Sedna: Legend of the Sea Goddess



It is Sedna who rewards the people of the land with food from the sea.
Without Her blessing, hunts fail and the people starve.


 

Sedna the Sea Goddess

  Playful Sedna by artist Kakulu Sagiatok
   
 

 
 
Sedna was a beautiful Inuit girl who lived with her father. She was very vain and thought she was too beautiful to marry just anyone. Time and time again she turned down hunters who came to her camp wishing to marry her. Finally one day her father said to her, "Sedna, we have no food and we will go hungry soon. You need a husband to take care of you, so the next hunter who comes to ask your hand in marriage, you must marry him." Sedna ignored her father and kept brushing her hair as she looked at her reflection in the water.

Soon her father saw another hunter approaching their camp. The man was dressed elegantly in furs and appeared to be well-to-do even though his face was hidden. Sedna's father spoke to the man. "If you wish to seek a wife I have a beautiful daughter. She can cook and sew and I know she will make a good wife." Under great protest, Sedna was placed aboard the hunter’s kayak and journeyed to her new home.

Soon they arrived at an island. Sedna looked around. She could see nothing. No sod hut, no tent, just bare rocks and a cliff. The hunter stood before Sedna and as he pulled down his hood, he let out an evil laugh. Sedna's husband was not a man as she had thought but a raven in disguise. She screamed and tried to run, but the bird dragged her to a clearing on the cliff. Sedna's new home was a few tufts of animal hair and feathers strewn about on the hard, cold rock. The only food she had to eat was fish. Her husband, the raven, brought raw fish to her after a day of flying off in search of food.

Sedna was very unhappy. She cried and cried and called her father's name. Through the howling Arctic winds Sedna's father could hear his daughter's cries. He felt guilty for what he had done as he knew she was sad, and decided to rescue his daughter. He loaded up his kayak and paddled for days through the frigid Arctic waters to his Sedna's home. When he arrived Sedna was standing on the shore. Sedna hugged her father, then quickly climbed into his kayak and they paddled away. After many hours of travel Sedna turned and saw a black speck far off in the distance. She felt the fear well up inside of her for she knew the speck was her angry husband flying in search of her.

The big black raven swooped down upon the kayak bobbing on the ocean. Sedna's father took his paddle and struck at the raven but missed as the bird continued to harass them. Finally the raven swooped down near the kayak and flapped his wing upon the ocean. A vicious storm began to brew and the ocean soon became a raging torrent. Frightened, Sedna's father grabbed her and threw her over the side.

"Here,” he screamed, “here is your precious wife! Please do not hurt me, take her."

Sedna struggled as her body began to go numb in the icy Arctic waters. She swam to the kayak and grasped the side of the boat. Her father pulled out his hunting knife and slashed at her fingers, cutting them off at each knuckle. As they dropped into the water, her fingers became the seals, whales, and other animals of the sea.
Sedna sank to the bottom of the ocean and there she remains to this day, caring for the sea creatures that were born of her flesh. She remains angry at her mistreatment, and hunters must pay careful attention to show respect to her in her ocean home and to the animals who are her companions. If they fail to respect her, she grows angry and lashes up the seas into great storms, gathering the sea creatures into her tangled hair. Then, a shaman must swim down to comb her hair, calming her, and releasing the animals.


LEGEND OF THE SEA GODDESS SCRIPT

Scene: At a home in Greenland

Boy: Mama, I don’t want to eat my fish. Don’t we have any whale blubber? I want muktuk!

Mother: Now, now, just eat it up. It’s good for you!

Father: Besides, you know it’s not the season to hunt whale. We’ll have muktuk when it’s the proper time.

Boy: But I want muktuk NOW! Why can’t we hunt whale whenever we want?

Father/narrator: Ah, well. That’s a good question. There’s a good reason. It all happened a long time ago . . . Back in the old days, there was a beautiful Inuit girl who lived with her father. But she was very vain, and thought she was too beautiful to marry just anyone . . .

The mother and child watch and the father walks into the next scene, Sedna’s father’s house, as the narrator.

Sedna: No! I won’t marry! No man is worthy of my beauty.

Sedna’s father: But Sedna, soon we will have no food. You must find a husband who can provide for you.

Sedna: I won’t!

Sedna’s father: Daughter! Enough! The next man who comes into the camp to ask your hand in marriage, you must marry him.

Narrator: It wasn’t long before a hunter approached the camp. He was dressed elegantly in furs and appeared to be well-to-do even though his face was hidden.

Raven: Caw! People tell tales far and wide of the beautiful Sedna! Caw! I have come to ask for her to be my bride.

Sedna: No! No!

Sedna’s father: Daughter! You remember what I said! (To the Raven) You are right. She is beautiful and can cook and sew. I know she will make a good wife.

Narrator: And so Sedna and the hunter were married, and he carried her off in his kayak to their new home.


Scene: Raven’s nest.

Sedna: Oh no! How am I to make my home here?! There are no skins for sleeping! No shelter from the cold ocean winds! Just a few tufts of animal hair and feathers strewn about on the hard, cold rock.

Raven: Ha! Ha! This is your home, like it or not. And here you shall live, dining on the fish I bring to you.

Raven takes off his mask/hood to reveal his true identity. Sedna screams and falls to the floor and continues to weep while the narrator picks up the story. Sedna, her father, and the raven act out the events as the narrator reads.

Narrator: Sedna was very unhappy. She cried and cried and called her father's name.

Through the howling Arctic winds, Sedna's father could hear his daughter's cries. He felt guilty for what he had done, as he knew she was sad, and decided to rescue his daughter.

He loaded up his kayak and paddled for days through the frigid Arctic waters to his Sedna's home. When he arrived, Sedna was standing on the shore.

Sedna hugged her father, then quickly climbed into his kayak and they paddled away. After many hours of travel, Sedna turned and saw a black speck far off in the distance. She felt the fear well up inside her, for she knew the speck was her angry husband flying in search of her.

The big black raven swooped down upon the kayak bobbing on the ocean. Flapping his wings, he raised a vicious storm that soon became a raging torrent.

Frightened, Sedna's father grabbed her and threw her over the side.

Sedna’s father: Take her! Take her! Take back your bride! Don’t hurt me!

Sedna: No, Papa, no! Please, Papa, please! Rescue me! Take me home!

Narrator: Sedna clung to her father’s kayak. No matter how she begged and pleaded, her father, in his fear, hardened his heart to her. He took out his hunting knife and he slashed at her fingers.

Sedna: No, Papa . . . No . . .

Narrator: As her fingers fell into the icy water, they became the seals, the whales, the animals of the sea. And Sedna sank to the bottom of the ocean.

Scene: Sedna at the bottom of the ocean, surrounded by fish and sea mammals entangled in her hair.

Narrator: Sedna remains down there to this day, caring for the sea creatures that were born of her flesh.

Sedna: Hunters on the ice did not show respect! But they will soon get better thinking! I will whip up the ocean and keep my animals of the sea staying right here with me! They will be protected by my hair!

Shaman: Sedna, Sedna, let me show our respect for you and listen to your wisdom. I apologize for the wrong our hunters have done and promise we will change our ways. Please let me comb your hair so we can once again live in peace with you, your companions, and your ocean home.


Scene: Back to the original home in Greenland

Mother: And that, my dear boy, is why there is no muktuk right now. We must keep Sedna happy by respecting her rules. The whales are calving right now—we cannot disturb them.

Boy: W-w-would you cut my fingers off if I fell out of the kayak and was trying to climb back in?!

Father: Of course not! You’re my boy!

Mother: But you’d better eat up your fish. We don’t want to make Sedna angry by wasting the creatures she’s given us!

Boy starts gobbling food!



Adapted from http://www.hvgb.net/~sedna/story.html