The Sami hut and its inhabitants

If you ever had the opportunity to make a visit to a Sami hut where the Sami family was gathered around the fire place, you would probably look at the family and think these are all the inhabitants of this hut. But there are also other inhabitants in the goathi.

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One group is Máttáráhkká and her three daughters. Máttáráhkká dwells under the goahti, Sáráhkká is under the fire, Juksáhkká and Uksáhkká are both near the goahti´s main door. Boasso-áhkká also resides under the goahti, on the opposite side of the main door. From there she holds an eye on the men’s secret things and place.

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At least this is what the Sami family believes.

Sáráhkká is the most important soul of the home. She molds the body that grows around a child’s soul inside the mother. She helps a mother to give birth, and aids with the womb. Sáráhkká is very popular; she should always have a part of all food that was eaten in the hut (goahti). The Sami people were told to give her a lot to drink.

Juksáhkká can make an unborn child male, but she demands great gifts. She also instructs boys in the necessary tasks of men.

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Uksáhkká helps newborns. She protects the young children from illnesses and keeps children from harm.

So, the goahti is not simply an ordinary living space and a place to stay over night in. It is also a ceremonial place, a sacred site, and the center of the world. Thought the goahti’s smoke hole, you see the star world; the North Star, the Holy Moon and Beaivvás (the Sun). The Sami move crofter from one place to another, migrating with reindeer herds and go fishing in other places. Their center of the world, the goahti, moves with them, their home is dwelling in their hearts.

According to the Sami stories the holy spirits are always with them wherever they go.

The Lapland War

The Lapland War was fought between Finland and Germany from September 1944 to April 1945 in Finland’s northernmost Lapland Province. A peculiarity of the war was that the Finnish Army was forced to demobilize their forces while at the same time fighting to force the German Army to leave Finland. German forces retreated to Norway, and Finland managed to uphold its obligations under the Moscow Armistice, although it remained formally at war with the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the British Dominions until the formal conclusion of the Continuation War was ratified by the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty.

The Moscow Armistice was signed between Finland on one side and the Soviet Union and United Kingdom on the other side on September 19, 1944, ending the Continuation War. The Armistice restored the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940, with a number of modifications.

Finland was obliged to cede parts of Karelia and Salla, as well as certain islands in the Gulf of Finland. The new armistice also handed all of Petsamo to the Soviet Union, and Finland was further compelled to lease Porkkala to the Soviet Union for a period of fifty years (the area was returned to Finnish control in 1956).

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Germany and Finland had been at war with the Soviet Union since June 1941, co-operating closely in the Continuation War. However, as early as the summer of 1943, the German High Command began making plans for the eventuality that Finland might make a separate peace agreement with the Soviet Union. The Germans planned to withdraw their forces northward in order to shield the nickel mines near Petsamo.

During the winter of 1943–1944, the Germans improved the roads from northern Norway to northern Finland by extensive use of prisoner of war (POW) labour in certain areas. Casualties among these POWs were high, in part because many of them had been captured in southern Europe and were still in summer uniform. In addition, the Germans surveyed defensive positions and made plans to evacuate as much material as possible from the region and made meticulous preparations for withdrawing their forces. On 9 April 1944, the German withdrawal was named “Operation Birke”. 

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A change of Finnish leadership in early August 1944 led the Germans to believe that Finland would attempt to achieve a separate agreement with the Soviet Union. The Finnish announcement of the ceasefire triggered frantic efforts in the German 20th Mountain Army, which immediately started Operation Birke and other material evacuations from Finland. Large amounts of materiel were evacuated from southern Finland and harsh punishments were set for any hindering of the withdrawal. Finnish forces, which included the 3rd, 6th, and 11th divisions, the armoured division as well as the 15th and Border Jaeger brigades, were moved to face the Germans.

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The cease fire agreement between Finland and the Soviet Union contained requirements that the Finns break diplomatic ties with Germany and publicly demand the withdrawal of all German troops from Finland by 15 September 1944. Any troops remaining after the deadline were to be disarmed and handed over to the Soviet Union. Even with the massive efforts of the Germans in Operation Birke, this proved impossible, with the Finns estimating it would take the Germans three months to fully evacuate. The task was further complicated by the Soviet demand that the major part of Finland’s armed forces be demobilized, even as they attempted to conduct a military campaign against the Germans. With the exception of the inhabitants of the Tornio area, most of the civilian population of Lapland (totaling 168,000 people) was evacuated to Sweden and Southern Finland. The evacuation was carried out as a cooperative effort between the German military and Finnish authorities prior to the start of hostilities.

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From the start of the war the Germans had been systematically destroying and mining the roads and bridges as they withdrew. However, after the first real fighting took place the German commander, General Lothar Rendulic, issued several orders with regards to destroying Finnish property in Lapland.

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On 6 October a strict order was issued which named only military or militarily important sites as targets. On 8 October, after the result of the fighting in Tornio and the Kemi region became obvious, the Germans made several bombing raids, targeting factory areas of Kemi and inflicting heavy damage on them. However, on 9 October the demolition order was extended to include all governmental buildings with the exception of hospitals. On 13 October, all habitable structures, including barns, though making an exception for hospitals and churches, were ordered to be destroyed north of the line running from Ylitornio via Sinettä (the small village ~20 km NWN of Rovaniemi) to Sodankylä (including the listed settlements) in northern Finland. Though it made sense from the German perspective to do this to deny pursuing forces from getting any shelter it had a very limited effect on the Finns who, unlike the Germans, always carried tents with them and did not require any existing shelter.

At Rovaniemi the Germans initially concentrated mainly on destroying governmental buildings but once fire got loose several more were destroyed. German attempts to fight the fire, however, failed and a train loaded with ammunition caught fire at Rovaniemi railroad station on 14 October resulting in a massive explosion which caused further destruction as well as spreading the fire throughout the primarily wooden buildings of the town. German attempts to fight the fire had failed by the time, on 16 October, they abandoned the now ruined town to the advancing Finns.

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In their retreat the German forces under General Lothar Rendulic devastated large areas of northern Finland with scorched earth tactics. As a result, some 40–47% of the dwellings in the area were destroyed, and the provincial capital of Rovaniemi was burned to the ground, as were the villages of Savukoski and Enontekiö. Two-thirds of the buildings in the main villages of Sodankylä, Muonio, Kolari, Salla and Pello were demolished, 675 bridges were blown up, all main roads were mined, and 3,700 km of telephone lines were destroyed.

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The Sun is one of the most important spirits of the Sami

The sun eclipse last Friday (on March 20th) got me inspired to tell you about the sun in the Sami history.
Sami call the sun Beaivi or Beaivvás. The sun is one of the most important spirits or Gods of the Sami. In drawings on Sami drums there is often Beaivvás in the middle of the drum. The Sun can be drawn round, as we are used to see it, but also the four-cornered drum-picture with reigns of light drawn in four directions is interpreted to be the Sun.

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The Sun is always important to the Sami. In Enontekiö in the north of Finland in old times a cake was baked of meal and reindeer blood. At the end of winter, this cake was placed outside against the wall, as an offering to Beaivvás. This offering was thought to bring good fortune in reindeer herding. The Sami asked the Sun to shine to give light to wanderers in the mountains, to seafarers and to herders searching for lost reindeer.

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There is also a Sami story about a woman named Mariska, and a priest who tried to convert Mariska to Christianity.
The priest says, “My poor child, you are now the only pagan left in this region”. Mariska agrees and turns around and sends a kiss to the Sun. She answers, “When you are old like me, you will like the warm Gods”. The priest continues: “But what happens, when the Sun disappears in the winter, behind the clouds?” “One of Beaivvás´ sons sits upon my wood oven. I give him firewood to eat.”, replies Mariska.
“I thought that wood is also one of your Gods. I have seen how respectfully you treat the bark and use it in your handcrafts. How can you put your God in the fire?”, asks the priest. “Only a God is worthy to be food for another God”, answered Mariska, and then she explained that she prefers a God that can be cut down, like a tree, instead of a God she cannot see nor touch.
The story tells Mariska eventually turned into Christianity, but she still continued to worship the Sun.
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The Germans in Rovaniemi, the evacuation and the reconstruction

First a little background information. It is not easy to understand the different movements and how the enemies changed during an era of a few years. I am not trying to make an over all description of the war’s consequences here, but only to explain the efforts the local people of Lapland had to take caused by the steps taken during the Lapland War in 1944-1945.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the majority of the world’s nations—including all of the great powers. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries.
During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939–1940 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland; and in the Continuation War of 1941–1944, following Operation Barbarossa, in which Germany had invaded the Soviet Union. After fighting a major Soviet offensive in June/July 1944 to a standstill, Finland reached an armistice with the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–1945, when Finland fought against the retreating German forces in northern Finland.
German operations in Finland expanded further upon the outbreak of the Continuation War, to the extent that there were already as many as 64 command stations in Rovaniemi in January 1942, employing over 3,000 people, mainly Germans. It is estimated that some 6,000 German soldiers were stationed in the town at that time, plus the Austrians, Dutch, Estonians and Swedes, who were working for them. That was a big amount of foreigners considering that the town officially had 8,200 Finnish inhabitants, many of whom were at the front. Almost every village in the rural district had German depots and other types of German military activity. There were at least 200,000 German soldiers in Lapland during a time of four years, from 1940-1944.
The presence of the Germans in Rovaniemi had a considerable impact on the local economy, reflected in the form of a continuous shortage of labour, a doubling in wage levels compared with other parts of Finland. There were a continued rationing and a lack of accommodations, which similarly caused rents to double. The Germans for their part, sold liquor to the local people, which is one reason why Rovaniemi at that time had the worse crime statistics i Finland. The drinking caused drunkenness as well as thefts and other crimes among the inhabitants.

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Although the behavior and customs of the Germans departed from what the local people had been accustomed to, daily interaction established close personal relations not only between the military and civil leaders, but also at other levels. The population was in general well disposed towards these alien troops and the local people even came to like the Germans. Many of the local people would have learnt at least the rudiments of German language, and some far more. Although most of the local women were unenthusiastic about the Germans, and the German military leaders specifically forbade marriage with the Finns, some Finno-German offspring (=illegitimate child) were born. Women, who gave birth to a Finno-German child had unfortunately no good reputation and many of them chose to leave Finland together with the German soldiers and go to Germany. They dreamed of a family and a better life there, but it happened they returned disappointed after some years. The Finnish government questioned these women as if they had been German spies during the war, before they could return to their homestead. It happened some women even found out their German soldier already was married in Germany and had a family, and so they saw no possibility to stay without a job and someone to support them and had to return home to Finland.

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When the Germans took over responsibility for the northern front, the local men were transferred to the main Finnish forces of the Karelian Isthmus and other fronts, where a total of 377 of them eventually died in action.

Finlands War

When Finland signed an armistice with the Soviet Union, problems were immediately expected with regard to the withdrawal of the German troops from the country. With this in mind, orders were given on 7.9.1944 for the whole of Lapland to be evacuated. Transports from Rovaniemi began on 16.9. and were completed in 22.9; in a week’s time (!). Since people from the rest of Lapland were also passing southwards through Rovaniemi and the Germans were moving northwards at the same time, all roads and railway lines were unbelievably congested. In the course of one week a total of 20,000 people moved from Rovaniemi to northern Sweden and 4,500 south to Ostrobotnia in Finland. They usually took their horses and cows with them, but slaughtered most of the sheep and pigs before leaving. Only a few men remained encamped in the woods to see how things would turn out. Some men were taken as prisoners of the Germans when found.
One man, who stayed in Rovaniemi during the evacuation, was Johan Moilanen. He had worked at a saw mill in Rovaniemi before the war. He had earned enough money to buy a little wooden house in Rovaniemi, on Vartiokatu, and the family had moved there. then he worked on the newly built Children´s Home as a caretaker. He managed to stay in Rovaniemi during the destruction, even though everyone thought he was evacuated, and he survived and had also in a strange way managed to negotiate with the German Army leaders that they should not burn down the house of Johan Moilanen and the Children´s Home on Ounasvaara. And so these houses were preserved from the Germans´ demolish.
As the evacuation began in September 1944, people tried to take all their most valuable possessions with them, as no one knew, whether they would ever be able to return. The official restrictions were to take as little as possible, but people still carried enormous numbers of packages to the railway station. The last evacuation train left Rovaniemi on September 23rd 1944. Surprisingly lot of the packages found their way back to Rovaniemi also after the evacuation.

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The largest armed engagement between the Germans and the Finns in the Rovaniemi area was at Taipaleenkylä on October 12-14th, when the Finns failed in their attempt to intercept the rear of the German forces and 60 Finns were killed in the operation. During the Lapland War as a whole 1,300 men were killed. Over 90 % of the buildings in the villages Rovaniemi, Savukoski, Inari and Enontekiö were destroyed.

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The German began to destroy the town to the ground on October 10th, first demolishing the manor house of Konttinen and finally burning down the church on October 16th. The Germans usually left the churches untouched when ravaging the villages of Lapland, but in Rovaniemi the last thing they did before they left was to set fire to the church. They also destroyed the churches of Kemijärvi, Enontekiö and Turtola. A regiment led by Lieutenant Colonel Wolf H. Halsti tried to intercept the Germans north of Korkalovaara on October 16th, but was too late.
Within a couple of days they had also left the area of Rovaniemi, at which point the first demobilized Finns from the front began to drift back to the ruins of their home villages. The people who returned immediately after the war had to live for some time in cellars and temporary huts and temporary buildings.
Rovaniemi had been an idyllic village with wooden houses still in autumn 1939. Five years later there were only ashes and ruins left of the buildings.
The Germans destroyed 548 houses, 96 private commercial buildings and nine public buildings in Rovaniemi. Slightly over a hundred buildings in Rovaniemi were not totally destructed, although many of them were damaged. Almost all schools in the rural district were also destroyed. The outbuildings were also destroyed, as were most of the roads and bridges. Most of the villages on the lower reaches of the River Kemijoki below the borough survived. In Lapland as many as 14,779 buildings were destroyed.
The first civilians returned in spring 1945, the granting of return permits having been delayed until the area had been cleared of land mines and other explosives. The borough of Rovaniemi was declared safe by the end of June and the rural district by the end of July, although explosives were still found in some places in the following years, and are still found now and then during constructing works.

About 200 civilians and 54 men working with mine eliminations in Lapland were killed by mines after the war. All the local people had arrived back by the end of September, apart from 279 who had died in the course of the strenuous journey into exile.
The sight which the returning inhabitants saw as they came to Rovaniemi was only ruins and ashes. Of the houses there were only the chimneys left. Rovaniemi was for some time called “The Chimney Cape”.

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It was decided in March 1945 that the town plan should be completely renewed, a task that was assigned to the celebrated architect Alvar Aalto.
Among the first new buildings were locals for the provincial administration, dwelling houses and a number of schools. The new church, built partly with help from Lutherans in America, was inaugurated on 20.8.1950, but the Ounaskoski and Suutarinkorva bridges, which were important for traffic passing through Rovaniemi, were only completed in 1951. As all the bridges over the Kemijoki River had been destroyed, a temporary trestle bridge was built over the rapids of Ounaskoski at the point where the Lumberjack’s Candle bridge stands today. Even the trains ran on tracks laid on the frozen River Ounasjoki for two winters. On October 13th 1944 a train full of ammunition exploded on the railway station of Rovaniemi and the fire spread to big parts of the city.

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You can learn more about the Lapland War and the Germans in Rovaniemi if you visit the Arktikum, the Provincial Museum of Lapland in Rovaniemi and the exhibition about the Lapland War. There will also be a temporary exhibition about the Germans´ presence in Lapland from 1940 until the Lapland War started. ”WIR WAREN FREUNDE – WE WERE FRIENDS” – The Encounters of Germans and Finns in Lapland during 1940-1944 –exhibition opens on the 27th of April 2015, 70 years since the Lapland War ended. The exhibition lasts until January 10th, 2016. With this exhibition Rovaniemi tries to exploit the sad memories of the Lapland War to attract more visitors to the city. Especially Germans are expected to be interested.

Finland and Lapland received gifts of clothing and food from the United States. Some American Quakers lived in Rovaniemi from Christmas 1945 onwards to make sure that the help reached its right destination. In addition, the Evangelical-Lutheran parishes in the United States assisted in the building of a new church to replace the one burnt down by the Germans.
Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President of the United States, visited Lapland on June 11th 1950 to witness the reconstruction work in person. In honor of the occasion, the governor Uuno Hannula and the mayor Lauri Kaijalainen, assisted by Jarl Sundqvist, forest manager of the Forest Company Kemi, had a log cabin built at the place where the Arctic Road crossed the Arctic Circle. This can be regarded as having laid the foundation for post-war tourism in Rovaniemi.

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The cabin provided for Eleanor Roosevelt soon became too small to cope with the number of visitors, and the Borough Council started to build a new Arctic Circle cottage. In 1984 this was again extended further to create a whole Santa Claus Village with shops and cafés and a post office. The Santa’s Official Post Office frank letters and cards with the Arctic Circle motif and you can visit Santa Claus himself every day of the year today.

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The Sami story about the Northern Lights and Niekija, the daughter of the Moon

Last autumn and this winter have been active periods for Northern Lights. I have, myself, seen the most spectacular Northern Lights in October and November, but I have not got the camera equipment so I could take my own pictures, yet. I have to look at pictures taken by other people, and also use those in my blog. There has been activity during winter and kaamos time, too, but often it has happened when there was a cloudy sky in Rovaniemi and the chances to see Northern Lights have not been so good for a while now.
Instead I have been fascinated reading ancient stories about the Samis and the Northern Lights. The story about Niekija is one of them.
Northern Lights are called Guovssahasat in Sami language. There is a possibility to see the Norther Lights during approx. 100 nights a year. The Samis used to think that the Northern Lights were living beings with a soul and ability to hear and understand the humans. The Skolt Samis belive the lights are souls of people who were killed in a war. Other Samis believe the Northern Lights are gas coming up from the seas or the lakes. In the northern Finland people used to think the Northern Lights were made by the Fire-fox running over the lands swinging its red tail around it.

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In the old days the women did not dare to go out without a hat or a cloth on their head. They were afraid their hair could catch fire from the Fire-fox. The Samis imagined they could hear the Northern Lights talk. During the faster movements of the Norther Lights no-one was allowed to make noises or talk loud. And you could not point them with your finger either. If you insulted the Norther Lights you could be attacked by them and punished.
A long time ago there were two reindeer herders in Lapland. They were brothers. The younger brother was killed by the Northern Lights, the Guovssahasat, because he had made too much noise with his yoiking and he had insulted and teased the Northern Lights. They came down on him and killed him.

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The Northern Lights come in different shapes and colors and they also appear in different places of the sky. You can also predict the coming weather from them. High Northern Lights formed like ribbons above your head predict a switch in the weather conditions.

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Flaming Northern Lights high up in the sky predict mild weather and snowfall. If you can see them only in the north direction they predict a coming cold weather. The red color predicts warmer weather and the white tells you it is going to be cold.

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In old times the moon was named Aske in Sami land. Nowadays it is called Mánnu. The Samis tell a story about Niekija, the daughter of the moon, who fell in love with the Northern Lights. She was very pretty with a round face and red cheeks and her hair had the color of silver. The story tells she shined and glittered when she moved.
One day the Sun, Beaivvás, heard about this daughter of the Moon and how beautiful she was. The Sun thought his son, Peivalken, should travel to the land of the Moon and ask Niekija to be his wife. As soon as Peivalken saw the beautiful Niekija he immediately fell in love with her. He asked her: “Would you, my beautiful, fair maiden, try my golden boots on?” Niekija was shy and got all red in her face by the question from Peivalken, but she still tried his boots on. But the boots were hot and burned the toes of Niekija! “Oh, how these boots burn and hurt me!” cried Niekija and run away.

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Niekija escapes and hides herself and waited for the nightfall, when Mánnu, the Moon, would travel the skies. Mánnu takes her to an island, where there was a kota, a goahti, where she could rest. But suddenly, at midnight, someone comes in to the goahti! It was a group of youngsters, led by the famed Náinnas, the Northern Lights. Náinnas moved around the dark walls in the goahti. His shadows shined like silver. He could feel there was someone looking at him from inside the goahti. So he cried out: “Whoever you are, show yourself to me! If you are an old woman, you are probably my mother and if you are the same age as me you must be my sister. If you are younger than me, you are my future fiancée!” And Niekija answers: “It is only me! Here I am!” And in that moment the first rays of the morning star gently pass through the goahti and Náinnas got a close look at Niekija for the first time.

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Náinnas immediately falls in love with Niekija and asks her to marry him and Niekija accepts to be the wife of Náinnas, the Northern Lights. The life together with Náinnas was lonely for Niekija in the evenings, because Náinnas had to go to his brothers in the north, to the home of the Northern Lights, every night and run and play like flames together over the skies. Niekija would have liked to spend the evenings together with Náinnas in the goahti. She sat in the kota alone and fabricated a blanket from reindeer hides.

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She made embroideries with the Milky Way and other stars. When ready she put the blanket up in the roof of the goahti so she could see the stars twinkling in the dark sky. The next morning Náinnas did not want to get up. He stayed in the bed looking at the stars and he never understood, that it was time for him to go and play with his brothers in his old home.

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Niekija got up early and went out but she forgot to close the door behind her. At that moment Beaivvás, the Sun, rises early behind the mountains; red with flames. The Sun’s rays finally reached the open door of the goahti and woke up Náinnas with his golden eyes. Náinnas wakes up and realize it is already morning. He could see the Bear was already pulling the Sun along the sky path. The story goes that the Sun is pulled by the Bear in the morning. In the middle of the day a Hirvas, male reindeer, is pulling him and in the evening a Vaadin, female reindeer, is pulling the Sun along the path of the sky. (Ursa major=the big bear)

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Náinnas wants to run away to his brothers to tell them it is time to return home already, but the Sun is waiting for him and presses him to the earth with his burning rays. Niekija throw herself upon Náinnas to prevent the Sun to manage to keep Náinnas down. And now Náinnas manages to escape from the rays of the Sun. But the Sun grabs the hair of Niekija and held her captive. After that the Sun calls for Peivalken, his son. But Niekija started to scream she hated Peivalken. She also screams to the Sun: “You may kill me if you wish, but I will never be the wife of Peivalken!” This got the Sun really furious and so he banished Niekija back to Mánnu, the Moon, her mother. Mánnu took Niekija into her arms and protected her. Niekija stayed with her mother, Mánnu. Niekija continues to watch the sky and the Northern Lights for ever; she never more takes her eyes from Náinnas. Here ends the story.

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Sami traditional joiking and the story of Akanidi, the daughter of the sun

joik (also spelled yoik), is a traditional Sami form of song. Originally, joik referred to only one of several Sami singing styles, but in English the word is often used to refer to all types of traditional Sami singing. According to music researchers, joik is one of the longest living music traditions in Europe, and is the folk music of the Sami people. Joiking is the Sami way of singing. The Samis call the western way of singing lavlodh. Here is a link where you can find a lot of interesting information about Samis and joiks among other things. 

Here a map illustrating the Sami areas in the Nordic countries. There are Samis in both Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. They all feel related, even if they speak different Sami languages, and they have never consider borders to be anything more than some lines drawn on paper.

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The sound of a joik is comparable to the traditional chanting of some Native American cultures. With the Christianization of the Sami, joiking was condemned as sinful. Today joiking is still alive and is also used as a source of inspiration and an element in contemporary Sami music. Joik is traditionally chanted a cappella, but joiks today may be accompanied by a drum (though not a Sami drum which is used for ceremonial purposes only!) or other musical instruments. 

Joiking has not always been appreciated as a form of music, however. At one time it was not even called music. As early as 1609, the king of Denmark and Norway, Christian IV, announced that anyone practising Sami witchcraft would be sentenced to death. The Church viewed joiking as witchcraft, right up until recently. There are still people living who consider that you should not chant a joik in a church. 

