Siberia is considered to be the heartland of shamanism. In modern anthropology, the term Shamanism refers to the spiritual practice of native groups. However, shamanism itself is not limited to Siberia. It is a universal practice where all major religions are based on. Siberia is a large area which includes a variety of cultures, languages, practices, and beliefs which many fall into the classification of shamanism and many of these ethnic groups practice shamanism still today.
In Siberian shamanism, there are some distinctive features such as worship of nature, belief for the world tree, an invisible pole that is a representation of the universe and three layers of the world (upper world, middle world, and the underworld). Many of these ethnic groups were hunters and lived a nomadic lifestyle. Hunting was a sacred ritual and in order for the hunt to success, the job of the shaman was to take shape of an animal and travel to meet the deity who was in charge of the hunting. The shaman would dress up as animals and mimic their sounds and movements.
Shamans and Shamanesses
There is lots of diversity among the sacred animals in Siberian shamanism. Among Samoyed and Uralic groups, a sacred animal was the bear who was believed to be the sacred ancestor of the tribe. In Mongolia and among Turkic groups stags and horses were most important animals. Among the Yukip, Nenetsi and the Saami´s reindeer was the sacred animal ancestor. The creation myth about the earth-diver is common among all groups whose roots are in Siberia and water birds play a significant part in the shamanic practice.
Origins of the word shaman are in Tungus where it means the spiritual leader and the healer of the tribe.
In Siberian cultures shamanism often has strict gender roles.
For the tuvar´s shaman is ”Tatar”, ”Shor”, or ”Oyrat”.
In Yakagir language shaman is known as ”alman”, ”olman” or ”wolmen”.
Buryat shaman is known as ”Böö” (derived from old Mongolian word ”Böge”)
For the Mansi shaman was called ”Njat”.
Saami shaman is known as Noaidi. Saami word ”Noaidi” and Mansi ”Njat” are based on proto-Uralic word Nojta meaning a witch or a shaman.
Female shamans can be mainly found among Mongolian tribes.
For the Buryat shamaness is called ”Ugadan”, ”Evenki”, ”Lamut” or ”Ugudan”.
For the Negidal shamaness is called ”Odogan”.
In Siberian languages, there are many similar words meaning a ”shamaness” such as ”Utagan”, ”Ubukan”, ”Utygan”, ”Utusun”, ”Idan” and ”Duana”. Most of these words are based on ancient Mongolian earth goddess ”Etügen ”. She was also known as ”Etügen Eke ” the mother earth. Her name can be originated from Ötüken the holy mountain of the earth and fertility.
Young Buriyt boy
Turkic shamanism is practiced by ethnic groups who speak Turkic languages. These are Tatars, Tuvars, Tofalar, Yakut and Turks who live in the Altai mountains. Turkic shamanism covers large territories and the practice itself has been amalgamated with Buddhist and Islam beliefs.
Yakut Shaman. Notice the trinkets in the clothes. Fetishes represent animals and spirits who the shaman wishes to communicate with.
Area of the Yup´ik stretches from Eastern Siberia to Alaska and Northern Canada, therefore, there is lots of diversity in their shamanic practices. They believe in soul dualism and reincarnation. Soul of a Yup´ik shaman could travel between different levels to the underneath realms to meet supernatural beings and spirit guides asking for their guidance.
Shamanism of the Ket is foremost totemic. The lifestyle of the Ket is nomadic and shamanism is intertwined to Bear and deer hunting. They use lots of bones, skeletons and other animal parts in their rituals. Like for many Uralic people for the Ket waterbirds were sacred. Loon is an especially important bird, a totem animal and Loon´s bones are often used in ceremonies. They were shaman´s helpers in their journey. For the Ket shapeshifting is an important part of spiritual practice. The shaman goes off on the spiritual journey while drumming and dancing.
All ethnic groups that speak Samoyedic languages have elements of shamanism in their spiritual practice. Sayan shaman´s boot ´s, dress and headdress represents bones and human organs. The skeleton overlay of the dress symbolizes rebirth. Like all group´s who myths are based on Uralic myths for the Sayan´s loon was a sacred bird and a magical helper. Other Samoyedic tribes such as Nenets, Enets, and Selkup have different crowns and headdresses to be worn on different occasions. When a child is born the proper headdress represents the upper world and for communicating with the dead headdress represents the underworld.
Reindeer is a sacred animal for many ethnic groups in the northern hemisphere.
