The History of Lapland

Written by John Scheffer
Oxford 1674

Of the heathenish Gods of the Laplanders, and their manner of worship at this day.

We have shewed in the foregoing Chapter that there were three principal Gods worshipped by the Laplanders; the first is Thor, signifying thunder, in the Swedish Dialect called Thordoen, by the Laplanders themselves Tiermes, that is any thing that makes a noise, agreeing very well with the notion the Romans had of Jupiter the thunderer, and the God Taramis, which I have treated of in the History of Upsal. This Tiermes or thunder they think by a special virtue in the Sky to be alive; intimating thereby that power from whence thunder proceeds, or the thundering God, wherefore he is by them called Aijeke, which signifies grand, or great-grand-Father, as the Romans saluted their father Jupiter, and the Swedes their Gubba. This Aijeke when he thunders is by the Laplanders call’d Tiermes, by the Scythians, Tarami, and by the Swedes, Tor or Toron. This Tiermes or Aijeke the Laplanders suppose to have power over the life and death, health and sickness of man: and also over the hurtfull Demons who frequent Rocks and Mountains, whom he often chastises, and sometimes destroies with his lightning, as the Latins fanci’d their Jupiter to do, for which end they give him a bow in his hand to shoot the Demons with, which they call Aijeks dauge: also they give him a mallet, which they call Aijeke Wetschera, to dash out the brains of said evil spirits. Wherefore because the Laplanders expect so many blessings from their Tiermes, and believe he bestows life upon them, and preserves their health, and that they cannot die unless it be his plesure, and drives away the Demons, which are prejudicial to their hunting, fowling, and fishing, and never hurts them but when their offences deserve it; therefore he is to be worshipped in the first place. The next of the principal Gods is Storjunkare, which tho it be a Norwegian word, Junkare in that language signifying the Governor of a Province, yet is used by the Laplanders now; tho perhaps it was not in use till some of them became subjects to Norway. Certain it is, that this is not the only name of that God, for he is also called Stourra Passe (i.e.) Great Saint, as appears by a Hymn which is sung at his Sacrifices. His name they reverence very much, and they pay him frequenter, if not greater devotion then other Gods, for they suppose him to be their Tiermes his Lieutenant, and as it were Royal Prefect, adding Stœre, which signifys greater for distinction sake. Now they worship Storejunkar, because they think that they receive all their blessings thro his hands, and that all beasts and Cattel, are subject to his will, and that he governs them as Tiermes doth men and spirits; wherefore he can give them to whom he will, and none can receive them without his pleasure. These beasts therefor supplying the Laplanders with meat and clothes, it may easily be imagined how necessary they held it to worship Storjunkare. And these are the two peculiar gods of the Laplanders, whereof one hath the dominion over men, the other over beasts; one bestows life, the other all things required to the sustaining of it. Tornæus saies they report of him that he hath often appeared to Fowlers or Fishers in the shape of a tall personable man, habited like a Nobleman, with a Gun in his hand, and his feet like those of a bird. As often as he appears standing on the shore, or in the ship by them, they say he makes their fishing successful, and kills birds that happen to fly by with his Gun, which he bestows upon those that are present. It is reported that a Laplander being to guide one of the Kings Lieutenant, when he came over against a mountain where Storejunkar was supposed to dwell, he stood still, and setting the helve of his Ax down upon the Ice, turned it round, professing that he did it in honor of their munificent God, who dwelt there. And tho there is mention made but of one mountain where the Laplander performed this ceremony, yet we may suppose he would have don it oftner, if there had happened to be more hills in the way. But perhaps this distinction of name is used by the Laplanders which border upon Norway, especially in Lulalapland, from his habit and clothing; and because he used to appear in another dress to them of Lapponia Kiemensis and Tornensis, therefore they did not worship him under that name, but by the common appellation of Seita, from whom they believed that they receive the benefits of hunting, fishing and fowling.

I come now to the Sun, their third God, which is common to them with all other Pagans, him they call Baiwe, and worship him chiefly for his light and heat: also because they believe him to be the Author of Generation, and that all things are made by his means, especially their Rain-dears, of whom and their young they think he hath a particular care to cherish them by his heat, and bring them suddenly to strength and maturity. And being they live in a cold Country where their native heat is diminish’d, and often wholly extinguish’d, being they have nothing to sustain themselves with but the flesh of Rain-dear, they think it very fit to pay the Sun very great honors, who is the Author of so great blessings to them, and who at his return restores them that light which they lost by his departure, and that not for a day or two, but for several weeks, which being pai’d, the new day seems more welcom to them, by reason of long absence.

