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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2008

Värro Muorra: The Landscape Significance of Sami Sacred Wooden Objects and Sacrificial Altars

Bergman, Ingela; Ostlund, Lars; Zackrisson, Olle; Liedgren, Lars


Prior to Christianization, initiated by the Swedish Crown and Church during the seventeenth century, the religion of the native Sami people of northern Scandinavia included animistic beliefs centered on animal ceremonialism. The Sami religion evolved in the framework of hunter-gatherer subsistence, and landscapes were laden with religious significance. The authors of this essay seek to highlight the significance of sacrificial sites as ethnic and religious demarcations in times of conflict between Swedish society and the Sami. We focus especially on sacrificial wooden objects as representations of religious space, discussing three sacrificial sites from different periods and representing a geographical gradient. We conclude that wooden sacrificial sites were still frequent and prominent features of the Sami landscape during the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth century in northern Sweden. However, in the following century, the indigenous religion was forced into secrecy. Today, elements of indigenous religious space, as indicated by place names and oral traditions, reflect but fragments of a landscape that was once a coherent whole.

Published in

2008, Volume: 55, number: 1, pages: 1-28