In My Heart

In the old Lapp religion the shaman had extraordinary power

Lapp religion

The old Lapp religion was holistic with its tight links with nature and with culture. According to traditional Sami religion, the world was permeated by spirits.

Humans were supposed to cooperate with the natural forces to be successful in life. It was important to take care of nature. The religion was cyclical. The seasonal migration and the cycle of life was closely connected with this.


The pre-Christian Lapp religion had an animistic world-view. The worship was shamanistic. The shaman (noaidi) used the magic drum and the yoik to get into trance.

In the Lapp siida or society the shaman (noaidi) was the most important person. He had extraordinary powers. The shamans were the link between humans and the spirits of nature on "the other side".

The shaman also had a great impact the daily life of the siida (society). He predicted the future, asked for good luck in catching and hunting. He even acted as the medicin man of his siida because he healed the sick. The shamans based their beliefs on natural phenomena and the cycles of life and nature. They predicted the future with their magic drums. The drums varied in size and were decorated with different signs connected with nature.

The shamans had the keys to the secrets of nature and they played a significant role in traditional Sami culture.

In this animistic religion mother Nature was the sustainer of life. Mountains with special forms as well as stone formations and other objects in nature could give the answers people needed. Through the worship people brought sacrificial gifts to the objects of worship.

Some gods

Natural phenomena were looked upon as gods. The sun was the most important cosmic force. Nature was permeated with spirits and holy places such as special mountains and stones. Natural forces like the thunder, the sun, the wind and water were worshipped.

The most powerful god was the male god of thunder, Dierpmis or Ukko. He was probably the most scary and was worshipped fervently. His wife was Akka, the goddess of fertility. She represented the female side of nature.

The god of the wind was Bieggolmmai. Other gods were Mannu (the moon) and Ahcolmmai (the god of water). These three gods were able to influence the living conditions of the worshipper.

Leaibolmmai was the god of alder and blood. He ruled over game and had a very high status. The reason being that a blood-coloured juice was extracted from the bark of the alder and was used for painting the figures of the magic drums.


A seita was an object of worship. It was usually a specially formed stone or boulder. They were worshipped to ensure good luck in fishing or hunting.

Read more about the old Lapp religion. The oldest literary documentations of the old shamanistic Lapp religion were written by Swedish missionaries.

Conversion to Christianity

During the 16th century Swedish missionaries travelled to the winter villages of Lapland and the building of churches in Swedish Lapland started.

The first church in Finnish Lapland was built in Inari in 1648.

By the beginning of the 17th century, almost all Lapps were baptised. But many Lapps kept their old pagan religion in addition to the new religion for a couple of centuries.

The first Catholic church in Norwegian Lapland was built at Vardø in 1307. By the 16th century, Denmark-Norway had built 6 churches in the eastern part of Norwegian Lapland.

Chapel at Neiden The Russian empire saw some danger in this expansion from the west. Thus they built Orthodox churches and monasteries in the Kola area in Russia - for instance at Pechenga.

In Norwegian Lapland they bulit churches at Neiden and at Pasvik River (Paatsjoki). The old cemetery still exists still at Svanvik on the shore of the Pasvik River. Th Orthodox church at Neiden is still there.

The Orthodox Church

The Lutheran religion is the mainstream religion of Finland, Norway and Sweden. But especially among the Skolt Lapps in Finnish and Norwegian Lapland there are some Orthodox believers.

The monastery at Pechenga was the spiritual centre of the Orthodox Church in Russian Lapland before the Russian revolution in 1917. When this monastery was closed, the westernmost Skolt Lapp Orthodox chapel was the chapel of St. Gregorius at Neiden.

The Neiden chapel must be one of the smallest church buildings in the world. From the picture you get an idea of its height and size when you compare with the people standing in front of it.

In the 20th century, Othodox chapels and churches were also built in Finland. There is one such church with a cemetery at Sevettijärvi and another one in Nellim. Both are in the municipality of Inari.

1n 1915 the University of Oslo removed 94 skeltons from the Skolt graveyard at Neiden, Finnmark, for scientific purposes. September 25th 2011 these remains of these 94 had come home again. Read about the reburial ceremony.

See a map of the Inari, Pechenga, Neiden area.

Where the Reindeer Roam

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