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The Decline of the Sámi People’s Indigenous Religion

By Alan “Ivvár” Holloway

Sámi indigenous religion, more accurately described as an integral way of life, comprises three intertwining elements: animism, shamanism, and polytheism. Sámi animism is manifested in the Sámi’s belief that all significant natural objects (such as animals, plants, rocks, etc.) possess a soul, and furthermore, are cognizant of their surroundings (according to legend, losing their powers of speech only recently). Seen from a polytheistic perspective, Sámi religion has a multitude of spirits and gods, the most important being the Mother, Father, Son and Daughter (Radienacca, Radienacce, Radienkiedde and Radienneida).

The Son of this pantheon is a creator of the earthly realm, the Daughter a Goddess of spring and fertility. In the earthly or manifested reality, there is also a highly regarded horned god of fertility, fire and thunder, called Horagales, as well as the Sun goddess Beive and the Moon goddess Manno. The ancient, original Mother and Father of the Sámi, believed by some to be equivalent to Eve and Adam of the Christians, are called Mattarahkka and Maderacce. (Jarving internet resource)

Sámi indigenous religion was a world-view and also a shamanistic form of worship in which drumming and traditional chanting, yoiking, were of singular importance. The Sámi shaman, called a noaide, was traditionally the healer and protector. More recently, the noaide also assumed the role of the prophesiers of the siida, the basic unit of Sámi society, being composed of typically several families, but the noaide’s most vital task was to maintain a link with the world inhabited by departed Sámi. Using a traditional drum, which is the most important symbol and tool of the Sámi shaman, the noaide invoked assistance from benevolent spirits and conducted out-of-body travel via the “free soul” with the help of other siida members. The Sámi distinguish between the “free soul” versus the more mundane “body soul”; the “body soul” is unable to traverse the divide separating the spiritual netherworld from the more mundane, corporeal, real world. As part of the shamanic experience, the noaide and others yoik; yoiking is the Sámi rhythmic chant-song used for a variety of purposes, but in the context of shamanic rituals, serves in part as a trance conjuration tool. In order for the noaide to navigate the spiritual world, they used the drum as a cognitive map of the world inhabited by Sámis in their afterlife; figures drawn on their drums constituted an emblematic representation of their spiritual universe. Yoiking is a manifestation of the Sámi’s wish to reify or call someone (or thing) into being—yoiking is an activity that helps to perpetuate a person’s memory and acknowledges their existence and importance.

The Sámi believed that after dying in “this” world, their afterlife continued in a world called saivo, where game was abundant and life was a welcome relief from the harsh conditions of the “real” world. Stállo and sieidi are two other concepts of significance in the Sámi belief system, the first term describing giant simpletons not unlike the golems of Jewish myth, and the latter describing spiritually significant places—most often unusual rock formations or significant trees—that the Sámi left sacrificial and other offerings to.

Jean-François Regnard, a minor French playwright who lived in the second half of the 17th century, was an early visitor to Sápmi, an area formerly called Lapland, and has been referred to as the first tourist in Lapland. During his tour of northern Europe in 1681, he observed and commented on the land and the people, though his accounts were viewed by some with skepticism, as the product of an unreliable narrator, one doubter saying that Regnard preferred a good story to the truth. (Ottar internet resource) While his travel diary sometimes seems to stretch the limits of credibility, I believe the negative reception of some of Regnard’s anecdotes suffer from a sort of “Marco Polo syndrome” wherein his truthful descriptions were difficult for people—who were unfamiliar with the world he was describing—to be recognized, let alone believed. Regnard is important because he was the first outsider, an educated observant outsider, who didn’t have a serious military, political or religious agenda that involved some form of subjugation of the Sámi people. Describing the Sámi indigenous religion, particularly the use of the noaide’s drum, he says:

Idolatry, which is much more palpable, and which affects the senses more than the worship of the true God, cannot be rooted out of their affections. The errors of the Laplanders may be classed under two heads; those which arise from their superstition and paganism, and those which are owing to their enchantments and their magic. They generally make use of the tabor [as a tool of divination] for three principle purposes: for hunting and fishing, for sacrifices, and for knowing the transactions which are taking place, in the most distant countries. (Pinkerton 178; 181)

