It often takes a trained eye to discover Sami remains. Many of them have been reclaimed by nature. Most known remains are to be found along the old migration routes and consist of encampments, with or without remains of buildings, basement pits and reindeer corrals. Here is a picture of what an offering place might have looked like. Photo: Michael Teilus

Gods and Goddesses

Everything in nature had a spirit. It was important to live in peace with the Rulers of Nature that lived side by side with the humans. Every ruler had his area or animal species. These divine spirits and gods shared their riches with the humans and gave them gifts and game, but they could also withdraw their game if the humans did not behave properly and broke the existing rules.

In the Sami world view, the world was divided into three spheres: the celestial world, the real world and the underworld. All three were populated by gods and divine spirits. Human beings and animals also inhabited the earthly world and the dead inhabited the underworld.

The highest gods
The highest gods, who had created the world, lived in the celestial world: Rádienáhttje, who is also known as Värálda ráde, and his wife Rádienáhkká and their son. Rádienáhttje was the creator of the human child's soul, which he then gave to Máttaráhkká, the first ancestress. An offering post was raised every autumn in Rádienáhttje's honour. This symbolised the world pillar, which was believed to stretch up from the earth to the pole star and hold up the sky.

The Sun and Thunder
Various natural phenomena were also considered to be divine, such as the sun, the moon, thunder and the wind. These were life-giving and had both a good and an evil side. The sun, Biejvve, was a central goddess who gave life to all creatures. She provided light, warmth and vegetation. The thunder, Horagalles or Dierpmis, gave rain which caused the ground to turn green, and with his bow, the rainbow, he drove away evil spirits and trolls. The thunder could also rage and be dangerous to people and animals. The Sami prayed to him so that he would not cause forest fires or harm people or reindeer.

The goddesses of the home were the first ancestress, Máttaráhkká, and her three daughters: Sáráhkká, Uksáhkká and Juoksáhkká. They lived with the people in their huts. The goddesses had important duties during pregnancy and childbirth. Máttaráhkká received the child's soul from Rádienáhttje and passed it on to Sáráhkká, who placed it in the womb.

  • Sáráhkká protected the women during pregnancy and helped during childbirth. She also protected the reindeer cows during calving. Sáráhkká was the best loved of all the gods, and was worshipped by both men and women. She was the protectress of the home and lived in the fireplace.
  • People made an offering to Juoksáhkká if they wanted to have a boy. This is because the Sami believed that all foetuses started out as girls. Juoksáhkká lived furthest into the hut, where the drum and the hunting weapons were stored.
  • Uksáhkká received the child at birth and protected the child when it took its first steps, so that it did not fall and hurt itself. She lived under the hut door and protected the people as they went in or out.

Gods of the wilderness
The god of hunting, Liejbbeålmåj (the god of blood or alder), ruled over the wild animals in the forest. The Sami made offerings to him so that they would have good luck when hunting. Tjáhtjeålmåj (the god of water) ruled over water and lakes and gave luck when fishing.

Pictures remain
The gods were eventually replaced by the Christian God. But the pictures remained since they were painted on the drums. Stories about supernatural beings and helpers remain in memory. Their names are often used by organizations, institutions and such. Drum symbols are used on utensils and handicraft even today. For some these are strong symbols, while others cherish the esthetic value. Several Sami words and concepts that were once holy, are used today without any connotation to religion. är en webbplats för dig som vill veta mer om samerna och sápmi.

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