- Aims of the research and why local history is important with regard to cultural heritage
- The court records and charges against Aikia Aikianpoika
- The artistic exhibition concerning Aikia Aikianpoika’s life and subsequent fate.
- Concluding remarks
- Exhibition text
The practice of Sámi shamanism is a cultural phenomenon, which has a long and ambiguous history throughout Sápmi, which are primarily, the northernmost areas of Norway, Sweden, Finland and north-west Russia, where the Sámi live, who are Europe’s Indigenous People. Because, Sámi spirituality is undergoing a revival throughout the aforementioned countries within the past two decades, there is a rise in interest in this topic. In scholarly discourses both past and present, much emphasis has been placed on the Sámi noaidi, the religious specialist within Sámi society who have been the subjects of persecution and repression by evangelical priests and missionaries of the Christian Churches for over 800 years. In relation to these events, the subject matter of the proposed study is concerned with local history and cultural memory with regard to circumstances as such, conveyed through an art exhibition called Multiformes, at Lapin Maakuntamuseon (Provisional Museum of Lapland), Rovaniemi, Finland, which opened on the 26.01.2018 and will remain there until 15.4.2018. The research undertaken is in connection with the story of the fate of Sámi noaidi Aikia Aikianpoika who recieved a death sentence in court for alleged crimes of witchcraft in 1671. The material brings together past, present and future for evaluating in what ways the noaidi’s memory has recently been reconstructed in one part of the art exhibition by one of his descendants, and how this is important for both culture and heritage regarding local history. In short, the foundation of investigation is centralized on the 17th century around the areas of Kitka and Kemi, when Finland was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden, Kitka being where the noaidi lived and Kemi where his trial took place.
Key words: Sámi noaidi, court records, exhibition, remembering, witchcraft
“The intent of the Christian priests seems to have been the complete destruction of old world-view, not just the shamanistic practices” Sámi historian Veli-Pekka Lehtola 2002.
The study presented to you below is important with regard to local history and indigenous religion because the events surrounding the fate of Sámi noaidi (shaman), Aikia Aikianpoika (1591-1671), and his death sentence reflects the story of the persecution of an entire community who are less than 10,000 people in Finland. “The Saami, [are] living in the northern parts of Scandinavia and Finland and in the Kola Peninsula, [and] are the only indigenous people in the EU to have their own language, culture, means of livelihood and identity. The history of the Saami in the areas occupied by them dates far back to before the formation of the present states in the region. Sápmi, the present area settled by the Saami, extends from central Norway and Sweden through the northernmost parts of Finland and Norway to the Kola Peninsula in the Russian Federation” Kulonen, Pulkkinen and Seurujärvi-Kari (2005: 3) ((Note to the reader. There are different ways the terms Sámi, Saami and Sami is used, for example in north Sámi and Swedish Saami.)).
Up until recently, the Sámi were a nomadic reindeer herding society. As indigenous peoples, from within the context of colonialism, they have faced ruthless persecutions for centuries by various denominations of Christianity through ludicrous displays of authority. The underlying causes for use of such brutal force against them is because the Sámi practiced an ancient pre-Christin religion, which was animistic and preserved through oral traditions linked with hunting, fishing and trapping practices, where noaidivuohta, today known more commonly as shamanism, took up a central position. The religious practices of the Sámi, which was characterized by sacrificial traditions, was centered on reverence for nature, ancestral spirits and veneration towards the ruling powers of their cosmos. This in turn, produced a vibrant and colourful cosmology portrayed on the magic drum, which the noaidi used to invoke spirits with through trance states and divination practices. These traditions and customs were interpreted as sorcery by the authorities of the Swedish church and state, to which Finland was a part of for approximately 600 years.
In terms of the death sentences that were handed out against Sámi noaidis’ who practiced noaidivuohta, in Norway, Sweden and Finland, the reconstruction of the events leading to the death of Aikia Aikianpoika from Kitka, which are described below, are very much concerned with the past, present and future of Sámi people in Finland and are therefore, the purpose for writing this paper.
The persecutions against the Sámi people have taken place on every level of their society from the arrival of Christianity and continue to the present day by both the churches and governments in Finland, Sweden and Norway, who have sought to assimilate the Sámi and their cultures into each of the aforementioned Nation States. Henceforth, the social, religious, cultural, oral, material, historical, emotional, mental and physical dimensions of their culture have been oppressed and denied, in order to destroy traditional Sámi ways of life. The actions of bigoted and misinformed missionaries and priests of the northern districts to convert the Sámi to Christianity from their pre-Christian religion is well known throughout literature sources both past and present, by for example the scholarly works of Rydving 1991 and 1993; Lehtola 2002 and Pulkkinen 2005. Thus, Swedish author Kurt Kihlberg (2003: 27) briefly describes a summary of persecutions against the Sámi, in the following manner.
“During their pre-Christian period, the Sámi in Lapland were subjected to a ruthless persecution by the Swedish State, through which the nomads were tried in summary proceedings by malevolent and habitually drunken clergymen on account of their original beliefs. In other respects too, there is a great deal to criticize concerning the clergy’s harassment of the Sámi in former times. The role of the Church during the conversion of the reindeer-owning nomads to Christianity can in many respects be considered a disgrace in the history of religion in Sweden”.
In terms of understanding the historical background in relation to in what ways the Sámi people and their religion have been portrayed by outsiders regarding what can be described as being contributory factors towards the witch hunting craze and persecutions throughout Fennoscandia, Norwegian scholar of religion Rune Hagen (2006: 625-626) states the following points. Because the Sámi were known to be skilled in wind magic “the Lapland witches and the knotted winds had already become somewhat notorious by then (1591). Authors like Olaus Magnus and Jean Bodin had already told Europe that the Sámi were immensely dangerous magicians and sorcerers. The conjuring of the Lapland witches was so great that people believed they could use sorcery instead of weapons while in combat with their enemies. Rumours indicating that the Swedes used techniques of Sámi sorcery in warfare dogged Swedish military forces throughout the seventeenth century. When they won several significant battles and advanced deep into German territory during the Thirty Years’ War, it was insinuated that their success was due to sorcery by Sámi troops assisting them” ((This is a note I have taken from Hagen (2005: 307), which I consider to be beneficial for the reader. “Jean Bodin, D la démonomanie des sorciers, Paris 1580, repr. Hildeshiem 1988, p.98b, see also Bodin’s chapter on ecstacy, book 2, ch. 5, pp. 90a-94b. Bodin got his information about >>les sorciers de Lappie< < from Olaus Magnus, Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus, Rome 1555, see the English translation by Peter Foote (ed.), Description of the Northern Peoples, London 1996-1998, esp, book 3 in the first volume”.)).
Hagen has produced some further important data concerning “the number of people convicted of Witchcraft in Finnmark between 1598 – 1692 and regards the ethnic specifications as reliable. Nonetheless, one should assume that a greater number of individuals were involved and that the 26 Sámi is a minimum figure” (Hagen 2005: 308) ((It should also be noted that my figures concern only one (Finnmark) of the three counties in Northern Norway. In Troms and Norland the Sámi are involved in more than 20 per cent of the witch trials. According to Karin Granqvist, 73 Sámi men and three Sámi women were prosecuted for practicing sacrificial rituals and using drums in Swedish Lapland (Karin Granqvist, > Thou shalt have no other Gods before me (Ex. 20.3). Witchcraft and Superstition Trials in 17th and 18th Century Swedish Lapland, in: Peter Sköld/Kristina Kram (eds.), Kulturkonfrontation i Lappmarken, Umeå 1998, esp. p. 17).)).
In addition to what has been described above, a further contribution from Hagen (2005: 323) expands on in what ways “during the huge and brutal witch hunt in the region of Vardøhus (known today as Finnmark), the northernmost county in Norway, near the Russian border), about 140 people were prosecuted for the crime of witchcraft from 1601 to 1692. In a few small fishing communities along the coast of Finnmark 85 people were burned, three beheaded and some others died in prison or were killed by torture following the witch-hunt. Compared with the small size of the population, this is one of the worst cases of witch persecutions in Europe”.
