Of the reportedly more than one hundred Sámi drums confiscated by the missionary Thomas von Westen, this is one of the few we have a record of, as few years after being brought to Copenhagen, almost all drums were destroyed in a fire along with any documentation of them. Its owner and maker was Jon Lassen from Meløy, but the symbols on it had been drawn by Sjur Larsen from neighbouring Rødøy. The latter had learned this art from the noaidi Anders Einarsen in Meløy, while living with him and his wife Kirsti Larsdatter for ten years in his youth. The symbols had first been explained to von Westen by Jon, and later in greater detail by Sjur in 1722.
The testimonies of Jon and Sjur themselves have been lost, but were used as the source for a surviving account written in 1723 by Johan Randulf, vicar in Nærøy and dean in Namdalen. This work is commonly referred to as the Nærøy manuscript (Danish “Nærø”, in Swedish and German orthography “Närö”). The original manuscript is lost, but several manuscript copies which agree closely on the text survive, and alongide these several rather divergent drawings of the drum.
Rødøy and Meløy are both in the Ume Sámi area, and the drum decoration is of Ume Sámi type. Neither its size nor its construction type is known, but the number of symbols is consistent with a smaller drum, which is suggestive of a bowl drum. According to the diary fragment, the drum was made only ten years before the interrogation of Sjur in 1722, so it can be dated to very close to 1712.
The occasion leading to Randulf writing the account was a visit from von Westen in January 1723, bringing with him several drums including this one. The text is dated to March that year, and consists of two parts. The shorter first part is the interpretation of the drum, reworked and interspersed with commentary and digressions. The longer second part is an account of Sámi beliefs and ritual practices, and is referred to in the text as the account proper. As it makes several references back to the interpretation of the drum, it must have been written after this.
The manuscript text refers to an accompanying illustration of the drum, and some of the copies include such a drawing. Unfortunately, the copies are not published or available electronically, and I have only found reproductions of three of these drawings.
Accompanying one of the copies without such a drawing, XA Qv. 374 in NTNU University Library, is a single leaf from von Westen’s diary from his third missionary journey in 1722–23. This forms two pairs of consecutive pages, of which only the first pair is relevant to this drum. The first page describes the circumstances of Sjur’s involvement with the drum. The text mentions a drawing of the drum having been made on an earlier page in the diary, which is now lost. In the following this will be denoted A₁. Immediately following this comment is a second drawing of the drum, rather crudely made, which will be denoted A₂. A letter is written beside each figure, presumably as a key to a list of explanations. This list does not itself survive, but was presumably used by Randulf.
Of three drawings accompanying copies of the text, the version that is clearly closest to the original is unfortunately only known to me through a reproduction of unkown fidelity in Nordiska fornlemningar, volume 1, published by Johan Gustaf Liljegren and Carl Georg Brunius in 1823, denoted B₁. Intermediate between this and the other versions is one found in the manuscript XA Qv. 23 in NTNU University Library, where it is accompanied not by the Nærøy manuscript text, but the drawing and interpretation of another drum. Since that drum originated in the region neighbouring Nærøy, and is stated to only having been given up after two years of negotiations with its owner, it could hardly have been one of the drums brought by von Westen; it is more likely that it was Randulf himself who confiscated it. This version of the drawing is denoted B₂, and as a group, these two versions are denoted B.
There is a minor error in B₁, where the object held by the
lower left figure is circular rather than D-shaped, but if this is
introduced in the 1823 reproduction rather than being a feature of the
manuscript copy, B₁ could well be the source of B₂. A
drawing closely related to the B group which I hesitate to
include as a distinct version is the illustration found as drum number 1
in Lappisk Mythologi, 1871 (Sámi mythology) by Jens Andreas
Friis. He claims that it reproduces a drawing by von Westen found in a
manuscript belonging to Trondhjems Videnskabsselskab (the Royal
Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters in Trondheim), but I have
never seen anybody else reference this. It looks more as if he tried to
reverse the obvious distorsion of B₂ (which does indeed belong to
this collection), and to
correct a detail based on the evidence from other
drums (changing the object held by the leftmost figure from a staff to a
bow). This makes it more similar to the reproduction of B₁, which
he criticises for attempting to touch up and thus misrepresent the
The B drawings contain details not found in A₂. It is
important to note that since the author might have had access to the
drum itself, the earlier A₁ drawing and the original
interpretations of both Jon Lassen and Sjur Larsen, they may document
details missing from the hurried drawing of A₂. On the other
hand, it is evident that at least B₂ deliberately
prettifies the drawing and makes it more regular. This is most
obvious in the outline of the drum, which rather than the authentic
egg-shape of B₁ has parallel sides and identical semicircular
The two other versions I have found from actual copies of the Nærøy manuscript are very similar to each other, and are clearly derived from B₂, but with further embellishment. However, as both of them diverge from this source in details where the other retains the earlier form, they must descend from an intermediate copy. These drawings are here denoted C₁ and C₂ respectively, or just C when referred to as a group.
