Many have told the story of Sedna, once a beautiful Inuit woman, and now the goddess of the sea. Sedna lived with her father in an Inuit village. They were quite happy, but during cold winter months, the quest for food was impossible.
Her home was small, but comfortable; she had soft pillows and blankets made from hide, boiled water to drink, and a father to keep her company. Sedna’s father however, treasured his daughter so much that because of his constant praise, she became vain and self-centered. Most winter days, instead of helping her father hunt and fish, she would sit by the ice, mesmerized by her own reflection.
So when it came time for her to marry a man, Sedna refused. She thought herself too beautiful – too special – to marry. Though many men came to their village in search of wives, Sedna showed no interest. She kept herself hidden away, locked in the gaze of her icy reflection.
But times grew tough. The winter winds picked up more speed each year, the hunt became harder, and the food was less available. Sedna’s father feared for their safety.
Finally one day, he made a decision that he hoped would save his daughter's life, and more importantly, his own. He ordered Sedna to marry, insisting that she wed the next man that came into their village. Of course, because Sedna was so beautiful, he knew this would be an easy task; though he was sad to part from her, he could no longer afford to feed two mouths.
So when the cloaked man came into their village, Sedna, unhappily following her father’s orders, married him. He promised her a life of richness and an abundance of food. Sedna’s father was so happy that he did not care what the cloaked man looked like – for his face was completely hidden.
As Sedna lay to sleep, the evening before the couple was set to depart for the cloaked man’s village, the man slipped a sleeping serum into her glass of boiled water. When she awoke the next morning, she drank her water, bid her father a tearful farewell, and promised to visit him as often as she could. Once she left her childhood home, everything went black as the sleeping serum took hold.
When she awoke once more, she found herself at the top of a large cliff overlooking the sea. She was shocked to find out that the cloaked man was no man at all; instead, he was a large black raven!
Sedna cried and cried. Her life was miserable. She had no pillows or blankets, no boiled water to drink, and no father to keep her company. She was heartbroken. And the raven had no sympathy for the vain girl. Though he brought her raw fish everyday, he mocked her and cackled at her sadness:
“Oh, you poor girl! Those tears could fill the ocean twice over!”
He had a large nest to sleep on, but left Sedna only with a few feathers for warmth. When the winds picked up Sedna howled in pain. The cold air cut at her skin and tore her hair. She cried every day and every night, in the hopes that her father would rescue her.
The sharp winter winds had carried her cries to his village. He had been struck with guilt for forcing Sedna to marry a stranger, and decided to rescue her.
He paddled his kayak, following the sound of Sedna’s cries. When he arrived, he was shocked to discover her living situation high up on the cliffs overlooking the sea. He ordered her to jump from the cliff into his boat. Luckily, he had come at the perfect time, as the raven was off hunting for fish to bring back to Sedna.
Sedna jumped into her father’s kayak and sat tightly wrapped in hide and furs as her father paddled as quickly as he could away. They had been travelling only for a few hours when Sedna saw a black dot in the near distance. She trembled with fear, knowing that her husband was searching for her. The kayak was now in the middle of the ocean, rocking back and forth. Her father was becoming exhausted. He stopped the kayak for a rest.
Suddenly the kayak began to rock back and forth violently. The father and daughter looked behind them to see the raven flapping his wings.
The raven stirred up the ocean waters. His large black wings seemed to grow in size as his anger grew and grew.
“You have decided to forsake me have you? Then you shall forsake this earth, as well!” the raven screeched. The harder he flapped, the more violent the sea storm grew. The wind tangled Sedna’s long black hair.
Sedna’s father decided that he had made a mistake in trying to rescue his daughter. In his fit of exhaustion he cried, “Take her back! Take her! Please! She will never abandon you again!”
With these words, Sedna’s father pushed her into the raging sea. He raised his paddle in the air and called out the raven, “Have her! HAVE HER!”
Sedna was hit with the shock of the ocean’s icy temperature. She cried out to her father. She screamed at the raven.
She was left with no one but herself.
In a desperate attempt to live, she grabbed back onto the kayak with all her might. Her father took his raised paddle and tried to pry her clasped fingers off; but because the ocean had frozen them almost solid, they broke off.
Sedna’s fingers slowly floated to the bottom of the sea, transforming into seals, sea lions, otters and walruses. The raven’s wings flapped harder and harder.
Again, Sedna, in an attempt to live, wrapped her elbows around the side of the kayak. Her father slammed his paddle on her arms, trying desperately to save himself from the wrath of the raven’s storm. Her hands, too, broke off. As they floated to the bottom of the sea, they transformed into whales, porpoises, and the like.
Sedna had no more fight left in her. She, too, sank to the bottom of the sea.
As the story goes, Sedna is responsible for all sea storms. Her rage towards mankind, brought about by her father’s betrayal, has led all Inuit hunters to show great respect to the sea. It is said that only a special kind of person – a Shaman – special enough for Sedna, must travel to the bottom of the sea to comb through Sedna’s tangled long black hair. This is what calms Sedna's storm.
This level of respect for this great sea goddess is why an Inuit hunter drops water into his prey’s mouth; it is a sign of respect in order to show gratitude to Sedna for allowing the hunter to feed his family.