His observation is fair enough, at least when one takes into account the biases one can expect from an outsider of Regnard’s privileged milieu. Regnard tells us that a Christian priest told him that [the Sámi] “had only the name of Christians, and they were still Pagans in their hearts.” (Pinkerton 164) I can’t help but wonder if Regnard’s upbringing in France was in part informed by the cultural intellectual atmosphere that eventually inspired Rousseau to posit his notion of the “noble savage” a century later. Regnard’s perception of the Sámi people has a strong element of pity (in the sense that pity often presupposes that the object of pity is inferior) mixed with admiration. His description of the use of the “tabor” is apt, as is his rendering of a noaide’s ceremony, of the noaide’s ecstatic transport into the “other world”, though flawed by his own presumptions, that the noaide is possessed by the devil—and I suspect something of the notion of devil is lost in translation, that perhaps the term means more than a simple antonym for the Christian God—nevertheless his account seems to conform to the truth:

A Laplander, falling on his knees, together with all those who are present, he begins to strike his tabor all round, and redoubling the strokes with the words which he pronounces, as if he were possessed, his countenance becomes blue, his hair stands erect, and he, at length, falls motionless on his face. He remains in this state, as long as he is possessed by the devil, and as it is necessary for his genius to bring him a sign to prove that he has been at the place where he was sent, then recovering his senses, he tells that which the devil revealed to him, and shows the mark which has been brought to him. (Pinkerton 181)

Regnard is continuously repulsed and amazed by the Sámi; he often can’t help showing a begrudging admiration for their toughness and their ingenious adaptation to their unforgiving environment, noting en passant their ability to move over the snow with “planks on their feet,” and the possibly apocryphal story that,

. . . They will scarcely venture out on Christmas-day, which they believe to be unlucky. The origin of this superstition is that they have misunderstood what happened on this day, when the angels descended from heaven, and astonished the shepherds; and they believe that on this day, evil spirits are abroad in the atmosphere and might destroy them.” (Pinkerton 178)

Another aspect of Sámi religion acknowledged the heightened importance of blood, including menstrual blood. The alder tree’s bark’s dye resembles blood when dried, so it was only natural that the dye, as a symbol of blood, should be used as a decorative medium on the sacred drum. Regnard again described what he (presumably) saw:

They usually paint the following figures [on their drums]; they draw first, towards the middle of the tabor, a transverse line, above which they place the gods whom they hold in their greatest veneration, as Thor, with underlings, and Seyta, and they draw another line a little below the former, but which extends only half across the tabor; there Jesus Christ, with two or three apostles are to be seen: above these lines are represented the sun, the moon, the stars, and the birds; but the situation of the sun is under these very lines, on which they place the animals, the bears, and the serpents. (Pinkerton 180)

The noaide were famous (and infamous) throughout Europe as seers and magicians, which Regnard uncharacteristically states is only half true. Again, Regnard has a piquant take on the power of shamen, though it is obvious that he had to rely on second-hand sources for his information:

For practice of witchcraft and sorcery they pass all nations in the world. Though for enchanting of ships that sail along their coast, (as I have heard it reported), and their giving of winds good to their friends, and contrary to other, whom they mean to hurt by tying of certain knots upon a rope, is a very fable, devised (as may seem) by themselves, to terrify sailors for coming near their coast. (Pinkerton 65)

The aboriginal religion is now long gone, especially if viewed from the perspective of its origins as a consequential component of a hunter-gatherer culture (and it is perhaps of no real religious noteworthiness to Sámis today as a form of worship, except perhaps for a vanishingly small percentage of the population). But facets of the old religion persist, and since the revitalization of Sámi culture post-World War II some elements, such as yoiking, have been resurrected in substantially updated forms of expression, though the belief system has been filtered through the vagaries of time and the uncompromising suzerainty of Christianity. One example may be the poet as shaman, since for most cultures poets (musicians, storytellers, and others can also be classified within this group) have been respected as oracles with the ability to see clearly. Poets have a gift for keenness of insight, and are often able to anticipate future events by gauging phenomena (especially personalities) through precise observation, or through spiritual supernatural abilities, thus giving their cultures a moral compass or template with which to guide communal decision-making. By “poets,” I mean a class of people with a moral, oracular message, a message which is intended to benefit their society in some way, setting aside the often-vexing problem of just what constitutes a beneficial message. Nils-Aslak Valkeapää was an obvious representative of the notion of shaman as poet. Aspects of the ancient beliefs may have influenced other nearby cultures’ religious systems, thus promulgating offshoots of the indigenous religion:

It has been speculated that the three goddesses of the Sámi people, Sarahkka, Juoksaahkka and Uksaahkka, could have been the origins of the three Norn goddesses of the Scandinavians, Urd, Verdande and Skuld. (Järving internet resource)

The first Christian churches in Sápmi were the products of missions and were built along the coasts of the Gulf of Bothnia and the Arctic Ocean, and were a major element of nation-building by the Germanic peoples to the south. But systematic large-scale missionary intervention didn’t come into its own until the 1500s, when the Sea Sámi were converted to Christianity. (Lehtola 30) With the energy of Christian subjugation organized and focused on the mass conversion of the Sámi people, the indigenous religious ways increasingly came under attack, and the noaide’s shamanistic ways were ultimately doomed.

Rydving offers one example of the decline of noaides in the 17th and 18th centuries, in the Lule-speaking section of Swedish Sápmi during a winter market in 1687. Sámis were questioned about whether they used “logs and stones” and “divination drums.” Many answered enthusiastically in the affirmative. But just 60-odd years later, no one would admit to using indigenous religious implements. (Rydving 1) In the same area, which was roughly the size of the present-day Netherlands, there was only one church, one chapel and one clergyman in 1670. By the end of the 1740s, there were five clergymen, though otherwise the church’s presence was unchanged. But the die was cast, and the clerical influence of the Church steadily increased. (Rydving 51) According to Lehtola, “the great noaide—those who had the power of ecstasy—appear to have disappeared by the 1800s. The ‘second-rate quacks’ were the only remnants.” (Lehtola 29)

One clergyman who was sensitive to Sámi culture was Pehr Högström, who, Rydving observed, said: “that the Sámi had put considerable skill into the drum, and [Högström] spoke favorably about the yoik,” comparing it to “the hymn of Deborah in the Book of Judges,” remarkably generous praise from a missionary for an indigenous religious form of expression, who was ostensibly in Sápmi to help root out the indigenous religion and replace it with Christianity. Perhaps he perceived that yoiking belonged “to a sphere outside religion, and, therefore, [he] regarded it as harmless.” But, as Rydving points out, Högström’s benevolent attitude towards Sámi society was not the norm among the clergy. More typical is this harangue by Henric Forbus: “Oh you confounded Drum, tool and instrument of Satan, cursed are your depicted Gods . . . Each beat that is made on you, is and will be a Satan’s beat in hell . . .” (Rydving 80-81) This reaction may be considered somewhat comical (and curiously poetic), totally out of proportion by present-day standards, but missionaries truly feared the power of the noaides: “They were . . . convinced that the Sámi ‘gods were devils and their conjuring tricks the real mischief of the devil,’” according to Edgar Reuterskiöld. (Rydving 82)

Högström’s liberality had its limits. After several years of tolerating idiosyncrasies of Sámi indigenous religion, he preached in one bellwether sermon that “as long as they followed more than one god they could be called ‘servants of false gods.’” (Rydving 88) Högström was making a direct link between the Old Testament Israelites’ worship of “false idols” and his audience of contemporary Sámis and their worship of “gods of wood and stone.”

The most irreconcilable element of the Sámi’s worldview from the missionaries’ perspective was the notion “that the living and the departed were regarded as two halves of the same family.” The Sámi regarded the concept as fundamental, while the Christians absolutely discounted any possibility of the dead having anything to do with the living. (Rydving 154) There could be no reconciliation on this crucial point of faith. And once Christian missionaries convinced their respective flocks that the only afterlife was a heaven above, ruled by a Christian God, the Sámi’s own religion was rendered redundant. And since their belief was not just a religion, but a living dialog with their ancestors, their society was concomitantly impoverished. The intolerant Weltanschauung of the Christian church could not countenance the perceived radical heresy of Sámi indigenous belief.

Three major proselytizing religions can be traced to a particular beginning and a particular founder: Buddhism, Islam and Christianity (via Judaism). Islam and Christianity are the two religions with the most influential missionary network, and, until recently, Christianity was undisputedly the most global evangelical religious force. In Europe by the end of the first millennium, every monarch wanted to have their own church organization headed by an archbishop who would be under the direction of the ecclesial ruler, and hopefully more obedient to the monarch than the bishop’s putative superior, the Roman pope. (Neill 88) Denmark was the first nation of northern Europe to be Christianized in the year 948. The Roman Catholics, then the Protestants, had early designs on the Danish empire’s outlying territories, and once the Danes used Christianity as a tool of conquest, the pattern of territorial expansion and subjugation of the new territory’s inhabitants was set. Describing Norsemen of the first millennium, Neill says that the Danes believed: “Defeat rather than victory is the mark of the true hero; the warrior goes out to meet his inevitable fate with open eyes.” (Neill 86) Such fierce resolve was bound to redound to the Dane’s favor when empire building. With state and church allied in a seemingly unquenchable desire for power, the Dane’s expansionist drive set the standard for future territorial acquisitions in the following centuries in northern Europe. Ultimately it was the state, according to Neill, that made the final decisions regarding targets of territorial acquisition (and of adding to the number of submissive souls with which to populate its new holdings) within its empire: “Denmark was the first country in which this clash between national and ecclesiastical ideas of organization was resolved in the main in favor of the crown.” (Neill 88-89)