I have removed all writing not meant to represent the actual symbols on the drum from the images above. In this respect, what sets drawing A₂ apart from all the others besides its much cruder execution is that each symbol is identified with a letter, whereas B and C uses numbers in a different ordering, corresponding to the manuscript text. The C drawings contain text in addition to the numbering, but this is clearly derived from the manuscript text.
The following table shows the relationship between the three redactions of the illustration. Note that on A₂, two groups containing three and two symbols respectively repeat the same letter for each symbol, and group of four symbols treated as a single unit in the text have a separate letter for each symbol. In B₂, the number ‘21’ is missing; but as it is obvious from the text which symbol it refers to, this does not prevent this drawing from being the source of the C group. In the ‘C’ column, I have written Sámi terms in boldface, Latin words in italics and Danish text in normal letters, although no such distinction is made in the drawings. Where C₁ and C₂ differ, the latter’s text is given in grey.
|e||1||Hora Galles vel Jupiter|
|f||2||Varalden Olmay Saturnus|
|g||3||Biexa Galles Æolus|
|b||7||Sarva Vare Saro Væro Simle|
|i (1)||10||Muba Ailiches|
|i (2)||11||Ailiches Olmay Ailiches Olmai|
|i (3)||12||Gulman Ailiches|
|r s t u||14||Riſt Palches|
|o||18||Lucina Marium Juchſacha|
|p||19||Saraca Juno Lucina Saracha Juno Lucina|
|q||20||Rea Saturni uxor Cybilla Maderaca Maderacha Saturni uxor Cybele|
|m||21||Vata Ciadse Vata Ciadſe|
|n||22||Kuttu, Kotte Kuttu v Kotte gammen|
|l (1)||23||Leib Olmay Leib Olmaÿ v Björne Manden|
|l (2)||24||Biri Biri v. Björnen|
The style of writing is characterised by rambling, repetitive and ungrammatical passages, and by frequently breaking out into haranguing diatribes and obviously fabricated anecdotes to support vacuous arguments, with the result that the author comes across as a barely literate, dishonest bigot. The reason why several copies of the text were still made of the text, besides its purported usefulness in intimidating Sámis into confessing to devil-worship, is presumably its obsequious glorification of von Westen as a miracle-working prophet.
There is only minor variations between the various manuscript copies. The following transcription is taken from Just Qvigstad’s “Kildeskrifter til den lappiske mythologi” (1903), in difficult places controlled against scans of the manuscript XA Qv. 374 in NTNU University Library. I omit the long title and introductory paragraph, as well as the entirety of the “relation” itself; only the explanation of the symbols on the drum written between these is included. Further, I have chosen to hide the most worthless drivel either not connected to the actual drum, or so obviously invented by the author as to have no source value. These parts can be revealed by clearing the checkbox below, but have been entirely omitted from my translation.
The manuscript frequently emphasises foreign words and oddly enough most instances of the word Finn for Sámi by using slightly larger and clearer letterforms. Like Qvigstad, I reproduce these words in italics. Some other terms are instead emphasised using slightly larger, bolder and more angular letterforms. In Qvigstad’s edition, these are typeset with increased letter-spacing; I use boldface instead as this is closer to the custom of the original.
The author frequently uses the unusually capitalised compound word afGud. In texts where the word refers to effigies of the gods I translate it “idol”, but in this text it always refers to deities in the abstract, so “false god” would be more appropriate here. The simple term Gud is several times used in the same sense, so for readability reasons I choose to translate both “god” when they refer to members of the pantheon, but “deity” when the simple term is used in a broader sense, and capitalised as “God” in a case where it refers to a single but unspecified Sámi god.
Another much used term is runne, atypically spelled with a double ‘n’. As a verb, this generally means “to rune” i.e. “to work magic”, but here it has a narrower sense “to entreat by means of the Sámi drum”. I render this as “conjure”, and its gerund as “conjuration”. As the first element of compound words, it means “magic” or “magical”. The most frequent such compund is Runnebomme, literally “magic drum” for the Sámi drum. For readability reasons, I translate this simply as “drum”, making no distinction between the full word and the few occurences of the simple form Bomme, “drum”, as no difference in meaning between the two seems to be intended. Runnemand, literally “magic man” is used where parallels make it clear that a “noaidi” (spelled Noyde) is meant. To retain the stylistic distinction, and to maintain the connection to the verb, I translate this as “conjurer”.
Latin names are given their conventional English form and Latin and French words are translated if they are used for their meaning and not referred to for their form. Sámi words are left in their original haphazard orthography, except when they are used as Norwegian loan words where they are instead normalised as they would be if used as loan words in English.
To a large degree I have retained the original’s grammatical blunders, deeply nested subordinate clauses and repetitive style. However, I have rationalised punctuation and used idiomatic translations rather than literal ones where this was deemed to preserve the original’s intent better or equally well. Here and there I have supplied words necessary for the meaning but lacking in the original in square brackets. The excessive use of emphasis is toned down.
Is one of their foremost gods, called Hora Galles, the same as the old Norwegian pagans called Thor, about whom much can be read in the Norwegian chronicle. After him Thursday has its name, as it is still called by us Christians. He is also the same as was called Jupiter by the ancient Greeks as well as by the Romans who named the same day of the week after him, calling it Dies Jovis.
This god, who stands with a sledgehammer in one hand and a cross-hammer in the other is especially worshipped by the Sámis when thunder strikes, so that he with one of the hammers will drive it back, so that it will not hurt them or their reindeer; likewise they invoke him when they wish to have thunder and lightning striking someone who they are angry with, so that he with the sledgehammer in his other hand shall send his thunder and lightning upon them. It is also this one who they believe shall give them fortune in battle, shooting and hunting, and protect them and their reindeer from the wolf and the bear; wherefore they eagerly still today keep the Thursday holy, and will not perform certain acts on that day.
It is known that the common man, farmers and suchlike, still mark their doors on Christmas Eve with a cross, that they cross with knives over a jug of beer or a glass of brandy when they shall drink it, that they do not open the lid of a full butter box without making a cross over it with the knife. This they probably believe signifies the cross of Jesus, but nonetheless, the Sámis who in the same situation perform the same crossing have a different purpose for it; they mean by it the hammer of Thor which he holds in his hand. Thus the Sámis’ crossing denotes the hammer of Thor, which is shaped like a cross, and this shows that the crossing of the common man is nothing other than a remnant of old pagan times, when everybody marked their food and dring by the sign of Thor’s hammer, as can be seen in the history of king Hagen Adelsteen and in the Norwegian chronicle of Snorle Sturlesen.
Is their second great god, second to Hora Galles or Thor or Jupiter, who they call Waralden olmay; that is The World’s Man, he is the same as Saturn. This god they paint on the drum with a curving line above the head with many tines on it, which shall signify fertility, of the earth an sea as well as of animals. Therefore they worship him, so that he shall give a good growth of grain in the land, and that they thereby get a good deal when buying grain, beer, brandy and everything made from grain. This they denote by the hoe he holds in his hand, with which the earth shall be hoed by Restmand (this is what they call Christ) when the seed is thrown in it. Likewise they call upon him, that he shall make the sea fertile, so that they catch much fish (this the Sea-Sámi especially do), that he shall make their reindeer fertile, so that they bear many calves, that he shall make fertile the moss in the mountains, which their reindeer eat, and they thereby may get much reindeer cheese, reindeer butter etc. In a word, everything that can grow or procreate they call upon Waralden Olmay or Saturn for.
Is their 3rd great god, who is called Bieka Galles, the strong Wind Man; this is the same as Æolus, whom they paint with a showel in his right hand with which he shovels the wind into his caves, when it has raged enough, and with a club in his left hand with which he shall drive the wind out when it shall blow. This god they worship both when they are in the mountains with their reindeer, so that he will calm the wind that harms the animals, and also when they are at sea fishing, and storm arises so that their life is in danger, they promise him a sacrifice on their altar. When they have a grievance against somebody, they demand wind from this false god, which they bind into 3 knots by their conjuration. When they untie the first, a passable wind arises; when they untie the second, the wind becomes so strong that a ship hardly without danger can sail with half foresail; but if they untie the third, then shipwreck is unavoidable.
Is called Waralde Noyde, that is the conjurer or prophet of Heaven. This one is drawn with a drum in his left hand and with a hammer made after Thor’s hammer, with which to beat the drum, in the right hand. So as to better understand what this Waralde Noyde signifies, I find it necessary to provide this account: Not all Sámis have drums, or if they have inherited them, either after their parents or others (as they are inherited, and held to be more powerful the older they are), they neither know how to play them, nor will Satan deign to reply to others by it, than those who he after long and faithful service find suited to appoint as his noaidis and prophets among them, who are so many, unfortunately, that almost every third or fourth Sámi is a noaidi. Now, when a Sámi wants to ask his gods for advice and to gain knowledge of the future through the drum, then in case he isn’t himself a noaidi, he lets another noaidi use the hammer belonging to it, which is depicted under No. 1 on the back of the drawing accompanying this account, to beat the drum. According to this beating, the brass ring which he has placed on the drum moves to the place where Satan wants to have it, and thereby denotes his answer. When it arrives there, it settles so firmly that they cannot with all their skill or power bring it to another place, as they often wish when the ring arrives at an unfortunate place which denotes death or other misfortune; unless they promise sacrifice either to this god or that (which they have at the time chosen to seek aid from), as then it happens that the ring moves with further beating on the drum and moves to another more fortunate place.
As the Sámis generally have divided the drum into two paths, which are separated by No. 9; one path designates Heaven, or more precisely, the seat of the highest gods, where Thor, Waralden Olmay and Bieka Galles and other things are; and the other designates Earth, where the lesser gods are. The latter path is further divided into the path or Palches of life, which designates earthly life, and Jamichusche Palches or the path of the dead, which leads to Jamichusche or the realm of the dead, and denothes death to them. Thus they hold the idea, that just as they have noaidis or prophets on Earth; through whom they ask either the highest or the lesser gods, or the dead, who are called Jami and consist of other deceased Sámis, who reign in the realm of the dead, as they believe that when a Sámi dies, he immediately becomes a deity who reigns over death and can protect his closest relatives from it when they sacrifice to him; then likewise both the higher and lesser gods and the dead in their realm have their noaidis by which they conjure with a drum, whether the prayers made to them are to be granted or not.
From this it can be seen that this Waralde Noyde is the prophet or conjurer after whose conjuration in Heaven, or more correctly the seat of the highest deities, they receive the granting or rejection of their prayers on Earth. This Waralde Noyde is considered by them an archangel, created for this sole purpose.
Is made like a tall tree with many branches, and is called Rutu. This is a Lieutenant of the three great gods Thor, Waralden Olmay and Bieka Galles; through him they believe those three gods accomplish all they wish both in Heaven and on Earth, when it after the mentioned conjuration by Waralde Noyde has been decided by them. This Rutu often manifests himself for the Sámis in blue clothes; it is thought that he is supposed to be the same as Mercury.
Is a rooster which they sacrifice to their three highest false gods, which is likewise drawn on the drum.
Which is called Særva Wæro or a female reindeer belonging to Heaven, is placed so that when they beat the drum to learn what sacrifice they shall give to their three great gods, the ring may move to one of its parts, which they abide by.
Is the bear of Heaven, and is called Waralde Biri, that is the bear of Heaven. This bear they draw beside the gods in Heaven because they even hold every bear on Earth for a holy creature and call it God’s dog, whereas they call the wolf Satan’s dog, about which I intend to report further when I reach the 23rd and 24th sign.
Is the line which separates Heaven from Earth, or the higher from the lesser gods’ sphere. By the upper line the sphere of Heaven ends, and by the lower Earth begins; the space between the lines signifies the air between Heaven and Earth.
Is called Muba Ailiches, the Saturday Man.
Is called Ailiches Olmay, the Sunday Man.
Is called Gulman Ailiches, the Friday Man.
These three are their subordinate deities or great angels, which they believe the three great heavenly gods have given them to consort with, so that they in all their affairs can be them at hand and carry their prayers to the aforementioned great gods, especially when they have the necessary councel of the drum. For then they call upon a certain of these three Ailiches, namely the Saturday Man if the conjuration is to happen on Saturday, the Sunday Man if it is to happen on Sunday, and the Friday Man if it is to happen on Friday; that he shall convey the conjuration, that it may proceed fortunately, and to recommend their inquiry to a favourable answer from the three great gods. For this reason, they depict them with wings, as if they in haste may fly between Heaven and Earth.
Is Paive or the Sun; which they, according to its course around the four quarters of the world, depict as a square turned upright on one corner, as well as standing on a foot that is hollow, to which there is a path from Earth signifying that just like their prayers on Earth go up this way to the Sun, all light, heat and fertility comes down this path to Earth when Waralden Olmay or Saturn allows it. In particular they worship the Sun either when they are out at sea, as the Sea Sámis are wont to, and the Sun is going down, and when they are far into the mountains alone, and it gets so dark that they cannot see to find their reindeer or their Kuttu (their tent). Then they fall to their knees and pray to the Sun for its light, and promise the Sun a sacrifice if it will aid them, which they invariably fulfil.
Is called Rist Palches (the path of the Christians). On this they have drawn a church, houses, a cow and a billy-goat to signify that which is found by the Christians or settled people and farmers. By this path they inquire the drum with their hammer and brass ring about their trade and association with priests, citizens and farmers or others who are not Sámis.
Is a horse, which they call Sturich. This is placed on the drum partly in order to inquire the drum what fortune they will have in the autumn in buying horses (because they eat and slaughter horses like other people do other animals, even with such an appetite that they are delighted that farmers and other people have not acquired the taste for this delicacy, as they believe it would not be so easy for the Sámi to acquire such a piece of food in the autumn, as they can now, when it is old and decrepit from a farmer for 1 Riksdaler, which is the normal price for one; sometimes they even can get the meat of a horse in exchange for taking its skin off, which the owner wishes to keep for his own use; this condition they assume with the greatest pleasure, especially the Sea Sámi who are unable to feed any reindeer). Partly this Sturich is placed on the drum as a sacrificial horse, which they promise when they anticipate that someone is about to die, so that Jami (the dead) shall help him recover, and remain alive. Therefore this horse is also on the path to the realm of the dead, which is called Jamicutsche palches, that is the path of the dead, which is to be more elaborately accounted for under No. 17.
Is Wollinere Noyde the prophet of Hell or the grave, see above under No. 4 in the notice about Waralde Noyde. Such is it also with this who stands here outside the realm of the dead, and he shall with his hammer on the drum conjure of those who reign in the realm of the dead, whether they will answer the prayers and accept the promises that are made by the living for somebody who may be deathly ill, that he or they shall recover or not.
Is Jamicutsche, the realm of the dead, where they believe the dead are and have the power to govern life and death for their living relatives and kinfolk. Here they have placed a church, houses and a Sámi Kuttu, and a thick line which shall signify the dead, whom they will invoke in deadly distress, to aid them. The space above the realm of the dead, between that and Rist Palches, which I also have marked under No. 17, they call Jamicutsche Palches, the path to the realm of the dead. When one now lies dying and all hope of life seems to be gone, they promptly perform the usual ceremony, which includes to yoik (that is to sing a Satan’s song, full of incantations and exhortations of his merciful presence at this their divine purpose, with certain words), [and] some strokes on the drum; if the brass ring then moves to Jamicutsche Palches, to the path of the dead, then it is a certain sign that the patient will die, whereupon they promptly promise a sacrifice to Jami (the dead individual or the dead individuals whom they are invoking). Then it sometimes happen, when they resume the beating of the drum, that the ring moves back to No. 22, which is the location on the drum that signifies their Sámi huts, by which they are ensured that the patient by the sacrifice has been liberated from death and shall yet live long and inhabit his huts, but if the ring moves all the way into Jamicutsche, the realm of the dead, then neither payment nor prayer will avail, but the patient must die, if he even promised all his reindeer and were able also to buy all the Stiuricher, horses, that could be managed so sacrifice alongside the reindeer; for one must know that they believe that in the sacrifice of a horse to the dead is a particular power for liberation from death.
