University of Oulu

Äikäs, T.; Fonneland, T. Animals in Saami Shamanism: Power Animals, Symbols of Art, and Offerings. Religions 2021, 12, 256.

Animals in Saami shamanism : power animals, symbols of art, and offerings

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Author: Äikäs, Tiina1; Fonneland, Trude2
Organizations: 1Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, 90570 Oulu, Finland
2Museum of Norway and Academy of Arts (UMAK), The Arctic University, 9019 Tromsø, Norway
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 7.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-06-09


In this paper, we study the role of power animals in contemporary Saami shamanism and how past and present are entwined in the presentation of power animals. In the old Saami worldviews, in addition to animals, spirits and sacred rocks (sieidi, SaaN) were also considered to be able to interact with people. Animals were an important part of offering rituals because livelihood and rituals were intertwined. Past “religions” are used as an inspiration for contemporary shamanistic practices, in line with one of late modernity’s core concepts, namely creativity. Present-day shamanistic practices can be described as ritual creativity, and they combine traces of old and new ritual activities. At the shamanistic festival Isogaisa, organized in northern Norway, these different roles of animals and ritual creativity become evident. Here, animals appear as spirit animals, as well as decorative elements on drums and clothes and as performance. In this paper, we combine material culture studies, interview data, and participatory observations in order to reflect the meanings and use of power animals in contemporary spiritual practices. How are traces of the past used in creating contemporary spirituality? How are animals and their artistic presentations entangled in contemporary shamanism?

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Series: Religions
ISSN: 2077-1444
ISSN-E: 2077-1444
ISSN-L: 2077-1444
Volume: 12
Issue: 4
Article number: 256
DOI: 10.3390/rel12040256
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 615 History and archaeology
Copyright information: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (