Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Trial by Laughter

November 25th, 2013 · No Comments

Trial by LaughterFrom one of the best-titled anthropological papers of the past several decades, a brief account of one way in which Inuit shamanic gatherings could try the resolve of the easily amused:

On the north shore of Hudson Strait, at Akuliaq, when the masked dancers, there called Ekko, appear “the people are not allowed to laugh … if someone laughs, he will soon die.” In Ujaraq’s account of a Tivajuut festival at Pingiqqalik, near Iglulik, the masked dancers first chased people who laughed and hit them with the whip and the snow knife. Then if they caught two men laughing side by side, they obliged them to exchange wives for the night. According to Aava and Aatuat, the newly formed couples, in other words a man and the partner he had chosen, had to enter the ceremonial igloo, as we have already seen, without faltering or giving even the slightest smile, and then go twice very slowly round the pillar holding up the lamp, keeping their eyes fixed on the lamp. They had to remain as straightfaced as possible, in spite of the most lascivious and grotesque demonstrations of the masked dancers, and the most hilarious tricks on the part of the whole gathering, from whom the cry of “Unununununun …” went up in unison.

A beastly difficult test of mental fortitude, but still preferable to the trial by fire.


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