Bitter Grounds

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I’m here for the scares!

Written by catpaw

October 24, 2021

I thought, since Halloween will be here soon, I’d take a look at ghosts & monsters on stamps. I learned something in the process. Don’t read ghost stories from Greenland if you are alone, it’s dark and the wind is rattling the balcony. Just … don’t. Holy Hanna they aren’t for the faint of heart, and this is coming from someone who misspent their youth watching every B monster movie available. Giant, mutant tarantulas have nothing on Greenland’s monsters.

Greenlandic Folklore & Ghosts 2020

In 2020, Greenland started a series titled Ghost Stories in Greenland  which taped deeply into traditional folklore. The series started November 6, 2020, with Aajumaaqthe sleeved one and Eqqilllit, a dog-man hunter.  

Ghost stories in Greenland 2020

The first stamp, AAJUMAAQ, from Nukk artist Maria Bach Kreutzmann (who also edited the Bestiarium Groenlandica compendium), features a spirit that is both a helper to Angaangaqs (shamen) and a creature of revenge.

“It has a body almost like a human, but the long, slender arms are black from the elbows down. On each hand there are only three fingers and on each foot only three toes. The head is described as a furless dog head and sometimes as a skeletal dog head with large, prickly eyes….everything it touches goes into strong decay, including humans” Greenland Collector #4 November 2020.

The second stamp, EQQILLIT,  from artist Christian Fleischer Rex, are ferocious half human, half dog hunters who occasionally prey on humans. They are curious creatures, equally at home in human dwellings and rocky outcroppings. Eqqillit are skilled in using weapons, but especially the ulut, a knife used by women in Greenlandic society. This opened  up a host of curious questions about the nature of Eqquillit. But I was a bit stymied in researching more on this particular tale because I ended up with hundreds of pages of people dressing their dogs in human clothes and well, research went downhill after that.  Bit of a shame really. The entire topic of Eqqillit is fascinating. 

Folklore & Ghosts 2021

September 17, 2021 saw the series return with Qivittoq and Anngiaq, the scariest of the quartet.

Ghost stories in Greenland II

QIVITTLOG (stamp by Maja-Lisa Kehlet) was a human who’s crimes led to their banishment. These Mountain Men or Mountaineers (depending on the translations), were booted from their communities for either a heinous crime or extreme behaviour that was damaging to a community’s survival and welfare. Doomed to a life of exile, these mountain wanderers eventually surrender all traces of their humanity and become feared creatures lurking on the outskirts of civilization. It’s one of those “behave or lose your community’s support” cautionary horror stories. Given how difficult survival is in remote areas like Greenland, the loss of any community would be devastating and potentially de-humanizing. 

“Their eyes are red and their hair and beard are ugly and often completely light or white. The skin on their faces has become very dark. It can be dangerous to be touched by a mountaineer, as its touch can leave large marks that cause inflammation. If you as a mountaineer are to have magical powers, you must go through some trials to achieve the full transformation and thereby lose all your humanity.” Greenland Collector #3 Sept. 2021

Copenhagen artist Jonatan Brüsch’s first stamp ANNGIAG – the Secret  is the stuff of nightmares. An Anngiag was an infant who was murdered soon after birth by it’s mother. The child’s spirit eventually seeks both love and revenge from it’s family. I’ve left out the more horrifying elements, just in case some of my readers find this type of story too disturbing. But here’s an excerpt from Greenland Collector’s English (ipapercms.dk) bulletin. Use caution before reading this. Although it’s milder than some of the tales I managed to get my hands on, it might be disturbing to some. So, seriously, potential trigger warning. 

An ’Anngiaq’ is a scary spirit. It is a baby or foetus born in secret and then killed. The spirit lives on searching for the affection it has been deprived. It finds a dog’s skull or head which it uses as a kayak. It pursues its relatives when they are out sailing, trying to pull them down under the water and drown them, or shoots at them with a bow and arrow as punishment for their misdeed. An ’Anngiaq’ can also crawl into siblings who have been born later, to kill them by causing internal bleeding.

An Anngiaq can only be defeated by the woman who has given birth in secret, standing by what she has done, thereby revealing the secret. The
defeated Anngiaq can then reportedly be used as an amulet among other things to increase the speed of a kayak.

Of all the tales I found, this one was the most visceral and disturbing. 

FDCs & more creatures

Oddly, Greenland Post doesn’t supply info about the interesting characters on the FDCs. I think the first one is IMMAP NANUA – the great bear of the sea. It’s not NAPPAASILAT, the spirit bear because that bear has a bluish tinge fur. But, I’m taking a wild stab at identifying it. 

Greenland_Myths_monsters

The second FDC has me baffled. They are fascinating, and beautifully rendered in this cover. If you have knowledge about either covers, please, contribute via the comments. I’m sure others would appreciate learning more about Greenlandic folklore.

Ghost stories in Greenland II FDC with pair

5 Mythical Creatures from Greenland

For those interested in learning more about Greenlandic ghosts and myths, I’ve included an English language video below from Visit Greenland – 5 Mythical Creatures. If you are easily disturbed by monsters and nightmarish stories, give the video a skip. It’s well done and fascinating, but not for everyone. The video covers a few of the monsters laid out in this article, and offers correct pronunciation of each name. 

 

If you are looking for resources on Greenlandic folklore, start with A kayak full of ghosts : Eskimo folk tales by Lawrence Millman, ISBN: 1566565251. I found it via my local library’s reference collection. This is NOT a book for children. It gets a bit graphic at times. Again, NOT A BOOK FOR CHILDREN or anyone who frightens easily. 

Did you enjoy these Greenlandic tales? Why not take a look their 2021 stamps


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