Saami´s are native people of Scandinavia (and the only ethnic group in the area of European Union). Saami´s live outside Siberia but their language is part of Samoyedic languages. There are elements of shamanism in the spirituality and folk traditions and customs of the Saami. One of the most important parts of the Saami culture is the joiks. Joiks are wordless chants that were originally sung in shamanic rites. There are two types of joiks, clear joiks that are mostly sung by young people. Then there are mumbling joiks that are used while casting spells. These joiks often mimic natural sounds.
Most speakers of Finno-Ugric languages live outside Siberia. Finno refers to Finnic languages such as Finnish and Estonian and Mari. In all these cultures there are elements of shamanism in the folklore and myths. In Pre-Christian Finland, shamanism had several phases. Noita the shaman was the spiritual healer of the tribe. Later on, there was a shift in the culture and noita became more individualized and was no longer a healer of the community but an individual practitioner
of witchcraft/herbalism/healing. Ancient Finnish tribes believed in soul duality. Bear and moose were most common totem animals and there are lots of archaeological proofs found from the widely spread bear cult. The world was divided into three levels and they were held together by an invisible pole, the wold tree.
In Estonia shaman was called Näit. Like in Finland also in Estonia worship of nature was an essential part of spiritual practice. Trees especially were worshipped as divine nature spirits. Other speakers of Finnic languages like Komi´s, Mari´s and Mordvan also have elements of shamanism in their spiritual practice. Folk religion also has elements from Russian Orthodox. Among all these groups nature worship, shamanic travelling and concept of the world tree are very common.
Ugric refers to Ugric languages such as Hungarian, Khanty, and Mansy. Early ancestors of modern-day Hungarians migrated from Siberia already 6000 years ago settling into the area of Pannonia Basin. Elements of shamanism have been preserved in folklore. Ancient Hungarians believed that the world was divided into three levels and shaman had the ability to travel between these levels to seek information. In Khanty culture bear was worshiped as an important totem animal and as the divine ancestor of the people.
Did you know than in ancient Finland sauna´s were so much more than just bath houses. They were sacred places where shamanic ritual were performed.
Land of saunas
Finland is known as the land of saunas. There is well over 3 million saunas in Finland which is quite a lot for a country with population of 5.5 million. Most of the detached houses have saunas. There are sauna´s in boats. There are portable sauna´s. I´ve even seen sauna caravans. When I was a student there was a tiny sauna in my small student flat where I couldn´t even stretch my feet (good times). Many Finnish families have summer cabins with lake-side saunas. But did you know that this obsession for saunas goes back all the way 10 000 years to the time when first hunter-gatherer tribes arrived to the area of what is now known as Finland during the last ice age.
Origins of sauna
There has been lots of suggestions made to explain the origins of the word sauna. It is widely considered to be Uralic word and it´s original form was savńa which meant a pit in a ground that was heated and then covered with an animal skin. These kind of saunas can not be found from Finland anymore and closest to them would be so called tent saunas which are similar to native american sweat lodges. Finnish word sauna has similarities in other Finno-Ugric and Finno-Baltic languages like Estonian (sauna) and northern saami (suovdnji). In Finno-Ugric Komi language that is spoken by the Komi people in Siberia words sa una means lot´s of smoke. Where these first ground sauna´s were invented is difficult to tell but we know that in Finland first sauna-like buildings were build in the stone age. Like among several other hunter cultures the belief system of these early settlers was animistic-shamanic and they believed that everything in nature had it´s own soul and spirit.
Global sauna history
Native American sweat tents were (and are) used the same way as warmed pits were in Finland and northern Europe/Asia. Sweating was considered to be not just physical but also spiritual cleansing of the soul. Sweat lodges that were used for shamanic rituals have also been found from India and Africa.
Bath house culture in Europe originated from ancient Greece. Early Greek bath houses however were not made for spiritual purposes but solely for relaxation and socialisation. Later on when Romans took over they spread bathing culture far and wide. During the time of the Ottoman Empire Turkish bath house culture spread into Eastern Europe. Biggest difference between traditional Finnish sauna and Turkish sauna is that temperature in the Turkish sauna never goes above 40 degrees while in Finnish sauna temperature can go up to 60 degrees and above.
In the early Medieval period around Europe there was custom to build bathing areas/sweat lodges next to monasteries and it was widely believed that bathing would have spiritual effects. During the heart of the Middle Ages (1000 -1300 AD) and late Middle Ages (1300-1500 AD) Europe was a constant battle field between different religious groups and bathing started to get questionable reputation as destroyer of people´s morals. This is one of the reasons why most parts of Europe bathing culture disappeared and several bath houses were destroyed.
Circle of Life
Bathing and sauna culture managed to stay alive and well in northern Europe and Baltic countries simply because they were some of the last countries in Europe that were converted into Christianity.