Is a goddess, who they call Juchsacha, the same [as] Lucina Marium, because she is supposed to give the Sámi’s women fortune in giving birth to male children. About her they have the conception, that if a woman should already be pregnant with a female child; she can, if they conjure intensely enough to her, transform it into a male child, for which reason they depict her with a drum in the right hand, and because she is very old, they have given her a staff to lean on in the left hand, which they also do with the two other gods under No. 19 and 20.
Is the second great goddess, whom they call Saracha or Saragacha, this is the same as the Romans’ Juno Lucina. Her they invoke during childbirth, for her to aid their women as well as their reindeer to give birth and recover well. They hold her in great friendship and are inordinately afraid of defying her.
Is the third great goddess, who is called by them Maderacha, that is the same as Cybille or Rhea wife of Saturn, who was called the great mother of gods. To her they ascribe power in general with both sexes, to make both women and animals pregnant, and invoke her for that.
Signifies a lake with fish in it, which they call Wata-ciadse. It is placed on the drum so that they by it can ask the god Tonsie, who is their god of the sea, the same as Neptune, whether they will have fortune in fishery at the salt sea or ocean; and in fresh water lakes, of which there is an abundance in the mountains around them, which are maintained by rivers, that they can ask the god Harchild, who is the god of rivers or fresh water, doubtlessly the same, as the old Egyptians’ Omphi, if they will have fortune in freshwater fishery that year. If the ring stays put in the middle of the rectangularly drawn fishing lake, then it is a good sign for fishery; if it goes to the edge, though is outside, then it is a sign that the god wants a sacrifice, if they are to catch anything; but if it stays outside, so it does not touch any edge, they will not catch anything no matter what they promise or sacrifice. A dead dog is usually the sacrifice that is given in this case.
Is a place on the drum representing theit tents, kalled Kuttu or Kutti, which are painted by the pointed sign that is burned down to the end, whichs is placed inside trhe circle, as well as also, represented by the two rectangular signs in the same place, their huts, when they are used for living in. Whether the Sámi lives in a tent, which is made from cloth stretched out over many poles, or he lives in a hut, which is dug into the ground, and covered with tree-bark and earth on top of it, he has two doors on this his hut; one he calls Ux, this belongs to Mubenaimo the Devil, the other he calls Paasio, this belongs to Immel, our Lord. In the center of the hut is his fireplace, which is consecrated to the goddess Saracha, about whom is told under No. 19. Around this fireplace he lies sleeping at night with wife and children, and the fire burns there night and day. So that he for this shall not suffer any shortage of firewood, and neither find it inconvenient to fetch it, he often moves with his hut, further and further into the forest, as he chops wood, so that he simply can fell the tree by his door, chop it to pieces there and drag it into the hut. The reason why this sign is placed on the drum is partly this: that the Sámi by his conjuration may get to know when he shall move his hut or tent to another mountain, and whether he may get better moss-pasture for his reindeer than what he has on the current one. If it happens, that the ring remains on the tent or hut that is depicted inside the circle, then he shall stay where he is currently, and cannot find a better place elsewhere; but if the ring goes to the long line which is to be seen at the other end of the circle, then he shall move for his betterment. Partly, the sign is placed there, so that, as previously is told under No. 17 about Jamicutschi, when the ring for someone who is deathly ill, will, after they have promised a sacrifice, leave the path of the dead, it may move to this sign and signify life for the patient.
Is called Leibolmay, the bear-man, or the god who is capable both to hold protection over the bear as a sacred animal, and also to give the Sámi bear when he is asked and prayed to. Literally his name means the alder-man, as leib is the same as alder-tree and olmay is man, because the bear usually keeps to alder-forests in order to eat the herbs that can be found there, especially a kind, which is called alpine sow-thistle, in Latin Suncus; over all of which Leib-olmay is a patron and protector according to their belief. Therefore they also believe that he is a defender of the bear who can protect him, when they have not beforehand sought themselves aid; so that they not only may get him, but may even help the bear to tear them asunder; and also when they, through the drum, before they go bear-hunting have entreated him, that he should withhold his protection from the bear, and help them shoot the bear.
