Tag Archives: Saami

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


Skaði and the Saami, Part 1

It has been a rough couple of weeks, so I am honestly surprised I got any blog work done at all. For those that want to know, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 Metastatic cancer about two months or so ago. As of last week, on the 28th, she lost that fight, and she goes now to join the ancestors. It has been hard on the family, and on me. Yet, there comes a time when you have to get back on the horse and move forward with your life. That is not to say I am not grieving, because I am, but because I am just not very good at being idle. I would rather be busy, at least as a distraction. Plus I know mom wouldn’t want me to give up on my work.

As such, this new series of posts was inspired by the below selection that I originally came across on Wikipedia. I have not yet been able to acquire the book that was cited, but I am still going to use it as an introduction to this work.

Scholar Hilda Ellis Davidson proposes that Skaði’s cult may have thrived in Hålogaland, a province in northern Norway, because “she shows characteristics of the Sami people, who were renowned for skiing, shooting with the bow and hunting; her separation from Njord might point to a split between her cult and that of the Vanir in this region, where Scandinavians and the Sami were in close contact.” (Davidson, pgs 61—62). The proposed connection to the Sami is an interesting one, and one that will be explored over the course of this series.

As I have mentioned before, the Jotuns, like Skadi, are amongst the oldest known beings in the northern lore. They are prehistoric, predating even the agricultural Vanir and the warrior Aesir. I have also mentioned before, that it is nearly impossible to say how old Skadi might be. While she appears fit, younger, and in good shape, she still resonates with a depth of wisdom that only comes from experience. At lot of experience. It may be rude to ask a woman how old she is, but I cannot avoid my nature. She laughed at the question.

Still, I don’t give up that easy, so I set out to see what I could find out for myself. It is clear that Skadi belongs to a prehistoric past, before the writing of the sagas, and even the Vikings themselves. Going back as far as we have records, it is clear that there existed multiple peoples in Scandinavia, and we see these people reflected in the myths.

As Mundal points out; ” In Old Norse sources, both Norwegian and Icelandic, we meet a consciousness of the fact that on the Scandinavian peninsula there lived two peoples, the Nordic people and the Saamis, who in the Old Norse sources are called finnar. Both were peoples with their own culture that in many respects differed considerably from the culture of the other people. They spoke different languages. The Nordic people were farmers while most Saamis lived a nomadic life. They had also before Christianization – different religions, but the religion of the Saamis may have been influenced by the religion of the Nordic people – and vice versa.” (Mundal, pg 346)

Ugh, at that limit already. More to come!

 

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