Date of Issue
September 25, 1980
Series Time Span
Perforation or Dimension
Canadian Bank Note Company, Limited.
Based on a sculpture by Kiawak Ashoona Designed by Reinhard Derreth
Most people have some conception of a world beyond the purely material. The Inuit were no exception. To them the "natural" and the "supernatural" were intimately associated on a practical, day-to-day basis. The Inuit believed spiritual force existed in each phenomenon of nature, not only in living creatures but also in inanimate objects such as snow, rocks, and wind, and in conceptions such as sleep and a person's name. This view naturally affected the customs of Inuit life. It was very important, for example, to propitiate the souls of dead animals killed in the hunt. Otherwise, when reborn, they might avoid man and cause starvation. Some Inuit believed that seals suffered from thirst because they lived in salt water. A little fresh water poured on a dead seal's snout would thus conciliate its soul. Another method of doing this was to leave by the lamp the harpoon head that had killed a seal. Its soul stayed in the harpoon head the first night after the kill and could thus warm itself. Some hunters threw away part of the liver of each dead caribou to mollify its spirit. Many Inuit believed that a woman (Sedna) living on the sea bottom controlled the supply of sea animals. To avoid offending her, people tried to prevent any contact between caribou meat and these sea animals. There were numerous other such customs. To some Inuit, the soul of a man looked like a miniature human. Various forces might steal a soul, causing a person to fall ill. There was some disagreement about where the soul went after death. Some felt if lingered around the body for a short period and then descended to Sedna's house at the bottom of the sea. Others believed that the soul went to a warm and comfortable underworld, or even to the skies, where the dead caused the northern lights by playing ball with a walrus head. Certain individuals called shamans acted as intermediaries between the Inuit and the spirit world. People credited shamans with amazing powers. Equipped with helpers from the spirit world, they could walk on water, turn themselves into animals, return from the dead, cut off limbs and reattach them, talk to animals, or make themselves disappear. The Inuit weren't surprised to hear of the moon-landing in 1969, because some believed shamans had been going there for years. Shamans served the people by healing the sick, convincing Sedna to release sea animals, predicting the location of game, and regulating the weather. The Inuit Spirits stamps were designed by Reinhard Derreth of Vancouver. As in previous issues, these stamps depict a particular theme associated with the Inuit way of life. The Spirits stamps feature prints and sculptures by Inuit artists. On the 17-cent stamp, the sculpture "Sedna" is by artist Ashoona Kiawak. This set of stamps completes the four-year series on the Inuit.
Canada. Post Office Department. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1980.
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