Dear Green Heart Warrior, with June ending, we are saying goodbye to the cherry-blossom colors of the Zen month in JAPAN and will be shifting our gaze to a faraway winter wonderland in the Arctic Circle. Lapland is home to the indigenous Sami people, and we will spend the month of July immersing ourselves in their ways and their wisdom.
Thank you for being with us and please stay tuned. It’s going to be an exciting journey.
Love to ALL.
WELCOME, dear Green Heart Warriors, to Lapland or Sapmi, as the Sami people prefer to call it. This is the land of the midnight Sun, the land of the northern lights, an icy wonderland brimming with Sami legends, reindeer, amazingly colorful clothes, and equally colorful traditions.
Right as we were leaving Japan after spending the month of June exploring ZEN philosophy, our dear guide Harumi-San, being aware we are off to Sami-land, shared a story about her first trip to Tromsø, Norway as a guide to a group of Japanese. The same city we are flying to next. What a coincidence, right? Or perhaps not? Perhaps we can allow ourselves to believe that everything in the Universe is magically interconnected.
Harumi-San explained the many similarities between Sami and Japanese culture and people. “They are both Nature worshipers and even look alike,” she said.
As a true Japanese Disney fan, she then added, “If you really want to feel the Samis, make sure you watch Disney’s Frozen 2. It is set in Sapmi, the Sami-land, and is overflowing with the magic of Nature, Northern Lights, and reindeer. Even the original song soundtrack was composed by a Sami musician, Frode Fjellheim. His music uses joik, an ancient chanting type of singing from the Sámi.”
Next time you watch Frozen 2 with your kids or your inner child, make sure to look out for the elements of Sami culture, which we are going to write about as we continue, dear Green Heart Warrior.
“When the Great Creator created the ancestors of the Sami people, he laid down in the middle of the Earth the living and beating heart of a two-year-old reindeer cow, so that when the Sami people are in trouble, they can put an ear to the ground and listen for the heartbeats from below. If the heart is still beating, this means there is still a future for the Sami people, and whatever problems they have can be solved one way or another. From the beating of the female reindeer heart deep in the earth there is a line to the beating of the Sami drum and to the ancient times when the songs of the people were developed and performed – the songs that tell the story and continue to renew the Sami people’s belief in the future,’ wrote Herald Gaski in his article called The Sami People: The “White Indians” of Scandinavia in the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. This legend continues to sustain the Sami in the face of challenges faced by them in preserving their culture, language, land, and rights against the onslaught of colonialism.
The Sami people of Lapland used to be referred to as Lapps or Laplanders, but like the word Aboriginals, the word Lapp has a derogatory connotation, and they themselves find this name offensive. The Sami call their land Sapmi and themselves Sami.
Sapmi is a largely pristine landscape of forests, marshes, scree-covered fells, and deep, clean lakes. Often described as Europe’s last great wilderness, it is also home to lynxes, brown bears, wolverines, and golden eagles.
The Sami are settled in wide areas of Norway, Sweden, northern Finland, and on the Kola peninsula in Russia. It is difficult to establish their number as there has been so much assimilation, but the current estimate places the total population between thirty thousand and fifty thousand.
Though most of the Sami are integrated into the modern lifestyle, they have not let go of their ancient roots and continue to nurture a deep connection to Earth. From reindeer herding to animism, the Samis have found ways to maintain their ancient culture and religious beliefs despite the ever-changing world around them. Lately, in a time of increasing environmental disruption and ecological damage, there has been a growing interest worldwide in the sustainable ways of life of indigenous peoples. The world’s more industrialized nations are changing their view that these cultures are primitive and are looking to them for valuable information about ecological adaptation in technology-based societies.
And as you have probably noticed so far this is also one of our 365 Journey goals, dear Green Heart Warrior, to bring the awareness of old wisdom back into the modern world.
Join us, dear Green Heart Warrior, for our first live interview with Oddbjorg Hetta Sara, a native Sami from Kautokeino, Norway. Besides her day job as a teacher, Oddbjorg gives Visit Natives initiative consultancy on issues involving the indigenous peoples in Northern Norway.
With Love from the snowy winter wonderland of Lapland.
The Sami have inhabited these harsh, frozen northern latitudes since the last Ice Age and are the only indigenous people in the EU. While most Samis are part of the mainstream culture, their ancient rhythms, unique craftwork traditions, and their distinct language coexist with modern technology. In the face of multiple challenges, the Sami people are giving a strong pushback and their culture is currently experiencing a resurgence.
Please stay tuned this July to learn more about the Samis who have been described as the “White Indians of Scandinavia”.
It’s Sunday, dear All. Time to relax and watch Disney movies, right?
Put on Frozen 2 and expand your heart to receive the beauty of the Arctic and its rich Sami culture, which we will dive into this month.
Enjoy and hug your inner child.
Sami society is traditionally open and egalitarian. To be identified as Sami, parentage is of little significance. What is far more important is a person’s knowledge of the Sami language and a person’s attitude toward the treasured Sami traditions. These are considered more important than bloodlines. There are even old Sami myths that express the positive benefits of mixing blood with other peoples through what might be called “extra-ethnic” marriage.
This ancient core of diversity and inclusion resonates powerfully with our modern goals of social sustainability, no?
The old Sami social order was based on the Siida system of democratic village councils with separate hunting/herding parties joining together to form larger multi-family social units. The settlement was based on ecological adaptation and resource-oriented migration, with different Siida moving to different seasonal habitations. The system was important for the transmission of traditional knowledge on environmental best practices.
As colonization gained momentum, the Siidas withdrew northward to their other seasonal habitations to avoid strife, but over time this reduced their range of access to the catch that abounded in the areas that were abandoned, resulting in a lot of resentment.
Colonial attitudes towards the Sami saw their spiritual beliefs, language, and their Siida suppressed over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. “First they took the religion, then they broke the Siida system, then they took the lands and the language,” rues a Sami elder.
This, dear Green Heart Warrior, is the exact same story we hear over and over wherever there has been colonization.
The traditional Sami religion was both polytheistic and animistic. They believed that not only humans, but animals, trees, rocks, and water bodies have souls. They also believed that the living and the departed were two halves of the same family. A priest or shaman called a noaide acted as an intermediary between the spiritual and material worlds. He would consult with the dead while in a trance induced by beating on a magic drum and perform a special kind of chanting called juoigan. During these trance states, the noiade was able to wander into the spirit world and commune with the dead and with those sacred animals that served as his assistant spirits.
Over time, all the Samis have converted to Christianity and today most of them practice the dominant Lutheran religion of the Nordic countries in which they live. Despite this, shamanism still survives and today Sámi are returning to their spiritual roots. In Norway, during the 1980s, shamanism began to see a revival. This was partly due to the influence of author and journalist Ailo Gaup, himself a shaman from the Sámi community, whose novels helped reawaken interest in Sámi spirituality. In 2012, the Norwegian government approved the Shamanistic Association (SA) as a legally recognized religion.
Sami traditions are rich in folklore. The Sami creation myth, directly related to their harsh environment, tells the story of a monstrous giant named Biegolmai, the Wind Man. At the beginning of Time, Biegolmai created the Sapmi region by taking two huge shovels – one to whip up the wind and the other to drop huge amounts of snow so that no one could live there. One day, however, one of Biegolmai’s shovels broke. The wind died down, and the Samis were able to enter Sapmi.
Another story traces the Sami ancestry to the Sun. The Daughter of the Sun favored the Sami people and brought reindeer to them. In a related myth, the Son of the Sun had his three sons become the ancestors of the Sami. At their deaths, they became stars in the heavens and can be seen today in The Belt of Orion constellation.
Have you noticed, dear Green Heart Warrior, how many indigenous myths have stories about the same constellations? Clearly, we are all intimately connected with each other’s stories, and with the heavenly bodies. Science confirms that we are made of the same primal stardust.
Join us, dear Green Heart Warrior, for Sami-lore-inspired storytelling moments at the reindeer farm outside of Tromsø, with our host Jon Mikkel Eira.
With Love from Lapland.
The history of the Sami people is the history of humans adapting to the harsh Arctic climate. But today, the influences and pressures from the outside world – from modern mass media and the entertainment industry – are so overwhelming, that one hour a day of Sami radio broadcasting, one Sami newspaper a week, and ten Sami novels a year can hardly counteract the tide. Yet, they lay their ear to the ground – the heart of the reindeer cow is still beating, is it not?
Enjoy your Sunday, dear ALL.
Although we are with the Samis in Lapland right now, we are still practicing ZEN and the mindful Zazen meditation of Japan, right? Remember, it takes at least three months to implement a new habit.
Much Love to ALL.
The traditional Sami clothing is called gákti, which in past times was made from reindeer leather and sinews, but is now more commonly made from wool, cotton, or silk.
Women’s gákti typically consist of a dress, a fringed shawl, and boots/shoes made of reindeer fur or leather. The boots have pointed or curled toes. Traditional gákti are most commonly made in variations of red, blue, green, white, and medium-brown tanned leather, or reindeer fur.
The colors, patterns, and jewelry of the gákti are indicative of where a person is from, whether the person is single or married, and sometimes even a specific family. Our Sami bracelets are reflective of the Sami jewelry style.
In the short video we are sharing today, our Sami host Jon explains the strict ethics and rules of wearing Sami dresses – amazing and practical ancient fashions, indeed!
According to oral traditions, the fairies and elves of the Arctic lands gave to the Sámi joiks, a traditional form of singing. Music researchers believe that joik is one of the oldest continuous musical traditions in Europe.
During the Christianization of the Sami, joiking was condemned as sinful. But today joik is alive and well – it has found its way into modern-day pop culture through adaptation by various artists.
A joik is dedicated to a person, an animal, or a place, and the harmonies reproduce the qualities of the object of the song. If you would like to chat someone up, try ‘joiking’ him/her – it has quite an effect!
Let’s listen to our dear friend, reindeer herder Nills, who was so kind to sing for us a joik he wrote for his wife. Missing her while being away on their reindeer farm in the middle of the Tundra, this joik is his love song – Sami style!
Many Samis in Norway make their living from fishing, reindeer herding, and hunting along the coast, on the fjords, and alongside the large rivers farther inland. Reindeer are revered in Sami culture because, for thousands of years, reindeer have provided families with meat and milk; hides for clothing, shoes, and tents; bones and antlers for tools, handicrafts, and weapons; and sinews for sewing. Nothing is wasted. The Sami way has always been that you only take what you need – and no more.
The relationship of the Sami with their reindeer is reflected in the language: there are thought to be about 1,000 Sami words devoted to reindeer appearance, behavior, and habits. They say, “Without the reindeer, the Sami people wouldn’t be here.”
A Sami herder expresses it beautifully, “My people have been living with reindeer for thousands of years. We’ve become very close. You could say that our souls touch, or better still, they overlap.”
What a beautiful thought, dear Green Heart Warrior! The souls of all creatures touch and communicate. We just have to feel into it and listen.
According to Sami belief, women are under the special protection of the goddess Madder-Akka and her three daughters Sarakka, Ugsakka, and Juksakka. These goddesses were considered to be intimately connected with the household and with domestic life. Mader-Akka has become an icon for Sami feminists. She gives the tribe their bodies. Women and girls belong to her, as do boys until they are declared men.
Her first daughter is Sarakka, the goddess of fertility. After giving birth, a woman would eat a special porridge dedicated to Sarakka. The second daughter is Juksakka, the protector of the children. A third daughter, Uksakka, shapes the fetus in the mother’s womb and assigns its sex.
Another goddess Jabme-Akka is the mother of the Dead. Her land of the dead is said to mirror the land of the living, where everything is opposite. So, the dead are buried with the essentials of living to keep them comfortable in the afterlife.
Isn’t it fascinating, dear Green Heart Warrior, to learn that in many ancient societies, the most powerful deities were feminine? Perhaps because the ability to give life was seen as magical, and also because fertility was an important aspect of the survival of the community.
Join us, dear Green Heart Warrior, for our second live interview with Sami reindeer herder Nils Sara, next to his reindeer farm amid the Arctic tundra. At minus 30 degrees Celsius, he redefines the word Resilience! Nils is a native Sami reindeer herder from Kautokeino, Norway. He manages the Visit Natives homestays in Norway and also welcomes guests to his own home.
With Love from the snowy winter wonderland of Lapland.
Enjoy your Saturday, dear Green Heart Warrior, and stay warm.
Tromsø in Northern Norway is famous as one of the best places for watching the northern lights.
The bright dancing lights of the aurora are collisions between electrically charged particles from the Sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. Seeing the northern lights with your own eyes is a bucket-list item for astronomy lovers and travelers alike.
The Sámi (or Samis) are a First Nation people, which means that they inhabited these lands long before the nation-states of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia extended their kingdoms into their territories. Here in the Arctic, much like elsewhere in the world, the cultures of these original inhabitants were systematically suppressed.
Almost every Sami family can tell you stories of the time after the Second World War when children were taken to boarding schools and beaten if they spoke Sami. Or stories of relatives being stripped naked and measured by officials in an attempt to establish their racial inferiority. Earlier in the 19th century, Sami rituals were deemed ‘devil worship’ and those who attempted to practice their religion were persecuted, their sacred sites and drums destroyed, and some shamans even burned at the stake for witchcraft.
Although much has changed since those dark days, the Samis have reasserted their identity, and the governments too have tried to make amends, much more still needs to be done.
Dear Green Heart Warrior, it is important for us to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and learn from them.
The Norwegian government has only very recently recognized the Sami people in certain official capacities. In 1980, the Sami Rights Commission was created; this was a precursor to the establishment of the Norwegian Sami Assembly, i.e., the Sameting, in 1989. In 2005, the Sami gained rights to the land and water in their ancestral lands in the Finnmark county in the northeast of Norway.
In the cultural sphere, there is an increased interest in joik, duoddji handicrafts, and the Sami language. Traditional joik chants are blended with modern rhythms. There is a new Sami National Theatre (Beaivas), a proliferation of rich literature, and Sami language media and broadcasting.
Dear Green Heart Warrior, all these ancient cultures enrich our shared pool of civilization.
Though the Sami have converted to Christianity, they have still retained some of their pre-Christian ‘pagan’ practices. For instance, the Sami celebrate “Nissetoget” in the New Year. The celebration begins several days before December 31st with the construction of monstrous masks made of materials such as real skins, animal bones, and skulls. The terrifying masks represent evil demons. On the night of December 31st, the masked wearers walk in a procession towards a big bonfire. Anyone who is not masked and disguised will find themselves attacked by the ‘demons’ and forced to leave.
As the midnight hour approaches, the masked celebrants dance around the fire. At a given moment they cast off their masks and costumes and throw them into the flames. This represents the expulsion of evil and the moment when they pray to the gods for peace in the coming year.
In the words of a shaman, “Of what importance is your God’s name? Whether it is one or if there are many? What matters is that everyone prays for peace.”
Concluding the month in Sapmi, deeply feeling both the wisdom and the frustration of the Sami ethnic community, we have discovered an ancient song, in which the shaman sings of how the thief has become master of the land of the noaidis. Nevertheless, hope lives on – for he ends his song with a magic incantation meant to drive the thief away. This is a dimension of the shaman’s song that the ‘thief’ may choose to ignore because he believes he is superior or powerful, or he may simply fail to grasp its significance. But power is not constant. It is cyclical. The tides will turn eventually and that is what the shaman’s song reminds us.
So, to all of you, dear indigenous peoples of the globe, whose old ways have been eroded by Westernization, we, the Green Heart Warriors, send the intention: This too shall pass, and we are here to support you ALL the way.
Join us, dear Green Heart Warrior, for our third live interview with Jon Mikkel Eira, our host and reindeer herder from the reindeer farm we visited outside Tromsø in Northern Norway.
With Love from the snowy winter wonderland of Lapland.
Our month with the Samis was a bit different to other peoples we have visited so far because they are a much smaller ethnic group, and thus even more vulnerable to the many threats to their cultural identity stemming from a colonial past. Today, their ancestral territories are threatened by development in the form of mining and railroads in the tundra. That’s why the word of the month is ‘resilience’. They have shown to have the physical resilience to live in an icy climate as well as the resilience to fight for their rights, their cherished beliefs, and their identity over decades.
With Love to ALL. We stand with you, dear Sami friends, all the way.
Dear Green Heart Warrior, farewell from Lapland.
Thank you for being with us. Now, let’s fly back to our beautiful homeland of Slovenia.
Love to ALL.
Dear Green Heart Warrior, with July ending, we are saying goodbye to the winter wonderland in the Arctic Circle. We are super excited to be flying back to our homeland, Slovenia, for the month of August.
Going back, we thought it would be more about introducing our beautiful, green country to all of you, dear Green Heart Warriors, but boy were we surprised at discovering the Indigenous people, true Nature Worshipers, i.e., Slovenian Pagans, in the western part of it.
Thank you for being with us on our journey.
Please stay tuned, it’s going to be an exciting journey. It sure was for us.
Love to ALL.