New Years Resolutions Inuit Style

New Years Resolutions? Not So Fast! Try Some Karrtsiluni First.


It’s time to make some New Years resolutions.  Or is it? Maybe it will be more productive to sit together in the dark and gloom for awhile.  Consider the practice of karrtsiluni.  Here’s  Majuak_an Inuit elder from Diomede Island in Alaska, describing karrtsiluni to Arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen in his 1932  book The Eagles Gift.

‘What is karrtsiluni?’  I’ll tell you that now.  But you won’t get anything more from me today.’ In the old days, every autumn – we used to hold great festivals or the soul of the whale, and these festivals were always opened with new songs which the men made up.  The spirits had to be summoned with fresh words – worn-out songs must never be used when men and women danced and sang in homage to this great prize of the huntsman – the whale. And while the men were thinking out the words for these hymns, it was the custom to put out all the lights.  The feast house had to be dark and quiet – nothing must disturb or distract the men. In utter silence all these men sat there in the gloom and thought, old and young -ay- down to the very smallest urchin, provided he was old enough to speak.

It was that silence we called karrtsiluni. It means waiting for something to break forth.  For our fore-fathers believed that songs are born in such a silence. While everyone is trying hard to think fair thoughts, songs are born in the minds of men, rising like bubbles from the depths – bubbles seeking breath in which to burst.  ‘So come all holy songs.’”

I like this idea of silent, patient reflection in a spirit of homage to great life holy and full of awe.  So, let’s enjoy New Year’ eve, eat, drink and be merry, but hold off on those calendar driven resolutions tomorrow.

Let’s give ourselves some karrtsiluni time (skip the dark and gloom if you must).  Let’s think fair thoughts, alone and together, and may our new songs, rise to the surface and break forth, carrying us together in the great 2021 hunt for a rebirth of hope, regeneration and life of meaning and contribution to each other and the planet.  I look forward to the  expression and celebration of these “new songs” together.

(From time to time, around this time of year, I repost this piece  I wrote a number of years back. In our home,  interpretation and adaptation of this Inuit practice has become a yearly practice for us.   I’m posting it today (Dec 29th 2020) on the day of the full Cold Winter Moon.  There are Sandhill Cranes overwintering less than a mile away on the Rio Grande here in New Mexico.  Some of these cranes have migrated from the Yukon River Delta… so I consider them a kind of Northern messenger bringing a sense of the connections and continuity of life.



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