Additional scholarly sources outlining in particular, details about noaidi who were given death sentences, are found in studies by Norwegian scholar Liv Helene Willumsen (2013: 318), who describes in more detail how and when the “famous court case of 1692 in Vadsø, Finnmark, Norwegian Sápmi of the old Sámi noaidi Anders Poulsen who was given a death sentence for using a drum and alleged sorcery, took place, that ‘at the same time, […] the trial of the Sámi Lars Nilsson from Piteå Lappmark took place in Arjeplog in Sweden. Lars Nilsson used a rune drum and wooden figures. He was sentenced to the stake, and both the drum and the wooden figures were burned before he himself was burned (Granquist ‘du skal inga andra gudar hava Jämta mig’, 71-88).
[Willumsen also goes on to say how] another case from the Finnish Sámi area at the beginning of 1671 was the trial of […] [Aikia Aikianpoika] from Kittka in Kemi Lappmark. He was accused of using the rune drum and singing a special Sámi song called joik. The local court sentence him to death, but on way to the place of execution he died, allegedly due to the use of sorcery (The court records are found in Fellman, I., Handlingar och uppsatsar angäande Finska lappmarken och lapparne, vol I (Helsingfors, 1910), 383-86)”.
Other ways information about the Sámi and their religion was circulated from early sources compiled by missionaries and priests, which were collected in the early seventeenth century, was published for example, in the works of German linguist and professor of law and rhetoric in Uppsala, Sweden, Johannes Schefferus. Through Schefferus’s ambiguous portrait of the Sámi people in his book titled Lapponia, first published in Latin in 1673 under its uniform title, and to follow in 1674, the first English edition was published. and titled The History of Lapland, which contains two chapters about the religion of the Sámi people, there are numerous accounts of tainted representation concerning the Sámi and their religion.
More recently, Swedish historian of religion Håkan Rydving in his scholarly works The End of Drum Time Religious – Change Among the Lule Saami, 1670s-1740s (1993), and Finnish scholar Juha Pentikäinen in his works titled Shamanism and Culture (1998) and his edited works titled Fragments of Lappish Mythology (2002) have all contributed to discussions about the history of the Sámi people and their religious and cultural practices in relation to the use of the sacred drum by the noaidi in Sámi society and the subsequent persecutions that resulted as a consequence. In addition, it should be noted how many sacred drums were taken from the Sámi and burned, whilst about 70 still remain today and are deposited in the archives of museums in Germany, France, Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden and Italy.
Therefore, the case of persecution against Aikianpoika in Kemi reflects similar court cases pertaining to the alleged use of witchcraft by other Sámi noaidi from Norwegian and Swedish Sápmi from the seventeenth century, who were likewise, given death sentences for use of the drum and singing.
In terms of other forms of punishment for practicing Sámi religion, Håkan Rydving states the following points in relation to this subject matter. ”In both Norway and Sweden the penalty for ‘sorcery’ was death, but the use of capital punishment for the possession of a drum or for sacrifices, was very uncommon” (Rydving 1993: 55). 26
Furthermore, Rydving (1991: 29) has also described to what degree “the role of the drums as symbols of Saami resistance is well attested in the sources from the 17th and 18th centuries. For the Saamis, the drums represented their threatened culture, the resistance against the Christian claim to exclusiveness, and a striving to preserve traditional values — i e ‘the good’ that had to be saved. For the Church authorities, on the other hand, the drums symbolized the explicit nucleus of the elusive Saami ‘paganism’ — i e ‘the evil’ that had to be annihilated”.
In a description concerning the works of Finnish clergyman Gabriel Tuderus in Sápmi, “who converted the Kemi Sámi to Christianity [it has been noted how] as a result of Tuderus’ missionary work, the Kemi Saami renounced practices connected with their ethnic cosmology, including the use of the shaman’s drum. […] [In addition] in an intensive pastoral inspection that was carried out throughout the kingdom in the years 1686-89 not a single shaman’s drum was found in Kemi Lappmark” (Pulkkinen 2005: 418). Whether this can also be attributed directly to what happened to Aikia Aikianpoika is not known.
We have heard above contributions from scholars outside of Sámi culture and therefore, it is important to include a more recent series of narratives by Sámi scholars concerning why the noaidi as a religious functionary was seen as a threat by the ecclesial authorities. Beginning with Sámi historian Veli-Pekka Lehtola (2002: 28), who describes some of the roles and functions the noaidi undertook as a means of employment within the Sámi cultural context.
“In the old culture, human relationships with the two realms of reality, the physical world (“this side”) and the spiritual world (the other side), were bridged by the activities of special men and women – noaidi. Just as the world was divided into the seen and the unseen, the tangible and the intangible, so human beings were composed of two parts: the body souls and free souls. In a non-active state – in dream, trance or coma – a free soul may leave the body and take on another form outside of the person. The noaidi had the skill to reach this state at will. It is described in different ways. The noaidi in trance leaves the body and moves as a spirit of breath of wind.
They have the ability to change into a wild reindeer or hide under the reindeer’s neck or hoof; they can fly over the treetops or travel under the ground; they may swim in the shape of a fish; and the Sea Sámi recount that they may even move mountains. The traditional shamanism was an integral part of the hunting culture. Shamanic activities were related to crisis situations in a village or family; the noaidi attempted to find a remedy. The greatest crisis for this people dependent on nature, were illnesses and problems concerning obtaining a livelihood. Illness and disturbance of the balance between the two souls and between the two realms of reality. The noaidi in the spirit form, leaves and goes to “the other side” to restore harmony”.
Other references by Sámi scholars and in this first example Louise Bäckman in her article titled: The Noaidi and his Worldview: A Study of Saami Shamanism from a Historical Point of View (2005), relay the following points. “According to the source writers, the Saami shaman was a man. In his teen years, he was “called” by spirits to be noaidi and was introduced to his future by helping spirits. An old woman could act as healer or prophet, but she had no access to helping spirits and did not use a drum” (Bäckman 2005: 33).
A second description from another of Bäckman’s writings about the noaidi in Sámi society is encountered in her published works titled The Noajdie and his Ecstasy – A Contribution to the Discussion (1982). “Concerning the Saamis themselves, the Noajdie ((There are different ways of spelling this term Noaidi,
Noid and Noajdie.)) was regarded as the soothsayer and diviner, but above all he was associated with what was looked upon as passe, (bissie in Southern Saamian), the sphere of the spirits and the gods, the sacred one might say. He was the true mediator between man and the supernatural powers on which man was dependent” Bäckman (1982: 123).
Aims of the research and why local history is important with regard to cultural heritage
The methodological framework in which this subject matter is presented is through a descriptive research method, which examines different kinds of research data, consisting of interviews, exhibition texts and court records. The approach is in one way observational, whilst at the same time; the method validates and exemplifies the trend of existing conditions concerning discrimination in relation to recognition, by the Nation States of Norway, Sweden and Finland against the Sámi people, which is still evident today. Therefore, demonstrating a long and sustained campaign of oppression and thus why in this case, it is important to reflect on this historical event.
The purposes for wanting to cover this major, controversial case regarding the fate of Aikianpoika, is for two reasons. The first is it provides an example of one of the ways the harshest implementations of colonialism has taken place throughout the Nordic countries, as likewise, seen reflected in persecutions of Sámi persons in both Norway and Sweden in the seventeenth century. The second reason is the research brings forth what appear to be errors in judgement surrounding the persecution of Aikianpoika and his subsequent death sentence, regarding the presentation of sufficient evidence that would provide plentiful reason for prosecution. Moreover, the story surrounding Aikianpoika’s fate helps to contextualize the severity of the types of punishment given by the courts and likewise, helps us understand how priests from outside of Sámi culture have treated the Sámi people because of misinformation about them and their religious practices. In addition, and with reference to cultural heritage, the death sentence and events, which followed can be seen as part of the living history of the Sámi people, which still influences their culture and traditions through the ways they adapt and survive regarding their historical background and struggles they have, especially in Finland, regarding the freedom to practice their traditional ways and protection of their heritage.
The formulation of both the aims and approach to the subject matter are as the consequence of meeting two Finnish persons who are the descendants of Aikia Aikianpoika. The first is Irene Kangasniemi, A Finnish speaking woman who is from Kemijärvi and who currently lives and works in Rovaniemi as an artist and handicraft person with her husband Ari Kangasniemi who is a Sámi man from Inari. The second person is Simo Ruokamo who is a Finnish speaking man who lives in Kiiminki in the city of Oulu and who has written a book, which was published in 2011, about his family’s history, which provides much interesting information about the life of Aikia Aikianpoika, titled: Aikkian Pojat ja Tyttäret – Posiolaisen Metsäsaamelaissuvun Aikio-Sarven Jälkeläisiä Karjalainen. (All Boys and Daughters. The Descendants of the Aikio-Sarven Offspring of Posio Forest Sámi). I met Simo in February 2018 at his home in Kiiminki.
Having spoken with both Ruokamo and Kangasniemi, and interviewing Kangasniemi previously in 2011, 2013 and 2018 about her work and more recently about her discovery of her being a descendant of Aikia Aikianpoika, the foundation for the reconstruction of local history has been characterised through Kangasniemi’s decision to build an exhibition in Rovaniemi in honour of and for the memory of the death of her ancestor. As a result, Kangasniemi has created the exhibition called Multiformes in partnership with Oda-Liv Koivisto. The exhibition text written by Kangasniemi in the Multiformes booklet regarding the content of the part of the exhibition, which she has displayed regarding the life of Aikianpoika, consisting of a selection of ritual artefacts made by the artist. These are representative of the noaidi’s life and his subsequent fate, which was determined through alleged charges of sorcery, which according to the outcome of a court case in the town of Kemi, resulted in the death of the man.
“My ancestor Aikia Aikianpoika was the most renowned witch of the village Kitka in the 17th century. In 1671, the Crown’s local representative challenged him to appear before the Kuolajärvi court to respond to a murder charge. Already in his eighties, Aikia had promised a few years earlier to conjure up some good salmon fishing fortune for a peasant from Kemi. The peasant had promised Aikia a fur coat of sheep’s hide, but he ended up only with a pair of wool socks and mittens. Infuriated by this, Aikia had cursed the peasant down his salmon dam to drown the following summer. He had cast the spell by means of drumming and singing. Aikianpoika’s confession found in the court records is the most detailed description of the use of a shaman’s drum” (Kangasniemi 2017: 5).
In addition to the aforementioned sources of data, analysis of written court records from the trial of Aikia Aikianpoika are likewise, included in the paper for the purposes of both examining and portraying the chain of events, which led to prosecution of Aikianpoika on charges of witchcraft and the end of his life.
The court records and charges against Aikia Aikianpoika
In relation to the written court records from the trial of Aikianpoika, Professor Carl Martin Edsman in Uppsala translated the original old Swedish text into the modern language in 1943. Marianne Bengtsson, who works at Hässleholms Museum, Sweden, has translated Edsman’s text from the old Swedish language into English for the purposes of including it in this paper. The modern Swedish text translated by Edsman has come from the archives of priest Erik Nordberg’s Church archives, and is titled: Magical Searches in Lapland 1649-1739. The case of Aikianpoika begins on page 25, and states as follows.
”District court was held in villages Kuolajärvi, Kitka and Maaselkä, March 8. 1671.
Attendants the command of the court Right Honorable Arendt Graap including members of the committee: Hindrich Jöransson (’interpreter’ or his name was ’Tolch’ as well), Erich Nilsson Noppi, Matts Savvasson from Kuolajärvi, Tomas Michielsson ibidem (= Kuolajärvi), Hans Michielsson from Kitka, Nils Andersson from Maaselkä.
This day command of the court Arendt Graap, Kemi, presented an accusation from the preacher of ”Lappmarken”, Mr Gabriel Tuderus, and the verger Oluf Olufsson, Kitka. The accusation is dated January 1. 1671. Commander of the court said that he got the accusation in Enare village February 24. from Mr Gabriel himself.
It tells that Aikia Aikianpoika in Kitka January 3, had acknowledged that a farmer from Kemi called Mordula Tobias, some time ago had asked him if he could give him good luck in his fishing using his witchcraft. Aikia Aikianpoika was promised a sheepskin coat if he agreed to help. When the farmer did not fulfill the bargain, although he had luck fishing, Aikia Aikianpoika had taken his life, at the salmon fishing site.
Mr Gabriel, soul caregiver for the accused, had in Enare claimed that Aikia Aikianpoika would be arrested and taken to court according to the allegation. This is now done and Aikia Aikianpoika, 80 years old, has answered the courts’ question if he had acknowledged the crime for Mr Gabriel Tuderus and the verger Oluf Olufsson.
At first he said that he could not remember what he had acknowledged to his soul caregiver since he was very drunk. After further pressure (inquisition?) to tell the truth he acknowledged that it was true. True that a farmer from Kemi and Mordula Tobias ”be:dh”, about four or five years ago had asked him to use witchcraft to bring the farmer luck in his fishing. He had promised him a sheepskin coat for the effort.
Had he brought the man fishing luck? Yes, he admitted that he had used witchcraft. He had in payment only recieved a pair of wool mittens and a pair of knitted socks. He was asked if he generally had used drum, “song” and singing in his deed. Yes, and it had never failed.
Then he was asked if he was willing to commit that he using witchcraft had brought the farmer to death at his own salmon fishing site because Aikianpoika never got the promised coat. He could not deny it, since this had been his intention. Tobias had therefore the following summer at his fishing site fallen in the river and drowned. Aikia had heard the news from a Finnish man, Nickarin Kaupi from Kemi, who told him so when they met in Soulajärvi.
Aikia Aikianpoika was asked what words and formula he had used, drumming and singing, to bring good fishing luck. He answered that he now was so old that he could not remember how he had sang. He had now ceased in using the drum since he no longer had the strength to hold it in his left hand. But he acknowledged that he remembered that he put five brass rings on the drum. By the drumming the rings move on the skin until they stop by a certain symbol and do not move further despite continued drumming, unless they were removed by hand.
Then he was asked, which witchcraft was used when Tobias died. He answered that he had sang some evil words, although he could not remember precisely what words, drumming the rings downwards where hell and the evil were painted. On the opposite, if he wanted good for a person he managed to move up the drum where the angels, sun, moon and the stars were painted.
At last he acknowledged that he had been ten years old when his father taught him how to do it. He did not admit anything besides of this.
This case was put to the court for deliberation and it agreed of a judgement. Since Aikia Aikianpoika from Kitka in public had agreed to have used witchcraft against a farmer from Mordula Tobias, be:dh, and did not know any other reason to why the farmer was killed, drowned, on his own fishing place, he was then sentenced to death and ”stegling” (Swedish word, a punishment after death, being put to a wheel to break the bones ), according to 6. Chapter. ”Höghm:s B. Landslagen (the Swedish law in Finland). The case went to the Supreme Court for further review.
Now the Supreme Court has made its conclusion, that the judgement from District Court should be enforced. (This is a free translation of the generous and repetitive letter from the Supreme Court to the District d:o).
To Johan Gran about the process at the execution of the accused Aikia Aikianpoika.
We, Peer Brahe etc, greet you Governor Johan Gran. We have, among other investigations and sentences about some serious cases, made a decision about Aikia Aikianpoika and his witchcraft. The judgement from District Court should be executed in public, where everyone in the village is to be present. We are deeply concerned of the use of witchcraft in the village and the execution is a warning that the justice and the ruling authorities do not want any more of witchcraft, which is a divorce of God’s holy name. Any further crimes like this should be strongly punished, no mercy. The preacher should teach and urge the people the right way. Stockholm June 9. 1671. J. G. A. Jfv ((http://www.foark.umu.se/sites/default/files/arkiv/25/sefoark2543ab01.pdf According to the information, the text is from a Machine-written manuscript with excerpts. Titled: Magical Searches in Lappmark a-b) 1649 – 1739. (The manuscript is a photocopy of Nordberg’s original, as before The donation to Umeå UB [library] was in the Dialect and Folk Memory Archives in Uppsala, ULMA, ULMA Accession Number 29528. Photocopy made in February 1987 following an investigation of the case made by Professor Carl- Martin Edsman, Uppsala. It should also be noted how the priest Gabriel Tuderus was known as a drunken brawler, who used violence against the Sámi in order to terrify and convert then.)):”
The artistic exhibition concerning Aikia Aikianpoika’s life and subsequent fate.
