Ancient Land, Sacred Whale

Ancient Land, Sacred Whale

by Tom Lowenstein
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

For the Tikigaq people of Point Hope, Alaska - the oldest continuously settled Native American site on the continent - the annual cycle of myth and magic that culminated in the spring whale hunt shaped every aspect of life for over 1,500 years. Packed close for half the year in underground whale-bone iglus connected by tunnels, Tikigaq people formed complex webs of…  See more details below

Overview

For the Tikigaq people of Point Hope, Alaska - the oldest continuously settled Native American site on the continent - the annual cycle of myth and magic that culminated in the spring whale hunt shaped every aspect of life for over 1,500 years. Packed close for half the year in underground whale-bone iglus connected by tunnels, Tikigaq people formed complex webs of kinship and alliance. But they were also connected to ancestor spirits, the spirits of the sun and moon, and the animals they both worshipped and ate. The peninsula itself was once, according to myth, a great whale, killed by a primal shamanic harpooneer, that lived on as land, part body and part spirit. Sustaining this myth, men and women conducted an elaborate series of rituals that filled the entire autumn and spring. To follow the Tikigaq year from storytellings, ritual athletics, dances, shaman seances, puppet shows, and divinations, through spirit guests, encounters with the souls of animals, and lunar rites conducted by women, to its climax in the spring with the annual whale hunt, is to enter a disorienting world where ritual and symbol become daily reality. Ancient Land: Sacred Whale is at once a work of anthropology and of poetry; it gives an account of Tikigaq lives and culture, formed in part by a long sequence of poems detailing the ritual year and its stories, narrated by the Tikigag storytellers who were the author's teachers. To the grandeur of Tikigag imagination, Lowenstein has brought the insight of a scholar and a poet's mastery, creating a work that combines many voices with dazzling power and haunting beauty.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
British poet and ethnographer Lowenstein has done research among the Tikigaq people of Point Hope, Alaska, for nearly 20 years. For three seasons he served as a crewman in a skinboat during the whale hunt; here he introduces the village, the oldest continuous settlement on the continent, and its topography. From the storyteller Asatchaq, Lowenstein heard about the whale myth and the elaborate rituals of the hunt, which he retells in poems in these pages. According to the myth, the Tikigaq peninsula was once a whale-like creature; after it was killed by a harpooner, it lived on as both body and spirit and remains a source of sustenance and the focus of worship. The rituals for the hunt still constitute an extended drama that begins in autumn and culminates with the springtime hunt. In a lengthy narrative poem, Lowenstein reconstructs the hunt as it occurred prior to contact with Europeans. This vivid portrait of an ancient culture is a remarkable blend of poetry and anthropology. Illustrations. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This is a wonderful little book about the annual whale hunt of the Tikigaq people of northern Alaska's Point Hope, the oldest continuously settled Native American site on the continent. The first part includes an elegant description of ritual and mythology associated with the whale hunt. The second part describes the whale cult and the hunt in terms of the annual cycle, hunting patterns, and thought systems. Following is narrative poetry of the hunt, an effective attempt to reproduce the Tikigaq storytelling medium. The book is based both on personal fieldwork conducted by the author during the 1970s and the notes of Froelich Rainey, an archaeologist who worked in the area during the 1940s. Recommended for academic and public libraries.-- John M. Weeks, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis
Jenny Uglow
There is strangeness and beauty but not a scrap of sentiment in this ice-bound pastoral, with its knife-edge consonants and brutal winds ... Lowenstein is a poet as well as a meticulous ethnographer, and as he traces the rituals of each season he mixes formal translation and direct, explanatory prose with sinewy, poetic narrative. Somehow this seems absolutely right: as unpretentious yet humorously self-aware as the gliding shifts between the sea and the land, body and spirit that makes the Inupiaq world. Great stuff.
The Independent
Francis Spufford
A dazzling work of mimesis,
London Review of Books
The Independent
"Lowenstein is a poet as well as an ethnographer, and as he traces the rituals of each season he mixes formal translation and direct explanatory prose with a sinewy, poetic narrative." -Jenny Uglow, The Independent

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781860465758
Publisher:
Random House UK
Publication date:
01/28/2000
Pages:
196
Product dimensions:
5.84(w) x 8.74(h) x 0.66(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >