles were not as clearly defined as other cultures.
The Science Behind the Northern Lights!
Now, let’s define what exactly the Northern Lights are in terms of Science. Their scientific name is the Aurora Borealis. Aurora means “the dawn” in Greek and Borealis comes from the Greek god of the north wind, Boreais. This beautiful phenomenon, despite the myths and legends produced by their observers, is actually a collision of highly charged ions in the atmosphere that are typically repelled by the earth's magnetism, but since they are so close to the poles, the action is skewed. A yellow light is caused by low altitude oxygen and a red light is caused by oxygen reacting at a higher altitude. The most famous color, however, is the blue/green/purple hue, which is caused by a collision of Nitrogen Ions. Now, let's see what our friends up north thought about them.
Tying it all Together: Myths about the Northern Lights!
The Cree Inuit’s, who live near the Quebec area, believed that the lights were the souls of departed loved ones trying to communicate with them.
In the most northern tribes, they believed the lights were dead spirits mostly of children who were playing with the skull of a walrus like a ball. On the tiny island of Nivuk, near Alaska, they believed the opposite. That it was a herd of dead walruses playing with a human skull!
Another Alaskan myth is that the lights were the torches of those who were trying to find the path to a better home for souls. In some places, they were believed to be the souls of the animals they had killed, such as salmon, deer, and walruses. In the most northern village of Alaska, Point Barrow, the Inuits believe that the lights are a symbol of evil and carry knives around during that time for protection.
In the Northern United States, the Mandan people, not quite Inuit, believed that they were the fires of dwarves cooking walrus fat or even the fat of their human enemies.
In Iceland, it was believed that the lights would relieve pain in Childbirth, as long as the mother didn’t look at them. If she did look, the child would be born cross eyed.
In Greenland they believed that the lights represented the souls of stillborn children.
The Finnish have two myths. One is the story of a fox trailing fire across the sky, as reflected in their word for the lights, “revontulet,” which literally translates to “Firefox.” The other belief is that the phenomenon is caused by the spume that comes from the blowhole on a whale's back.
The Swedish believe the myth to be a good omen towards fishermen, and those who believed in Norse Mythology thought that the lights were a reflection of the shields of Valkyrie, female warriors who escorted those valiant in battle to Valhalla. Another Norse idea was that the lights were the “Bifrost Bridge,” which was considered the rainbow pathway to gain access to Asgard, the realm of the Goads (gods) and guarded by Bifrost.
Other Myths about the Lights
In Southern Europe, the lights were uncommon and viewed as a bad omen. It is said that red northern lights appear over England just before the French Revolution started and before a Gallic uprising.
In China, the lights were viewed as being a battle between the gods and dragons. In Japan, they were viewed as good omen to childbirth, meaning that the child would be intelligent and beautiful.
In short, the Aurora Borealis is as popular a topic in mythology all around the world as the flood and its many versions. Being informed as to what other cultures believe or have believed is essential to better understanding the world and its origins. The Inuit people may not have influenced us much yet, but they impact the lives of Americans in Alaska, our counterparts in Canada, and those working in Arctic research stations to send you all those cute photos of Polar bears! (Narook in disguise). I hope you have enjoyed this educational lesson on Inuit beliefs and all of the fun ideas about the northern lights. I’m going to leave you with a wholesome fun fact: you can tell the difference between a male and female Parka because female’s will have a larger hood in order to properly cover their baby when they carry it on their backs! Isn’t that cute?
Interview by Marlena Jones
What subject do you teach?
“I teach chemistry and I also teach freshman focus.”
Where did you work before RHS?
“Actually, I graduated last December from ATC and then I was a substitute at the school system here from January to May.”
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
“I found out a couple years ago that I wanted to teach at some capacity, and I like helping people, you know, reach their potential, and figure out their life goals. It’s important.”
Why did you choose Rossview?
“I was looking for a positions in Chemistry or something I was good at, and this was the only school that had an available position. I do like [it here], even though CHS is my alma mater. I have grown to love the atmosphere that Rossview has here."
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
“In my free time I like to play the piano, I like to watch netflix series, and sleep when possible."
What’s your favorite thing about teaching here so far?
“My favorite thing about teaching here is really just getting to know my kids and getting those personal relationships kind of like, in the class, and then getting to know them outside of just academics."
By Jenna Barney
If you are Helios, then I am Mercury
You are my light, I revolve around you
You burn my skin with your fiery kisses
Kisses that you refuse to give
Your love is like gravity, and I'm feeling heavy
No matter how much you wound me
I stay by your side in unwavering loyalty
As if love can heal the pain you've inflicted
You're a blazing fire
And I'm melting under your gaze
I live a life of eternal sunburn
Forever scorched and tortured by affection
Your touch is a disease, a perilous poison
You leave me to die, alone in the dust
But somehow I always find a cure
It's just barely enough to keep me alive
I hiss through my wounds and my endless bleeding
I feel like I'm dying, but your love keeps me alive
I pick myself up and stitch my heart back together
And I convince myself that I'm okay
Finally you stop with your sick, twisted games
And the cold, hard truth weighs me down like lead
I lose my footing, and I'm falling hard
And when I hit the ground, I'm permanently broken
This time, my resources are limited
And I'm no longer able to fix my broken bones
I continue walking, but my scars distract me
They laugh in my face, following and haunting me
Maybe one day I'll be able to pick myself up
But for now, I am damaged, and I speak to no one
I'm alone in this world, with only a rose to accompany me
And as night falls, it stares me in the face
And I wonder if I can bring myself to love again.
International Day for the Abolition of Slavery
By Siera Millard
Photo by unique2brilliance
Imagine a world in which you are trapped completely. You are chained, either physically or metaphorically, and the chains that bind you leave bloody indentations on your skin and on your mind. You have no feasible way to get out of the situation and no one to help you. This is the world of slavery.
Centuries and centuries before the adoption of slavery by American colonies, which is often what is associated with, tribes in Africa and the Middle East traded slaves or took them as war conquests. It was a common practice that would spread to the Americas by Spanish explorers in their enslavement of Native Americans and later in the African slave trade that would labor on plantations. Not until 1865 was slavery made illegal in the Constitution of the United States, and not until 1949 did the United Nations adopt the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Person and Exploitation and of the Prostitution of Others, an international agreement by the UN to prohibit slavery.
December 2nd marks the day that the UN passed the adoption of this convention - the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. This was passed in 1949...only sixty-nine years ago. This is a short second in consideration of the span of the history of the world.
Slavery today comes in many forms; its supposed complete abolition in 1949 does not mean that it does not exist, and does not mean that it is something we can forget. Slavery includes human and sex trafficking, forced labor, child labor, forced marriage, and other acts that threaten to make a person do something or do not allow them the freedom to leave the situation.
A few mind-boggling statistics from the United Nations:
Winter Holidays Around the World
By Sarah Lange
Celebrated on December 25th, Christmas is an annual holiday honoring the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, in accordance with Christian religions. Although the holiday itself remains the same from country to country, the methods of commemorating the occasion vary, with each country often establishing their own distinct traditions. Observing how other parts of the world practice Christmas can not only help realize what we have in common, but it can also celebrate the differences that make every part of the world unique.
In Germany, the main focus of the Christmas celebration is Advent, which is observed on the 24 days of December. The Advent calendar, featuring 24 small boxes, each filled with a small gift, and the fir trees, which are decorated in houses and towns, are all part of what makes Christmas in Germany special. Your Christmas night might end with the sounds of carolers singing “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) or “O Tannenbaum.” (O Christmas Tree)
Continuing into Europe, Italy celebrates Christmas with visual depictions of “presepe,” or the nativity scene. These scenes are often featured around town, in homes, or in classrooms, and they utilize items found commonly in the country, such as pine cones painted gold, colored construction paper, and small candles. To wish your family and friends “Merry Christmas,” you would simply say ‘Buon Natale.’
If you were to take a trip to Ghana, your Christmas celebrations would be centered around the cocoa harvest, which begins in early December. Late on Christmas Eve, you can hear the sound of drums, dancing, and ethnic music coming down the streets as parades march by to celebrate the coming day. The night would end with fireworks and a celebratory dinner, stew or okra soup, porridge and meats, rice and a yam paste called 'fufu'.
In China, less than one percent of the population is Christian, so awareness about the holiday is very limited; as a result, Christmas decorations are often only seen in the busier cities, such as Beijing or Shanghai. According to tradition, 'Shen Dan Lao Ren' (Santa Claus) comes to deliver presents to some families. Ironically, plastic Christmas trees are rarely set up in China, despite the fact that China is the #1 manufacturer of holiday decor in the world.
Many Christmas traditions in Brazil are similar to those in America or Europe, including their fondness for Santa Claus (called “Papa Noel” in Brazil) and the games they play around the holidays, such as “amigo secreto,” which is similar to the popular game in America called “Secret Santa.” The majority of Brazil is Catholic, therefore Christmas Day usually begins around 2 am to attend Midnight Mass. After returning home, they sleep until the morning, when they open presents and eat their favorite foods. Their meals often consist of multiple types of meat, including pork, ham, steak, or chicken, paired with salads, types of rice, and fruits. Although all age groups can enjoy Christmastime, Brazilian adults particularly look forward to December, when they get paid two month’s wages, affectionately referred to as their “13th salary.”
Since it is summertime during Christmas, Australia celebrates the holiday differently than many other countries in the West. Celebrations in Australia include caroling to local neighbors, which has become such a popular celebration that it turned into a national event; in each State capital city there is a “Carols by Candlelight” service, featuring Australia’s most popular bands and singers, including the Wiggles, Anthony Warlow, Colin Gery, and numerous others. These events also function as charity fundraisers, which is a great way for the public to give back around the holidays. Instead of Santa’s reindeer, children are raised hearing stories of Santa’s “six white boomers” (kangaroos).
Compared to other Christmas celebrations, India’s is much smaller due to the small amount of Christians. The majority of the population is Hindu, however, approximately 1% (25 million) people are Christian. Midnight mass, followed by a feast at home of curries and flowers is how many families prefer to spend their Christmases. Following the heavy meal, people will give and receive gifts from loved ones and then walk the town, which is typically decorated with candles and Poinsettia flowers in honor of the Mass.
And last but not least, America. In America, everyone celebrates the holiday with their own personal traditions; for example, some families like to go caroling, whereas others may watch animated Christmas classics, such as A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) and A Miracle on 34th street (1945), or Hallmark movies, typically featuring a feel-good story about a couple who finds love during December. Both of these types of movies are watched with the intention of bringing the perfect amount of nostalgia and happiness to your life. These personal traditions are often blended with elements of religious observations and modern family practices, typically featuring regional elements from where you originated from or currently live. For the majority of Americans, shopping is a symbolic focus during the Christmas season. Gifts are typically purchased for all members of the family and additional friends, teachers, or co-workers, resulting in the noteworthy economic significance of gift-giving.
All differences aside, there are many unique cultures that blend traditional and religious aspects to form their own Christmas celebrations; further, while none are the exact same, all are important in their own way and deserve to be celebrated.