To every one of these principal Gods they pay a several sort of worship; which consists first in the diversity of places dedicated to their service, next in the diversity of images erected to them in these places; lastly, in the diversity of Sacrifices which they offer to them. The place where they worship their Thor or Tiermes is a piece of ground set apart for this superstition, on the backside of their Huts, above a bows shoot off; there upon boards set together like a table they place their images. This table serves them instead of an Altar, which they surround with bows of birch and pine; with the same bows also they strew the way from their Huts to the Altar: and as the table serves them for an Altar, so do the bows for a Temple. The same account, only omitting the table, doth Tornæus give of the Tornenses and Kiemenses worshipping of Seita, so that they may seem to be one and the same God: unless his description should be appli’d to Storjunkar rather, because he mentions Lakes to be the place of his worship; which was proper to Storjunkar, as shall be shewn. But I suppose the Seitas were worshipped in other places as well as Lakes, and so they signifi’d both Gods under one name, and that Tornæus was not so curious as to distinguish between them. In the same place where they worshipped Tiermes they worshipp’d the Sun also, and upon the same table too, which makes me suspect that they were but one God; whom they called Tiermes, when they invok’d him in the behalf of their lives, healths, or preservation from Demons, and Baiwe when they beg’d of him light or warmth, or any thing that might fortify them against the cold. But the place where Storjunkar was worshipped, was upon some peculiar mountains, and on the banks of Lakes: for almost every family hath its particular rocks and hills appointed for this business. Some of these rocks are so high and craggy that they are impassable to any but Storjunkar. But it must not be supposed he lives only in rocks and cliffes of mountains, but also on the shores of Lakes and banks of Rivers, for there also he is peculiarly worshipped, because the Laplanders have observed the same apparitions in these places, that they usually do upon rocks and hills, namely Storjunkar habited and armed according to the description already given, by which his presence they think he testifies his great love for those places, which therefore they have in great veneration, and call them Passewara, i. e. Sacred mountains, or rocks belonging to Storjunkar, supposing they cannot pay their devotion to him in any place better, or be surer of finding him, then where he himself appears. To these places they allot their certain bounds and confines, that all people may know how far the sanctified ground reaches, and avoid those evils, which otherwise Storejunkar would certainly inflict upon them for violating his holy place. Now since every family, that is given to this superstition hath its peculiar place of worship, it is manifest that there is good store of them throughout Lapland. Sam. Rheen reckons up thirty of them in the Province of Luhla.

The first by the River Waikijaur, about ½ a mile from the Laplandish Church called Jochmochs.

The second by the hill Piednackwari about ½ a mile farther from the said Church.

The third in an Island of the River Porkijaur, a mile and half off the River.

The fourth on the top of a very high hill, which they call Ackiakikwari, i. e. Fathers or Thors hill, 5 miles beyond Jochmoch, near Porkijaur.

The 5 near the Lake Skalkatræsk, 8 miles from the aforesaid place.

The 6 at a Cataract of Muskoummokke, 11 miles off.

The 7 on the top of an high hill Skierphi.

The 8 on the top of the hill Tiackeli.

The 9 at the hill Haoraoaos.

The 10 at the top of a high hill Cafla, near a little Lake called Salbut.

The 11 on a hill half a mile from Wallawari.

The 12 on the top of a prodigious hill called Darrawaori, 2 miles from the aforesaid place.

The 13 near Kiedkiewari.

The 14 at a place called Nobbel, near a Lake by Wirrijaur.

The 15 at the lake Kaskajaur.

The 16 at the hill Enudda towards Norway.

The 17 at the hill Rarto, near the same place.

The 18 in an Island of the Lake Luhlatræsk called Hiertshulos.

The 19 on a high mountain towards Norway called Skipoiwe.

The 20 at the Lake Saiivo.

The 21 at Ollapassi, a bay of the Lake Stoor Luhlatræsk.

The 22 at the lake Lugga.

The 23 on the hill Kierkowari.

The 24 on the hill Kautom Jaurlis.

The 25 at the Cataract Sao.

The 26 on the top of a high hill called Kaiszikiæ.

The 27 at the lake Zyggtræsk.

