Understanding the landscape

In the Sámi faith, nature was perceived as possessed by gods and forces. This kind of faith is called animism.

Stones, mountains, rivers, lakes and other natural features had life. Some places were ruled by named gods, others were inhabited by underground spirits or the dead. There were entrances to other worlds in double-bottomed sáivu lakes or in holy mountains.

Those parts of the landscape inhabited by gods and forces had a special significance. Often these places had offering sites in or near them and there might be rules for how one should behave there. Perhaps one was not allowed to go there at all. With this knowledge and belief, the landscape looked very different from the way we see it today.

Children were taught about the sacred places and learned the taboos and standards for behaviour in the landscape. In this way the understanding of the landscape was passed on to the next generation.

Guovžageađge/Bjørnesteinen. Govva/Foto: Mihkku Solbakk