I have included 12 photographs I took at Irene Kangasniemi’s home and one photograph 1 took at the Multiformes exhibition at the museum (pictured above), in the research, which consists of a headdress, sheepskin coat, woolen socks and mittens as well as a painted drum. The sheepskin coat contains a series of illustrations that portray the life of Aikianpoika and events that led to his death sentence, which have been burned into the sheepskin by Kangasniemi.
When taking into account what has been presented above, it could be argued, how the construction of the exhibition is important for the local culture because we see a series of links created towards a unique, ancient living heritage and history that has been inherited from a painful past legacy, which extends on into the present time. Moreover, where the persecution of religious practices such as those described by Rydving (1991 and 1993), Lehtola (2002) and Bäckman (1982 and 2005), are further brought out into the open in relation to the enslavement of the Sámi people through colonialism in terms of their rights and freedoms to practice their pre-Christian religion, which many Sámi still consider sacred. However, the outlawing of such practices in the past still has a detrimental effect upon the culture today. Consequently, discrimination and oppression continues both inside and outside the Sámi areas throughout Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in north-west Russia. This is visible through cultural appropriation of their spiritual heritage into tourism and assimilation of Sámi culture through education, the Christian religion and denial of the rights to language and culture.
The creation of the exhibition and presentation of the data from the court case of Aikianpoika and the subsequent outcome, which ended up with a death penalty also means there are grounds to review what has been written and to examine the disappointingly weak evidence that Aikianpoika’s spell actually caused Tobias to drown, from a different perspective in terms of the witch hysteria that spread throughout Scandinavia.
To begin with, it could be argued how there is no evidence at all that proves the spell or curse Aikianpoika made against Tobias cause him to drown in his fishing waters. Has as already been mentioned, the use of alcohol was widespread throughout Sápmi in the seventeenth century. It may be the case the aforementioned was drunk and fell into the water and drowned. On the other hand, his death may have been caused by other causes. However, this is not certain because there is no mention of a post-mortem examination, therefore, the blame was solely placed on Aikianpoika.
A further important point must likewise, be taken into consideration. It seems odd that according to data presented in the court records, it took a long time for Aikianpoika’s spell of alleged punishment because of deception, to work against Mordula Tobias, whereas Aikianpoika’s spell to bring the salmon to his fishing nets appears to have happened within a relatively short time. Therefore, how can this be explained? It may well be the court decided on the sentence based on Aikianpoika’s confession, and for using the drum and joiking, which was considered evil by the Church and state. The court records state Aikianpoika was put under pressure – duress in order to reveal what he had done, but it does not state clearly what methods were used in order to get him to confess, and whether or not what he told the court had been altered so he would be found guilty?
Another grey-area regarding the fate of the noaidi concerns how he actually died. There are contradictory evidence statements with regard to this also. In the court record presented above, there is no mention as to whether or not the execution was carried out and if so where?
According to what Willumsen (2013: 318), describes above in relation to Aikianpoika’s fate, “The local court sentence him to death, but on way to the place of execution he died, allegedly due to the use of sorcery’ (The court records are found in Fellman, I., Handlingar och uppsatsar angäande Finska lappmarken och lapparne, vol I (Helsingfors, 1910), 383-86)”. It can be suggested here that Aikianpoika killed himself by use of magic. But as Aikianpoika himself had told the court he was quite old, frail had a poor memory and definitely did not have the drum with him when he died. Therefore, is this account true? If it is, it demonstrates how Aikianpoika still retained his magical powers at the age of 80 years old.
In the Finnish translation of the court case it says how “according to Tornio’s vicar Johannes Tornaeus, he [Aikianpoika] cursed himself to death when he was being transported to Piteå county prison (northern Sweden) ((Sources and literature: S. Ervasti, Y. Vasari, Kuusamon historia I. 1978; T.I. Itkonen, Suomen lappalaiset vuoteen 1945 II. 1948. Writer(s): Ilkka Mäntylä. Published 16.9.1997. A link to the document can be found at: https://kansallisbiografia.fi/kansallisbiografia/henkilo/338)).
There is further controversy in these statements, which need to be given further consideration. In the court records, it states the court ordered Aikianpoika to be executed in his village in front of everyone in order to deter anyone else from practicing witchcraft. Aikianpoika was tried in Kemi but lived in Kitka, which is some 200km away in the opposite direction. Also, the distance between Kemi and Piteå is 200km and the distance between Piteå and Kitka is 400km and in the opposite direction.
Could it be the case Aikianpoika was destined to be held in Piteå until a date was set for his execution in Kitka or is there something missing from the story?
I talked with Simo Ruokamo and Irene Kangasniemi about the whereabouts of Aikianpoika’s body and neither of them has been able to locate his remains. Therefore, his resting place remains a mystery at this present time.
Many Sámi people still struggle to come to terms with the shame and terror of what has happened to their ancestors with regard to persecution because they are a small community in Finland. In their hearts and minds the effects of the past is one of the reasons why there are many taboos and customs around the practice of their pre-Christian religion, which is done, for the most, especially in Finland, in secret.
The treatment of the Sámi people in terms of their religion and culture by the Nation States of Norway, Sweden and Finland with regard to their historical background reflecting the case of Aikia Aikianpoika and the other members of the Sámi community who were murdered because of practicing their religion is one of state sponsored terror and oppression. As a consequence, we find today how the pre-Christian religious practices of the Sámi people and in particular their cosmology have been assimilated into both Christianity and also in relation to their cultural heritage concerning oral traditions, we find false representations of these within the tourist industry in all of the aforementioned countries.
However, in Norway, there have been shifts in the ways the Sámi people have been treated concerning their religion and the freedom to practice it. For example, there has been an awakening in what is referred to as neo-shamanism amongst the Sámi where elements of old traditions are combined with new ones, in particular in the north, as described by Trude Fonneland (2015: 33).
“As a manifestation of these trends, a local shamanic association concerned with the preservation of both Sami and Norse shamanic traditions was granted status as a separate religious community on March 13, 2012, by the County Governor of Troms, Northern Norway. This means that according to the laws regulating religion in Norway that they may perform religious ceremonies like baptism, weddings, and funerals, and, additionally, obtain financial support relative to membership”.
The people involved in these organizations share a common cause with each other that unites them together in that both Norwegian and Sámi persons as noted earlier by Hagen (2005), have ancestors who were victims of state-sponsored murder and thus put to death and persecuted because of their religious beliefs and practices, which have a direct bearing on the persecution and subsequent death of Aikia Aikianpoika.
Addressing this dark heritage throughout Sápmi, particularly in Norway has seen a recent development in acknowledging the crimes committed against both Sámi and Norwegian persons that in 2011 a project called the Steilneset Memorial, Vardø, Norway was opened in memory of the 91 victims of the Finnmark Witchcraft trials who were burned to death between 1600 and 1692 (a total of 135 people were prosecuted) ((For a comprehensive description of the memorial, see Stein A. Mathisen’s chapter: Contextualizing Exhibited Versions of Noaidivuohta, in: Nordic Neoshamanisms. The International Society for the Study of New Religions (2015).))
From the literature published in Finland about the Witchcraft trials between 1500 and 1700, Finnish scholars Marko Nenonen and Timo Kervinen in their book Synnin Palkka on Kuolema (The Wage of Sin is Death, 1994) have published a list of 103 persons who were given death sentences, including whole families, for alleged practice of sorcery. Aikia Aikianpoika’s name is also on the list (number 72). It must be noted however, as explained by the authors that the list maybe incomplete and contain errors ((http://www15.uta.fi/yky/arkisto/historia/noitanetti/kuolemantuomiot.html)).
By comparison to Norway, there is nothing remotely like the memorial in Norway, in Finland concerning the crimes committed against the Sámi people by Church and State. It is the same situation in Sweden also. In fact, the persecution of the Sámi people in terms of their religion continues where their cosmology and religious practices are reduced to superstition and joiking is considered to be the language of the devil.
With regard to the memory of Aikia Aikianpoika, the work continues to try and establish his resting place and the exhibition presented to you above is currently travelling to different locations in Finland as a way of educating people about his fate, as the only known Sámi noaidi in Finland to be given a death sentence for the alleged practice of sorcery.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to Irene Kangasniemi, Simo Ruokamo and Marianne Bengtsson for their assistance in writing this article.
Francis Joy PhD.
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