SDÁ 1-2-2007: Olavi Korhonen

Bivdi ja guovžabálvalanmeanut

Olavi Korhonen (Arkeologiija ja sámi dutkama institušuvdna, Ubmi universitehta)

Viečča artihkkala dás (pdf).

The Hunter and the Bear Ceremony

For centuries, Sami have been owners of areas called «taxlands», which were territories for hunting, fishing and reindeer husbandry. The knowledge of the borderlines between tax lands was handed down from generation to generation. Bear hunting rights on the tax lands were strictly controlled and those who broke the landowners rights were tried by the district court. The importance of the bear was due to the fact that the bear was a holy animal and was the guardian of future game.

In their bear ceremonies the Sami honoured the dead bear, which was usually killed in the spring when it rose from its winter lair and the spring thaw had set in, from which the Finnish words suvi and suoja originate. These words turned into Sami noa words, meaning the bear itself, the hunter or his wife etc.

Detecting the background of these words makes it possible to interpret such Sami terms as suije, sueje and söiwe used in connection with ceremonies referred to in old documents. Therefore sueie, or ’a spirit of prophecy’ in a text from the 17th Century seems to have its origin in the belief in the guardian spirit of the bear. We know that the guardian spirits of animals are often transformed into the personal spirits of shamans.