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Origin:  The Inuits

Sedna is known as the Mother of Sea Beasts.  Once she was a human girl, but now she is a goddess who lives at the bottom of the sea. This is how it happened.

Sedna did not want to get married. She rejected all the young men of her village. But then she fell in love with a dog, and married him.  "This will bring bad luck," said the rejected young men, who had all wanted Sedna for themselves. So they took her out to sea in a boat and pushed her overboard. Sedna clung to the side of the boat, but they chopped off her fingers. As the fingers fell into the sea, they turned into the first seals and other sea creatures. Sedna sank to the bottom of the sea, where she became ruler of the Underworld and mistress of all living things.

Because of the cruel fate she suffers, Sedna is quick to anger. When anyone offends her, she shuts away all the beasts, so that men cannot fish or hunt.  Then some daring man with the special power of a shaman, a priest who can communicate with the spirits, must make a perilous descent under the sea to soothe her.  He must venture past the terrible guardians of Sedna's house, which include a big fierce black dog, until he reaches Sedna herself.

Now the sins of mankind fall down through the water, collecting in Sedna's hair as grease and grime. But because she has no fingers, she cannot do anything about it. So the shaman must dress Sedna's filthy hair into two thick braids, untangling the knots and picking out the dirt. In gratitude, Sedna frees the beast, and mankind can eat again.

North American Indian Tales Index How the Fly Saved the River How Big the World Is