The “last European people” to be converted to Christianity were the Lithuanians in 1244, who like the Sámi, lived in a land with no clearly defined boundaries. Neill lumps the Sámi with other circumpolar peoples, not with Europeans of the main continental landmass of Europe. Neill’s quaintly blithe outlook toward people outside the Christian empire is partially a product of the period in which he wrote, which was during the 1950s, exemplified by such passages as: “the addition to the Christian flock [of one million converts in a thirty year period] was not without the problems of ignorance and illiteracy.” (Neill 95) He is correct, but he also betrays an insensitivity that, by our more modern, and hopefully enlightened, perspective, reveals a lack of respect for the newly-converted natives that hearkens back to Kipling at his most gauche.

Helmer Ringgren said: “[. . .] a religion with claims of absoluteness, or at least of superiority, strives consciously to push aside and replace other religions.” (Rydving 54) Thus the struggle between the indigenous beliefs of the Sámi and the Christians were bound to come into conflict, and since the alliance of crown and cross ultimately culminates in the (often brutal) expression of raw nationalistic power, the unorganized, unwarlike, and much smaller population of Sámi people could not possibly compete with their interlopers.

According to Walls, one of the “major solvents” of Christendom has been colonialism. I interpret this to mean that the “imperialist religion”, Wall’s own term, has been eroded at its base by overextension—that Christianity had to adapt to local cultures by varying degrees, a situation that has corresponded with the West’s abuse of its colonial charges. (Walls 34) Walls examines British missionaries and their attitudes toward their colonial converts, saying “British chosenness inevitably has to do with empire.” (Walls 183) I see a parallel with the Norwegian—and other nations’—Lutheran missionaries’ high-handed self-confidence and their righteous subjugation of the Sámi’s religion, which was in effect the Sámi people’s world. Walls notes the chameleonic nature of the Pietist and Evangelical missions’ proclivity to ingratiate themselves with other cultures, “that it could be grafted onto practically any of the existing theological, confessional, or ecclesiastical traditions, . . . and adapt itself to any national or local cultural ethos,” though I submit that the Sámi’s belief in the living and the departed coexisting in essentially parallel worlds is an obvious exception to Walls’ notion of religious ingratiation. (Walls 211)

A prominent Ghanaian clergyman, Kwesi Dickson, who at the outset of Christianity and Exclusivity affirms that, “as long as the [Christian] church remains in the world, mission will be its raison d’être.” (Dickson 1) As Dickson later says: “Reformation theology, then, had the potential for encouraging the formulation of the kind of mission policy which would view other peoples’ religious traditions as unimportant, if not dangerous.” (Dickson 82) Lutheranism was, indeed is, a Reformation theology, and when looking at the aftermath of missionary activity in Sápmi, seems to show the sad ironic truth of Dickson’s analysis. Of course a Christian—perhaps depending on denomination—would see today’s Sámi as fortunate to have been saved from eternal damnation; and a certain percentage of Sámi would likely concur. But I am convinced the Sámi paid a high cultural and psychological price, not to mention those Sámi who were punished for their beliefs and religious practices (again, substituting “everyday” for “religious” would often be apropos for Sámi life, because of the seamless integration of their worldview and their religion), from verbal censure to beheadings.

One of the first of the more ambitious missionaries, the Pietist Thomas von Westen, was active in the 18th century; he rejected Sámi religious practices but encouraged missionaries and clergy to use the Sámi language in order to more efficiently bring about conversion.

