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The symbols on the drum

The symbols on the drum were painted with red juice made from alder bark, sometimes mixed with reindeer blood. They had magic powers and represented the noaidi’s world and all his interests. No two drums are alike, but some symbols are repeated, such as the various gods, sun, moon, reindeer etc.

On the drums from the south Sámi area, the Sun, Biejjie (south Sámi), is painted in the centre of the drum with the other symbols around it. Further north the drumskin is divided into three or five horizontal sections. These may symbolise several worlds. In some areas the southern and northern traditions come together in drums which are both divided into sections and also have a sun symbol in the centre.

As the Sámi became influenced by Christianity, symbols for the holy trinity and other Christian concepts were also painted on the drums.

Unfortunately we have few records in which the owner of a drum has explained the symbols himself. Noaidi Anders Poulsen’s explanation of his drum is an exception.

Anders Poulsen’s drum
A drum with central sun symbol
A drum with central sun symbol and several sections

Sources:
Friis, J.A., 1871: Lappisk Mythologi.
Manker, Ernst, 1938: Die lappische Zaubertrommel 1.
Manker, Ernst, 1950: Die lappische Zaubertrommel 2.
Manker, Ernst, 1965: Nĺjdkonst.
Pollan, Brita, 1993: Samiske sjamaner.
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