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6 Witchcraft and Ethnicity: A Critical Perspective on Sami Shamanism in Seventeenth-Century Northern Norway

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Chapter Summary

During the early modern period, the extent of this northeastern part of Denmark-Norway was uncertain, as there were disputed frontiers with Russia and Sweden/Finland. The indigenous people of northern Fennoscandia, the Sami, lived in all three countries and traveled between them to trade with each other and with foreigners. During the penetration of unknown northern lands, the Sami were perceived by state authorities as unreliable and politically suspect. This chapter shows how their exotic forms of sorcery sustained these kinds of images, and manifested themselves through witchcraft persecutions in the county of Finnmark. Step by step in scholarship, the question of Sami magic and their pantheistic religion became one of shamanism. The chapter presents some critical views of this long-standing and stereotypical concept of shamanism and the debate that surrounds it. The discussion is illuminated by the proceedings of two seventeenth-century witch trials which involved Sami men.

Keywords: Sami magic; Shamanism; Witchcraft persecutions



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