Extracts of:

History of Lapland, its description, the origin, manners, the manner of living of its Inhabitants, their Religion, their Magic, and the rare things of the Country.

Paris, published by the Widow Olivier de Varennes, 1678


Translated from Mister Scheffer’s Latin

By L.P.A.L. Ordinary geographer of his Majesty


[ [ published in Latin: "Lapponia, id is religionis Lapponum and gentis nova and verissima descriptio," Frankfurt, 1673] ]


[ [ my notes are between double brackets [ [ ] ], the bibliographical references of Scheffer, placed in the margin of the original, are very obscure, and they have been withdrawn from this English version. You find them in the French version, between simple brackets [ ] ] ]




[ [ probably due to L.P.A.L. “Ordinary geographer of his Majesty”] ]


He brought back very accurately what the Classics Latin as well as Swedish ones wrote on Lapps: Excellent reports were communicated to him. He mined in the files of the kingdom of Sweden, and drew from public and authentic testimonies all that could be used of them: He had several conferences with Lapps… Finally he took the trouble to visit the cabinets of curiosities, to draw himself the figures…





First religion of the Lapps


Before embracing Christianity, Lapps were Pagans, and their religion was not much different from the one of the Finns; what the Religion of the Finns was exactly, however, cannot be told well, because one finds no work which makes known to us of the antiquities of this Nation. It is thus necessary to seek conjectures among old ‘Biarmes’ and Skriidfinns. [ [ both are old names of the Finns. “Biarme” seems to be more popular among the French, and Skriidfinn among the English] ]

The stories of S. Olaus King de Norway, and of Herod, teach us that the God of the Skriidfinns is named Jumala, or Jomala. This word is quite different from the one used by those writers to express the name of God, since they propose it like a word particular to the Skriidfinns, and they even do not know this word: And, since these Historians were Goths or natives of Norway, or Icelanders, it is necessary that this word does not come from the old language of the Goths, but from some other nation. Seeking which is this nation, we will find that it is the Finnish one, or Finns, among which the word Iumala is still now of use, and means God.


p. 34


Lapps still worship as a God, the one the Swedes call Thor; that is proven not only because they worship a Torus, but also since Turrisas, God of the battles and victories, [ [ notice here a kind of proof of the unification which occurred between the Giants (ancient Germanic rune Thurisaz) and Thor ] ] that is Torus, was among the Gods who were worshipped by the old Finns, and particularly by the ‘Tavastes’. That appears all the more true, because the Finns had a very old King named Torus, which was one of the ancestors of King Nori, who is believed to have given his name to Norige, i.e. Norway was called Nori-Rige, meaning the Kingdom of Nori.

… we are sure that Jumala was worshipped under the figure of a man, with a crown inlaid with precious stones on the head; and in that Jumala resembles extremely Thoron, God of the Swedes, who was also represented like a man sitting, a crown bearing twelve precious stones on the head, with stars, which drives me to believe that the Skriidfinns, and Lapps after them, worshipped the same God under various names, or confused the two divinities. They called Iumala, their sovereign God… Lapps give now to their Torus, what they always granted to their Jumala… They built in these forests a kind of temple, where the nearby and the far away people come to offer their worship to this God. This kind of temple was only surrounded by a hedge. The word Hoff, which was used, quite properly, and means still today a place closed on all sides, opened however in one place. The God Jumala was in this kind of temple, in a forest, surrounded by an extremely high hedge, closed by a door to prevent the entrance with those not allowed to approach the God.

[ [ to be compared to the argument about ‘ hof’ stanza 7 of Võluspá usually translated by the scholars: temple. ] ].



CHAPTER X. (p. 67)


The Pagan Gods of the Lapps, and how they honour them.


Lapps worship three Gods, whom they believe greater than the others. The first one is called in Swedish Thor or Thoron, i.e. Thorus or the thunder. Lapps give him in their language the name of Tiermes, this word meaning among them, all that makes some appalling noise: so that if the strength of the word is considered, this God Tiermes will be similar to the Latin thundering Jupiter, the God who thunders, and also similar to the God Tarami or Tarani. That is all the more true that Lapps use the word Tiermes to mean the noise of these thunders, that they believe to be animated by a singular virtue, dwelling in the sky, and which excites the noise of these thunders. Lapps give to this God also the name of Aijeke, which in their language means grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather. They certainly named him thus as the Latin gave to Jupiter the nickname of Father, and the Swedes that of Gubba, wanting to state, our good Father, our good Grandfather…

Lapps worship this God Aijke, because of the noise of the thunders, and of the violence of the lightnings called Tiermes. They also worship him, because he has absolute power on the life and the death of the men, their health and their diseases. They still attribute him authority on evil doing Demons, dwelling on the top of the rocks, the mountains, and in the lakes. They believe that this God stops these evil-doing Demons, that he punishes them and sometimes strikes them down by lightning, and make them die, believing that it is the main use and the effect of thunder… They give for that a bow to this God Thoron or Thiermes, which they imagine to be the iris or rainbow, so that he can draw his arrows… And they call in their language this iris Aijekedauge, which means grandfather’s bow… They supposed that this God had a hammer, named Aijekevvetschera, with which he strikes the Demons at the neck, and crushes their head …

The second of their principal Gods is called Storjunkare … the people of Norway call Iunkare the governors of their Provinces. They also call this God Stoura-passes, i.e. holy and great, as it can be known by the song they sing, when they offer him their sacrifices … he is like the Lieutenant of their God Aijeke or Tiermes … they think that most of the goods are granted to men through his ministry only. They hold that all the animals and the wild beasts, like the Bears, the Wolves… are under his empire.

Jehan Tornæus says that… the God Stoorjunkare often appeared to those fishing, and those hunting for birds, under the figure of a man of very beautiful size, clothed in black, and wearing clothes all similar to those the Gentlemen have the habit to wear … with this only difference that his feet were like those of the birds.

… (the) third God… they give him the name of Baivve, which means the Sun.

They honour him at most during all the course of the summer when they always see him  … They have this thought, that the Sun cares particularly for the reindeers…

            They worship these Gods so much, that they worship each of them separately, which consists in three things; they assign and hallow special places of worship for them, they set up for them, in these places, particular figures, and offer to them different kinds of sacrifices.

The place where Lapps worship the God Thoron or Tiermes, is usually behind their huts… they draw up in this place a kind of floor or large table made with boards, supported on feet, and seven or eight feet above ground of, and they put on this table the figures of their God…

This Author [[Tornæus, Chap. 25 ]] teaches us that the temple devoted to Thoron or Tiermes was also used for the Sun; this one is not worshipped in other places, and that both Gods are offered sacrifices on the same table: What leads me to believe, that they are not two different divinities, but the same God … called Tiermes or Aijke, when called upon for the conservation of the life… and called Baivve, when called upon for light…

The place where they worship their Stoorjunkare is quite different because each family has his. It is some rock, some edge of the marshes, or some cave of the mountains, and often the most inaccessible … They have also the habit to mark with certain landmarks the limits of these places hallowed for their Stoorjunkare, so that each one can easily recognize how far the holiness of the place goes.

This respect is underlined by this circumstance, that they drive the women out of these places [Samuel Rheen]… They seem to have not other reasons… except that they believe that the people of the sex are not clean enough, each time they have their ordinary disease… Lapps assess that the Demons cannot suffer the menses of the women… the blood flowing out of the girls during their month, and with which one rubs the upper deck and the benches of the ships, prevents that Lapps, by their enchantments, stop the vessels in full course.

The figure of Toron or Tiermes is always made of wood; and for this reason they name it Muora-Jubmel, which means in their language, wooden God … They use the wood of the birch, to make the idols of this God Thorus.

 They give to this idol a coarse and badly made shape, in such a way that the top seems to represent the head of a man. They make the head of this idol with the stock of the birch, and the remainder of the body with the trunk of the same tree.

To make known that this is the idol of Thoron, they give to him on the right side a hammer, which is his particular mark… they drive in the head of this idol a nail of steel, or iron, to which they attach a small piece of stone, so that this Thor can make fire when he wants it …

Here is a drawing of this description, as it is now found among these peoples.

[[the head is done with the stock of the birch out of  which still come a few pieces of the roots, as seen on the drawing below. This drawing is directly scanned from the original. The nail about which the text speaks has the shape of an elongated triangle. The head of the hammer is indeed “on the right side” of Thor’s image ] ]




As for the figure of Stoorjunkare, it is made of stone, and they are the idols of this God about of which authors speak, when they say that the idols of Lapps are large stones, in the forests, in the deserts, or on mountains … these stones are crude, and they use neither art nor work to shape them, but they raise them, and make so the statues of this God, as they are found between the Rocks, or on the mountains, or on the river bank, or close to the marshes.

They thus admire this stone figure, as made not by chance, nor by Nature, but by the particular order of Stoorjunkare…

Some Seites are however found in a human shape… in only one island…

Here the statue of Stoorjunkare, as it can be seen today.




I come to the sacrifices and the honours that Lapps give to their Gods. Men only are allowed to offer sacrifices, excluding all women, to whom it is also expressly forbidden to sacrifice, as to enter the places devoted to their God … They never offer sacrifice to Thoron, to the Sun, or to Stoorjunkare, without recognizing at first whether the victim that they intend to him, will be pleasant for him; They make this research by means of an instrument they name Kannus, very similar to the ancient drums, usually given the name of Lappdrum. Having thus attached the victim behind the hut, they pull a hair out of the lower part of the neck of this animal, and attach it to one of the rings of the drum [[ in the next chapter, Scheffer describes in detail the drums]] … One of the company strikes this drum, and while men and women mix their voices in a song as follows: “O you father God Thoron do you want now to approve of my victim, which I wish sacrifice in your honour?” If the pack of rings, to which a hair of the victim had been attached, and that was motionless before, moves while the drum is struck , and comes to rest on the figure of Thoron, they take this for an unquestionable proof that the sacrifice of this victim will be extremely pleasant to this God: if on the contrary this pack of rings remains always motionless, notwithstanding the agitation of the drum, they offer the same victim to Stoorjunkare; they beat for the second time the drum [ [ and do again the same ceremony for Stoorjunkare, then if necessary for the Sun ] ].

Regarding the victims of their sacrifices, they are usually reindeers…

Lapps choose preferably Fall to offer these sacrifices to their Gods…

They renew each years in the same season the image of Thoron, together with the sacrifices they offer to him, they make him a new statue, fourteen days before the Saint Michael. And they cut the throat of a reindeer near this wooden idol; they separate the bones, the flesh from the bone, and put them back together; they rub afterwards the image of God with the fat and the blood of the reindeer, by way of paint; and they bury in the same place the whole reindeer with its bones… most of the times they sacrifice a male reindeer, by boring it to the heart with the point of a knife, and they gather in a vessel the blood nearest to the heart, to rub the idol of Thoron at once with it… They arrange behind the figure of Thor the horns and the largest bones of the head of the sacrificed reindeer. They put in front of the same image a kind of box, made of birch bark, full of small pieces of flesh, taken from all the parts of the body of the reindeer, with grease melted over: What is left of the flesh of the victim, they employ it to the uses of their house.

If the victim, which is also usually a male reindeer, is offered to Stoorjunkare, they pass firstly a red thread through its right ear; they attach it behind the hut, at the same place where they attach the victim of Thoron, then they sacrifice it in same manner, also keeping the blood nearest to the heart. He who performs the sacrifice takes the horns of the victim with the bones of the head and the neck, the nails and the feet; and he carries all that on the mountain dedicated to Stoorjunkare, in the honour of which this victim was sacrificed. As soon as that Lapp reaches this place, and that approaches the sacred stone, he takes his hat off with great respect, bows extremely low, bends his knees, and give all the possible honours to the God: then he rubs this stone with the blood he brought, and with some of the fat of the same animal; he puts the horns behind the idol, attaching to the right-hand side the part by which this animal multiplies its species, and at the left horn, a red thread passed through a piece of tin, with a small silver coin.

One finds sometimes around these idols of stone, such a large number of reindeers horns, that in these places more than thousand can be counted, and so much put over each other, that these places are as closed by a hedge, which the Lapps call Tirfuvigardi, i.e. the surface or the place surrounded by horns. Who has the responsibility of bringing these horns, and to put them standing in a row has the habit to hanging in front of them a branch of birch curved in the shape of circle, and to attach to it a small piece of flesh of each part of the sacrificed victim.


… they can sacrifice in two other ways. They kill the victim near the idol, they cook its flesh, and make a feast of it, where they invite their friends; they name that the feast of Stoorjunkare: they eat the flesh of the head and the neck of the victim, and leave on the place the stretched skin, which stays there often several years.

