Most nations around the world have a history of mythological beliefs that play an important role in their culture, the Inuit people are no different from any others. Inuit mythology though is not widely known, and as a result the name of Sedna is not a well known one. In fact the name Sedna is now more commonly associated with a planetoid on the edge of our solar system, this planetoid though was named in honour of the Inuit goddess.
Sedna is an important goddess for the various Inuit people, and was considered the provider of the whales and seals that were needed in order that the Inuit should not go hungry. As well as being a beneficial goddess, Sedna though was also feared, as she had the power to starve as well as provide. If you look around the Arctic region you will find that most people have a version of the Sedna story, with her called Nerrivik in Alaska; Anrarguaggsaq or Arnkajuagsak in Greenland; Nuliajuk in the Northwest Territories and Arnapkapfaaluk in the Coronation Gulf.
As with a great many tales from mythology the tales of Sedna do differ depending upon the version being told. The tales vary, from perceiving that Sedna was an innocent maiden to greedy woman deserving of her plight.
A widely spread tale relates to how Sedna was the beautiful daughter of Anguta, the Inuit creator god. She was though self obsessed and thought little for others. In order that Anguta could rid himself of his daughter he decided that the first hunter to come along could have her as his wife. This came to pass, but the hunter would later reveal himself not to be a man, but an evil bird spirit in the form of a raven. Anguta attempts to rescue her from her enforced marriage but during the rescue the raven conjures up a storm that threatens to engulf the whole world. In order that the world should be saved, Anguta is forced to throw Sedna from his kayak into the sea. Sedna though tries to make her way back into the kayak, which forces her father to chop her fingers off so that she might release her hold. The fingers are transformed into the first seals and whales, whilst Sedna slips under the waves.
Alternative versions show Anguta trying to get rid of his daughter on purpose, and after she has married a dog against his wishes, she is thrown from his kayak with the same results as above.
No matter how it occurred Sedna once she has descended beneath the waves came to live in Adlivun, what is the Inuit underworld, and became its ruler. This domain gave her control over all of the marine animals that inhabited the sea, the largest of which, the whales, walruses and seals, having developed from her large fingers. This control gave her the power to either lock the marine animals away, depriving the Inuit hunters of their prey, or could allow bountiful hunts to follow. Where poor hunts were in progress, the Inuit Shamans would pray for the release of the seals and whales in the hope to reverses the hunter's fortunes. A change of fortune can also be achieved if a brave hunter agrees to travel to Adlivun in order that they can wash Sedna and in return she will release the seals, whales and walruses.
A vital Inuit goddess, Sedna can be seen as either a helpless victim or a deserving recipient of punishment. Her story though shows how different people can still have the same mythological traditions.