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.

IMG_2955

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.

shamaan drum shaman with drum

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”.

IMG_4974

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

 

 

Nice souvenirs to bring home from Lapland

In the shops of Rovaniemi and specially at the Santa Claus Village on the Arctic Circle you can find a lot of special Lappish souvenirs to buy. My aim here is not to mention them all. That would be absolutely impossible. I will mention just a few.

I, myself, find the hand-made dolls from the Arctic Doll Factory really adorable. They are all dressed up in traditional dresses of the Lappish people. The dresses are made from normal fabric but also using reindeer furs. On the home page of the factory (unfortunately not in English) you can see there are dolls of all kinds of lengths, boys and girls, and in differently colored dresses, and you can order your own favorite from there, too. The factory was founded in 1953 and is celebrating 60 years this year. After I had dreamed about getting one of these dolls for myself for several years I finally decided and bought myself an adorable couple; Matti and Maila.

IMG_2455 IMG_2456 IMG_2460

Taigakoru is a goldsmith’s workshop for silver and gold jewelry in Rovaniemi. From the home page of Taigakoru you find all the different jewelry they manufacture. One of the most well-known part of the collection is the collection of symbols from the ancient shaman drums.

The shaman drum was used by the shamans of the Northern peoples in their ceremonies. Shamans were healers and predicted the future. They called on the spirits for help by beating a drum with a drumstick made from reindeer bone until they fell into a trance. The symbols appear on the drum’s different parts. The upper part of the drum skin represented the heavens, the middle part earth and earthly life and the lower part Tuonela, the underworld. The shaman used the symbols on the various parts of the drum to foretell events. Each symbol has its own meaning.

shamantrumma

The Sun and good weather, particularly during the reindeer calving season, made crops grow and it brought good fortune. After midwinter, people held festivals when the sun first edged over the horizon. They made sacrifices to it so that it would restore and bring vitality to creation. The sun has a very special significance in the Arctic, as during the period of the polar night in winter the sun does not rise above the horizon at all, and on the other hand in the summertime it does not set at all.

IMG_2473IMG_2474

Other symbols from the Shaman drum made to ornaments in silver by Taigakoru are: The Moon, Ukko or the God of Thunder, Akka or the Goddess of fertility, the God of hunting, the Black-throated loon, the Crane, the Bear, the Reindeer, the Wolf, the Beaver, the Boat, the Salmon and the Rota.

Other famous jewelry of Taigakoru are the Guardian angel and the Cradle ball. There are also all kinds of Lappish animals and plants in silver. From the home page you can also order your own jewelry.

Marttiini has manufactured knives in Rovaniemi, Finland, since Janne Marttiini established the knife factory in 1928. The Marttiini product range covers knives for hunting, fishing, camping, collectors, household and professional use.

tuotenosto_vuosipuukko_2013

Inspired by the ancient tales from Lapland (again). The drum at the end of the handle, made of reindeer horn bone, drives away bad spirits and protects the user. The knife is decorated with the same kind of old Lappish figures that have been used at the magical drums of Lappish shamans, as the Taigakoru uses in their production. As you can notice, these figures are the symbols for the ancient Lappish people and their culture, which manufactures these days want to share with tourists and locals, who search for the real Lappish mystique.

Some cute Lappish souvenirs are made by Peeva tuote; a small home factory for elf themes, Lapland themes and angel themes products. Each and every souvenir is special and hand made, often with material from the forests of Lapland. There are not two of the same kind! The most adorable is the doll house with elves Peeva tuote has on show near the stand on the Lordi square in Rovaniemi, where you can buy these products.

IMG_2457