Today’s photo - our tupilaq drawer!

While the word “tupilaq” today generally refers to carved ivory figurines like these sold to tourists in Greenland, the origin of these sculptures is far more sinister. Traditionally, tupilaqs were objects created by shamans out of different animal parts (and occasionally human corpses). Buried in the ground or cast out to sea, tupilaqs were animated by the shaman’s spells, and became destructive spirits sent to kill a specific individual. If the tupilaq’s target was a stronger shaman than the original sender, however, the tupilaq could bounce back to destroy its creator.

The original tupilaqs were not made to be seen by anyone other than the shaman, but Greenlandic Inuit began carving representations of them to show and sell to curious tourists. Most of the ones we have are carved out of sperm whale teeth. 

Obviously, these statues don’t have the same sinister power as their traditional counterparts, but they are quite eerie…

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