Gods, spirits and other beings
Gods, spirits and other beings were important in Sámi faith and mythology.
The most important gods varied from place to place and also over the course of time. The same god can also have several names and different characteristics from place to place. Here is a list of the best known gods and other beings from 17th and 18th century sources:
of=old form, ss=south Sámi , ls=lule Sámi , ns=north Sámi
Árja (ns) : Female gázzi being. The name means energy, decisiveness. Bárbmoáhkká (ns): Ensures that all migratory birds return from warmer countries, Bárbmu. Was aided by Guorga, the crane.
Beaivi (ns)/Biejvve (ls)/Biejjie (ss) : The sun. Sun worship was very important in Sámi religion and was a form of fertility cult.
Bieggaalmmái (ns): The “wind man” decided the wind direction, which was especially important for reindeer hunting.
Boaššuáhkká (ns): The goddess who ruled over boaššu and gave success in hunting. Possibly identical with Juksáhkká.
Čáhcealmmái (ns)/Tsjaetsieĺlmaj (ss): The “water man” ruled over lakes and fishing.
Čahcerávga/guovdi (ns): Lived in rivers or the sea. Was used to scare children as part of bringing them up.
Čahkálakkat (ns) : These lived near springs. They were small and naked. The head had the power to heal and the stomach was full of silver coins. These could be obtained by tricking and killing them. Listen to a story about them here.
Fásto-olmmái (of): The fast man. The one who told the Sámi to observe fast days. Gieddegeašgálgu (ns): Wise female being which lived on the edge of people’s dwelling places and which could be approached when life was especially difficult. Known from north Sámi areas. In more recent times gieddegeašgálgu has acquired the more negative meaning “old gossip”.
Gufihtar (ns): These spirits lived within a hill or mound called a gufihtarčohkka. They lured children into their mounds, but the children had to be careful not to eat or drink anything while they were inside, for then they would never come out again. Listen to a story about them here.
Guolleipmil (ns): The “fishing god” ruled over fishing. Many places of offering beside lakes, tarns and rivers are called Guolleipmil.
Hálddit (ns): Protected animals and plants and ruled of areas of nature. Sometimes represented with sieidi.
Ipmel/Ibmil/Jubmel/Jupmele (of): Some noaidis believed that Raedieaehtjie and Raediegiedtie were the same, namely Ipmel/Ibmil. It was counted as the highest ranking god. With the coming of Christianity, the missionaries adopted the name Ipmel/Ibmil, and it became the Sámi name for the Christian God.
Jábmiidáhkká (ns)/Jábbmeáhkká (ls)/Jaemiehaahka (ss): The goddess of the dead held sway over the realm of the dead, Jábmiidáibmu.
Jámiš (ns): The dead who lived beneath the earth.
Joeksaahka (ss)/Juksáhkká (ns/ls): The goddess of the bow or childbirth. Lived in boaššu, the sacred part of the dwelling behind the fireplace. Involved when children were created. Could transform the unborn child into a boy.
Kirvaradien (of)/Tjĺervieraeie (ss): The “horn ruler”.
Leaibealmmái (ns)/Liejbĺlmaj (ls)/Liejpĺlmaj (ss): The “alder tree man”. God of the hunt, ruled over the wild animals of the forest. Accepted offerings before a bear hunt, to protect the hunters. The alder tree was considered sacred. The red colour from its bark was used to paint the drums and the juice was sprayed over returning bear hunters.
Mailmenraedie: Máilbmi (ns)+raedie(ss) =Rulers of the world.
Maadteraahkas (ss)/Máhtáráhkká (ns/ls): “Primal mother” or “great grandmother”. Mother of the three goddesses Sáhráhkká, Juksáhkká and Uksáhkká. Involved when children were created.
Noaidegázzi/sáivugázzi (ns), noaidegadze/saivogadze (of): Helper spirits. Might be translated as “followers” or “companions”. They often looked like small people clad in colourful Sámi clothes. May have been ancestor spirits. Chose people who were to be trained as noaidis and accompanied them for the rest of their lives, including on their journeys to search for souls. Gázzi could also be inherited or form part of a dowry.
Noaideloddi/sáivoloddi, noaideguolli/sáivoguolli and noaidesarvvis/sáivosarvvis (ns): The noaidis had helper spirits in animal form. They might be birds (noaideloddi/sáivoloddi), fish (noaideguolli/sáivoguolli) or reindeer bucks (noaidesarvvis/sáivosarvvis). The most powerful noaidis had reindeer bucks as their animal helpers.
Oksaahka (ss)/Uhksáhkká (ns/ls): The “door goddess”. Lived under the door sill and protected the dwelling against all evil. Watched out for children during their first year, especially when they were learning to walk.
Radien kieddi (of)/Raediegiedtie (ss): Raedieaehtjie’s son.
Radien-acce/-attje (of)/Raedieaehtjie (ss): The highest god, the primal father, the highest.
Rohttu (ns): The god of sickness and death. Lived in a dismal realm of the dead, Rohttuáibmu.
Ruđot (ns) : Female gázzi beings. The name could mean “bringing the sound of moaning”.
Serge-edni (of): Raedieaehtjie or Ipmel’s wife. The one who creates a human spirit and conveys it to Mátháráhkká when children were created.
Stállu (ns): Giant or troll-like figure. Children were scared with Stállu as part of their upbringing. Listen to a story about them here.
Storjunkeren (no): Ruled over wild animals, birds and fish. Looked on as the deputy of the highest god Tiermes.
Saajve/saajveolmai (ss), saivo/saivo-olmai (of): Spirits linked to holy mountains, also called saajve or “heritage mountains”. Those who owned saajve had helper animals at their service, see below.
Saaraahka (ss)/Sáhráhkká (ns/ls): Important goddess is south Sámi areas. Lived beneath the fireplace. Received offerings of anything which could be drunk. Important when children were created. Helped women with menstruation and childbirth. Children were baptised in the name of Sáráhkká.
Tiermes (of)/ Dierpmis (ns)/Bájanolmmái (ns)/Aijeke (of)/Átjek (ls)/Horagalles (of)/Hovrengaellies (ss)/ Thor: Different names for the god of thunder. Ruled over people’s life and death. The most important god for men. Symbolised by a hammer or a bow, the rainbow. The god could call forth thunder, kill trolls, help in revenge and prevent unwelcome visits.
Ulddat (ns): Underground beings in human form. Lived in special mountains.