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Shaman´s drum symbols in Scandinavia

Artikkeli suomeksi | Symbolen auf Deutsch

Many different cultures have had shamanistic drums and ritual drums. Just a few cultures have paint their drums. Sami people from Scandinavia used to paint symbols and also some Siberian tribes (Yakut). However, Fenno-Ugric Khantys and Mansis did not have pictures in their drums.

Tengrism was a folk religion in the area of Turkey and Mongolia. Middle of the drum is god Tengri. Abowe his arms is heaven and the upper world, and below is the realm of men and the natural world.

Native Americans: Different tribes have different traditions about the drum and how to play it, but the basic construction is very similar in most tribes: a wooden frame or a carved and hollowed-out log, with finely tanned buckskin or elkskin stretched taut across the opening by sinew thongs. Traditionally American Indian drums are large, two to three feet in diameter, and they are played communally by groups of men who stand around them in a circle.

Shaman´s drums in Scandinavia

There are about 70 old drums in Scandinavia, which have survived from the old days. The map shows where the drums have been found. All drums are portrayed and described in Ernst Manker´s book Die Lappische Zaubertrommel I – II. Manker was a Swedish ethnographer.

There were also hundred of older drums, but they all burned in the great fire of Copenhagen in 1795. Older drums were collected from northern Norway and Finland. Today we have only 3 old drums from Finland, which have survived. Two of them are from the area of Kemi, southern Lapland and one from Utsjoki, northern Lapland.

The drums of Norway and Sweden have usually sun in the center of the drum (heliocentric drum). Finnish and other northern Lappish drums have drums with three layers. Some drums have both the sun and the layers and some drums have a world tree or world pillar in the middle of the drum.

Noitarumpujen löytöpaikat Skandinaviassa Ernst Mankerin mukaan

The map shows where the old drums have been found (from Manker´s book)

Different types of drums

Heliocentric drum Southern Sami Drum, the sun in the middle:

Finnish segment drums, the world with three layers

Mixed drum: sun in the middle and layers (segments)

Old Finnish drum (Manker´s book)

Finnish drum: World with three layers

The reddish colour is from alder tree (die Erle).

Every Finnish old drum had picture about world with three layers:

The Upper world (Ylinen), the realm of gods and light spirits
The Middle World (Keskinen), spirit side of this mundane world
The Lower World (Alinen), realm of power animals, ancestral spirits, gods of the dead people

Some of the younger drums also had a map from the real world: Norway, Sweden, Finland, all the reindeers, villagers, church etc. It was used as a tool for forecasting the future.

The drum's front side with the picture is for the people and public, but the inner/other side is for the shaman. There are all the totem artifacts, gifts from the spirits and secret symbols. Building of the new drum could last many years.

Pointer for forecasting (Manker´s book):

Drumsticks, hammers (Manker´s book)



Symbol of the witch, noide-dirre and a witch/shaman or a person who is spellbound:

The Drum and the shaman/witch, noide, noidde





Bear and the bear´s cave

Animals: fox, marten, weasel, otter



Bow as a weapon and magical tool





Reindeer Reindeers in holy hill, Passevare and reindeers near camp/hut and fence:

Fish and fishing equipments


Boats and fishing equipments


Boats and ships

Reindeer with sledge, ahkio or skis

Sun, moon, stars


Sun in the middle of heliocentric drum

Lappish hut, kota

Storage for food, njalla

Storage for food, aitta

Storage for meat (luovve)

Ruto or Rota, bringer of the illness

Figures with trees, maybe gods/goddesses?
Rana Neida / Rana Niete is a goddess of spring and fertility, daughter of the earth.
Her name means “the green, fertile fields”. Leibolmai is the god of the hunt and wild animals. Radien or Veralden Olmai is the god of the sky, Ruler of the World.

Symbols of sky god Radien

Tiermes or Horagalles, god of the thunder and his symbol doublehammer

God of the wind Bieggolmai (Bieggagallis)

Gods (Radien) with branch or halo

Groups of gods

In Sámi mythology, the first akka was Maderakka and her daughters were Sarakka, Uksakka and Juksakka. Some Sámi thought they lived under their kota tents. Sarakka helped during the pregnancy. Juksakka had a bow and she guided boys.

Men of the holy days (or friday-saturnay-sunday-men)

Seita, holy place of offering

sacred lake and Jabmeaimo (World of the dead under the saivo)


Church and priest (symbols of the younger era, when christianity came to Lapland)

Groups of symbols in the drum



Ernst Manker: Die Lappische Zaubertrommel I – II
Juha Pentikäinen: Saamelaiset – Pohjoisen kansan mytologia


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