Ove Kåven

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Jenny L. M. (2022-03-27 19:45:23)
Dear Mr Kaaven,

I have been reading your views on shamanism with great interest. For some time now I have been trying to educate myself on the matter, and I’m particularly interested in shamanism in a Sami context. Unfortunately, to me leastways, information regarding this is not always available in English. Now, I sort of read and understand Norwegian and even some Sami, but it’s not like I can be getting through a text somewhat more advanced than a news article and actually comprehend it in a sufficient way. I’m aware of google translate and stuff like that, but older texts tend to give electronic translation services a hard time on accuracy. Pretty much like my own rudimentary understanding of Norwegian and Sami. This is leading me to my question to you: is there any information about Sami shamanism in English written by people who have first hand knowledge about Sami shamanism? I have heard of Johan Turi. Would he be an author worth considering?

You also expressed that you have experienced things beyond the frame of western minds, if I got you correctly. I share that experience which is why I’m getting more and more devoted to looking into this.

Best regards,

I don’t know of many English texts about Sámi shamanism specifically (although I know some English texts about shamanism in general do mention them). Before modern times, the Sámi people did not have a written language, and the Christian missionaries etc that did describe them, were of course very prejudiced, and were probably writing about it not so much to document it objectively, as they did it to justify the persecution and extermination that later happened.

Johan Turi (1854 – 1936) is generally considered the first proper Sámi author (meaning someone who wrote Sámi books). He wrote several books with stories about Sámi life. He was also a talented artist, and a (shamanic) healer himself. The book that specifically covered shamanism (“Sámit ja noaidevuohta”) was immediately translated into English, with, I think, the title “Lappish texts” (1919). Note that this was during a time that the Christians had already eradicated much of Sámi shamanism, although perhaps not yet all, and this affected some of the content. (It was also published in Denmark.)

Another interesting Sámi personality may be Ailo Gaup (1944 – 2014), a more modern shaman, who had the misfortune to live in a time when Christianity had won and Sámi shamanism was almost completely extinguished. Thus, his quest became to travel the world, visit other cultures, rediscover the roots of shamanism, and bring its essence back to Sápmi. Almost all shamanism that’s practiced in Sápmi today, now exists because of Ailo Gaup’s work. He wrote several books on shamanism, some of which have been translated to English (“The Shamanic Zone”, 2014).

Other books have been written about the subject matter, of course, but at the moment, these are the only ones I am aware of that have English versions, are about Sámi shamanism specifically, and were written by people who presumably knew what they were writing about.

(Edit: In case blogs may also be of interest, I probably ought to mention my sister and her shamanic friend’s blog, Beneath Northern Lights.)