Sedna; Mother of the Sea

Sedna (or Sanna) was said to be a beautiful Inuit girl with a pure heart who one day went out boating to an island with her father. Sedna’s tale is a creation myth that spans the north of Canada and even reaches as far as Greenland. It is a tale both as beautiful and harsh as the land that created it.

This is a variation of one of many Sedna tales that exist out there in the north.

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The green and red lights danced across the black sky entwining and separating over the distant silver stars. Sedna watched the dancing lights in awe as  she warmed herself by the fire, her mother stirring a stew made of small fish that Sedna had caught with her father.

Sipping from the earthenware cup, the stew warmed her belly and brought feeling back into her cold fingers. Even in her thick mittens they felt like ice, and it was only the beginning of winter for them. The deep cold would only worsen with the night.

“That was the last of the fish,” Anaaya said to her husband with poorly concealed desperation in her black eyes and setting a soft russet hand on her swollen abdomen. “You and Sedna will have to leave while there is still sun further to the north and catch more fish.  I would go myself to fish, but I cannot go for the child’s sake.”

Puja nodded drinking the last of his fish stew. “Sedna and I will head out in the small hours of day light.”

In the afternoon there were weak rays of golden sunlight striving to hit the pale grey sky. Sedna and her father slowly pushed the canoe out into the still icy waters from the shore. Sedna shivered as her feet entered the water.

Puja hopped into the boat at the front and began to paddle as Sedna gave the back end of the canoe a mighty push and hopped in once it began to move. She dipped her paddle into the still sea and surveyed the sight before here. Twelve years on this earth and still Sedna was amazed by the jutting icebergs that dotted the sapphire surface of the water, the cool grey of the sky as stark contrast to the bright white crystalline ice and blues.

As could be expected, fish were not plenty, so Sedna and her father sat in there canoe with the light fading  slowing beneath the towering ice. It would be dusk very soon and neither Sedna nor her father had speared a single fish.

Over in the distance Sedna saw the swirling white winds whipping up into the sky grabbing clouds within its reach. The storm splashed in the water sucking water up into it, and it made its way to their boat quickly.

Sedna knew that if they could not out paddle the swirling storm that they would die. So she paddled out with all her heart, mustering all the strength she could.

“Faster, Sedna!” Her father shouted panicked looking over his shoulder.

The waters around them began to rock their tiny canoe as the storm came upon them. Sedna’s father looked back at her, his black eyes wide like a terrified child, and then he did the unthinkable.

Before Sedna knew what was happening he father grabbed her and threw her into the turbulent icy waves.

“No!” she screamed feeling the cold cut into her tiny body as she swam up to the canoe, which movement feeling like daggers piercing her flesh. She grabbed hold of her father’s canoe, looking at him desperately. She couldn’t believe what her own father had done. Her frozen heart might have shattered at her father’s betrayal, but getting out of the water before the storm was upon them was the only concern she could afford to have.

Her father kept trying to paddle away to save his own skin, but Sedna, despite her tiny body, held to the boat with all her might, her bright red hands aching with her grip, and she kept it in place.

Tears were frozen on her cheeks and her fingers, mixing the the falling ice rain and ocean water. The storm was now upon them, and Sedna could barely see past the swirling white winds past her bent fingers. Though she could make out her father’s blurred silhouette and terror filled her heart as her lifted the paddle.

Sedna screamed in pain as paddle smashed against her fingers and she heard over the swirling winds the sickening snap of her  finger bones. The pain was great, but Sedna still held fast to the canoe. She had to live, not just for her, but for her mother and her little brother or sister, for her village.

Her father continued to beat the paddle down against her fingers, but Sedna was numb by now. She could now longer feel the cold digging into her skin, cutting through her bones and she could no longer feel the heavy paddle being brought down on her fingers.

Sedna could still see, and the sight of her fingers disturbed her deeply. Rather than crushed bright red flesh covered in blood, Sedna saw her fingers frosting over from the cold, white frost cover them, and seeping inside the wounds. The ice crept up each finger, taking over them until her fingers became clear icicles shining in the wind.

It only took one blow of her father’s paddle and her fingers shattered. Sedna fell into the waters, the remains of each frozen finger floating down with her into the icy blackness. Sedna looked around her in the cold deep and finally gave into despair and wept. If she was not going to die she was doomed to spend eternity alone in darkness and cold.

An icicle floated passed her eyes, barely visible, but glinting slightly from the moon and dancing sky lights above the waves. That was when it occurred to Sedna that she did not have to be alone.

With a force of will, greater than her will to return to her father’s canoe, she had manifested life into the finger that was once hers. Before her eyes the finger sprouted four legs with tiny webbed feet and the very tip grew into a round head with whisker sprouting from its snout. Big black eyes looked at her with joy and love pressing its black nose against her own.

“I shall call you an otter.”

And many more otters came into existence swimming happily around her celebrating their mother who had brought them into existence.

She did this again with each of her fingers creating great and gentle animal that had never existed before. From her fingers the first otters, seals, whales, walruses and she brought into existence great teeming fish that were once so sparse in the northern ocean.

To this day Sedna  is the mother of the sea and her creatures below the waves still thrive allowing her people above the waves to never starve again.




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