The 28 at the hill Piouki.

The 29 in an Island of the Lake Waikejaur called Lusbyshulos.

The 30 in a mountain near the River Juleo called Warieluth.

Neither are these all the places in the country that are dedicated to this use, but there are several others which the Idolatrous People endeavour to concele, that they may avoid the suspicion of this impiety and their deserved punishment. But in other parts of Lapland the number is far greater as may easily be understood; and therefore I shall not tire the Reader with a recitall of them. For all these places they have a high esteem, whether dedicated to Thor, the Sun, or Storjunkar, so that they exclude all women from them, not permitting them so much as to go behind the house where Thor is worshipped, and prohibiting all marriageable women to come near the borders of Storjunkars consecrated hills: and the reason is because they think that Sex, especially at that age, not pure enough for those devotions, but not knowing who are pure and who are not, to prevent all danger they prohibite the whole Sex, who if they transgress herein, they must expect many misfortunes to befall them, and perhaps death it self.

I come now to the images of their Gods, for with these they used to honour them. Thors image, was alwaies made of wood, wherefore he is called by them Muora Jubmel, i. e. the wooden God. And because in Lapponia Tornensis, as well as in other places they make their Gods of wood, it is very probable that they worship Tiermes, tho they call him Seita. Of this wood, which is alwaies Birch, they make so many Idols as they have Sacrifices, and when they have done they keep them in a cave by some hill side. The shape of them is very rude, only at the top are they made to represent a mans head, according to the description of Matthias Steuchius, which he relates from his Father, who was the Superintendent of Hernosandensis, and had the oversight of all things relating to Piety and Religion in most parts of Lapland. Of the root of the tree they make the head, and of the trunk the body of the image: for those Birches which grow in Fenny grounds have usually their roots growing round, and from them there shoot out other little roots, so that it is easily fitted to the shape of a mans head. Now to manifest this to be Thor, they put a hammer into his right hand, which is as it were his ensign by which he is known. Into his head they drive a nail of Iron or Steel, and a small piece of flint to strike fire with, if he hath a mind to it. Tho I rather suppose it was first used to be an emblem of fire, which together with the Sun they worshipped in Thor, whose Image is here delineated.

Worship of Thor

But tho they usually make them in this shape, yet there are some, especially in Lapponia Tornensis, who worship a meer stump. They have no Image of the Sun, either because he is conspicuous enough of himself, or because in the mystery of their Religion he is the same with Thor: but Storjunkar is represented with a stone, as is clearly proved by several Writers, and easily deduced from others. The form of this stone (if we will believe Olaus Petri Neuren.) was like a Bird, Samuel Rheen saies it somtimes represents a man, and sometimes som other creature. The truth is its shape is so rude, that they may sooner fancy it like something themselves, then perswade other People that it is so. In the mean time their fancy is so strong, that they really believe it represents their Storjunkar, and worship it accordingly. Neither do they use any art in polishing it, but take it as they find it upon the banks of Lakes and Rivers. In this shape therefore they worship it, not as tho it were so made by chance, but by the immediate will and procurement of their god Storjunkar, that it might be sacred to him. Thus they erect it as his image, and calls it Kied Kie Jubmal i. e. the stone God. The rudeness of these Images gave Tornæus occasion to deny that they had any shape at all, only made rough and hollow by the falling of water upon them, tho their hallowness without doubt occasioned the Laplanders fancy of their likeness to something: but he confesses that in an Island made by a Cataract of the River Tornatrask called Darra, there are found Seitæ, just in the shape of a man, one of them very tall, and hard by 4 others something lower, with a kind of Cap on their heads. But because the passage into the Island is dangerous by reason of the Cataract, the Laplanders are forc’t to desist from going to that place, so that it is impossible now to know how those stones are worshipped, or how they came there. These stones are not set up by themselves, but lie 3 or 4 together, according as they find them; the first of which they honor with the title of Storjunkar, the second they call Acte, or Storjunkars wife; the third his Son or Daughter, and the rest his Servants. And this they do because they would not have their Storjunkar, who is Thors Viceroy, in a worse condition then other Roial Prefects, whom they usually see thus accompanied by their Wives and Children, and Attendants. His representation is as follows

