Seite Bilden kommer från Gustaf Hallströms bildsamling. Forskningsarkivet, Umeå universitet.
Picture from the Gustaf Hallström photo collection. The Scientific Archives, Umeå university.

Sieidi - Sejte - Cult images

Sieidi is a Northern Sami word meaning 'cult images', and refers to objects such as rocks, cliffs or entire mountains situated at strategic locations for the hunter, fisherman or reindeer herder. People made offerings from their hunting or fishing haul at sieidi, either collectively or individually, particularly at the beginning of the hunting and fishing season.

When Sami passed a sieidi with their reindeer herd, they would make an offering in the form of a coin or some other object of value. In Southern Sami, such objects were called viero- or sjiele-gierkie, which translates as a tribute or gift stone, meaning an offering.

Our information indicates that the cult of sieidi places was a common Sami phenomenon. A sieidi should be viewed as a symbol of the ruler, the divine spirit believed to watch over an area's flora and fauna, and as such marked a primitive shrine. Wooden figures that had been made and left at offering places, dedicated to other deities, are also referred to as sieidi in the literature. In Southern Sami, such a wooden image was called a viero-moere, or wooden offering. The term sieidi has become a general term for "Sami gods".

The sieidi tradition appears to have lived on longest in the northernmost Sami region. While there are very few stories of holy places in the old southern Lapp counties, there is a wealth of them in areas such as Finnmark in Norway and in northern Finland. The practice of giving a gift when passing a sieidi is also said to be still alive; coins and reindeer antlers were found at a sieidi in the Finnmark wilds as recently as 1994. It is open to debate whether this bears witness to an offering or simply tradition. Some lakes, waterfalls, cold wells and calm waterways could also be viewed as sacred, where offerings would be made.

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