Sámi shamanism

Traditional Sámi spiritual practices and beliefs are based on a type of animism, polytheism, and what anthropologists may consider shamanism. The religious traditions can vary considerably from region to region within Sápmi.

Traditional Sámi religion is generally considered to be Animism. The Sámi belief that all significant natural objects (such as animals, plants, rocks, etc.) possess a soul, and from a polytheistic perspective, traditional Sámi beliefs include a multitude of spirits.[1] Sámi traditional beliefs and practices commonly emphasizes veneration of the dead and of animal spirits. The relationship with the local animals that sustain the people, such as the reindeer, are very important to the kin-group.[1]

Deities and animal spirits

Aside from the bear worship, there are other animal spirits such as the Haldi, who watch over nature. Some Sámi people have a thunder god called Horagalles. Rana Niejta is "the daughter of the green, fertile earth".[2] The symbol of the world tree or pillar, similar to that found in Finnish mythology, which reaches up to the North star may also be present.[3]

The forest spirit of some of the Sámi people, Laib Olmai, is traditionally associated with forest animals, which are regarded as his herds, along with granting either good or bad luck in hunting. His favour was so important that, according to one author, they made prayers and offerings to him every morning and evening.[4]


Stabben siedi balsfjord
Stabben: A sieidi stone in Balsfjord

In the landscape throughout Northern Scandinavia, one can find sieidis, places that have unusual land forms different from the surrounding countryside, and that can be considered to have spiritual significance. Each family or clan has its local spirits, to whom they make offerings for protection and good fortune. The Storjunkare are described sometimes as stones, having some likeness to a man or an animal, that were set up on a mountain top, or in a cave, or near rivers and lakes. Honor was done to them by spreading fresh twigs under them in winter, and in summer leaves or grass. The Storjunkare had power over all animals, fish, and birds, and gave luck to those that hunted or fished for them. Reindeer were offered up to them, and every clan and family had its own hill of sacrifice.[5]


A noaidi was a mediator between the human world and saivo, the underworld, on the behalf of the community, usually using a Sámi drum and a domestic flute called a fadno in ceremonies.


One of the most irreconcilable elements of the Sámi’s worldview from the missionaries’ perspective was the notion "that the living and the departed were regarded as two halves of the same family." The Sámi regarded the concept as fundamental, while the Christians absolutely discounted any possibility of the dead having anything to do with the living.[6] Since this belief was not just a religion, but a living dialogue with their ancestors, their society was concomitantly impoverished.[7]

Additional deities and spirits

  • The Akka goddesses, such as Raedieahkka
  • Beaivi - goddess of the sun, mother of humankind.
  • Bieggolmai 'Man of the Winds'- god of the summer winds.
  • Horagalles - thunder god whose name means 'Thor-man', also called "Grandfather", Bajanolmmai, Dierpmis, and Tordöm.
  • Ipmil 'God' - adopted as a native name for the Christian God (see the related Finnish word Jumala), it refers originally to Radien-attje or Waralden Olmai, the creator of the world and head divinity; in Sámi religion, he is passive or sleeping and is not included in religious practices often.
  • Leib-Olmai - god of good luck
  • Lieaibolmmai - god of the hunt, and of adult men.
  • Mano, Manna, or Aske - god of the moon.
  • Rana Niejta - daughter of Raedie.[2] Rana, meaning 'green' or by extension 'fertile earth', was a popular name for Sámi girls.
  • Radien-pardne - son of Radien-attje and Raedieahkka.
  • Ruohtta - god of sickness and therefore also a death-god. He was depicted riding on a horse.
  • Stallo - feared cannibal giants of the wilderness.
  • Tjaetsieålmaj - the men of water.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b Holloway, Alan "Ivvár". "The Decline of the Sámi People's Indigenous Religion". University of Texas.
  2. ^ a b Donner, Otto (1876). "Lieder der Lappen - Lappalaisia lauluja". Suomi-sarjan Toinen Jakso, 2 Oso: 13.
  3. ^ Leeming, pp. 135
  4. ^ Pre- and Proto-historic Finns by Abercromby, pp. 161
  5. ^ Pre- and Proto-historic Finns by Abercromby, pp. 163-164
  6. ^ Rydving, Håkan (1993). The End of Drum-Time: Religious Change among the Lule Saami, 1670s-1740s. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell International.
  7. ^ Holloway, Alan “Ivvár”. "The Decline of the Sámi People's Indigenous Religion". TexasU.
  8. ^ 1. Herman Hofberg, "Lapparnas Hednatro" (The Pagan belief of the Sami)
    2. Uno Holmberg, "Lapparnas religion" (The faith of the Sami)
    3. Rafael Karsten, " Samefolkets religion" (The Sami religion)
    4. Edgar Reuteskiöld, " De nordiska samernas religion" (The religion of the Northern Sami)


  • Abercromby, John (1898). Pre- and Proto-historic Finns. D. Nutt.
  • Bäckman, Louise; Hultkrantz, Åke, eds. (1985). Saami Pre-Christian Religion: Studies on the Oldest Traces of Religion Among the Saamis. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.
  • Leeming, David Adams (2003). European Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 133–141 Finnic and Other Non-Indo-European Mythologies. ISBN 9780195143614.

External links

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."

A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.


Sami mean " The all hearing" it is one of Allah's name

Sámi drum

A Sámi drum is a shamanic ceremonial drum in the culture of the Sámi people of Northern Europe. Sámi ceremonial drums have two types: a bowl drum in which the drumhead is strapped over a burl, and a frame drum in which the drumhead stretches over a thin ring of bentwood. Both variations are oval-shaped. The drumhead is fashioned from reindeer hide.

In Sámi shamanism, the noaidi – the shaman – used the drum to get into a trance, or to obtain information from the future or about other places. The drum was held in one hand, and operated with the other hand. While the noaidi was in trance, his "free spirit" was said to leave his body to visit the spiritual world or other places. When used for divination purposes, the drum was used together with a drum hammer and a vuorbi ('index' or 'pointer') made of brass or horn. Answers could be interpreted from where the vuorbi stopped on the membrane, and at which symbols.

The patterns on the drum membrane reflect the world view of the owner and his family, both in religious and worldly matters, such as reindeer herding, hunting, householding and relations to their neighbours and to the non-Sámi community.

Many drums were taken out of their use and Sámi ownership during the 18th century. A large number of drums were confiscated by Sámi missionaries and other officials as a part of an intensified Christian mission towards the Sámi. Other drums were bought by collectors. Between 70 and 80 drums are preserved; the largest collection of drums is at the Nordic Museum, Stockholm.

Sámi people

The Sámi people (also spelled Saami) are a Finno-Ugric people inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses large northern parts of Norway and Sweden, northern parts of Finland, and the Murmansk Oblast of Russia. The Sámi have historically been known in English as Lapps or Laplanders but the terms are considered derogatory now. Sámi ancestral lands are not well-defined. Their traditional languages are the Sámi languages and are classified as a branch of the Uralic language family.

Traditionally, the Sámi have pursued a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing, fur trapping, and sheep herding. Their best-known means of livelihood is semi-nomadic reindeer herding. Currently about 10% of the Sámi are connected to reindeer herding, providing them with meat, fur, and transportation. 2,800 Sámi people are actively involved in reindeer herding on a full-time basis. For traditional, environmental, cultural, and political reasons, reindeer herding is legally reserved for only Sámi people in some regions of the Nordic countries.

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