Have you ever heard about the Saami people? not that many have. Saami´s are the indigenous people of northern Europe.
There is not much written information left from the ancient beliefs of the Saami´s. Lot of the cultural heritage of the Saami´s was destroyed by the Lutheran church during the past centuries in Finland, Sweden and Norway. Myths that are left are fragments of ancient shamanic belief system.
In the past most of the Saami´s were fishermen, hunters and reindeer herders. Honoring nature was big part of Saami spirituality. Living nomadic life style while taking care of the reindeer's made reindeer one of the most sacred animals for the Saami´s. Many of the Saami deities were not humanized. They were seen as invisible spirits living in the rocks, in the ground, in the trees and in the wild reindeer's that ran free in the tundra. Deities that were given human forms were deities who had influence over human life.
In Saami communities there was rather strict gender roles. Man was the hunter and the provider. Woman´s role was to take care of the family and the kota (home tent) or the house. Woman´s special skills lied in the handcrafts. Turning fur into coats and boots and creating beautiful embroideries. Society was not completely dismissing to the female gender. Women were allowed to own their own reindeer's.
There was four very important goddesses who Saami´s worshiped. These goddesses were Máttaráhkká, Sárahkká, Juksáhkka and Uksákká. Among Saami´s birth was seen as something very sacred. Mystical and magical event. World that was only for women. All these four goddesses were connected to life, death and rebirth.
Máttaráhkká the primal mother
Máttaráhkká was the goddess of earth. She was the beginner of all life. Her job was to receive the soul and the spirit of the child from the sky god Radien and give the breath of life to the child in the womb. Women turned to Máttaráhkká during childbirth and if they suffered from menstrual pains.
Máttaráhkká had three daughters. In the shaman drum these three figures are painted to the very bottom of the drum. Saami´s believed that these three goddesses lived in the ground with their mother just below kota or the house.
Juksáhkka the bow woman
Juksáhkka was the goddess of hunt. Her name literally means "the bow woman". Juksáhkka was the protector goddess of boys and men. She protected them since the moment they were conceived till the day they died. It was believed that Juksáhkka had the ability to change the child´s gender in the womb. One way to ensure this was to attach bow and some arrows into komsio (Saami cradle). Since Saami culture was foremost a hunting culture boys and men were more respected than women in the society.
Sárahkká the life bringer
Sárahkká was protector goddess of giving birth, girls and women. Her job was to grow the flesh around the child´s bones in the womb. In the shaman drum Sárahkká is painted in the middle. She protected women from the day they were born to the day they died. Sárahkká´s sacred bird was the willow grouse. If couple wanted to have a girl child they hanged beaks, wings and feathers of the willow grouse to the komsio. When giving birth was successful women sacrificed porridge to Sárahkká.
Uksákká guardian of the door
Uksákká the third sister looked after the child when they grew up. She protected the child not hurting themselves or getting into accidents. Uksákká guarded all the doors of the kota´s and houses. She was also protector of doors in the animal world. She protected entrances of bear and wolf caves, doors of the birds´s nests and entering holes of the bee hives.
Despite the fact that Saami culture was male dominated hunting culture. The essence of all life was believed to live within the woman. The primal mother.
Check my other videos and articles about Saami myths and culture:
Dark spirits in Saami mythology
Water spirits in Saami mythology and folklore
Daughters of the sun, sons of the moon
Sun and the moon in Saami mythology and folklore
Magic of the north
Growing up in north-western Finland I´v seen northern lights several times. Living near the sea dancing lights I saw were mostly green but every time when I went up north to visit my grandparents I saw northern lights in all colors of the rainbow. Still today when I see northern lights during dark October nights I see them as true miracle of nature and I understand how they captivated minds of the people in the past same way as they captivate the imagination of a modern human. There are several myths told about the northern lights and I will share some of them with you.
Estonian Celestial Wedding
In Estonia there is interesting myth told about the birth of the northern lights. According to Estonian myths northern lights were created when humpback whales were playing games and their scales are reflected into the night sky.
Another Estonian folk tale tells us that northern lights are born when spectacular horse drawn carriages are carrying heavenly guests into magnificent celestial wedding.
Firefox of the Saami's
In the Lapland of Finland northern lights were believed to be created by a magical giant fox called Tulikettu. Foxes were hunted because of their fur and it was believed that great fox hunter was also a great shaman. Tulikettu was like the Phoenix of all foxes and there could only be one fire fox at time. It was believed that the hunter who catch the fire fox would live in great wealth for the rest of their life. Fire fox however was so fast that no one could ever catch it. When it ran in the snowy hills it´s fur and tail brushes would create sparks that would fly into the skies and turn into northern lights. Finnish word for northern lights revontulet literally means fox´s fires.
Lapland, Scandinavia and Greenland
According to another Saami myth northern lights were spume of water ejected from whales swimming in the arctic sea.
For fishermen in northern Sweden northern lights were a good prophecy. Omen that there was large groups of herrings swimming by.
