France iconVersion Française

The Sami (or Sames) are indigenous people who settled in northern Scandinavia and the Kola (or Lapland) peninsula at the melting of glaciers about ten thousand years ago.

In their language, the word “war” does not exist.

People around a house

The family is considered a whole, composed of the dead and the living. The world of the dead and that of the living are interconnected, and death is only a natural transition to a different reality, often better.

The dead are the guardians of the traditions and virtues of families and tribes.

The shaman communicates with the spirit world, can ask them for advice, try to find out what kind of sacrifice is needed, or how to solve a community issue.

All creation has a soul and a vital force: the rocks, the rivers, the trees, and the animals. They worship the invisible beings, the ancestors, and the underground beings.

Many deities and spirits are considered sacred: the Father, the Mother, the Son, and the Daughter, the god of thunder and fire, the goddess of the sun, the goddess of the moon, and the goddess of death.

The transmission of the vital principle can occur through generations (similar to the Inuit’s belief). The child receives the name of the ancestor who appeared in the parent’s dreams.

Sami men and women
Sami: woman and child in a komse

Some souls or parts of souls (only individual characteristics) may be considered as born again inside the same family line.

The name represents the soul of the deceased, with its qualities and his protection from the afterlife.

The child, the true reincarnation of the ancestor, henceforth inherits, for his entire life, the ancestor’s guardian spirit or his «animal».

Life is a whole, when a part of the body is hurt the entire body suffers. The body is the « mantle », the support of the soul, and of the vital principle. They believe that each body owns:

– A free soul or a shadow soul. It corresponds to the personality that leaves the body during sleep and can travel between realities. It is depicted as a shadow’s form, a name, or an animal (often a bird’s).

– A soul of the body. It remains linked to the family and his resting place. May help or harm the living.

– Several soul-life. They are represented by the breath, the blood, and especially the skeleton (for humans or animals).

The skeleton represents the support for an essential fluid necessary for a future resurrection. That belief explains some specific burial rites.

They have to keep silent near a dying person. They should not frighten him, because he may remain blocked, for some time, between two worlds. If necessary, the dying may be helped by briefly putting his head upside down.

They sing immediately to the deceased a separation song, leave the tent, cover the door with wood, and close it carefully. The next day the body is washed, wrapped on a white sheet, or dress up with his clothes. Before reaching the place of the dead, the deceased’s soul has to cross a dark river, helped by the «daughter of death».

Because of the rocks and the frost, the burials directly in the ground are complicated. It explains why they use temporary burials: inside the hollow tree trunks, under piles of rock debris, or wrapped in their sleds (covered with birch bark and peat).

During the spring season, they bury the dead in the appropriate places, near the sacred sites, wrapped in birch bark, in shallow graves so that the spirit may leave the body easily.

Sami Family

The burial places are set apart from the houses, in areas charged with spiritual energy and populated with spirits. These places are often located on islands, through rivers, or near large natural elements.

They practice various rites and purification taboos to prevent the deceased’s spirit from taking away other living. For example, the body is not taken out through the main door, but through the tent, at the precise place where he died. If they remove the corpse through the door, all the inhabitants of the tent risk dying quickly.

Symbolically, the dead and the living have to take different paths.

The dead are buried with some objects they may need in the afterlife: money, meat, scissors, tobacco, alcohol, and the items needed to hunt and fish, travel or protect themselves from the cold.

To facilitate the soul’s journey into the afterlife, they sacrifice animals: elks, reindeer, or bears.

They gather carefully the bones of the reindeer who has carried the dead’s body and is supposed to accompany him. They are kept for a god who can shape flesh on the bones (of men and animals) and make them alive again. It explains why this population treats so attentively the dead’s body.

Sami Family

A good burial, followed by regular prayers and offerings on sacred sites, ensures a happy afterlife. The dead have to be celebrated and respected.

Later, from the underworld, they send to the living luck, prosperity, and wisdom.

The ancestors are the protectors and the guides for their descendants.

They commemorate the dead during annual ceremonies.



Sami Shamanism and Secular Modernism, (

Håkan Rydving, The « ritual play » of the noaidi among the pre-Christian Sami (Lapland, 17th – 18th centuries)



Sami People: Religion, Beliefs, and Deities (

Afterlife (

Johan Turi, Récit de la vie des Lapons (


Cédric Gouverneur, Le seul peuple « autochtone » d’Europe


Spiritualité Autochtone