January 1, 1951
Buliard, the Catholic priest, asks Nipalariuk II, a nephew of an evil sorcerer who could supposedly fly, read minds, heal the sick, and murder the healthy, to demonstrate whether he was really bulletproof but the spell was removed.
Most of the shamans were simply shrewd men who exploited the natural superstitions of their fellows and used tricks like those employed by any carnival or circus medium in Europe or the United States.
Were any of the shamans, in the past, perhaps, true sorcerers, true diabolists? I am inclined to believe it is possible.
Nipalariuk may have been one of those truly in league with supernatural powers of evil. He was supposed to be able to fly like an angel. He could see things at tremendous distances and read the minds of others. He was expert at healing the sick, but even better at murdering the healthy, particularly when the healthy one possessed a wife Nipalariuk wanted for himself. He granted favors--many of them--but after a while his misdeeds outnumbered his good ones and everyone wanted him out of the way. Three times the Inuit tried to kill him by strangling and stabbing, but on each occasion his wife brought him back to life. Finally, the Inuit realized that theo nly thing to do was to kill both of them together. That did it. Nipalariuk stayed put.
But if he was finished as a human being, his shamanism was not finished with him. His name was passed on to a nephew, and the evil powers went with it. Or so the Eskimos believed.
I knew this Nipalariuk II, and he was a moron and lazy bum if ever one lived on Victoria. His power was said to derive from a miraculous occurrence. When hunting one day, from a canoe, a fellow hunter discharged his shotgun by accident--both barrels. The blast caught Nipalariuk II in the back, piercing his clothes and burning him, but leaving not a mark on the shaman's nephew. Many witnesses agreed that this was fact.
"Is it true?" I once asked Nipalariuk II.
"Oh, yes, most assuredly," he answered. "My power comes from my name, from my predecessor, the one they could not kill."
"Well, boy," I said casually, "if you are really bulletproof, I am curious. Would you let somebody have a try at you with my new rifle, just to see?"
"Oh, no!" he exclaimed hastily. "I'm not that way any more. I lost the spirit."
And he explained that his father had pronounced over him an incantation that had removed the spell, so that he was no longer possessed. It made him feel better.