Sedna | Griselda Steiner | Scene4 Magazine | April 2016 |

Griselda Steiner

Ancestor women

In your seal skin tents

Sit in the cold sand by the sea

Hair blown by the tide salt winds

You weave your seaweed ropes

Knotting them with your songs of Sedna

Each knot a measure of the distant waves

Your spears leaning on wood poles

You sharpen them in the brush fire


Then launching your small umiak

You oar on the deep green ocean

Seducing the whales with your chanting

They rise to the shadow of your hulls

Spears raised high for the kill

You beg Sedna for the sacrifice

 To feed your people


The story of Sedna began in the Spring when the Arctic sun shown on a proud young Eskimo girl. She stood silently gazing at the sea surrounded by suitors. Her beloved father, Anguta, was sad that she had not chosen a husband. Sedna's eyes beamed with pleasure when a beautiful hunter with ivory spear was carried by the waves in his kayak to the shore. "Come with me to the Land of the Birds," he implored her. He lured her with his song promising pearl-shell necklaces, a home filled with warm bearskins, meat and oil. Sedna sailed with him to a distant island. When she found out that he was a bird man and the beautiful hunter a phantom, she grieved. Her father paddled across the waters to rescue her. The bird spirit, angered when Sedna went missing, soared over the ocean and begged Anguta for Sedna. When the father refused, the bird spirit stirred a furious storm. Anguta was horrified when the spirits demanded Sedna as a sacrifice and he flung her overboard. In the dreadful battle he tore out her eye. As she clung to the side of the boat, her father hacked at her fingers that became seals, walruses and whales. As Sedna sank, her father returned to his tent where her dog was tied. The moon pulled a great tide that swept them back into the sea. Sedna, the dark one-eyed Goddess now dwells in a tent guarded by her dog at the bottom of the sea where she rules the oceans of the North.


Food was scare. As winter winds swept across glacial ice, the hunter's shaman, Angakok, his body tied in leather straps, put on a mask and beat his drum. His anxious Inuit tribe raced their dog sleds across the snows to his tent. As he fell into a trance he called the Torngak spirits to him who came from their home in the stars. As Angakok started his treacherous journey to implore Sedna to feed his people, he chanted in the ancestors' language. Descending beneath the rolling surf into the sea, he had to pass through caverns in land of the dead, cross an abyss of ice, a boiling cauldron of seals then trick Sedna's dog. When she saw him, Sedna stirred a giant whirlpool that drew him in. She made him comb her seaweed hair to atone for his people's wrongs. She told him that the whale spirit was guiding a migration far north of his native land and would refuse to change the great currents that kept a natural cycle in balance. When the shaman showed Sedna the many babies in papooses starving, Sedna took rare pity on the tribe. She made a moan and sucked in shoals of fish the hunters could spear through the winter ice. The Inuit hearing Mother Sedna's promise, sang with joy and built a fire in her honor.


Sedna's toil never ends as the moon pulls her tides in constant rhythms to shape the continents. She blushes sea mists when the sun heats her surface and often changes colors from gray to green, aqua to purple in its light. She holds the earth's climate in balance with her currents and lays herself open to all the species of fish and plants that feed within her. She lets the earth's molten core breathe, its lava pour into her depths and gases escape as bubbles that rise to the light. She lets the volcanoes grow into mountains above her and watches their lava flow create many islands. Only in the darkest night far away from land when the moon arches across her belly does she rest between the lands. When she gazes at the star- studded sky dome she reflects a beautiful curtain of northern lights. She closes her one eye and dreams of the three worlds - the spirits in the sky, the earth, its ice rocks and mountains, and the worlds below.


In Sedna's tent beneath the sea she lives in the legends of her people who created her and listens as the seals sing her sea songs. As Sedna thought she noted that many stories dealt with fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters and virgin births. She wondered at the lack of legends of great mothers except her own, in which she suffered from her father’s violence. She wondered why when fathers and brothers slept with their kin and the girls had babies, they blamed the birds and animals. Sedna vowed that in the next ages she would teach women to claim their power and reveal the truth. She would help them create their own myths in their names.


Born from a hail of galactic ice during the creation of the earth when rocks were hurled from the heavens, Sedna felt her life and all she held within her was eternal until she suffered the pains inflicted by modern man. Before, she fed her people by giving fisherman just enough catch to keep the tribes alive. This new man disturbed her carefully patterned currents with nuclear explosions.  They soiled her waters with waste from their bodies and industry and channeled its natural flow in lakes, rivers and streams. They tore down the trees that guarded her flood plains. They robbed her great reservoirs of oil, then carelessly soiled her and her sea birds. They left the debris of their wars and leisure she slowly buried in the sands. They slaughtered her most precious whales, seals, sharks and dolphins. Madness has driven Sedna to create hurricanes, floods and tsunamis to purify the ocean again.


Honor and protect the seas and her creatures where beneath her waters dark Sedna rules.

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Griselda Steiner is a poet, dramatist and a freelance writer and Senior Writer for Scene4.
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©2016 Griselda Steiner
©2016 Publication Scene4 Magazine



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