Worship of Storjunkar

I come now to their Sacrifices and other Ceremonies used to their Gods. First it is observable that they are performed only by men, all women being excluded; they esteeming it as great a crime for a woman to offer sacrifice as to frequent the consecrated places. They never offer Sacrifice till they have enquired of their God whether he will accept it or no. This they do with a certain instrument which they call Kannus, not unlike the old fashioned Drums, from whence they are usually called Laplandish Drums, and shall be exactly described hereafter. This Drum being beaten, and some Songs sung, they bring the designated Sacrifice to Thor, who if he signifies by a ring in the Drum that the Sacrifice is pleasing to him, they fall presently to work: otherwise they carry it to the Sun, and so to Storjunkar, till one of them will accept of it. The manner of it is thus. They pull off some of the hair at the bottom of the beasts neck, and bind it to a ring which is fastened to the Drum, then one of them beats the Drum, and all the rest sing these words, What sayst thou ô Great and Sacred God, dost thou accept this Sacrifice, which we design to offer unto thee? And while they chant these words, they repete the name of the mountain where they are: then if the ring rests on that part of the Drum where the God is pictured, they take it for granted that the God is pleased, and so proceed to the Ceremony; or else they carry the Sacrifice to Thor, and use the like form of words, Father God will you have my Sacrifice. Peucer either thro false intelligence, or misapprehension, relates this business somthing differently, they have (saies he) a brasen Drum whereon they paint several sorts of Beasts, Birds, and Fishes, such as they can easily procure: bolt upright on this Drum they fix an iron pearch, upon which stands a brasen Frog, which at the beating of the Drum falls down upon some of the pictures, and that creature whose picture the Frog touches, they sacrifice. Their usuall sacrifices are Rain-dears, tho sometimes they use other creatures, as Dogs, Cats, Lambs and Hens, which they fetch out of Norway. The 3d thing observable is that they offer their Sacrifices usually in the Autumn, because, I suppose, the Winter and night being at hand they think they have more need of their Gods assistance, which may probably be the reason too why every year about that time they make a new image for Thor, which is alwaies don 14 daies before Michaelsmas. And thus they consecrate it, first they sacrifice the Rain-dear, then taking out his bones they anoint the Idol with the blood and fat, and bury the flesh and bones under ground. Besides this Idol they erect one to him every time they sacrifice, and then place them all one by another upon a table behind their Hut. First when the God hath approved of the Sacrifice, which is usually a Buck to Thor, they bind it behind the house, then with a sharp knife they run him thro the heart, and gather the heart-blood, wherewith they anoint the Idol, into a vessell. After that having placed the images right, and adorned the table, they approach reverently to it, anoint the head and back all over with the blood, but on his breast they only draw several Crosses. Behind him they place the skull, feet, and horns of the sacrificed Dear, before him they place a Coffer made of the bark of Birch, into which they put a bit of every member of the Rain-dear, with some of the fat, and the rest of the flesh they convert to their private uses. This is the manner of the Laplanders sacrificing to Thor. But when they offer Sacrifice to Storjunkar, which is likewise a male Dear, then first they run a red thred thro his right ear, and bind him, and sacrifice him in the place they did that to Thor; preserving the blood likewise in a vessel. Then he who performs the Ceremony takes the horns and the bones of the head and neck, with the feet and hoofs, and carries them to the mountain of that Storjunkar, for whom the Sacrifice was designed. When he comes near the sacred Stone, he reverently uncovers his head, and bows his body, paying all the ceremonies of respect and honor. Then he anoints the Stone with the fat and blood, and places the horns behind it. Unto the right horn they ty the Rain-dears yard, and to the left some red thred wrought upon tin with a little piece of silver. The same rites that are observed to Storjunkar are also used to Seita, to whom the Laplanders usually sacrifice upon Holydaies, or after some loss or misfortune. Then making their Praiers and Devotions to the Idol in their best clothes, they offer him all manner of oblations, and the choisest parts of the Rain-dear, as the flesh, fat, skin, bones, horns, and hoofs, whereof there are great heaps to be seen at this day where Seita was worshipped. The horns are found placed one above another, in the fasion of a fence to the God, which is therefore by the Laplanders called Tiorfwigardi, that is a Court fenced with horns, which are sometimes above a thousand in number. Before these horns they used to hang a garland made of Birch tree, stuck about with bits of flesh cut from every member of the sacrifice. This I suppose first caused the mistake of those who reported that the Laplanders worshipped the horns of Rain-dears. All the flesh that remains of the sacrifice the Laplanders spend in their houses: and this is the ordinary way of sacrificing to Storjunkar. Two other methods there are but less used; one when they bring the sacrifice alive to the hill where the Idol is placed: another when they would do so, but cannot climb the hill where Storjunkar is by reason of its steepness. For the first they kill the sacrifice hard by the Idol, and when they have performed the usual ceremonies, they presently boil the flesh in the place, especially that about the head and neck, and invite their friends to the eating of it. This they call Storjunkars Feast, and when they have done they leave the skin behind them. This is not used in all Storjunkars hills, but only in some peculiar place where he hath manifested to them that he will be worshipped so. The other way of sacrificing is when the hill is so craggy that they cannot ascend it with their sacrifice, then they throw up a stone to the top of the mountain, which they dip in the blood and go away, as having paid their devotion. But as (besides the sacrifice) they once a year honour Thor with a new Image; so do they Storjunkar with fresh bowes twice every year. The first time in Summer with birch and grass; next in Winter with pine. the same also Tornæus reports of the Seitas. Then it is they seek whether their God be favorable and propitious to them or no: for when they go to strow the bows and grass under him, if the stone proves light, they hope he will be kind; but if it be something heavier then ordinary, they suspect he is angry with them, and immediately to reconcile him they devote some oblations to him. And thus are Peucerus his words to be understood, when the Laplanders (says he) go a hunting or fishing, or upon any other enterprise, they try their success by the weight of their God, who if he is easily moved, they take it for granted that he approves of their design; if hardly, then he dislikes it: but if he be unmovable then they suppose him offended with them. This is not to be understood of all their affairs, but only when they lay fresh straw under him, for at other times they enquire his plesure with a drum, of which I have already spoken.

