Comparative Guts

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The Entrail Snatcher

Drawing by Kârale Andreassen, today stored at the National Museum of Denmark.

Nationalmuseet, Danmark, Photo: Jesper Kurt-Nielsen CC BY-SA 2.0

The Entrail Snatcher or Lung eater, named Nalikkatteeq, was said to eat the lungs of the deceased humans, who passed by her on their way to the heavenly realm of death. With the advent of Christian missions, which promised blessed singing in heaven, the shamans had to find out how the dead were capable of breathing up there. Earlier, prior to the establishment of Christian missions, Nalikkatteeq, which means literally ‘big crotch’, was a mythological ic double-sexed figure endowed wth the power to turn over the pillar supporting the heavenly vault. According to myth, she would cut out the lungs of the shaman who could not resist laughing at her frivolous dancing. During ritual, appearing as a masked figure in a similar way she hits violently those who burst into laughter at the sight of her dancing.