Long before the missionaries came to
She said the festival was about honoring the spirits of ancestors and those who had passed on. First the young people of the village would go to the qasegiq (council house) and two of the old men would take charcoal and ashes and decorate their faces with designs. The old men would laugh a lot while they did this. The young people loved seeing each other’s faces with the designs on them.
Then the young people would go from house to house in the village. Some adults would go too. The rule was that you had to be silent going from house to house, to honor the spirits. If you made noise the spirits would be mad and would pull you down under the earth. In front of each house the young people would jump in the air and say “Umm-pah!” three times. Those who lived in the house would let them in and they would all sit down in the main room facing the elder of the house. Each person carried a bowl to hold food. Each young person would be given a small amount of food. There was no candy back then. They would be given some frozen fish or agutuk (a mixture of fat, sugar, berries and whitefish known as “Eskimo ice cream,” a highly prized treat). Each person would throw a little piece of food over their shoulder, for the spirits. They said they could hear the spirits chomping and smacking their lips over these morsels. Then they would eat the food in their bowls and go on to the next house.
After every house had been visited, the young people would go home, very full. Children rarely experienced full stomachs in those times. They were told not to clean their faces of the charcoal designs. The spirits would come in the night and clean their faces for them. Some children would try to stay awake all night, only pretending to be asleep, so they could see the spirits come and clean their faces. But they never did. They woke up in the morning with clean faces and knew the spirits had come.
Labels: Tundra Life