They also sacrifice in this way when, due to the excessive height of the mountain, they cannot go up with the victim until the place where it would be necessary to go, they then take a stone soaked in the blood of the reindeer, sacrificed in the honour of Stoorjunkare, and throw it towards the top of the mountain…


And as they have the habit (in addition to this sacrifice of a victim) to honour every year the God Thoron by new idols, they make also similar honours to Stoorjunkare, with new branches of birch or pine, which they arrange under the devoted stone. This ceremony is done twice a year; during summer they put branches of birch; and during winter they change these branches, and that they use pine for it.

They take the occasion of this ceremony to discover the feelings of their God; if he has love and some good will or else loathing for them: Because if at the time when they put these branches, they feel the stone to be light and easy to lift, they hope that the God will support them; but when they feel it as heavy, they fear that the God might be in anger, and that it will bring them evil. This forces them to prevent his fury, and to alleviate it by a vow done at once, of sacrificing him some victims [[ Scheffer explains here a similar older description then, but in obscure terms, done by Peucerus ] ].

When Lapps sacrifice to the Sun, they do not offer male reindeers to him, nor old ones, but young and female reindeers.

They carry for the Sun almost all the same ceremonies as I exposed, except that they string a white thread on the right ear of the reindeer, to mark that it is a victim devoted to the Sun… secondly, they do not use, as with the other sacrifices, a branch of birch, [ the same one ] but of willow wood, to make the circle, which has size of the hoops that connect the half casks of beer. They attach to this hoop small pieces of flesh taken out of each part of the body of the victim; they hang it behind their hut, on a kind of table, and at the same place, where they arrange in the shape of a circle the main bones of the victim.

In addition to these three Gods, they have other smaller ones, such as “Manes” (Spirits) of the dead, and the troop or the assembly of Juhles.

[[ de Vries links ON Jól (Yule) and  Finnish juhla: feast. He does not suggest the old etymology of ‘wheel’, proposed by Grimm.

Cleasby states : “the heathen Yule was a great merry-making , and tales of ghosts, ogres and satyrs were attached to it, especially the Jól-sveinar or ‘Yule-lads,’ a kind of goblins or monster satyrs, thirteen in number , one to each day of the feast, sons of the kidnapping hag Grýla, whose names were used to frighten children with …’

In poetry it means ‘feast’ …

Jólfuðr is a name of Odin.” ]]

They do not give a particular name to the Spirits; but they generally call the dead ones Sitte. They do not set up figures in their honour… and they find it enough to offer some sacrifices to them. They then endeavour particularly to discover the will of the dead, using the drum, singing many times, Maiite vuerro Iabmike Sitte, i.e., which kind of sacrifice you wish, ô Spirits? The ring having marked the victim agreable to the dead, they string on its ear a thread of wool of black colour, that they link to its horns. This victim being thus hallowed, they sacrifice it, eating its flesh, reserving only a small piece of the heart, and another of the lung, that they still divide in three parts, which they thread on small wood pins, they soak them in the blood of the animal, and they put them in a kind of basket, looking like a sledge of Lapland. They bury this kind of basket, and all the bones without flesh, put together in a basket made for this purpose.

I have to speak of the assembly of the Juhles, which they call Juhlafolket. As in the case of the Spirits, they do not dedicate to these Juhles any image nor statue. The place intended to honour them is on some tree, within the range of an arrow, behind the hut. The worship ends with a superstitious sacrifice, in the honour and for the service of this wandering troop of Juhles, which they believe to loiter in the air about the nearest forests and mountains, the day before and the proper day of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they call the festival of the Juhles. They thus fast at first on Christmas eve, or rather they abstain this day from eating flesh, and they put away one piece of their food; they keep this piece carefully, and make the same thing on the feast day, when they do not spare anything to eat well . They have a small cask of birch bark, in the shape of a vessel with its sails and its oars, where they throw these two pieces, after preserving them well during two days, and over which they spread a little fat taken on the soup. They hang then this vessel behind the hut, to a tree which is distant from the shot of an arrow, for the troop or the multitude of Juhles that run in the air by the forests and the mountains.

[[ following de Vries’s etymology, the Juhles and Jól, modern Yule, have a common source]].




CHAPTER XI. (p. 90)


Of the magic secrets, and of Lapp Magic