top of page

Saami of Scandinavia 

The Saami are indigenous people in the Arctic encompassing parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the Russian Kola Peninsula. The northernmost indigenous people of Europe, they are in the “Fourth World” that spans the North Pole from Siberia to Alaska.

The Saami are reindeer herders whose traditional homes are yurts (tipis) and log cabins. The thrilling 1987 film Pathfinder, the first in the Saami language, documents the story of their founder and shows the similarity of the Saami’s lifestyle and worldview with those of Native American cultures.

Many indigenous cultures across Europe were destroyed by the Catholic Church when the peoples were forced to convert to Christianity and their temples were demolished. Those who did not submit experienced genocide.

The Saami (Sami) are called "Lapps" or "Laplanders" by some Scandinavians.​ Although the origin of the term ‘Lapp’ is unclear, it has acquired a negative connotation. The Saami language belongs to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family and can be divided into 10 dialects.

Strange Lapps and Their Magical Drumming Maps says:

"When the wise men of Europe’s Far North want to see beyond the merely visible, they bang their noid drums until the rhythm and concomitant incantations prise open the creaky doors of perception.

The skin that forms the membrane of their drums is decorated with cryptic symbols that constitute a symbolic landscape. On this mental map is placed a piece of bone, which dances across the membrane as the shaman bangs the drum’s frame. It is his job to translate the bone’s erratic hopscotchery across this magical universe into meaningful comments on events past, present and future.

These rituals are reminiscent of other pagan divinations that distill meaning from randomness -- be it by the reading of tea leaves, tarot cards or bird entrails. They also resemble the path from extasy [sic] to clarity popular in the continuum of shamanic cultures circling the Arctic, of which the Saami form an integral part

Saami Dependence on Reindeer

Saami survival is intertwined with, and indeed dependent on, the life and migrations of the reindeer -- just as the Plains Indians depended on the buffalo and later the horse. In addition to being a source of food, clothing, and housing, the reindeer serve as means of transportation.​

"The Saami are the indigenous people of Northern Europe, a living remnant of the continent’s nomadic prehistory. Now numbering, by most accounts, less than 200,000, they are spread across the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia in an area known as Sápmi.

Historically, shamen played a central part in Saami life. They were reputed to mediate between Heaven and Earth, possess magical powers over wind and other elements, and be able to shapeshift and visit Jábmeájmoo, the Land of the Dead. When Christianity arrived in the High North -- late, in the 17th century -- shamen bore the brunt of the combined church-state assault on Saami independence. Noid drums were singled out as instruments of the Devil, and most of them were destroyed.​

bottom of page