Before any of the modern hospitals existed it was very common in Finland that women gave birth in the sauna. This is believed to have it´s roots in old shamanic tradition where sauna was believed to be a portal between our world and the spirit world(s). There was a custom to take the body of a dead person into the sauna before the burial. Sauna was connected to both birth and death also big celebrations of life (like weddings) included ritualistic sauna visits. Going to the sauna was also part of yearly festivals (Kekri, the harvest festival and Ukonvakat the summer solstice).
Pagan church of ancient Finns
In ancient Finnish pagan faith person was believed to have three souls. They were called itse, löyly and haltija. Itse was similar to psyche. Human´s personality. Haltija could be described as the higher-self or in some cases a guardian spirit. Löyly meant the body-soul and all the body functions such as breathing. In modern Finnish language löyly means the steam that comes from the sauna stove. Löyly has similarities in other Finno-Ugric languages. In Hungarian löyly is lelek and in Mari language lel.
Going to the sauna was like going to the church. It was a sacred ritual and person had to follow the sauna rules. Sauna also had it´s own spirit called löylynhenki. Depending on which area the person lived sauna spirit was either male or female called löylynhengetär. Spirit of the sauna would not tolerate disrespectful behavior and could even haunt the person who misbehaved.
In ancient Finland when a person started to build a house for themselves first thing that they build was the sauna. This was because of practical reasons. Building house was a sweaty business and one could also spent their nights in the sauna resting until the house was ready. According to some folk tales the first person who took a bath in the sauna became the guardian spirit of the sauna saunatonttu (the sauna elf) after they passed away. In Finnish folklore elves were guardian spirits of buildings and often connected to ancestral worship. Saunatonttu is also one of the most well-known characters in Finnish folklore.
The most important shamanic aspects of the sauna was it´s healing properties. Sometimes shaman would take the ill patient to the sauna and in the shamanic trance they would travel into the spirit world to seek the spirit of the sick person and try to bring it back. It is also possible that sauna was a symbol of the womb which would explain why so many rituals connected birth, life and death that took place in the sauna. There are little evidence of the early goddess cult in Finland but both the earth goddess Akka and Louhi goddess of witchcraft and shamanism were likely connected to sauna shamanism. After all people were born from the earth and when they died that is where they returned.
Like a powerful shaman sauna would help to heal the person both it´s body and soul. Healing properties of the sauna are still recognised today. It is scientifically proven that visiting the sauna reduces stress, inhaling the steam helps people with allergies, it can also ease physical pain and increase the quality of sleep.
Bundles of Healing
One of the elements that are part of Finnish sauna experience is vihta (western Finland) and/or vasta (eastern Finland). Vihta/vasta originally meant a leaf broomstick. It literally is a bundle made of fresh tree branches. In shamanistic rituals they were used to gently brush the body to drive away bad thoughts and illnesses (scientifically this increases the circulation of blood). To create good scent into the sauna water where the bundle was kept was thrown into to the stove.
During pagan times making the bundle was part of a ritual because each tree had it´s own magical meaning. If person wanted to become more wise they made a bundle from oak leaves. If one had problems with asthma they made a bundle from blackcurrant. Juhannus the midsummer festival was time for making love spells. Women especially made special vihtas for the Juhannus-sauna where they picked branches from trees that were connected to love magic.
Vihtas and vastas were not only Finnish or Slavic thing. Several native american tribes also used bundles made of tree leaves in shamanic rituals performed in sweat lodges and ancient Mayan´s used bundles made of corn leaves in their purification rituals.
While many of these ancient pagan beliefs that our ancestors connected to sauna are long gone sauna still has very important role in Finnish culture. Going to "special" holiday sauna´s during Christmas and summer solstice are living traditions. Sauna´s are also popular in Russia where sauna is called banya and in Sweden sauna is called bastu. In both countries sauna´s can be mostly found from country side. In Estonia interestingly enough sauna´s can be only found from certain parts of the country. Mostly from southern Estonia and Virumaa.
While living abroad I have faced all kinds of interesting and sometimes amusing prejudices about saunas. One thing that often creates confusion is the fact that Finns go sauna naked. Well..sauna is a hot place. It makes no sense to go there fully covered and in Finnish culture sauna has always been an asexual place and as it is common in Finnish culture even when we are in the sauna we respect the personal space of the others. In swimming halls there are separate sauna´s for men and women. Open sauna´s near beaches and sauna ferries are often unisex sauna´s but in those of course you need to wear swimsuits.
There is a wonderful sauna ferry in my old home town. On a hot summer day you can sit in the sauna chatting with your friends and jump straight into the river. What more could you ask for. If you like extremes try the traditional country side Christmas sauna. After sitting in the sauna until your skin is warmer than a fallen meteorite run into the snow and roll around. There is no such thing as cold. When you start to feel slight chill it´s time to return to the sauna. Congratulations you are reborn as a Finn.
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Check out my video about the Saami gods )O(
Horagállis god of thunder
Saami people the indigenous people of northern Europe had several deities who they worshiped and their belief system was animistic. They believed that everything in nature had life and spirit inside them. Many of the Saami deities were not personified as humans but were seen as invisible forces of nature. There is great amount of Saami languages so there are several name variations for different deities. Most common name for the thunder god was Horagállis but he was also known as Hovregállis, Äijjh, Dearpmes, Tiermes, Bájan and Áddjá. Symbol of Horagállis was the hammer which is a common symbol for a thunder god across Europe. In northern hemisphere other well-known thunder gods are Thor from Scandinavian mythology and Ukko/Ilmarinen from Finland and Uku from Estonia. In Saami culture god of thunder was respected as the bringer of the rain. He was seen as the protector of humans and reindeer's. It was believed that Horagállis cleaned the air and washed diseases away.
Saami culture was male dominant hunting culture. Men and women had strict behavioral roles which also included spirituality. Worship of Horagállis was a tabu for women. Men only were allowed to worship him. In the shaman drum hammer of Horagállis looks bit like a cross. His hammer was feared because it could cause lightnings and horrible thunders. Lightning bolts could kill people and animals. Angry god could split mountains and cause floods. Male reindeer's were sacrificed for Horagállis also hammers were used as sacrificial gifts and often they were painted with blood to please the god. In northern Finland most famous worshiping place for Horagállis is island in Lapland called Ukonsaari in the Inari Lake. Island is remote place with rocky walls. It´s caves were common sacrificial places still in the 19th century.
Biegga-almmái the windman
In the shaman drum windman is a figure who is holding two shovels. Among eastern Saami tribes Biegga-almmái is called Ilmaris. This name is similar to god called Inmar that was worshiped by several Finno-Ugric tribes as the god of air. In Finnish mythology similar god was originally called Ilma and he later on became the heavenly blacksmith god Ilmarinen. It was believed that wind man was an invisible spirit who lived in the top of the mountains and rocky hills. Places where wind was always wild and free. Wind man had big impact to the life of the Saami´s who were foremost reindeer herders and the direction of the wind determinate the movements of the reindeer packs. Biegga-almmái was in charge of the weather and could create snow storms, hurricanes and harsh winds.
Leaibealmmái god of hunt
God of hunt Leaibealmmái was believed to live inside alder trees. Alders were sacred trees for the saami´s because of it´s red sap which represented blood. It was believed that Leaibealmmái controlled all gain except reindeer´s. Saami hunters dipped their arrows into red color that was made by boiling bark from the alder. These red arrows created a magical connection between hunters and the gain. This red color was also used to paint patterns to saami shaman drums.
Radien God of the Community
Radien was the sky god in the Saami mythology. He was also known as Veralden-Radien, Veralden Olmai, Tsorve-Radien (Radien with antlers), Mailmen Radien (Radien of the worlds), Kierfva-Radie, Ipmil, Jubmel and Ráddenáchhi. Radien was the god of community and he was worshiped by all people. Name Radien literally translates as a ruler and refers into an abstract invisible spirit. He did not personify any nature phenomenon´s. Radien represented human relationship. Radien also had a family of his own. His wife was called Ráddenáhkka. His daugher Rana Niejta was one of the spring goddesses and he had a son called Ráddenbárdni.
Radien was connected to fertility, reindeer´s, human relations, family and the world tree. There was a custom to plant trees to honor Radien. World tree was sometimes also seen as a symbol for the community (with humans, deities, animals and all spirits being connected together). Radien was connected to both life and death. According to some beliefs Radien was the one who greeted the death and would guide them through rebirth process. When Saami mythology got more influences from Christian stories Radien became equivalent to Christian god. He was also closely connected to birth. When child was conceived Radien sent the life and the spirit of the child to the womb where the earth goddess Máttaráhkka connected the soul into the body.
Radien was mainly worshiped in Sweden and Norway. Because Radien was god of fertility reindeer´s genitals were sacrificed for him. Sacrificing rituals were described to be bloody and it is possible that they were influenced by both Germanic customs and later on by Christianity. In Finland Radien was probably blended into the thunder god Horagállis/Ukko. In Finnish mythology Ukko was god of thunder, fertility and human relations.
Mánnu The Moon
There was lots of beliefs connected to the moon. Traditionally in Saami myths moon was seen as a masculine entity. Saami´s were talented astrologers and could tell from the position of the moon when was the best time to go hunting and fishing. One of the very common beliefs was that during an eclipse there was a troll in the skies who was eating the moon. There was also another explanation given for the eclipse that it was caused by a thief who painted the moon black so that he could do all evil deeds during the night without moon light giving him away. There was lots of suspicion towards moon. Saamis worshiped the sun as the giver of life so the moon was connected to winter, darkness and death.
Ruto god of diseases
Ruto (also known as Rota) was described to be the demon of diseases. In the shaman drum Ruto was a figure sitting on a horse. It was believed that Ruto was a sickness or an illness who arrived riding in the person and when the person was healed Ruto would ride away. In the healing rituals horses were sacrificed to Ruto and the sicknesses were conjured to leave the person and to go into the horse. For the saami´s Ruto was the personification of evil but he was not described as a god but more like as a minor demon. Later on with Christian influences Ruto became the ruler of Rotaimo, the underworld where all the evil spirits lived. In Saami folklore underworld was in the bottom of a bottomless lake.
Check out my reindeer video )O(
The Reindeer People
Saami´s are the native inhabitants of Lapland in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Kuola Peninsula in Russia. Saami land is a wide area which covers several Saami tribes and languages such as; Northern Saami, Koltta Saami, Inari Saami etc. Majority of the Saami's were fishermen, hunters and above all reindeer herders. Therefore reindeer is one of the most sacred animals in the Saami culture.
Taming the Wild Deer
Some other totem animals of the Saami´s were bears and birds but the reindeer was the most important. First inhabitants of what is now known as Finland were Saami tribes which arrived thousands and thousands years ago and many Finns today have Saami ancestry. These people were hunters and fishermen not reindeer herders. The reindeer business started app. 100 ACE around the time when the Saami´s tamed the wild deer which started the companionship between humans and the reindeer's. Earliest written documents of people owning reindeer's is from 900th century. Life style of the people got more intertwined to the reindeer herding. Saami´s got milk from the reindeer to drink, flesh of the reindeer to eat, reindeer's helped people to pull heavy things and people made clothes from the reindeer fur. In the 16th century there was a big change in the Saami culture and people started to measure their wealth according to the amount of the reindeer's. The ways of herding also changed from static to nomadic life style. Reason for this was that people ran out of food. They had fished all the lakes empty and there were no animals to hunt. People realized that by following the natural cycle of the reindeer they produced more offspring's. Herders started to follow the reindeer's to their mating sites and places where reindeer's gave birth. This life style change made Saami´s connection to reindeer's even more deeper.
Reindeer meat is very salty. It is food that you can survive in cold climate this is one of the reasons why reindeer's were important for the Saami´s who were used to harsh weather conditions. Samoyed tribes in Siberia still follow this nomadic lifestyle and the natural cycle of the reindeer. In Scandinavian countries herding became again static around 18th and 19th centuries because of political issued and drawing the lines of national borders. In many ways these political changes were harmful for the Saami´s especially what it came to the land rights. This is an issue that is still on the table today and relevant for the survival of the Saami lifestyle and culture.
The White Reindeer
There is a legend in Saami folklore about the white reindeer. Albino reindeer was the most magical reindeer. White reindeer was the leader of all the reindeer's. If a human would catch the white reindeer it would bring them luck, riches and eternal happiness. Totemic belief to the reindeer spirit was essential and was also one of the reasons for people to take specially good care for the reindeer's. In ancient Finland when a bear was killed the hunter prayed that the bear´s spirit would find it´s why home to the star sky. Saami´s had similar traditions and beliefs. When a reindeer was killed hunters and the herders prayed that the great reindeer spirit would take care of those reindeer's that were killed.
Great Reindeer Spirit
Only the best and most handsome reindeer's were sacrificed for the great reindeer spirit. One of the oldest traditions was to take the antlers of the reindeer and hang them to the top of the seita. Seita was a sacred grove of the Saami´s. An altar where people made sacrifices. They were usually large stone or tree formations.
Great reindeer's spirit was seen as a white reindeer or a hybrid between a man and a reindeer. In many cultures there has been deities who´v had antlers like Cernunnos in Celtic myths and pastoral god Pan in Greek legends. For the Saami´s everything in nature was holy and everything in animals was holy. All parts of the reindeer had magical properties. This included reindeer´s skin, fur, milk, flesh, hooves and especially the antlers because they were reaching to the skies and were directly connected to the universe. In rituals shaman dressed up into a coat made from a reindeer fur and wore antlers in his head. This was a way to connect with the great reindeer spirit. During the ritual shaman became one of the reindeer's and a servant to the great reindeer spirit. Saami people had very close relationship with nature. Bones were seen especially magical. Saami children were taught that when they found a dead animal they had to collect all the bones together and bury the animal. When the skeleton was completed the animal could continue it´s life in the afterlife. It was bad luck to bury a reindeer even if one of bones was missing.
Story of Myandash
Some of the saami tribes believed that they were descendants of the reindeer and in Saami mythology there are several stories about were-reindeer's. Kuola Saami´s are a Saami tribe that lives in Kuola Peninsula in Russia. Kuola Saami´s believed that they had an ancestor who was a reindeer shape sifter. His name was Myandash and his mother was a shaman and a Saami witch who had ability to transform herself as a reindeer. Myandash´s father was a real reindeer. Myandash lived with his mother in a tent that was completely made of reindeer fur and reindeer bones. When he was inside of the tent he was a human but when he stepped outside he turned into a reindeer. Outside the tent there was a river but there was not water in that river. It was filled with reindeer blood. Myandash and his mother lived in another realm. They lived in the world of the great reindeer spirit that was separated from the human world. Myandash got very lonely living in the tent and he told to his mother that he would like to have a human wife. Mother was not very pleased but she loved her son so she traveled to the earth and found her son a human wife. There are several versions telling what happened next. According to one story Myandash and his wife got many children and each time the children went outside the tent they turned into reindeer's. According to some versions Myandash wife also had ability to transform herself into a reindeer. There is a very totemic legend which tells that at one point Myandash got so in touch with his inner reindeer that he no longer wanted to be a human and did not return to the tent. Instead he would ran into the tundra and their children would follow him. His wife sacrificed a reindeer for the great reindeer spirit. While doing that she was sitting on the reindeer fur meditating and the spirit of Myandash entered inside her. It was believed that when the wife remarried the lineage of Myandash lived on among the Kuola Saami´s.
Kuola Saami´s hold this myth in great value still in the 1920´s and 1930´s but now days most people see it as a fable. In many totemic cultures where an animal has become a clan symbol. It usually started with stories about the animal father or the mother who had connection to humans. In northern Europe and northern Asia totem animals could were most often otters, lynxes, bears, wolves and birds. Animals that people saw around them every day and animals that had magical meanings to them. Sometimes totem animal represented the lifestyle of a certain tribe. Otter could have been a symbol for a tribe who lived next to water. Reindeer´s were totem animals for reindeer herders who felt connection to the earth and admired reindeer for it´s qualities.
The region of the Saami´s reaches from the northern coast of Norway to the Kuola Peninsula of Russia. There as many different pantheons as there are Saami tribes and Saami languages.
Áfruvvá – Mermaid. Only known in the coast of Ruija in Northern Norway.
Áhcešeatni (also known as Háhtežan) – One of the oldest goddesses in Saami mythology. Ruler of autumn, winter and the night time. Protector of wild deer. Goddess of shadows. In her early form, she was worshiped by hunters who prayed her for gain. Áhcešeatni was married to the cosmic bear and was the mother of the bear clan. In some stories, she is married to the moon. Sister of Njávešeatni the goddess of light.
Áhkku – (also known as Akka) Wife of Deirpmes (Tiermes) god of justice.
Beiwe – (also known as Beaivi) Personification of the sun. Sometimes Beiwe was portrayed as a female and sometimes as a male. When the sun was portrayed as a female she was connected to summer and fertility of the land. She had the ability to bring positivity to people who suffered from depression during dark winter months
Beaivvi Nieida – (also known as aurinkoneiti) The sun maiden. The female personification of the sun. White reindeers were sacrificed in her honor during winter time to welcome back the sun maiden.
Biegga-almmái, Bieggagállis, Tuulimies - Windman. God of the wind. Rituals performed for Biegga-almmai took place in a mountain top.
Boassoáhkká – Protector goddess of Boassu. Protector of food and possession.
Cáhcerávga (also known as Vesiraukka) – the Malicent spirit of a drowned person.
Cáhceálmmái, áhcolmmái - God of water and fishing.
Cáráhus – Trickster spirit who would make jokes on people while they were sleeping.
Deattán – Nightmare. Spirit that would press the chest of a person while they were sleeping. Appeared in a shape of an animal.
Gieddegeažegálgu – Goddess of witchcraft, shamanism and old knowledge. Guardian of morality.
Gorremaš, Guoržžu, Kortto, Koranus – Spirit of jealousy.
Gufihtar – Gnome-like creatures who lived underground. Also known as maahinen /ganes /ulda.
Horagállis, Äijjih (Inari Saami),Dearpmes (Northern Saami) Bájan (Ruija Saami) Áddjá, Hovregállis (southern Saami) - God of thunder, lightning and protector of reindeer´s.
Jábmiidáhkká – Powerful goddess who ruled the world of the death. Originally the Saami ´s believed that the spirits of the passed away relatives lived in the star sky and in the northern lights. Later on when belief system was more affected by Christianity home of the dead became a bottomless lake that lied deep inside the earth.
Jiehtanas – Giant
Juksáhkká – Goddess of the hunt, arrows, bows, protector of boys and men. Her name literally means bow-woman. Saami culture was originally a hunting culture where men had higher status than women. When a couple wanted to have a boy child they would leave offerings for Juksáhkká. She would bless the child by making them a skillful hunter.
Láváráddjá, Láváráhkku – Evil spirit that lives in a rock or a bush.
Leaibealmmái, Leppämies - God of the hunt who lived inside alder trees. The red color that people got from alder trees was used for painting the shaman drums and hunters arrow´s were dipped into it.
Lihatontta – Zombie-like creature. Living dead that was raised by a powerful shaman to revenge for them.
Luhtat/Luthakka – Wife of Staalo, the winter giant.
Mánnu - God of the moon.
Máttaráhkká – Goddess of all life. Mother of Sárahkká,Juksáhkká and Uksákká. Her three daughters lived in the ground underneath the kota the home tent. In the shaman drums, Máttaráhkká´s daughters are often painted to the end bottom of the drum. When the child was in the womb Máttaráhkká gave soul to the child which she received from the sky god Radien.
Njávešeatni (Njávežan, Naavisemo) – One of the primal goddesses of Saami mythology. Ruler of spring, summer, and daytime. Protector of life. Goddess of bugs, butterflies and reindeer´s. In the oldest layer of mythology Njávešeatni was the spouse of the cosmic moose and was the mother goddess of the moose clan. Sister of Áhcešeatni goddess of darkness.
Ráddenáhcci, Radien, Veralden-Radien, Veralden Olmai, Tsorve-Radien (sarvi-Radien), Mailmen Radien, Kierfva-Radien - God of the sky, community and justice. God of fertility. Protector of reindeer´s.
Radienaimo – Thanks to Catholism old pagan worldview of the saami´s changed and radienaimo became an equivalent place of Christian concept of heaven.
Rotaimo – an Equavelent place to Christian concept of hell. The idea that did not exist in the original pagan belief system. Most often Rotaimo was described to be in a bottomless lake (natural lakes that have a fake bottom and an actual bottom are very common in Lapland).
Rutto, Rohttu – Spirit who brings diseases. Often appears in the form of a black cat or a rat.
Saivo Niejta – (also known as Saivoneito) Guardian of the underworld who lives in the waters of the bottomless lake.
Sala Nijta – Daughter of Beiwe the sun. Goddess of spring who had the ability to melt snow and frost away. Sárahkká - Sárahkká was one of the three daughters of Máttarahkká. She was the protector of girls and women and would protect them througout their lives. Sárahkka´s job was to grow the flesh around the child when they were in the womb. She was the goddess of childbirth and after successful labour people would sacrifice special porridge to her.
Seita - Worshiping place, altar located in nature. Seita´s are usually stone formations.
Servge-edni – Goddess of spring.
Skoarru – Spirit of jealousy. Bringer of bad luck.
Skunka (also known as Mörkö) – Boogeyman that lives behind the oven or a rock.
Staalo (also known as stállu) – Origins of Staalo are ancient. He was an evil giant and the representation of the unknown darkness.
Uksákka - The Door Woman. Uksákka was one of the three daughters of Máttarahkká. She protected the child so that they would not hurt themselves. She was the guardian of home and the goddess of entries. In the human residents she watched over doors and windows and even within the animal kingdom she was the guardian of the entries to bird nests, bee hives, caves and other animal homes.
Veaiga – Doubleganger that appears in front of a person to warn them about approaching danger.
Vuovru – Evil giant-like spirit
You can find some of my Saami myths inspired paintings printed on t-shirts and tops here )O(
Sarahkka is one of the four goddesses of life. Cradle where the baby lays is called komsio.
Dreamcatchers are iconic, well-known symbols within Native American cultures. Tradition of dreamcatchers originates from the Ojibwa tribe. For the Ojibwa dreamcatcher symbolizes natural wisdom. Ojibway is the name of the tribe in Canada, the name of the American tribes is Chippewa. Ojibwas reside in southern Canada in Manitoba and Ontario and in the states of Michigan and Wisconsin. Dreamcatchers were originally made of twigs of the willow tree. Twigs were gathered fresh and they were pulled into a spiral or a circle. Web was made of the thread stalk of stingin nettle. Ojibwas decorated their dreamcatchers with bird feathers found from the ground and gemstones. Bad dreams get caught into the web and when morning sun rays touch the web the bad dreams get destroyed and good dream go through the holes. It is recommended to hang the dream catcher above ones bed. Once the good dreams travel through the holes they gently fall down throught the ribbons and feathers to the mind of the dreamer. Good dreams know their way in. Bad dreams get tangled and perish.
According to the myth the Ojibwa clans used to live in a place called Turtle Island. Their protector goddess was Asibikaashi, the spider woman. In the myth Asibikaashi helped to bring the sun deity Giizis back to the people. She built a special lodge before the dawn. It was completely made of spider web. Asibikaashi catches the sunlight (Giizis) into the sparkling dew drops. Ojibwa nations grew larger and Asibikaashi had difficulties to keep track on everyone so Ojibwa women; mothers, sisters and Nokomi (the grandmothers) decided to help her. They started to weave magical webs into willow loops. First dream catchers were hanged above baby cradles. Air playing with the feathers was entertainment for the newborns.
The round shape of the dream catcher represents the sun goddess Giizis who travels across the sky each day. Gemstone in the middle of the web is the symbol of the great spirit, who´s energy flows in every living being. Gemstones have become so rare that the modern day Ojibwas don´t tend to use them anymore in their dream catchers. Eight knots that tight the web into the hoop are the eight legs of the spider woman. Sometimes feather is added into the middle of the dream catcher. Feather symbolizes air. Owl´s feather is known as the woman´s feather and it stands for the ”keeper of wisdom”. Eagle´s feather is known as the man´s father and it symbolizes courage. Not all Ojibwa dream catchers are round, one can also find tear-shaped dream catcher. Shape of the tear symbolizes the dew that Asibikaashi collected.
How to initiate your dream catcher
I am a big fan of dream catchers and I love making them. You can basically create a dream catcher from anything and they come in all shapes and forms. Ojibwas initiated their dream catchers in a ceremony and you can do the same. Lit a sage and let the smoke go through your dream catcher (you can cleanse your bedroom at the same time). While you are doing this visualize what kind of dreams you wish your dream catcher to bring to you. In the end of the ceremony thank the Spider woman for bringing you peaceful dreams.
Birth Of The Horse
In Finnish folklore first horse was called Iku-Tihku. Trolls created Iku-Tihku in their underground forge. Like many other Eurasian people, Finno-Ugric tribes believed that there were three levels in the world and all those levels were connected to each other through the world tree. These levels were called: Ylinen, Keskinen and Alinen. Ylinen the upper world was the place where the highest of the spirits and most respected gods lived (in some cases it was also believed to be the state where the re-birth process started). Keskinen the middle world was the natural world (our physical world) where humans and animals lived together with all deities that ruled the elements. Alinen the underworld was a place, where the spirits of the dead lived. Alinen, however, was not like the Christian hell. It was a place where spirits waited their turn to be reborn again.
Iku-Tihku was a creature of Alinen. It was completely made of fire and ice. Iku-Tihku was also a shaman and it could travel between these three worlds (which also represent the three levels of consciousness) but it only could visit Keskinen, the middle world during the winter because it would melt in any other season. Trolls used Iku-Tihku as their model when they created all other horses but they were made of stone, steel and iron so that they could live in Keskinen all year round if they wished to.
From Hiisi is the horse´s origin, from the mountain- the splendid foal´s in a room with a door of fire, in a smithy with an iron ridge, it´s head was made of stone, it´s hoofs of rock, it´s legs were formed from iron, it´s back was made of steel (Source: magic songs of the Finns)
Tahvatar The Horse Goddess
n Finnish mythology, each animal and plant species have their own emuu. Emuu is old Finnish and means mother. Emuu was a mythical creature. The first specimen of the particular specie. Emuu´s exists in myths of Finns, Saami´s and Latvians. In Finland, many of the Emuu´s were believed to be half-human half-animals and often they were represented as female goddesses. Emuu of horses was a goddess called Tahvatar. There aren´t many myths left about Tahvatar. It is believed that she was very similar to Gallo-Roman goddess Epona. Tahvatar was a shapeshifter and could transform herself into a horse. In Finland, there was a custom to say Tahvatar´s blessings for horses before they were let to the fields during the spring.
Horses in Finnish Folklore Video
Pronounced as Nee-na.
Artist, illustrator, writer, watercolorist and a folklorist. Gryffinclaw. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea and period dramas.
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