The Sami world view is based on shamanism. The joik creates an emotional bond between people, animals and nature. The Samis explain: “We don’t joik about something, as you do when you sing. We say that we joik something. Then we become a part of what we are joiking.” 

Inga-MaaritNowadays the Sami joik is not condemned anymore by the royalties of Norway and Sweden. A young musician, Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso even got an invitation to perform joiks on the National Day celebration of Sweden in Stockholm this year 2014 on June 6th. That was a great honor to Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso, but also a way for the royalties to show their approval of Sami joiks these days. You can look at her performance together with the Swedish singer Loreen here. Loreen, the dark-haired Swedish singer was the winner of European Song Contest in 2013. Inga-Maarit Gaup-Juuso was born in Enontekiö, Lapland. Her mother comes from Kautokeino in Norway and her father from Enontekiö in Finland. Inga-Maarit has performed joiks to the royalties of Norway and Monaco some years ago during their visits to Lapland, Finland. 

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää was a well-known modern Sami writer, poet, musician, and artist using joik in his work. He performed at the opening ceremony of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

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Nils-Aslak Valkeapää was born in Enontekiö in Finnish Lapland and he died in 2001. Valkeapää was born to a family of traditional reindeer herders, but was trained as a school teacher. He lived at the Finnish border to Norway in the upper-North of Finland. 

The story of Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun

Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun flew through the skies and watched the Earth from above. There was a warm sunbeam coming from her to reindeer on the pastures, to the animals in the deep forests and to the fish in the seas and oceans. Akanidi understood all the animals, but she was not acquainted with people yet. She just observed the people; that they sometimes were really happy, but sometimes they looked so unhappy. And sometimes people were really nasty to each other. Akanidi was wondering how the humans could become happy all the time.

As Akanidi went home to have a good night’s sleep she asked her mother, the Sun, for permission to go down to earth and live among people. But the Sun said; “Don’t you have enough space here? What would there be to see down there? Here you have the clouds to play among and you can dance with the sunbeams and  you are even allowed to sing beautiful melodies together with the winds.” Akanidi answered, she was tired of living up in the skies and now she wanted to move down to Earth.

The next morning Akanidi was sent to live on the Earth in a hut together with an old man and his wife. The Sun had sent her daughter to an isolated little island. Akanidi could not see anything but the old man and his wife and their modest hut. The old couple did not have any children of their own.

Times went by and Akanidi grew up to a young woman. Her parents gave her beautiful clothes to wear. When Akanidi looked at herself in the mirror, she started to sing happily. Akanidi just danced and sang happily. The old couple listened to her song and watched her dancing and their hearts were filled with great love.

One day the white-haired parents of Akanidi said to her: “Your time has come, my child. You have to go and live together with other people. Let your heart be helpful and loving, let it warm other people’s hearts.”

And the old man took Akanidi with him and travelled to the nearest Sami village and left her in the first hut. Akanidi entered the hut and the people immediately paid attention to her coming. Everyone was drawn to Akanidi.

Akanidi spent some time with the people in this village and she taught people of the village to decorate their clothes with pearls, interesting colors and spectacular patterns. Akanidi showed them the pictures of stars, circles, birds’ footsteps and beautiful stones sparkling in the sun. She moved from hut to hut singing and dancing and telling stories. She taught the people of the village to sing hunting-joiks, sea songs and sun melodies.

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But there was also envy among the people of the village. Everyone did not like happiness to spread among the people of the village. And they wanted to get rid of Akanidi, but the Sun was all the time watching over her daughter protecting her.

Some elderly people thought that they could get rid of Akanidi by throwing a big stone on her. So one day as Akanidi was sitting in a hut teaching the children how to make buttons from seashells, the envious people came suddenly in to the hut and threw a big stone on Akanidi. Akanidi took a deep last breath and sang the last lines from her favourite joik. When she had stopped joiking she disappeared with the smoke from the fire through the hole in the hut up to the skies. And she never returned back to Earth. But her joiks, dances and spectacular pictures are still in the minds of people. People are still teaching the skills of Akanidi to their children. When doing this their hearts melt and they find happiness.

This story is true. Everything happened when the people of the North met Akanidi, the daughter of the Sun, for the first time.

 

The wolf is an endangered animal in Lapland

In Finland there are four large carnivores; bear, lynx, wolverine and wolf. I have written posts about bears, lynxes and wolverines here in my blog earlier. Now I want to tell you about the wolf in Finland and specially in Lapland. The wolf is the second largest carnivore after the bear in Finland.

The wolves (Canis lupus) are social members of the dog family and live many together in packs. They have excellent senses of hearing and smell, and can communicate using posture, facial expressions, scent and a variety of barking and howling calls. The howling call of a wolf in the night is impressive and is started by a single wolf, who may then be joined by a chorus. Wolves howl to communicate with each other and to define their territories. The chances to hear wolves howling in Lapland are really small. As you enter the cave and walk your way down to SantaPark you can hear wolves howling from the loudspeakers….

susi yöllä tunturisusi

 

Twolfwalkhey mainly move around during the twilight hours and they can move over distances of tens of kilometers in a single day. An old traditional story tells that a wolf could move over nine treeless bogs (valleys) in one night. In a pack only the dominant alpha pair actually breed, but the pack help to raise the cubs. Three to six cubs are born to a pack each year. Females become sexually mature at the age of about two years, while males typically mature a year later. Wolves mate in February or March, and their cubs are born a couple of months later. Cubs usually leave the pack at the age of 1-2 years. They go far away from their birthplace searching for a mate and a territory of their own.

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In Finland there is approx. 140-155 wolves at the moment. They were counted in February 2014. Most of the wolves live in the eastern parts of Finland. About 5-10 wolves were found in the Lappish area; that is a few more than last year. The wolf is an endangered species in Finland and hunting is prohibited since 1973. Hunting is a subject to licence only.

Wolf is the largest member of the dog family living in wilderness. The length of the body is 100-140 cm, the tail is 35-50 cm. Weight is usually 20-50 kg, but there has been found also bigger individuals. The male wolf is lager than the female.

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susi_kayntijaljetThe coat is mainly yellowish-grey, but there are variations. People often mistake big dogs for wolves, and wolves can be most easily distinguished from wolf-like dogs by their slanting eyes – if you come so near you can see the eyes – and the way they hold their tails at a downward angle. Their tracks are very hard to tell apart from dogs’ tracks. Wolves often walk straight, while dogs tend to wander more. The wolves’ footprints are often larger than the footprint of dogs.

Wolves hunt deer and elk and in Lapland reindeer. They hunt in packs. They kill and eat almost every part of the kill; they even biting larger bones into pieces and all that is left could be a few scraps of the skin. They sometimes hide their kill.

susi ulvooIn Finland you can see wolves in Ranua zoo and in Ähtäri zoo. To keep wolves in a zoo there need to be a large area for the wolves to move around in. In Ranua zoo there are three wolves at the moment. They were all born in the zoo in 2009. The parents, the alpha pair, were Leena ja Ville. They were brought to Ranua from Sweden in 2006 and 2007. Their first brood – in 2008- were four cubs; Halla, Huurre, Kuura ja Halti. Their second brood, in 2009, were also four cubs. At the moment there are three wolves in Ranua zoo. I have to find out their names.

The wolf has never been really wanted in Finland. In the Sami language the wolf is gumpe. The Sami people were afraid of the wolf and still are, due to that the wolves kill their reindeer. The ancient story about wolves tells that the wolves had the magic skills to make people sleepy. The Sami people use to yoik as they are watching the reindeer. Their yoiks are about the nature, people and animals. The wolves are frightened as they come near the people and the reindeer, when they hear the yoik. But soon they get used to the yoik and the Sami has to sing a new yoik. They have to come up with new yoiks all the time to keep the wolves away from the reindeer.

A long time ago the wolf was also a valued animal. There is an old yoik about the wolf Suologievra. The name means “the strong on the island”. In the ancient days people used to think the world was like an island in a big sea.

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Once upon a time Stuorra-Jownna, or Jouni the Great from Utsjoki in the North of Lapland wanted to become a wolf. The witches had told that, if you go around a curved tree counterclockwise several times you finally become a wolf. So did Jouni. He walked around the tree until he was changed into a wolf. Then he run around in the shape of a wolf and he visited many reindeer ranges. He could stay as a wolf for two weeks at a time. One day he noticed his time was ending; actually on the same night, and he still had nine valleys ahead to run. If he could not make it to the tree in time, he would be doomed to stay as a wolf for the rest of his life. There is an old saying: “The wolf always finds his way”. And that night he run over nine valleys and reached the tree, where he had changed into a wolf, in time. This time he run around the tree clockwise and during the run he little by little changed back into a human being.

 

The fascinating Sámi dresses

The national dresses of Sámi people are brightly colored traditional clothing. The tradition has started already in the 16th and 17th century. The dress shows the ethnic belonging for these folks. Some, but not all, Sámi wear the traditional dress on special occasions, like weddings, funerals and official meetings when they want to show the best they have to wear. Among the older Sámi people the dresses are worn also on normal weekdays. Here in Rovaniemi you usually see Sámi people dressed in national dresses during the Sámi Parliament´s, Samediggi, meetings 4-5 time a year.

The dresses are nowadays made of mostly blue wool or felt and the ornaments are distinctive bands of bright red and yellow patterns. These bands are decorations on men´s tunics, gaktison women´s skirts and on hats for both men and women. You can tell from the special ornaments and the form of the men´s hats from which region of Lapland they come. Every region has their special hat, some are cone-shaped and others have four corners, known as pointed hats or the Four winds hats. You can even tell the marital status, unmarried men wear round buttons in their belts, and from which family he/she comes from the ornaments on the dresses. A Sámi dress consists of many parts from shoes to belts to hats.

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In the Finnish Lapland there are five areas with their own dresses: The Teno river/Utsjoki area, Enontekio-Kautokeino, Sodankyla/Vuotso, Inari and the Skolts´dresses.You can see the differences between dresses if you click on the link. There are also different dresses for winter and summer. 

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Today many Sámi use their traditional dresses in tourism services. It is stipulated by the Sámi Parliament that it is not recommended for other people but the Sámi to wear the traditional dresses. Many souvenir shops sell copies of the pointed hats to tourists and I think these hat copies are quite commonly used by others than the Sámi.

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There is a traditional story about the pointed had, that I want to share with you:

“A long, long time ago, perhaps thousands of years ago, or maybe a little longer, man could not live in Lapland. Do you know why? That was because all the four winds used to blow just how they wanted. One morning the world could be green and warm, the flowers were blooming and the sun was shining. But the next morning there could be cold and snowy outside as the winds were blowing hard from the north. Sometimes, all the four winds blew, all at the same time.

Then one day a man came to the north, a shaman. He built his tent and moved to Lapland, ignoring the four winds. But he was lonely: no wife, no kids, no friends. Then the shaman lit the fire in his hut, and began to yoik and play his drum as accompaniment. With his amazing yoiks the Shaman called the four winds to come and see him in his hut. The shaman and the winds sat down by the fire, the hut was warm and the four winds fell all asleep. But the Shaman did not sleep, he put some more logs on the fire, and in the warm temperature the four winds began to shrink and shrink. Eventually they were so small that he could hold them in his hand. The shaman took off his hat, which at the time was shaped round like a normal hat. The shaman took the winds one at a time, put them in his hat, and then he tied the winds inside his hat.

Next morning the four winds woke up, got annoyed and tried really hard to get out of the hat. They blew hard in all directions, but they did not manage to come out. Do you know why? Well, they were tied to the hat. The winds inside the hat shouted “Let us out, let us out!” And the shaman said, “I will relieve you on one condition only; you have to promise that you all agree on when you will blow, one at the time, and the others will be waiting for their turn.” And the winds promised and agreed to that in the future the north wind blew only in winter time, the east wind blew in the spring, the south wind would blow warmly in the summer evenings in Lapland and in September the wind would shift to blow winds of fall.” As a reminder of this promise from now on all the men in Lapland wear a four winds hat,” said the Shaman to the four winds and waved his hat, which no longer looked the same after the capture of the four winds, it was now a pointed hat.”

Here you find a lot of more pictures of Sámi dresses. 

 

 

 

 

 

Seidas – where Sámis used to offer sacrifices

Seidas are holy places (Bálvvosbáiki) related to ancient Sámi culture. There are mentions in writing about the Sámi people worshipping trees and rocks dates back to the 16th century. Seida worship became less and less important and were even destroyed when Christianity spread in the 17th and 18th centuries. These places of worship were believed to be the home of Gods, spirits and elf folk. Seidas were often made of wood or stone. Seida rocks are typically individual, unusually shaped or coloured natural rocks. Most seida rocks in Lapland are noticeable landmarks and clearly stand out in their environment. They are found on shores of rivers, on the slopes of the fells and near paths where Sámis used to walk with their reindeer. In lake Inari there is an island, Ukko, which is also a seida for sami.

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Old Sámi religion was based on an animistic ideology, according to which everything in the nature has a spirit. In the hopes of favourable conditions, people offered sacrifices to the nature-dwelling spirits. The most important deity was Ukko, Äijih. The Finnish word Ukko derives from the word referring to thunder, ukkonen (like Torus, Thor). Ukko’s wife was Akka (Ákku or grandmother in Sámi). Other important Gods included the sun, i.e., Päivä (“Day”), as well as the moon, wind and water Gods. In pre-Christian Sámi culture, there was no term referring to religion. The seidas, deities and their worship were a natural part of people’s everyday life.

People used to visit seidas to honor the nature, but specially if health difficulties or other problems occurred.

puuseitaWooden seidas have appeared mostly in wooded areas, on the shores of good fishing waters. They have often been shaped by cutting the lower branches of trees or lifting a block of wood or a tree stump into an imposing position. At times, people carved features of human faces or figures in the wooden seidas.

Also fells, hills, steep cliffs, unusual gorges and saivo lakes could have served as holy places. There are many place names in the North referring to the holiness of the place and its possible use as a place of worship. Fishing seidas were usually located by waterways, sometimes even in the water. The seidas located on fells and hills have been used by deer hunters and reindeer owners.

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Every village (siida) in Lapland and several families also had their own seidas. A seida dedicated to the God Ukko stood behind many Lapp “kota” huts. The most important sacrificial ceremonies were related to turning points in the annual cycle. like midsummer or autumn, as well as the traditional rites in people´s lives, such as childbirth.

When a man set out to go deer hunting or fishing, he promised a share of his catch to the seida to ensure hunting and fishing luck. When he returned to the seida he offered the best parts as thanks; like bones, horns, fish or pieces of fish. The offerings were also meant to keep the seida in good mood. Sometimes the seida was even given spirits, tobacco, iron or money.

puuseita 2Some Sámi people think you should be ware of seidas and other sacred places, because of the curse, illness and enchantment that could be transported over to visiting people. Seidas also demand gifts from the visitors and you should not go near the place if you do not bring what the seida wants.

Many seidas have been forgotten over time, but several holy places have become important attractions of cultural and historical significance, and their history is kept alive in stories and legends.

Here you find information about a few seidas and mysterious Saivo lakes in Lapland, if you dare to visit them.

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Shamanic drum therapy and drum building

As many of my readers have searched for articles about shamanism and the shamanic drums, I have decided to write this post about shamanic drum therapy. The other day I heard about a friend who visits a therapist and get drum therapy. She finds the effects from the therapy really healing and energizing and who knows, I might try it myself one day.

Drum therapy is an ancient method that uses rhythm to promote healing and self-expression. From the shamans of Mongolia to the Minianka healers of West Africa as well as among the shamans of the Sámi people of Finland, Scandinavia and Russia, therapeutic rhythm techniques have been used for thousands of years to create and keep up physical, mental, and spiritual health. Still today drum therapy is used in Lapland by several therapists to cure different emotional problems and decreases.

