History Magazine

Guns & Decline of Hunting Magic

By Cris

This statement from an Inuit elder reveals the logic of hunting magic:

Now that we have firearms it is almost as if we no longer need shamans, or taboo, for now it is not so difficult to procure food as in the old days. Then we had to laboriously hunt the caribou at the sacred crossing places, and there the only thing that helped was strictly observed taboo in combination with magic words and amulets.

Now we can shoot caribou everywhere with our guns, and the result is that we have lived ourselves out of the old customs. We forget our magic words, and we scarcely use any amulets now.

While shamans are alive and well among today’s Inuit, there is no doubt that economic changes have transformed their roles.


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