Is the bear itself or Biri as they call it. I have previously said [under] No. 8, that Biri or the bear is held by the Sámi as a sacred animal, and although they also hold all animals both wild and tame that can be eaten by them as sacred, the bear enjoys among all a great preference, which they honour with the name Imel’s or God’s dog. But as sacred as they hold it, they prefer before all other food to eat his meat and sell his pelt, the first to sate and fill the belly, the other to fill the throat and the purse. Therefore, when a Sámi have shot a bear and returns home to his hut where his wife and children are inside, then he does not immediately go into the hut, but takes an alder-rod; this he pokes into the hut down by the floor so that his wife sees it, and when she sees it she immediately reaches for it, but he pulls back again; this is repeated twice more. From this the wife immediately understands that the sacred God’s dog (the bear) is felled, and prepares to receive her husband’s arrival through the door that is called Ux, to which he goes as soon as he has signalled his fortunate expedition by the rod, and when he enters through the mentioned Ux or door of the hut, she immediately spits chewed alder-bark all over his face, and if there are others in his company, which sometimes happens, they receive the same salving from her as the husband; this all happens as atonement for the husband and them all, for having felled the sacred Biri. I had almost forgot the circumstance, that the wife, as soon as the man has inserted the alder-rod to her as mentioned, from which she understands that he has shot the bear, immediately begins inside the hut, and the man outside the hut, to yoik (to sing) during which yoiking, singing, he enters the hut, and gets salved as described along with his company, continuing his yoiking until the end, before he washes off his salving.
This is the extent of what is known to me about the meaning of the drum, which they have in several formats, one not like the other; some large, some small; some are made only with symbols, some with images like this. All are however alike in the worship of Satan, except that some may after greater correspondence with the Devil be filled with a greater number of gods than others. It is noteworthy that sometimes the Devil will not answer at all by the drum, which they notice when either the ring will not rapidly move away, or also when it moves too rapidly and does not stop at any specific place. Then there is no other recourse than to sacrifice to the drum itself a reindeer or another animal they can chance upon, just as the thing they want to inquire can be of importance or not. Likewise, when someone will make themselves a new drum, then an invitation must be made to 3 or 4 noaidis at least, all of whom with the sacrifice of a reindeer and a Sturich, the blood of which is sprinkled on it, and their usual yoiking, must consecrate and inaugurate it.
The account doubtlessly contains a generally correct description of a real drum. The layout, the positions of the symbols and their interpretations are all largely consistent with other drums and other early interpretations. Unfortunately, there are still several points where the veracity of the text and the drawings is doubtful.
The first doubt regards the additional details on the B drawings not present in A₂; especially in the groups numbered 17 and 22. Here A₂ only has short strokes underneath the curved lines, whereas B has several distinct symbols corresponding to the textual description. As mentioned above, it is possible that this is due to either a renewed inspection of the drum which the text claims von Westen brought when visiting Nærøy, or the drawing made of it when Jon Lassen gave von Westen his interpretation of the drum, which is referred to in the diary fragment. However, the general dishonesty the author displays do raise the suspicion that the additional details are added to the drawing in order to better correspond to the account.
The second regards A₂ itself. Unlike on any surviving drum, the holy day men 10–12 are drawn with wings, and the text refers to this detail. As A₂ was drawn at a point where the drum was confiscated, it might not have been intended as an accurate representation of it, but merely as a key connecting the textual description in Sjur’s testimony to the symbols on the drum. Contemporary drawings have a strong tendency to represent symbols not as they appeared on the drum, but as more naïve drawings of what they were meant to represent. Hence, it is not out of the question that von Westen drew the figures with wings based on them being described as some kind of angels, whereas they in reality were more abstract on the drum itself. Randulf, who was no stranger to inventing details out of whole cloth, may easily have added the justification for the wings in the text based on nothing more than the drawing.
Something similar seems to be the case with the immediately preceding entry, that of the dividing line between the upper heavenly realm and the lower earthly one. Like all other structural parts, this is drawn as a double stroke. The comment that the space between these two strokes placed above the Sun represents the air is unlikely to be correct or provided by the informants, and looks much more like the vapid speculation of an armchair researcher.
Other discrepancies with evidence from other sources could just as well reflect real regional or individual variation in the meaning ascribed to the drums by their creators and users. Among these are the identification of the tree-like sign 5 with Rutu which elsewhere is found as a horse or rider close to the representation to the realm of the dead like number 15 which is here called Sturich. Similarly, in the trio of goddesses numbered 18–20, it would be expected to find Uksakka rather than Maderakka as the third, even though the presence of the latter on the drum is not in itself unexpected.