In Norse myths aurora borealis thought as reflections of the shining spears, armors and helmets of the valkyries. The warrior women who rode on horseback leading fallen soldiers to Valhalla. Sometimes northern lights were believed to be the Bifrost Bridge. Magical arc that lead straight into Valhalla the home of the gods and goddesses.
For the Inuits in Greenland northern lights were spirits of still born babies and even children that had been killed after birth.
Northern Lights in Inuit and Native American Myths
Native American myths about the Aurora Borealis vary great deal same way as the traditions and cultures of different tribes.
Algonquin´s the natives of Ottawa and Ontario in Canada believe that northern lights were created by their creator spirit Nanahbozho. For them it was a sign that he was always watching over them.
For the Menominee´s native American tribe of the Wisconsin area northern lights were torches used by evil giants when they speared fish at night.
Inuit´s living in Point Arrow, the most northern point of Alaska believed strongly that northern lights were evil and suspicious and they could come down from the skies and kill a man. They carried knives with them to protect themselves from them.
Inuits of Nunivak Island in the Bering Sea thought that northern lights were created by a walrus spirits who were playing with human skulls.
Makah´s, native american tribe from the Washington state told stories about a tribe of dwarfs who boiled whale blubber. Another myth which connects Aurora to cooking comes from Mandan from north Dakota where people believed that in the northern lights there lived great warriors who cooked their enemies heads in massive pots.
Aurora in Greek Mythology
Aurora Borealis are a rare sight in such southern parts of Europe as Greece but for the ancient Greece there was nothing that could have not be explained without the presence of gods and goddesses. In Greek Aurora means sunrise and boreas means the wind. Aurora was the sister to Helios the sun god and Seline the moon goddess. In Greek myth sun and the day are born when Helios and Seline ride in the skies with their celestial wagons. Sometimes Aurora joins the ride but her wagon is made of vivid dancing colors. She is assisted by god of the northern wind Boreas who gives her chariot a nice blow.
Fight of the dragons, Northern Lights of the East
It is not very common to see Aurora Borealis in the firmament of Japan or China but when they are seen they are considered to be mystical powerful occasions.
In Japan child conceived under northern lights is believed to receive good looks, intelligence and great fortune.
In China Aurora Borealis are connected to the stories and legends about mighty dragons. Lights in the skies are good and evil dragons testing their powers against one another and breathing fire.
Australian Aboriginals do not see northern lights but southern lights, Aurora Australis. For the aboriginals Aurora Australis represents their beloved deities and spirit dancing in the celestial sky.
Central Europe and Britain
Northern Lights are rare phenomena in central and southern Europe. Before people knew the science behind the northern lights people lived in an atmosphere where all supernatural things were frightening and northern lights terrified people. In Italy and France northern lights were thought to predict war, plague and mass deaths.
In north of Scotland where northern lights are more common they are called dancing merry men representing souls of the soldiers who died in a battle.
Be Careful When You Whistle
Some Native American tribes believed that northern lights were trickster spirits who would come down if someone whistled and would kidnap the person. To protect themselves person should clap. This made the lights retreat and people would be safe from them.
In Greenland expecting mothers were told not to whistle otherwise child would be born crossed-eyed.
Saami´s in Lapland also had superstitions about whistling. If they would whistle the lights would come down from the skies, chase them and burn their hair. Because of this still today many saami´s test their powers by whistling to the northern lights.
My other articles and vlogs with stories from the north:
Siberian and Eurasian shamanism
Sun and the moon in Saami mythology and folklore
Reindeer in the saami mythology
How stars got in to the sky
Mythmas Northern Lights
Check out my northern lights collection from my Redbubble store.
Some of you might know this already but my family from my mother´s side originates from the Lapland of Finland and Sweden. I´ve always had bit of a soft spot for Saami myths and legeds and they have inspired many of my paintings and here I shall share some of those stories and artworks with you. Enjoy )O(
To see more of my artworks and get some of my merchandice visit my Redbubble store :)
Between 2015 and 2016 I had a goal to study and research Saami myths and folklore. I felt this crucial at the time. I had always known I had sami ancestry but I had´t never pay that much attention to saami stories and culture. During that one year I read everything about Saami myths that I could get my hands on + some children´s fairy tales from Lapland (which in many times were inspired by myths). I started to watch saami news (fortunately we get them in Finnish tv). I began to study northern Saami and I found out more about the current situation of the Saamis. This video was born after a year of research. A labour of love.
There are many things that needs to be done for cultural reservation. First step is sharing knowledge.
Stories about the water spirits of far north.
Check out my Myths & Legends collection from my Society6 store with stickers, prints and posters with my goddess designs. Like Sarahkka from the Saami myths.
Labyrinths are mysterious structures and they can be found from all over the world. What was the meaning of labyrinths and what are the most famous labyrinth myths and legends? let´s find out )O(
Video was first time posted around Christmas 2016.
Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea, and such.
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