It remains now that we treat of the sacrifices used to the Sun, these are young Rain-dears, and those not bucks but does: the rites are most of them the same with those already mentioned; only instead of a red string thro the right ear of Storjunkars sacrifice, they run a white one thro the Suns; then they make a garland, not of birch, but willow, about as big as the hoop of an Hogshead. This they place upon a table behind the Hut where they sacrifice to Thor, not upon the same table, but one like it. And this sacrifice differs from the others in that there are neither images erected there, nor horns, the beasts being not come to their growth. But that there may be some resemblance of the Sun, they place the chief bones of the sacrifice upon the table in a circle.

Besides these 3 principal Gods they have some petty ones, as the Manes of deceased men, and the Julii troops. They have no particular names for the Ghosts, but call them all Sitte: neither do they erect them images as they do to Thor and Storjunkar; only they offer them some certain sacrifices. At which time their first business is to enquire the will of the dead, whether it please him to be worshipt with that kind of sacrifice in these words, Maijke werro Jabmike sitte, ô you Manes what will you have, then they beat the drum, and if the ring falls upon any creature there pictured they take it for the sacrifice which the ghost desires: then they run thro his ear, or, as others say, ty about his horns a woollen black thred. Having performed the sacrifice, they spend all the flesh upon their own uses; except a bit of the heart, and another of the lungs: each of which they divide into 3 parts, and fasten them upon as many sticks, which they dip in the blood of the sacrifice, and so bury them in a kind of Chest made in the form of a Laplandish Dray, as they do the bones of all other sacrifices. But of this I shall speak more at large when I come to their funeral rites, where the same things are likewise used. I shall only add that these rites are still observed in Lapland by all that are superstitiously given. The Juhlii, whom they call Juhlafolket, as I said of the ghosts, have no statues, nor images; the manner of worshipping tham is in this sort. The day before the festival, which is Christmas day, they abstain from all flesh: and of every thing that they eat, they take a little piece and preserve it very carefully, which they do likewise the next day. In their feasting, the bits which they have gathered in these two days they put into a chest, made of the bark of Birch, in the fashion of a Boat with sails and oars, together with some fat of the pottage, and hang it upon a tree behind the Hut, about a bows shot off, for the Juhlii to feast on, whom they then suppose to wander in troops in the Air, thro woods and mountains; a ceremony not unlike to the ancient libations to the Genii. But why they do this in a Boat they can give no reason: but we may conjecture that hereby is intimated how the knowledg of Christs-birth (declared by the company of Angels, which as I have shewed already was the meaning of these Juhlii) was brought by Christians, who came to them in Boats. So much of the Laplanders Idolatry and Superstition, which remains to this day amongst many of them, as is found by daily experience.