Closely associated with the so-called Nærøy manuscript by Johan Randulf, vicar in Nærøy and dean in Namdalen, written when the missionary Thomas von Westen visited in 1723, is a drawing of a different drum from the one described there and an accompanying interpretation of it. Though there are some discrepancies, there can be little doubt that this drum is the one that is now in the Meininger Museen in Germany; one of the very few that still survive out of the more than one hundred that von Westen collected and sent to Copenhagen, as most of these were destroyed in a fire in 1728.
The manuscript is known as XA Qv. 23 in the Gunnerus library at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU. It is bound with a copy of the the drawing of the drum described in the Nærøy manuscript (omitted here), and its text shares some odd word choices with that work.
The handwriting is hard to read, but the text is reproduced in Just
Kildeskrifter til den lappiske mythologi (1903). I
have reproduced this text below with some corrections based on the high
resolution scans of the original that are now available. This text
silently expands abbreviations of the words som, paa,
den, the syllable for and geminated n and m.
The text is in Danish, but Norwegian words with no obvious Danish
counterpart are written in their Norwegian form, and in one instance
such a word is interpreted to be a Sámi word.
For clarity, I have removed the original numbering of the individual symbols from the drawing, and added modern numbers in light red in the same places. In the English translation below, I have not repeated this illustration, but replaced it with a copy of Ernst Manker’s tracing of the original drum. Here the numbering is altogether removed, as he renumbered the symbols for his own description.
Naar en Finn har besluttet et at forrette, adspurde hand sin Rune-Bomme, tog den i sin venstre Haand, vendede den Ende, hvor Rins-Dyrenes Samling præsenteres (No. 1) til sit Bryst, faldt ned paa det venstre Knæ, med det høire oprakt, tog hammeren, som er arbeidet af Rins-Horn, tillige med det lille Messing Instrument |: Viiseren kaldet :| i den høire Haand, lagde Viiseren oven paa Skindet, og med Hammeren bankede paa Skindet. Imedens hand saa bankede, sang hand en Sang paa Finsk, som vel uden Tvil har været vantroende, efterdi ingen Fin vil give Meeningen tilkiende; ved denne banken paa Skindet bevægedes Viiseren fra et Sted til et andet iblandt Characterene, indtil den før Sangen var ude, blev u-bevegelig liggendes, i hvor meget hand vilde banke, paa det Signo, som betegnede Finnernes Forehavende, om hans propos skulde blive lykkelig; men skulde det ikke lykkes, da bevegedes Viiseren under og efter Sangen hist og her ved Finnens Banken, som af Begyndelsen. Dette har været Finnerne et infallible Tegn paa en lykkelig eller u-lykkelig Udgang.
Charactererne haver efterfølgende Betydende:
Det røde Kaars som paa Rune-Bommen er malet med Biørne-Blod, som Finnen har taget af den skudte Biørns Hierte, og anstrøgen dette sit Oracul med, paa det hand fremdeles skal blive lykkelig i sit Biørne-Skøtterie.
De smaae Tinn-Nagler, paa den anden Ende af Ovalen i Træet findes inddrevne, viiser hvor mange Biørne efter denne Rune-Bommes prophetie ere fældede.
Ligeledes inddriver de smaae Tin- eller Messing-Nagler udi deres Bøsser for hver Biørn de skyder.
Remmerne med Tinn-Traaer omviklede og med gammel Tin og Messing i Enden prydede, ere som Gaver og Taknemmeligheds Tegn til Rune-Bommen, hvilke Finnerne giver, naar de efter dens Anvisning har været lykkelige.
Jo ældre en Runebomme er, jo større Tillid er der sat til den; hvorfor Finnerne efter 2de Aars ofte skiede Anmodning neppe vilde nedføre hosfølgende af Fieldene og lade den fare, som samme skal være arved i 4de Leed.
Characterernes Betydninger aabenbarer ingen Fin, saalænge hand er ædrue; men bliver hand skiænket med Brendeviin, kand man undertiden lære deres Arcana.
Disse Anmærkninger over Rune-Bommens Characterer
med meere ere givne av 2de gamle Finner Bendix
Andersen Frennings-Field og Jon
Fiplings-Skov, hvilke Fielde henhører til Brøndøe Præstegield.
In the translation below, I have retained the original’s grammatical vagrancies, such as switching between the past and the present tense and other inconsistencies; and have here and there chosen an old-fashioned word or turn of phrase if it allows the translation to follow the original more closely in structure and meaning.
When a Sámi has decided a course of action, he inquired his magic drum, took it in his left hand, turned the end where the reindeer gathering is shown (No. 1) to his chest, fell down on the left knee with the right one upright, took the hammer which is wrought of reindeer horn together with the small brass intrument called the indicator in the right hand, laid the indicator on the drumskin and beat on the skin with the hammer. While beating, he sang a song in Sámi, which doubtlessly has been pagan, as no Sámi will reveal its meaning; by this beating on the drumskin, the indicator moved from one place to another among the symbols, until it before the song ended remained motionless, no matter how much he was beating, on the symbol which designated the Sámi’s purpose if his proposition were to be fortunate; but should it not succeed, the indicator would keep moving under and after the song hither and thither by the Sámi’s beating, as in the beginning. This has to the Sámi been an infallible sign of a fortunate or unfortunate end.
The symbols have the following meanings:
The red cross that is painted on the drum with bear’s blood, which the Sámi has taken from the heart of the bear that has been shot and painted this his oracle with, so that he shall remain fortunate in his bear-shooting.
The small tin nails that are driven in the wood at the other end of the oval shows how many bears that have been felled after the prophecy of this drum.
Likewise, they drive small tin or brass nails into their guns for each bear they shoot.
The straps wound with tin thread and decorated by old tin and brass at the end, are gifts and tokens of gratitude which the Sámis give to the drum when they have had good fortune by its guidance.
The older a drum is, the more it is trusted; which is why the Sámis after two years of frequent requests barely would bring the accompanying one down from the mountains and let it go, as it is claimed to be passed down for four generations.
The meanings of the symbols no Sámi will reveal as long as he is sober, but if he is given strong liquor one may sometimes learn their secrets.
These annotations on the symbols of the magic drum and more are given by the two old Sámis Bendix Andersen Frøyningsfjell and Jon Torkelsen Fiplingskog, their surnames being mountains in Brønnøy parish.