Solar eclipse, image courtesy of NASA.

Malina is the sun deity of the Inuit people of Greenland, Alaska and other Arctic regions. The most common story in the circumpolar mythologies is that of her relationship with her brother, the moon deity Aningak (also known as Annigan in some locations). The story begins by saying that Malina and Aningak lived happily together while they were children. However, as they grew older they split into designated housing for men and women. After this separation Aningak noticed that Malina was the most beautiful of all women, and set to work on a plan to have her. While the two were playing the darkness, he became aroused and had sex with her, all while knowing her identity. On the second occasion that this happened, Malina became curious as to his identity. She decided to blacken her hands with soot from a nearby lamp, then put this on his face. After lighting a handful of moss, she held this to her attackers’ face and discovered it was Aningak.

He began to chase her, and when she was almost caught she cut off her breasts as a distraction. Malina then rose to the sky and in doing so, became the personification of the sun. Aningak followed and became the moon deity, where he continued to chase her across the skies. However, Malina was almost always able to rise higher. They were believed to race across the sky through the days and nights, with Aningak becoming thinner each day he chased her. This caused him to disappear once a month in order to hunt and regain his strength before he returned. He would then resume the chase and begin the cycle again. The siblings were still believed to share a house in the sky at midday. However, as the summer sky was full of light and the winter was not, she rarely ever saw him. When Aningak finally caught up to her, the world would fall into darkness with a solar eclipse.

The relationship between Malina and Aningak is how the Inuit people described the monthly cycle and changes within the moon. While their myth does change slightly from region to region, it does usually contain some element of incest. Areas of Canada have made this deliberate, showing Malina and Aningak fleeing from earth and rising to the sky in order to escape from shame. Certain areas in Alaska show the move to the sky as a way for the siblings to continue with their relationship. However, the common thread is that Malina is ignorant of her brothers’ identity, while Aningak is always shown as being the deceitful one.

Malina is believed to be extremely beautiful in every region. However, several areas of the Arctic countries do show her as being a beautiful woman with a skeletal back.

To find out more stories on solar mythology, click here.

-Devon Allen
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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