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Current research is now verifying the therapeutic effects of ancient rhythm techniques. Recent research reviews show that drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system and produces feelings of well-being, a release of emotional trauma, and reintegration of self. The therapy session lasts for about 1,5 hour. This is not something you just run away on your lunch break and do. It requires you to really get the drumming into your systems to have the desired effect.

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Other studies have demonstrated the calming, focusing, and healing effects of drumming on Alzheimer’s patients, autistic children, emotionally disturbed teens, recovering addicts, trauma patients, and prison and homeless populations. Study results prove that drumming is a valuable treatment for stress, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension, asthma, chronic pain, arthritis, mental illness, migraines, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, paralysis, emotional disorders, and a lot of physical disabilities.

Drumming induces deep relaxation, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Stress according to current medical research contributes to nearly all disease and is a primary cause of such life-threatening illnesses as heart attacks, strokes and immune system breakdowns.

Chronic pain has a progressively draining effect on the quality of life. Researchers suggest that drumming serves as a distraction from pain and grief. Moreover, drumming promotes the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, the bodies own morphine-like painkillers, and can thereby help in the control of pain.

The therapist Markku Backman in Finland has developed a shamanic energy treatment, which he calls Whizhealer therapy. Whizhealer therapy has influences from methods used by ancient shamanic and other nature people using the shamanic drum in treatment. Whizhealer treatment takes about 1,5 hours and is followed by a discussion for approx. 10-30 minutes. Markku Backman tells the therapy should be taken on three different sessions to have the best effect. As your energies start to flow they open obstructions and open your existing locks of emotions.

shaman drum

If you want to have a drum of your own you can take part in a drum building course and make your own shaman drum from reindeer skin and stick from antlers. You can also add important symbols to the skin. The link for drum making courses is unfortunately only in Finnish, but you can look at the pictures and get the idea how to make a drum of your own and take a look at the drum video to get an idea of how the drumming goes. I have also written about the symbols in my post http://grandma-in-lapland.com/the-lapish-shamans-drum. You can read more there.

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If you decide to buy a drum or make one of your own the drum is never a shamanic drum before you have performed the inauguration ritual in the nature somewhere on a hill or fell. You lit four fire places around the area in all four directions, to the south, to the north, to the east and to the west, and walk slowly around the fire places and ask for the spirits to bless your drum. This ritual is thoroughly described on Thuleia’s home page. Unfortunately only in Finnish, so far.

The shaman drum and their symbols are often used in manufacturing of souvenirs from Lapland. For example this bath towel I have bought from the Arctic circle. I love the colors and the symbols on it!

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Santa Claus

As it is Christmas time I want to share some links with you, from where you can check out what Santa Claus is doing these days.

This camera is from inside Santa Claus office at the Arctic Circle. Santa is there every day of the year, even in summer, from 9-17 in Finnish time.

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/santaclauslive-inside-cam

Jessi och Dagny hos tomten våren 2008

This video was taken yesterday on December 23rd, 2013, as Santa was taking off from Arctic Circle to visit all children all over the world and give presents:

http://bambuser.com/v/4208020

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And here are more info about Santa Claus’ office at the Arctic Circle. You should visit it some time!

https://shop.santaclauslive.com/santa_purchase/special_order_video/1

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You can also read more about the Arctic Circle and Santa Claus village here.

And you have three more weeks time to visit SantaPark also.

With these links I wish you all a Very, Merry Christmas and thank you all more than 8,000 visitors I have had on my blog since April 2013 when I started. Se you soon!

 

Would you send your Teddy on its own to visit Santa?

In Lapland and in Rovaniemi, the home town of Santa Claus, we just love all kinds of animals and characters symbolizing Lapland and Santa’s world. We have Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer, Nico the adorable reindeer and his little brother Jonni, Vaino the lynx, Jonne the polar bear among others.

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väinö the lynx

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That is one reason we also want your teddies to come and experience the world of Santa Claus and Lapland and meet with Rudolf and the other animals. A company, Teddy Tours Lapland, makes that possible. Take a look at what they can offer your Teddy on a trip to Santa Claus’ home town Rovaniemi. That will be an unforgettable adventure for your Teddy. I have learned these kinds of trips are also arranged in other parts of the world, i.e. in Japan. TeddyTours Lapland offers four different packages for your Teddy’s trip to Lapland and Teddy always return home with photos or even videos of the visit to Lapland and specially the meeting with Santa himself.

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The most popular animal of Ranua Zoo, Väinö the lynx

The reader of my blog might have noticed I am specially found of the polar bear cub Ranzo in the Wildlife Park Ranua Zoo. I try to visit Ranua Zoo several times a year to check out arctic animals. During a visit there in winter time you will notice many of the animals are more active than what they are in summer time, when they mostly are sleeping in the sun. (This is not of course the fact about brown bears, because they are having their hibernation period.)

The Wildlife Park Ranua Zoo is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and that caused them to arrange a voting for the most popular animal of the park during the 30 year period. The winner was Väinö the lynx. Cause of the huge interest the ice bear cub Ranzo has caused the last two years, you could think he would win the vote, but Väinö the lynx has apparently made a greater impact on visitors. The competition was tight, with polar bear Ranzo coming a close second.

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So who was Väinö the lynx? Väinö the lynx appeared in the Finnish film “Tommy and the Wildcat”, know to the Finnish people as “Poika ja ilves”. The film was cast in Ranua and in Korouoma canyon in the year 1998 and was very popular to the audience and received many prices also in international Film Festivals. Director of the film is Raimo O Niemi.

Väinö the lynx was born in 1996 and died in May 1998 in an accident as he tried to climb a fence and fell down. He was used to people from the age of a little cub. Väinö was brought to the Wildlife Park Ranua Zoo as he had been abandoned by his mother and he was adopted by the park keepers and they begun to feed him with a nursing bottle. He used to spend time in the ticket office of Ranua Zoo and visitors could often see him sleeping on a shelf there, as they entered the park.

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During the autumn shooting, Väinö remained the only wildcat on the set, but for the winter scenes they began looking for “stand – by” wildcats for Väinö’s stunts at an early stage. Fortunately, a pair of twin wildcats, Isa and Bella, were born at Parken Zoo in Sweden in summer 1997. They shared the same fate as Väinö and were abandoned by their mother. Animal trainer Elisabet Jonsson, who had a wide range of experience in training animals, reared the wildcats. She had, for instance, trained tigers, leopards and other wildcats. Hence, we hired Elisabet to train Isa and Bella for Väinö’s winter stunt scenes.

The film “Tommy and the Wildcat” tells about how 12-year-old Tommy reluctantly moves with his father from the big city to a small Lapp village – the childhood home of his mother, who has recently died. The village is close to the northernmost wildlife reserve in the world, where Tommy’s father will be working on a project to release a captive lynx into the wild. The boy gradually falls under the spell of his new surroundings, and discovers that his mother was involved in protecting the local lynx, and, when his father’s project fails, and the lynx is about to be sold, he decides to set it free himself. A dramatic series of events ensues, and Tommy, through his brave actions, regains the trust and respect of his family and the village.

väinö the lynx

During the shooting of the film the film team soon learnt that they were not dealing with “Lassie” or “Rintintin” in front of the camera. Anyone who has any knowledge of cats knows that you cannot order them around.

Konsta Hietanen played the main part in the film. Väinö and Konsta got along famously from the start. Konsta soon learnt to trust that Väinö didn’t regard him as a potential snack. However, Konsta was reminded that you can never fully trust a wild animal.

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For the shooting, Väinö had to become accustomed to noise and a lot of people around him, not to mention riding in a car  –  or on a snow mobile! The director’s order for silence during the shooting was diligently obeyed: since the wildcat was usually able to concentrate for only about half an hour at a time, the film crew had to be particularly efficient when the wildcat was in a cooperative mood. The crew was kept to a minimum while shooting the wildcat, because Väinö always had to sniff everyone around him to learn that they were friendly.

