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Sami shamanic drum in the Arctikum museum, in Rovaniemi, Finland

Sami shamanism is a Sami polytheistic religion. Though it varied considerably from region to region within Sápmi, it commonly emphasized ancestor worship and animal spirits, such as the bear cult. Sami religion is also based on archaeological remains and written sources from missionary work in northern Scandinavia during the Middle Ages and up to the early 18th century, though some of the knowledge exists as family oral tradition.

Animal Gods

Aside from the Bear Cult, there are other animal spirits such as the Haldi who watched over nature. Some Sami people had a thunder god called Tiermes, sometimes called Horagalles. Radien or Vearalden was a sky-ruling god. The symbol of the world tree or pillar similar in Finnish mythology that reached up to the North star was marked by a stytto.[1]

The forest-god of the Sami, Laib olmai ruled over all forest animals, which were regarded as his herds, and luck in hunting, or the reverse, depended on his good will. His favour was so important that, according to one author, they made prayers and offerings to him every morning and evening.[2]

Stabben: A siedi (worshiped stone) in Balsfjord


In the landscape throughout Northern Scandinavia, one can find sieidis, places that have unusual land forms different from the surrounding countryside. Sami shamanism considers these spiritual 'focal points' and worships them as gateways to the spirit world. At these sieidis, sacrifices were made, of animals and objects, and archaeologists have found "Samic metal depots" (due to the large numbers of metal objects) dating back to 9th-14th centuries. These objects are mostly coins from medieval Germany and England, weapons parts such as arrow-heads, and other minor findings such as antler from reindeer.

The clan and family gods of the Sami were known in different parts of Sapmi under the name of Seita, Sieidis or Storjunkare. Each family or clan had its Storjunkare standing in the district where they lived. Every Sami settlement had its seita, which had no regular shape, and might consist of smooth or odd-looking stones picked out of a stream, of a small pile of stones, of a tree- stump, or of a simple post. They were set up on a high, prominent place, or in a rich meadow. Under and round such seitas they strewed green fir twigs in winter, and in summer green leaves. The seitas protected their worshippers against misfortune to the herds of reindeer, gave instructions how to catch wild reindeer, and in return offerings were made to them of the hides and hoofs of reindeer, calves, and sometimes of a dog. But a private person might also have his own seita, to whom he prayed for good luck. 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.[3]


A noaide or noaidi was a mediator between earthly world and the spirit world for the smallest of community problems. The noaidi used a Sami drum and a domestic flute called a "fadno" in ceremonies. The traditional Sami chant—the joik—was used in ceremonies where a noaide fell in a trance, left their body, and transcended to the divine world of "saivo" where they negotiated with gods, spirits, and forefathers to improve the fate of their group. As with other circumpolar religions, the Sami religion also has a hunting ceremony especially for bears as part of its bear cult. Elements of Norse mythology, as well as Christian ideas, are found in the later years of Sami religion.

Males confessed to sacrificial male gods, and females to female fertility gods. Sacrifice of animals and metal objects was also included in some religious ceremonies. "White" animals (white reindeer, cows, sheep, etc.) played an important role.

Sami people in northern Scandinavia today belong to the main Christian churches. During recent years, there has been a movement in some churches to encourage the use of the Sami language and culture in expressing the Christian faith. Official Sami bodies exist today in the Lutheran Church of Sweden and Church of Norway, as well as in the Mission Covenant Church of Sweden.



  • Mano, Aske or Manna - The god of the Moon.
  • Atja - The god of thunder, also called Bajanolmmai, Dierpmis or Hovrengalles, which means "Thor- man".
  • Beaivi or Biejje - The great Goddess of the Sun, mother of human kind.
  • Bieggagallis - The god of the storms, father of human kind, consort of Beaivi.
  • Bieggolman - God of the summer winds.
  • Biegkegaellies - God of the winter winds.
  • Biejjenniejte - Goddess of healing and medicine; her name means "Daughter of the Sun" or "Maiden of the Sun", and she was especially helpful against sicknesses caused by her mother, the sun.
  • Jabbmeaaakka - Goddess of death and queen of the underworld and the kingdom of death.
  • Ipmeláhcchi/Ipmil/Jipmel (trans. Heaven Father) - "God" ; possibly this was a late lative name of the Christian God, but it could also have been a name to include all good deities
  • Juoksahkka - The protecter and guardian of children; "The woman with an arrow".
  • Lieaibolmmai - God of the hunt, the god of adult men.
  • Maadteraahka - Mother of the tribe, Goddess of women and children, she who gives humans their body; women belonged to her, and boys belonged to her until they were declared men. Maadteraahka is popular among modern sami feminists.
  • Maadteraajja - The father of the tribe, husband of Maadteraahka; while his wife gives humans their body, he gives them their soul; and thus, they are born.
  • Mubpienålmaj - "The evil one"; possibly the Christian god of evil, but also a name that included all the evil deities.
  • Oksaahka - The former of the fetus; she shaped the fietus in the mother's womb and gave humans their gender. She was the sister of Juoksahka.
  • Raedie, Väraldarade or Waralden Olmai - The main god, the great creator of the world; he was, however, passive, some say even sleeping, and not very included in active religion.
  • Raedieahkka - Wife of Raedie.
  • Rana Niejta - Daughter of Raedie. "Rana" was a popular name of Sami girls.
  • Raediengiedte - Son of Raedie.
  • Ruohtta - The god of sicknesses and therefore also a death-god. He was depicted riding on a horse.
  • Saaraahka - The Goddess of fertility, menstruation, love, sexuality, pregnancy and childbirth. Saaraahka was the most important female god; she is sometimes sister of Juoksahka and Oksaahka, sometimes they are a trinity of the same Goddess.
  • Stallon - The feared giant of the woods.
  • Tjaetsieålmaj - The men of water.

See also

References and notes

  1. Leeming, pp. 135
  2. Pre- and Proto-historic Finns by Abercromby, pp. 161
  3. Pre- and Proto-historic Finns by Abercromby, pp. 163-164
  4. 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)

External links