Silap Inua

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This article is about a peculiar (somewhat diverse) belief held among several Inuit peoples. For homonyms of word “sila”, see Sila (disambiguation).

In Inuit mythology, Silap Inua ('possessor of spirit', ᓯᓚᑉ ᐃᓄᐊ) or Silla ('breath, spirit', ᓯᓪᓚ) was similar to mana or ether, the primary component of everything that exists; it is also the breath of life and the method of locomotion for any movement or change. Silla was believed to control everything that goes on in one's life.


Silla is a deity of the sky, the wind, and the weather. Though identified as male, he is never depicted, and thought to be formless. There are very few myths in which Silla is a character, because he is not thought to have many personality characteristics. He also represents a concept somewhat akin to the Hindu idea of Paramatman, or Emerson’s idea of the great Over soul: Silla is also believed to be the substance which souls are made of. Contrary to the Christian missionaries who have identified Nanook the polar bear spirit as the supreme deity of the Inuit, Silla is much closer to this role. However Silla also has a somewhat malevolent aspect: he is known to lure children away from their play off into the tundra, never to be seen again.

Among the many various Eskimo cultures, term silap inua / sila, hillap inua / hilla (among Inuit), siḷam iñua (among Inupiaq), ellam yua / ella (among Yup'ik) is used with some diversity.[1] In many instances it refers “outer space”, “intellect”, “weather”, “sky”, “universe”:[1][2][3][4][5] there may be some correspondence with the presocratic concept of logos.[2][6]

Shamanhood among Eskimo peoples was a diverse phenomenon, just like the various Eskimo cultures themselves. Among Copper Inuit, shamans were believed to obtain their power from this “Wind Indweller”, thus even their helping spirits were termed as silap inue.[7]

Among Siberian Yupik, [sl̥am juɣwa] was depicted as a mighty hunter, catching game just like earthly men, but being capable of controlling whether people paid attention to customs and traditions.[8]

In Sireniki Eskimo language, the word [siˈlʲa] has meanings “universe”, “outer world”, “space”, “free space”, “weather”.[9]


According to the interpretations of anthropologists, Silla is one of the oldest Inuit deities, but was recently (in the last thousand years) supplanted by Sedna, (the goddess of sea mammals) and the Caribou Mother (the goddess of caribou) when these became the major food sources of the Inuit. Anthropologists believe that the belief is extremely old because of the widespread nature of this deity.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kleivan & Sonne 1985: 31
  2. ^ a b Mousalimas 1997: 23–26
  3. ^ Nuttall 1997: 75
  4. ^ Merkur 1985: 235–240
  5. ^ Gabus 1970: 230–234
  6. ^ "14 SALADIN D'ANGLURE". 2006-05-17. Archived from the original on May 17, 2006. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  7. ^ Merkur 1985: 230
  8. ^ Menovščikov 1968: 447
  9. ^ Меновщиков 1964: 195

Further reading[edit]


  • Gabus, Jean (1970). A karibu eszkimók (in Hungarian). Budapest: Gondolat Kiadó.  Translation of the original: Gabus, Jean (1944). Vie et coutumes des Esquimaux Caribous (in French). Libraire Payot Lausanne. 
  • Kleivan, Inge; B. Sonne (1985). Eskimos: Greenland and Canada. Iconography of religions, section VIII, "Arctic Peoples", fascicle 2. Leiden, The Netherlands: Institute of Religious Iconography • State University Groningen. E.J. Brill. ISBN 90-04-07160-1. 
  • Menovščikov, G. A. (= Г. А. Меновщиков) (1968). "Popular Conceptions, Religious Beliefs and Rites of the Asiatic Eskimoes". In Diószegi, Vilmos. Popular beliefs and folklore tradition in Siberia. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. 
  • Merkur, Daniel (1985). Becoming Half Hidden: Shamanism and Initiation among the Inuit. : Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis • Stockholm Studies in Comparative Religion. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell. ISBN 91-22-00752-0. 
  • Mousalimas, S. A. (1997). "Editor's Introduction". Arctic Ecology and Identity. ISTOR Books 8. Budapest • Los Angeles: Akadémiai Kiadó • International Society for Trans-Oceanic Research. pp. 1–30. ISBN 963-05-6629-X. 
  • Nuttall, Mark (1997). "Nation-building and Local Identity in Greenland: Resources and the Environment in a Changing North". In S. A. Mousalimas. Arctic Ecology and Identity. ISTOR Books 8. Budapest • Los Angeles: Akadémiai Kiadó • International Society for Trans-Oceanic Research. pp. 69–83. ISBN 963-05-6629-X. 
  • Saladin d'Anglure, Bernard (1990). "Brother-Moon (Taqqiq), Sister-Sun (Siqiniq) and the Intelligence of the World (Sila) - Inuit Cosmology, Arctic Cosmography and Shamanistic Space-Time". Études Inuit Studies (in French and English) 14 (1–2). 


  • Меновщиков, Г.А. (1964). Язык сиреникских эскимосов. Фонетика, очерк морфологии, тексты и словарь (in Russian). Москва • Ленинград: Академия Наук СССР. Институт языкознания.  The transliteration of author's name, and the rendering of title in English: Menovshchikov, G.A. (1964). Language of Sirenik Eskimos. Phonetics, morphology, texts and vocabulary. Moscow • Leningrad: Academy of Sciences of the USSR. 

External links[edit]