Skaði and the Saami Part 2

Scandinavia has been populated since the glaciers retreated some 12,000 years ago. Some argue that these earliest people may have been ancestors to the Saami, while others argue that these people were later replaced by the ancestors of the Saami. There is not enough information to say for sure, only that there have been people in Scandinavia well before we have historical records of them. We can say for sure, however, that the Saami were in Scandinavia well before the first arrival of the Indo-Europeans around 2300 BCE, and the Germanic/Nordic bronze Age that followed.  I don’t have the space here to discuss all the nuances of the archaeological record, so I will leave that be for now.

Going back to the quote from Davidson, the question can be asked, how far do the basic concepts, the basic essence of Skadi go back? How far back can we trace the ideas that may have influenced her as we know her today? Here we turn to Mundal again; ” The consciousness among the Nordic people of this “other people” (Saami) who were so different from themselves, gives reason to ask whether the relation between the two people may have been interpreted and understood in the light of mythic patterns, and perhaps is reflected in the myths themselves.

When Saami people and their world and the relation between the Saami and the Nordic people is described in Old Norse texts, the parallels to patterns in the mythic world are sometimes striking. A detail in the text – or in the literary motif – which shows that the parallel is not accidental is the choice of certain words when Saamis are described. In some texts – or in some motifs – the Saamis are called jotnar, ‘giants’, or a few times dvergar, ‘dwarfs’. In the text the Saami man – or woman – may be called Saami and jotunn alternatively, or in some texts Saamis and jotnar are presented as members of the same family.” (Mundal, pg 348)

Some interesting implications here, and I have commented before on how jotunn are of Utgard, outsiders in a sense. It should come as little surprise that such “outsiders” or “otherness” is translated into mythical forms. Especially from the Aesir, which take the place as conquerors and champions against the jotunns. So then, we see mythical retellings of a conquering people fighting with indigenous people.

Once again, Mundal brings the point home; ” The otherness of the Saamis and their culture and the fact that they mostly lived outside the areas where the Nordic people lived, especially in the North, but farther south also in the border areas between Norway and Sweden and in the inland of Eastern Norway, conformed to the pattern of Midgardr–Útgardr. According to the mythological map the Saamis became the Útgardr people.” (Mundal, 349)

Part 3 will be coming soon!

References/Sources;

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe.

Mundal, Else. Coexistence of Saami and Norse Culture – reflected in and interpreted by Old Norse myths

Bjerk, Hein. Norwegian Mesolithic Trends

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About Nicholas Haney

I am a writer, author, hunter, craftsman, and student of anthropology/archaeology. View all posts by Nicholas Haney

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