The first thing to keep in mind was that you can’t give orders to a wildcat or force it to do what people want, but through games and playing you could achieve what was desired. Most probably the film’s wildcats had a great time during the shooting of the film: they got to play all kinds of games, the people around them were calm and the wildcats received lots and lots of attention  –  which is, after all, what all cats thrive on. One might even write in the end titles of the film that “The wildcats appearing in Tommy and the Wildcat had heaps of fun.” In first, the most difficult thing was to make the wildcats look dangerous or aggressive. Under no circumstances did we want to arouse the wildcats’ wilder instincts.

The producer Hannu Tuomainen tells that as the film had been completed they could proudly state that the scenes with animals in them were for real, they have not been created with computer animations.

Specially one scene, “Chicken the Brave” was challenging. They made use of Väinö’s apparent interest towards the larger fowl in the wildlife park when the wildcat’s interest in acting flopped. The scene was a source of amazement for Väinö. However, Väinö’s hunting skills remained dormant: while filming in the studio Väinö and the chicken suddenly disappeared while everyone’s attention was elsewhere. Our first thought was that Väinö had eaten “Chicken the Brave”. However, after a while, they were found behind a cupboard sitting side by side. They were just taking a break and having a “chat”.

Finally, some facts about the animal lynx:

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Lynx (Lynx lynx)

  • Classification: mammals
  • Division: predators
  • Species: cats
  • Length: 70 – 140 cm, tail 15 – 25 cm
  • Weight: 8 – 26 kg, male larger than female
  • Life expectancy: 14 – 17 years
  • Under Threat: rare species, to be monitored
  • Population in Finland: about 750

 

The legend of Saana and Malla fells in Kilpisjarvi

In the upper north-west of Finland the country is like an “arm” between the Swedish and the Norwegian border. This area is where the highest fells of Finland are situated. On the Swedish and the Norwegian sides of the border are even higher fells and this area is amazingly beautiful all year around. Every season has its charm and beauty here. I use to go ice-fishing in this area in spring time.

As it has snowed the past week in Lapland for the first time this autumn, I think it is suitable to show you some winter pictures now in the beginning of winter. You can check out the snow situation in Kilpisjarvi here.

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If you visit the little village of Kilpisjarvi in Finland you are just 7 km from the crossing of the border to Norway. Kilpisjarvi is a very small village, and its known history is young. The first permanent inhabitants came to the village as late as 1915. Anyway, nothing remains from those years, since it all was demolished in the Lapland War 1944-1945. In the end of WW 2 Finland had to drive the former allies, the German forces, away. The Germans retreated towards north and then to Norway. German forces burnt everything behind them. This retreat and burning of structures left behind is called Lapland War. The road to and from Kilpisjarvi was much improved during the war because during the WW 1 (1914-1918) large amounts of war materials were transported through Kilpisjarvi to vicinity of Tornio. All this material was meant for the Russian front. At the most, between 1915-1916, 1400 horses were in duty to transport military materials on this road. This road, the Northern light road, is the only road in this area, so the Swedes and the Norwegians also use this road for transports to their fells. Kilpisjarvi is a very popular village to Norwegians and they spend holidays here both in summer and in winter time.

Treriksröset (in Swedish), Treriksrøysa (in Norwegian), Kolmen valtakunnan rajapyykki (in Finnish) is the special point at which the borders of Sweden, Norway and Finland meet.

TreriksThe name can be translated into English as “Three-Country Cairn”, and is named for the monument of stones erected in 1897 by the governments of Norway and Russia (which was administering Finland at that time). The Swedish could not agree on a boundary commission with the Norwegians and did not bring their stone until 1901. This is Sweden’s most northerly point and it is the westernmost point of the Finnish mainland.

The location of Treriksröset

It is reached by walking 11 kilometres from Kilpisjarvi on a public road. In summertime it can be reached by boat from Kilpisjarvi plus a 3 kilometres walk.

IMG_3698To drive from Rovaniemi to Kilpisjarvi by car takes about 5-6 hours. You drive along the Northern Light route and before you end up in Kilpisjarvi you will pass by a place called Muotkatakka. This is where the highest situated road in Finland is. It is on 565,6 meter above the sea level. On this place, Muotkatakka, you can also find a monument that tells you this is the place where the last cannon shots against the retreating German forces were shot in the Lapland War in 27.4.1945.

After you have been on the highest place of the road, the road starts to go down again and finally you will see a silhouette of a fell that is nothing like the surrounding fells at all. This is the fell Saana and the little Kilpisjarvi village is situated at the foot of Saana fell by the Kilpisjarvi lake. On the opposite shore of Kilpisjarvi lake is the border to Sweden. .

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Saana has received its name from the word of Saami language meaning a certain mushroom. From one angle the fell does look like a mushroom. Some people think it looks like an overturned boat with a keel. For the Saami people it is a sacred mountain. Fires were burned to the God of Thunder on top of it. The peak is 1029 meters above sea level and 556 meters up from the Kilpisjarvi lake’s surface. Saana is the 25th tallest fell in Finland, but second most known because of its impressive shape.

According to the legend – long ago Kilpisjarvi area was inhabited by giants. Sullen Saana (the fell) got a crush on lovely Malla (the fell next to Saana). On the wedding day Pältsä (that is a fell on the Swedish side of the border) wanted to stop the wedding ceremony. He had found out he was also in love with Malla. The wedding ceremony would have been held by Paras (a fell on the Norwegian side of the border), and he was known as the magician. But Pältsä had called the evil elderly women of Lapland to come to Kilpisjarvi. All of a sudden a fierce northern wind wiped all the celebrants with ice-cold wind. Very soon the area was frozen and filled with ice. At the last moment, Saana pushed the lovely Malla over to her mother’s, Big Malla’s arms. (There are two Malla fells just near one another). At that moment the freezing cold took away all life in the area. Malla cried, and from her tears Kilpisjarvi – the lake was formed. The lake is situated in between Saana and Malla fells.

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Read more about the area around Saana fell here.

 

 

The Lapish Shaman’s drum

Many tourists visiting Lapland meet with a shaman during their guided trip. Not all of them get the meaning of this visit clear to them. A visible sign after a visit to a shaman’s tepee are the marks in front of your head made by the shaman with some soot from the fireplace. As many of my readers are interested to know more about the shaman traditions in Lapland I will try to explain a little more.

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To start with, I want to explain to you what a shaman is. A shaman is a person regarded as a messenger between the human world and the spirit world. The shaman typically even enters into trance state during a ritual where he drums on his magical drum. The shaman communicates with the spirits on behalf of the community, including the spirits of the deceased. The shaman communicates with both living and dead to reduce unrest, unsettled issues, and to deliver gifts to the spirits.

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shamandrummingShamans have various strengths. Shamans have the knowledge and the power to heal by entering into the spiritual world or dimension. The shaman may have or acquire many spirit guides, who often guide and direct the shaman in his travels in the spirit world. These spirit guides are always present within the shaman though others only meet them when the shaman is in a trance. The spirit guide energizes the shaman, enabling him to enter the spiritual dimension. The shaman heals within the spiritual dimension by returning ‘lost’ parts of the human soul from wherever they have gone.

There are many variations of shamanism throughout the world, but several common beliefs are shared by all forms of shamanism. Common beliefs are the following:

  • Spirits exist and they play important roles both in individual lives and in human society.
  • The shaman can communicate with the spirit world.
  • Spirits can be benevolent or malevolent.
  • The shaman can treat sickness caused by malevolent spirits.
  • The shaman can use trance inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstasy and go on vision quests.
  • The shaman’s spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers.
  • The shaman evokes animal images as spirit guides, omens, and message-bearers.
  • The shaman can tell the future, throw bones and do other varied forms of divination

Sami shamanism is shamanism as practiced by the Sami people in Lapland. Though they varied considerably from region to region traditional Sámi beliefs consist of three intertwining elements: animism, shamanism and polytheism. Just like the beliefs of many other indigenous people all over the world.

Living of the nature has formed the original conceptions of the world among Sámi; the world view was animistic by nature, with shamanistic features. They believe that all objects in the nature have a soul. Therefore, everybody is expected to move quietly in the wilderness; shouting and making disturbance is not allowed. The marks on the forehead of the tourists after visiting a shaman mean they have been in contact with a reindeer’s soul and are called to return to Lapland in shape of a reindeer.after their death.