In 1714 the College of Missions was founded in Copenhagen and two years later the Pietist Thomas von Westen was chosen to lead missionary work among the Sámi, though the College also had an educational function. Von Westen preached throughout the entire Sámi area in Norway from 1716 to 1727. He strongly opposed the Sámi practice of shamanism, with its bearing elements of the shaman (priest) and the shaman drums. However, he encouraged the use of the Sámi language among the missionaries and clergy, a policy which met with growing opposition after his death in 1727. (Annet internet resource)

Von Westen attempted to root out shamanistic practices by calling together noaides and compelling them to curse their religious methods, but frequently the noaides would outwit him by cursing inconsequential practices, taking advantage of von Westen’s incomplete knowledge of the Sámi language, thus escaping the indignity of profaning their own religious practices. (Rydving 60) In 1726, Norway abolished the death penalty for “Sámi ‘sorcery,’” though Sámis were by no means immune to harsh punishment, especially for “witchcraft,” “superstition,” and not attending a minimum number of church services. Many Sámi simply escaped the Church’s clutches by moving farther away into the wilderness. Another source of constant friction was schooling: neither Sámi parents nor their children wished to attend missionary schools—but they had no choice. (Rydving 56) There was some token resistance, at least until the early 18th century. In Lule-Sámi Norway, a group of Sámis attempted to spiritually battle von Westen by performing rituals against him in order to “’retain the old pagan freedom.’” (Rydving 61) One subversive method the Sámis used to appease von Westen when ordered to burn their drums and other sacred objects was to burn “drums that did not work.” (Rydving 67)

The next influential clergyman was Niels Vibe Stockfleth, who was instrumental in translating the New Testament and other works into the Sámi language, in addition to establishing a Sámi studies program at the University of Christiania (now Oslo). Until the 1900s, only religious works were available in the Sámi language, besides dictionaries and other linguistically-related works. (Annet internet resource)

No discussion of Sámi religious life can be called complete without invoking the name of the most influential clergyman in the history of Sámpi, Lars Levi Læstadius (1800-1861), Lutheran pastor and eminent biologist, of part-Sámi ancestry himself. The Laestadian Lutheran Church was his legacy to much of Scandinavia, and to a lesser extent, parts of North America. He had a religious awakening, attributed to a peasant Sámi woman’s revelations, Milla Clementsdotter, who persuaded him to become a Pietist instead of the then-prevalent orthodox confessional Lutheranism. Laestadius became a fiery opponent of adultery and thievery, but of more fundamental consequence to Sámi society, alcohol. Among other remarkable talents, Læstadius was a natural linguist, taking it upon himself to become fluent in Finnish and the North Sámi dialect, in addition to his knowledge of Swedish, the language he used for scholarly publications. His native tongue was South Sámi.

When Læstadius became the church rector of Kaaresuvanto, he didn't know many words of Finnish. He had to learn the language, because most of the members of the church spoke Finnish. The rest spoke the Sámi language. Finnish was used during divine church services, while Sámi was used in conversations, home services and parish catechetical meetings. ( internet resource)

Læstadius began a religious revival among the Sámis and was able to reduce the debilitating effects of alcohol that had heretofore been ravaging Sámi society. Part of Læstadius’ appeal to the Sámi was his direct and earthy language, the message of which echoed the original proclamations of Martin Luther.

Laestadianism is an ecclesiastical revival movement. It has the traits of a protest movement. It has criticized the church and the clergy, and from time to time the church has also sometimes strongly criticized and resisted the movement. Nevertheless, Laestadianism has faithfully stayed with the church. The reasons for this are rooted in doctrine and church history. ( internet resource)

Juhani Raattamaa (1811-1899), was one of Laestadius’ pupils, and who helped Læstadius formulate the doctrine that became known as Laestadianism. Like most fundamentalist Christian sects, the notions of sin and salvation play a primary role. Laestadianism is a pious, charismatic, fundamentalist, evangelical movement. Laestadianism eschews the trappings of unnecessary decorations in the home, or other counter-pious affectations that would indicate elevating oneself at the expense of following a humble and righteous path to salvation. Religious ecstasy is a notable component, as exemplified in the concept of liikutukset, which sometimes manifests itself in the parishioner speaking in tongues. One other key feature that helped Laestadianism’s spread throughout Sámiland was that lay preachers were able to promulgate the Word. This feature echoes one of the roles performed previously by the noaide, that is, to interpret and promulgate matters of spiritual importance. But to imagine two more different spiritual worldviews than that practiced by the indigenous Sámi and by the Laestadians is difficult. (Suite101 internet resource)

Laestadian fervor gripped at least some Sámi. Though they were in the minority, their zeal can readily be appreciated by the following episode:

A group of thirty-five Sámi nomads—believers of the Laestadian Revival—marched on a town called Kautokeino in 1852. They came to "wage war against the unrepentant". During this clash of faith, they killed the village's shopkeeper and bailiff, maltreated the town's minister and burned the local shopkeeper's home. This uprising was mostly due to the poor social conditions which the Sámi were living under, but Laestadius and his movement were blamed by many for what had happened. (Northern Lights internet resource)

It is remarkable that the history of the Sámi has few examples of violent uprisings against their religious (and political) oppressors under Laestadianism and others. In 1852, Sámi killed a merchant and the local constable, nearly beating a preacher to death, an event known today as the Guovdageaidnu Uprising. But contrary to what might be expected, most Sámi have never approved of the uprising. In fact a yoik has been passed down through time that commemorates the suffering the Uprising caused, and is known as the “Guovdageaidnu bloody knife.” Well-known writers, such as Jalvi and Turi, have written about the uprising’s horror. To this day, residents of Guovdageaidnu find memories of the uprising painful to acknowledge, even going so far as to reject the idea of holding a theatrical re-creation of the event. (Lehtola 40)

Indigenous Sámi religion has effectively been eradicated. Scandinavian countries differ in the ways in which the Sámis are afforded their respective opportunities to worship (or not). Norway has a curious two-sided attitude towards religion: religious freedom is officially protected, yet there is also a state religion, which confers concrete benefits on its adherents. Only ten percent of the population does not affirm a particular religious denomination. The state religion, Evangelical-Lutheran, claims 86 percent of the population.

One example of Norway’s state religion’s intrusion (from at least an American’s pluralistic point of view, particularly with regard to freedom of religious choice) is how The Workers Protection and Working Environment Act allows “prospective employers in private or religious schools to ask applicants if they respect Christian principles and beliefs,” and “religious instruction in the state religion is provided in all public schools, but children of other faiths may be exempt upon request.” Ominously, for those who wish to practice an alternative religion, “presently, the state church speaks out against a variety of new religious movements.” This vestige of religious intolerance allows one an insight into the difficulties the Sámi have endured to the present day. The present-day restrictions on the practice of the faith of one’s choice is relatively benign, especially when compared to centuries past, but restrictions they remain. (Religious Freedom internet resource)

The vast majority of Sámi [in Finland] belong to the Lutheran Church, while the Skolt Sámi belong to the Orthodox Church. Within the Sámi region, Lutheran ceremonies and services such as baptisms, weddings and funerals are to be conducted in Sámi whenever wished. In the Sámi region, the church also has a Sámi minister who officiates at services in Sámi. According to the new Ecclesiastical Code, since the beginning of 1994 it has been possible to found a unilingual Sámi or a bilingual Finnish-Sámi parish within the Sámi region. (Virtual Finland internet resource)

Within Finnish borders, the Sámi seemingly have fewer restrictions than they do in the rest of Sápmi.

The Sámi people were victims of a regional power play, conducted over the centuries by evolving, and continuously growing, nations. The Sámi happened to occupy what was perceived by outsiders as potentially valuable territory. The Christian church, particularly the Lutherans, were part of the nation-states’ tools of subjugation. To credit or discredit the Church exclusively would be a mistake when analyzing the present state of Sámi culture and indigenous religion as it has devolved over the past five centuries. Though the Church was directly responsible for untold misery, many would argue instead that the Church brought untold salvation, without the impetus of the rapacious needs of the State, the Church’s activities would unlikely have been as influential or active. One counter-example is the Orthodox Church, which wasn’t nearly as active in the process of soul-saving as the Lutherans, likely because the Kola Peninsula wasn’t as much the focus of nation-building by outsiders.

Sámi society was stable and autonomous for thousands of years. Unfortunately the ineluctable expansion of the Germanic peoples’ territories proved a force against which the Sámi people could not resist. For Sámi indigenous religion, the clash has proved a disaster.


Pinkerton, John. A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts of the World. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme and Cadell and Davies, 1808-1814.

Rydving, Håkan. The End of Drum-Time: Religious Change among the Lule Saami, 1670s-1740s. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1993.

Lehtola, Veli-Pekka. The Sámi People: Traditions in Transition. Aanar-Inari: Kustannus-Puntsi, 2002.

Dickson, Kwesi. Uncompleted Mission: Christianity and Exclusivism. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1991.

Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Missions; Pelican History of the Church. V. 6. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1986.

Walls, Andrew F.The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission and Appropriation of Faith. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books 2002.

Internet Resources

Jarving, <>

Ottar, <>

Annet, < >, < >

Suite 101 , <>

Northern Lights, <>

Religious Freedom, <>

Virtual Finland, <>