The History of Lapland

Written by John Scheffer
Oxford 1674

Of the Religion of the Laplanders.

Having seen the rise and Original of the Laplanders, we come now to speak more distinctly of them, but first of their Religion; not only what it is now, but also what was before Christianity came to be receiv’d there. For there were Laplanders, or at least some Inhabitants of Lapland before the Christian Religion was introduced: such as the Finni, Lappofinni, Scridfinni, or Biarmi, as is above said; but it was very long before the Laplanders properly so called embraced the Christian Religion. At first there is no doubt they were Pagans, as all the Northern Nations were, but being all Pagans were not of the same Religion, it may be enquired which the laplanders profest. and I suppose it could be no other then that of the Finlanders, from whom they derive their original, and consequently their Religion too. But what the Religion of the Finlanders was is very uncertain, since we have no account of the ancient affairs of that Nation. Therefore we must make our conjectures from the Biarmi, and Scridfinni, as also from some remains among the Finlanders and Laplanders.

We have already prov’d the Biarmi to be the first Colony that the Finlanders sent into Lapland, of whom this is chiefly recorded in ancient Monuments, that they worship’d a certain God whom they called Jumala: which Jumala or Jomala is manifestly a different word from what is mentioned in the History of St. Olaus King of Norway, and of Herrodus, for they relate it as peculiar to the Biarmi, and unknown to themselves; who being either Goths, Norwegians or Islanders, it cannot possibly be any old Gothic word, but of some other Country, and therefore most probably of Finland, where it is now in use. For God, which is by the Swedes, Goths, and all of the same original termed Gott, or Gudh, is by them called Jumala; custom without doubt prevailing that the same name, whereby in ancient times they called the false God, was translated to the true One, both by the Finlanders, the Biarmi and the Laplanders also who came out of Finland, and being joined with the Biarmi made one Nation. Besides Jumala, it seems the Laplanders had aGod whom the Swedes call Thor, which may be gathered, not only because they worship one Thor at this present among their idols, as shall be shewn hereafter, but also because in the number of Gods which the old Finlanders, especially the Tavasti adored, there was reckoned Turrisas, the God of War and Victory, which was no other then Thor. This Turrisas is put in one word for Turris-As (i. e.) Turris, Turrus, or Torus (for so his name is diversly written) the Prince of the Ases, or Asiatics, for those who in former times came out of Asia into these parts were called Ases, of whom this Turrus was the first, who from that time was worshipped by the Finlanders by the name of Turrisas; which may farther be proved from Arngrinus Jonæ, who saies the first King of the Finlanders was Torrus, one of the Predecessors of King Norus, from whom some think Norige, (i. e.) Norway, quasi Nori Rige, to take its denomination, it being frequent for the ancient Kings to take upon them the names of their Gods. Thus among the ancient Greeks we find many who were called by the names of Jupiter and Neptune. So Torrus the King was so called from Torus the ancient God of the Finlanders, from whom without doubt he was derived to the laplanders, together with their language, worships, and other customs. To these two (if they are two) Jumala and Thor, may be added the Sun, which I gather from this, because he is still reckoned among their Gods. Besides he is generally worship’d in all barbarous and pagan Countries, and if he be adored for his light and heat by those People, who enjoy the benefit of a warm air and temperate climate, how much more by the Laplanders, who for no small space endure the hardship of continual night and bitter frosts? but I shall speak more concerning the Sun hereafter.

These are the chief Gods of the Laplanders, whether they had any of less note may be questioned, tho I doubt it not; because at this day they worship some others, which the Finlanders did before them, and probably brought with them into Lapland. Of these the Carelii had Rongotheus the God of Ry, Pellonpeko of Barly, Wierecannos of Oats, Egres of Herbs, Pease, Turnips, Flax, and Hemp; Uko with his wife Rowne, of tempests; Kækre the Protector of Cattel from wild beasts, Hyse had the command of Wolves, and Bears, Nyrke of Squirrel-hunting, Hyttavanes of Hare-hunting. Some of these the Laplanders worshipped; especially those whose help they stood chiefly in need of to the performing of their business, as the gods of hunting and preserving their Cattel from wild beasts, and such like: others probably they neglected as useless, because they neither plowed nor sowed. But I cannot say under what names they worshipped them, because I find nothing of certainty thereof, either in their ancient records, or modern customs.

Next we must consider what kind of worship they pai’d their Gods, which we have already mentioned; but of this also we are in great uncertainty, unless we make our judgement from the present times, and deliver those rites which are now used by the Laplanders in their religious performances, but of this we shall speak more when we come to treat of the present state of their Religion. We shall only note here what is read of Jumala. He was heretofore represented in the image of a man sitting upon an Altar, with a Crown on his head, adorned with twelve gems, and a golden Chain about his neck, which was formerly of the value of 300 Marks; tho whether the word in the History doth signify a chain, or may better be rendred a Jewel, ’tis uncertain; for it is said that Charles lifting his Ax, cut the collar whereon it hanged: which shews that it was rather gold artificially carved and set with jewels, which was (I suppose) the reason why Herrodus doth not set down its weight, as is usual in the valuing of chains, but its price. This Jewel called Men from Mene the Moon whose figure it represented, was, as I imagine, tied to a collar about the neck, and hanged down upon the brest of the image, as is usual in all such ornaments at this day. But whether this were a chain or locket, it is certain the other parts of his habit were agreeable to our description of him; wherein he was not much unlike the Swedes God Thor, as he is described in our History of Upsal: for he also was made sitting with a Crown on his head, adorned with Stars, as Jumala with jewels, each to the number of twelve, from whence I am almost perswaded that the Biarmi, and after them the Laplanders, either worshipped one God under two names, or if they were two Gods, they used their names promiscuously. For the true God, whom they knew partly by reason, and partly by tradition, was by them called Jumala: but after the name of Thor began to be famous, they either called Jumala by the name of Thor, or gave Thor the name of Jumala: which I gather from hence, because at this day the Laplanders attribute that to their Thor, which questionless formerly they did to Jumala, viz. the power and command over the inferior Gods, especially the bad and hurtful: also over the air, thunder, lightning, health, life and death of men, and such like; as shall be shewn hereafter. What his image was made of, is not known, but I suppose it was wood, because Charles is said to have cut off his head with his Ax, when he only designed the cutting of the collar that held the aforesaid jewel, which he could hardly have don, had it bin either silver or gold. Besides, to prove it was wood, it was burnt to ashes, together with the Temple, and all its furniture, excepting some gold, and other precious things; with which gold particularly they did homage to their God: for the Biarmi in their ceremonies to Jumala, did cast gold as a sacred offertory to him into a golden dish, of a vast weight and bigness, which stood upon his knees. This Vessel, in the History of Olaus, is said to be of silver, and full of silver coin, for a little befor his time both basin and gold were lost, and the Biarmi never had an opportunity of getting more. They did not worship Jumala every where, but in some few places, or perhaps only in that one, where in a thick remote wood he had a kind of a Temple, not as they are usually built with walls and roof, but only a piece of ground fenced as the old Roman Temples were; from hence one might look every way, which could not have bin don had they bin cover’d at the top. As in the form of their Temples, so in the situation of them they did imitate the ancients, who for the most part chose groves to worship their Gods in, and there built their Temples. So much of Jumala, and the ancient manner of worshipping him amongst the Biarmi, as it is transmitted to us by ancient Writers; but of Thor, the Sun, and the other Gods, there is nothing read but what belongs to the times of Christianity, and the superstition still remaining amongst them, of which we shall speak particularly in the following Chapter.