The shaman has often a ceremonial drum known as goavddis in Northern Sami and gievrie in Southern Sami, but he does not have a ceremonial dress. He is probably also yoiking in the important ceremonies. The drum has been referred to as a magic drum or fortune-telling drum by the Sami’s neighbors, and the shaman is considered to be a “magician”.

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The drum was originally an instrument for the shaman when he was going into trance. The monotone drumming helped him to reach the trance. That was very much condemned by the community and judges gave various punishments: fines, imprisonment, flogging and even death if the shaman did not stop using drum ceremonies. The Sami tried to defend themselves by stating that the drum was used as a `compass’, and even as a `calendar’, but the judges were not convinced. A larger number of drums were burned during the 17th and 18th centuries, although some 70 are still preserved. Nowadays drums are manufactured again.

The ceremonial drum, linked to the shaman, has paintings on the membrane. The fortune-telling drum has a wealth of pictures, which are a source of inspiration for Sami artists, but which are difficult to interpret.

Some of the most common pictures on the drums are The sun (Beaivvás), The moon (Mámmu), The salmon (Guolli), The reindeer (Boazu), The Goddess of fertility (Varalden), The God of hunting (Leibolmmái), The Shaman drum (Goavddis) and The God of thunder (Diermmes). Taigakoru in Lapland manufactures silver jewelry with symbols from the shaman drum.

The sunThe moonsalmon The reindeerThe godess of fertility  God of hunting shaman drum the god of thunder

 

 

What is Santa Claus doing in summer time?

In summer Santa and his elves are of course busy preparing for the upcoming Christmas and making Christmas gifts to all children all over the world, but they do have time to rest, too. They spend a lot of time outdoors in the beautiful nature of Lapland, they enjoy the midnight-sun and go fishing. Santa also goes fishing, but he never catch anything. The reason for that is that Santa never uses a hook when he is fishing. He never hunts, either. Santa loves all animals and the animals love him. He cannot see any reason to do hunting and fishing.

Santa’s reindeer are all out in the forest during summer, so he does not have to take care of them and he has a lot of spare time when he can do other nice things.

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Santa fishingSanta goes fishing just to sit in a boat out on a lake, on a lake’s shore or on a river’s shore and enjoy the quietness of the surrounding Lapland forest. He thinks it is a perfect time to do some thinking and remembering about pleasant times and happy people he met during Christmas, on these fishing trips. He also walks in the forest and listens to the voices of the wilderness. He also spends time preparing the next Christmas delivery by reading children’s letters. He gets letters from children all year around, not only before Christmas. He also likes to read books on his free time. He is very amused by books that claim to reveal “the secrets” about him. He thinks it could be of importance for him to know what people are talking about out there before they come to visit him in his office.

Santa also enjoys swimming in the clear water of Lapland lakes in the summer. He also sometimes goes swimming in the winter through a hole in the ice, but the hole has to be chopped quite big then. One of Santa’s favourite things to do is to take short naps now and then. The summer nights in Lapland are so light with the midnight sun, so it is hard for both people and elves to sleep during the nights. That is one reason to take short naps during the daytime.

In summer Santa also opens up his favourite cavern, SantaPark, just outside Rovaniemi city. The park is open during Christmas season, but Santa has decided to open it in the summer, too, so children who do not have time to visit him on Christmas could get a chance to meet him and his crazy elves in summer. This year SantaPark opens it door on June 17th at 10 am and the cavern is open every day except for Sundays and June 22nd during the summer until August 10th. Check the home page for more detailed program and other information.

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This summer Santa has renewed the One Hundred Years Curriculum Elf School in SantaPark. It is a top secret until you attend the Elf school yourself and find out what it is. I can’t wait to learn the new things in Elf school! It would be nice to meet the tallest and the shortest Professor Elf of SantaPark once again!

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On the opening day, June 17th, you can watch the Niko – the reindeer-movie “Little Brother, big trouble” on the main stage at 2 pm. The Ice Gallery of Santa Park has also been renewed this summer. You might spot some familiar figures from the movie there.

Here is a link to a short movie telling what Santa Claus does in the summer time, on times he does not sit in his cavern meeting interesting guests from all over the world. http://www.santatelevision.com/santa-claus/santa-claus-summer/

IMG_2200The Santa Claus village is open every day also during summer, and you can cross the Arctic Circle just outside Santa Claus’ office. In summer you can see the white line marking the Arctic Circle, which is covered by snow in winter time.

 

 

 

 

 

Niko, the adorable reindeer

Besides Santa Claus there are also other celebrities to help making Rovaniemi and Lapland well known all over the world. One of my favorites, besides Santa of course, is Niko, the absolutely adorable little reindeer. He became famous in 2008 when the first movie about his adventures was made. I went to see that movie and loved it, so I bought myself the DVD to be able to look at the movie together with my grandchildren one day as they grow a little bit older. After the first film about Niko, the Niko 2 was ready in 2012 and nowadays you can even download your own app to play the Niko game on your mobile phone or read the book on iPad.

The first movie about Niko, “Niko & The Way to the Stars (The Flight Before Christmas in North America, “Niko – Lentäjän poika” in Finland), is a Danish-Finnish-German-Irish computer animated Christmas film from 2008. It revolves around a young reindeer who must overcome his fear of flying by heading to Santa Claus’ fell to save him and his fleet of flying reindeer from a pack of wolves.

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Niko was told by Oona, his mother, that his father is one of the “Flying Forces”, Santa’s flying sled reindeer. Niko dreams of joining his dad as a flying reindeer but he is unable to fly. While trying to fly with the encouragement of Julius, a flying squirrel who takes on the role of a mentor and father figure, the other young reindeer teased Niko. To avoid further teasing, Niko and his reindeer-friend Saga leave their protected valley so Niko can practice without any disruptions. Niko gets spotted by two of the wolves, and escapes to his herd in panic, not thinking about the repercussions. While the herd is fleeing the valley, Niko overhears others talking of how his actions have damaged the herd. He decides to leave the herd in an attempt to find his father and Santa’s Fell.

When Niko is discovered missing, the squirrel Julius chooses to look for Niko as he can search without leaving a trail as fresh snow is falling. Once he finds him, Julius cannot convince Niko to return to the herd and reluctantly joins him in the search for Santa’s secret location. Meanwhile, Essie, a lost pet poodle, stumbles upon the wolf pack and is about to be eaten, but suggests to Black Wolf the idea of killing Santa’s Flying Forces reindeer instead. Essie is considered Black Wolf’s good luck charm for this idea and is spared, but is also forced to join the pack on this grim plan. And so the story goes on and Niko finally ends up finding his father and Santa’s Flying Forces. There are some very scary parts of the movie and that is why this should not be seen by children under 7 years old. Otherwise a very nice movie about the cute reindeer Niko and his adventures.

The follower-up, the “Niko 2 – Little Brother, Big Trouble” 3D film, had its world premiere in Rovaniemi on October 1st, 2012. You can see the trailer here on YouTube.

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In this film young reindeer boy Niko still lives with his mother Oona and his father is still serving Santa’s Flying Forces. Niko secretly wishes his mom and his hero dad would get back together and they could be a real family, which they never have been. One day mom tells Niko the news: she has met a guy, an ordinary reindeer called Lenni, and he and his little son Jonni will move in together with Niko and his mother. Niko´s world is shaken: he will not be the only child anymore, and he has to live together and look after this little cute step-brother – with not so good results…

The “Niko 2 – Little Brother, Big Trouble” 3D film has also been turned into a mobile game. In the game you get to fly with the reindeer Niko in spectacular winter scenery where wooden signs show the way to Rovaniemi.

In addition to Niko, the game features another character from the film, the delightful flying squirrel Julius. It can be downloaded for free from the App Store. In addition, you can learn more about the adventure of Niko and his friends in the Niko 2 book, audiobook and iPad book published by Gummerus.

The first film about Niko, “Niko & The Way to the Stars” has had more screenings abroad than any Finnish film ever. “Niko 2 – Little Brother, Big Trouble” is also expected to become an international success. The film and the game will improve the visibility of the Rovaniemi region in all screening countries.