Weekly Deity: Sedna

Since the Native American deities seem to be popular in these posts, I’ve chosen another one.  Sedna, Inuit goddess of the sea and queen of the underworld Adlivun.  Sedna is known by other names in other native tribes, so while Sedna is unique to the Inuit, her overall character is present in other cultures where she is called other names: Arnakuagsak or Arnarquagssaq (Greenland) and Nerrivik (northern Greenland) or Nuliajuk (District of Keewatin, Northwest Territories).


Sedna is generally a hag, one-eyed and wrinkled.  She has no fingers and her body is bloated.  Sometimes she is compared to a walrus.  Sedna was a beautiful maiden before she was sacrificed to the sea and became the crone.


Sedna rules over all Arctic sea life.  Her story is tragic.  When young, she was a beautiful girl who vowed to stay single in order to look after her aging father.  One day a handsome stranger came to visit her village and asked her to marry him, offering her riches and abundance in the form of furs, blubber, fish oil, etc.  She went with the man as his wife.  But the marriage was unhappy, and soon Sedna realized her husband was not the man she married.  She tried to leave when her frantic father finally tracked her down and rowed her home.  But on the way home across the waters, Sedna’s husband, who was actually a bad bird-spirit, flew into a rage and whipped up the seas.  Sedna’s father, fearing for his own life in the choppy sea, chucked Sedna out of the canoe.

She hung on to the sides of the canoe, but her father chopped off her fingers, and she fell to the bottom of the ocean as the waves calmed and her husband left appeased.  Her fingers wriggled onto an ice floe and became the first sea creatures.  Sedna stayed at the bottom of the ocean for good.  Thus she is the goddess of the sea life and the people who hunt in the waters.  She is also the goddess of the underworld Adlivun, which she rules from her unreachable ice palace.

Another myth of Sedna is that she is the daughter of the creator-god Anguta.  When she gnawed off one of her father’s arms as he slept he was so angry that he threw her over his kayak and chopped off her fingers one by one until she let go.  According to another version, she married a dog as her husband.

Regardless of the myth, it seems that there are two constants: she is thrown forcibly into the sea by someone/thing, and her fingers are cut off by her father.

Her sacred animals are the seals and also, I believe, the walrus.

Light and Dark Side

The myths given here don’t show much of Sedna’s personality.  Her Light and Dark sides are difficult to perceive because of this.  In the one myth where she is a beautiful maiden, she seems naive, young, a tragic figure forced by circumstances into becoming the harsh crone of the dead.  In another myth she seems like a mindless monster of sorts, consumed by her hungers which then land her in the sea from her father’s anger.  I suppose her personality would be determined by which myth you would choose to follow.  As a goddess of the sea, in Inuit culture she would be a vital deity to keep in mind because most of the food available for the people came from the sea.  She does not seem cruel, however, but rather she is changeable, like the sea that she rules, and she can be either Light and give food or Dark and take it away.

For more information, here are my sources, since I don’t know much about this particular deity.  Mythology article: here.  Wiki article: here.

I couldn’t find a good picture of Sedna, if anyone can find one of her, let me know!

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