Showing posts with label sami. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sami. Show all posts

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Seeking Help as a Laestadian

In Norway, Sami victims of violence seek help less often than non-Sami. No surprise, as this also holds in native communities in North America.

But in addition to the disempowering effects of colonization, Laestadianism is mentioned as a cause in this article.
"Laestadianism's influence on Sami culture and society also plays a part in strengthening the attitude that it is the victim who must bear the shame and guilt for the violence, not the offender."
"The tabooing of sex and body, the silence concerning everything private, and the idea that issues are solved within the family. We find such ideas everywhere in Norway, but there are indications that these taboos are stronger within Laestadian and Sami communities." 
"The view on women in Sami communities is often colored by Laestadianism: women should remain silent in gatherings and sexuality is not discussed."
Sound familiar? What can be done?


Friday, September 06, 2013

Musings at Summer's End

Please take a moment to read Valerie Tarico's interview with Ed Suominen about his exodus out of Laestadianism. While my experience does not mirror Ed's (the Bible has always been primarily allegorical for me), and we don't agree on everything, I admire his desire to follow the truth where it leads him. His respect for his childrens' intellectual and spiritual independence is also commendable. And believer or nonbeliever or quasi-believer, regardless of where we tumble in the kaleidoscope of ideology, I think we can all work toward common goals. This quote by Scotty Mclennan, in a comment after the article, is germane:
“All of us—bright atheists and committed religionists—need to wake now and hear the earth call . . . . We need to give and receive as love shows us how, join with each pilgrim who quests for the true, give heed to the voices of the suffering, awaken our consciences with justice as our guide, and work toward a planet transformed by our care.”
85-year old Lule Sami reindeer herder Apmut-Ivar Kuoljok, forcibly removed from protest in Kallak, Sweden, August 25, 2013. Photo by Per-Eric Kuoljok.
Recently, I have been active with Sámi and Sámi-Americans in arguing against a prospective large scale mine in Swedish Lapland near Jokkmokk, where the annual winter market has been in continuous existence for over 400 years (one of my ancestors traded at the first market in 1605). Since Laestadius' time, it has been a significant meeting place for his followers. A mine there would not only negatively impact reindeer herding but put the entire watershed at risk from pollution and dam collapse. You can read the letter we sent to Obama here, and follow its links for more information. Please consider signing the petition against the mine here.

We've had a beautiful summer here in the Pacific Northwest. Unusually warm and sunny. I'm not ready for it to be over, but our enormous katsura tree—that we planted 20 years ago as a twig—is scattering heaps of gold heart-shaped leaves in the back yard, and spiders are seeking refuge in the house, and the kids have returned, a bit grudgingly, to school. Last Saturday, the skies dawned clear, so we drove to Mt. Rainier to soak up the beautiful views and lay down sense memories (pine scent, wildflowers, towering peaks, waterfalls) that would feed our spirits. Mt. Rainier's native name is Tahoma, "mother of waters," as its glaciers irrigate the rivers, lakes, and lush forests of our region (I wish we could go back to calling it by that name. Peter Rainier, the rear admiral friend of George Vancouver, does not deserve the honor). I grew up with a view of the mountain from our living room, and I've been up close many times, but somehow I'd forgotten that near the tree line, the alpine firs look remarkably like those in a model train set. So tiny! The heavy snows that fall here nine months out of the year clearly don't favor breadth or height in a tree. This fact made me muse on adaptation, and how the attributes that protect life in a hostile climate can become superfluous—even counterproductive—in a new habitat. Maybe once transplanted, those same trees would grow tall and broad; at warmer altitudes, they would branch out, leaf out, and exhale, without their limbs snapping in an avalanche. I suspect many former Laestadians can relate.


On Sunday I drove south to spend time with "exOALC," a dear friend whom I met years ago through this blog. Another refugee from the OALC joined us, and we all enjoyed a delicious dinner at Teote (a Venezualan restaurant in Portland), then stayed up late talking. The great thing about meeting people with whom you share a common history is the almost instant sense of comfort. It allows you to bypass the small talk and go straight to the heart of things: joys and struggles, hopes and regrets, dreams and plans. Maybe this is what we miss most about our old communities. It is incredibly gratifying to see us "formers" form our own community.

The next day, Labor Day, I went to the heart of OALC country to meet another former Laestadian, a woman who has blessed this blog with her wisdom for the past decade but whom I had never met in person. I was a bit nervous. I have a lot of respect for her; what if she didn't like me? With one warm hug, my worries vanished. (I would soon discover that her aunt was my mother's bridesmaid, and her grandfather played an important role in my dad's life.) Her husband showed me a sign on their house that reads: "Bigots, homophobes, racists, fundamentalists, etc., please leave your attitudes at the door. This home welcomes everyone regardless of persuasion. Tolerance, civility, and friendship will be observed at all times." They certainly walked their talk, too. Talk about healthy boundaries! There in the middle of an OALC community, such boundaries need frequent defending, and is another reason I am content to live where I do, a three-hour drive away. Close enough to visit, but not too often.

We had a wonderful chat and then my daughter and I took off for an OALC family reunion up in the hills. As we drove winding roads flanked by green and gold fields, with the occasional cows, horses, or alpacas grazing, I felt a profound sense of serenity. The love and acceptance of others is enjoyed in the muscles, I think, like music. It relaxes. It stretches out the knots. I mused on the fact that I no longer dread my family reunions, but look forward to them. I have become comfortable with my status as an oddball, a black sheep, a "worldly." My relatives no longer try to change me, and I don't try to change them. That comfort goes deep.

Our annual reunions are now in the summer rather than the holiday season: it makes the roads less icy and dicey, requires no room rentals, and is more fun for the little kids. There was delicious food (check out the cake by my sister-in-law!), energetic tugs-of-war, sack races, and lots of laughter. I was having so much fun taking photographs, giving underdogs on the swingset, and enjoying my grandnieces, that I was reluctant to leave when our daughter pointed out that it was past the time I'd promised her we'd go. She takes priority.

Of the many foreign words with no equivalents in English, the German word "schadenfreude" is a common example. It means delight in another's suffering. I much prefer it's antonym, the Sanskrit word "mudita," which means delight in another's happiness, or sympathetic joy. As I looked around me at my relatives, all of whom seemed healthy and prosperous (with such beautiful children!), I felt happy for them. Of course I can't see into their hearts. Perhaps some are suffering invisibly. Or perhaps those who are suffering did not come to the reunion. Many, after all, were missing.


As we drove off, I glimpsed a few young people in parked cars. Perhaps they were listening to music, smoking, or just hanging out. Maybe they are talking about their futures, and the future of the planet. I would like to think so. I would like to think that the newest generation of Laestadians can find a way to be more loving, more inclusive, more tolerant of differences, and more accountable to society—and to our shared future.

Maybe this will be the generation that branches up and out without splitting. What are the chances of that, do you think?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

News & Views

Here is a round-up of news from my inbox:
  • FALC member Ray Huhta of Hancock, who was convicted of child sex abuse in 2005 after being under suspicion for at least thirty years, passed away in Texas on October 11th. Please take a moment to remember his victims and to read Beth's blog here, on why abuse does not die with the abuser. 
  • There is almost daily news of how institutions have failed to protect children from abuse. Why? There are clues in this compelling PBS documentary called "The Silence." We must end the conspiracy of silence. To those still in the church, reject the practices that value reputations over a child's life. Put the shame where it belongs.
  • Does Mormonism seem weird to you? Scientology? Test Your Knowledge of Wild, Weird, and Outright Wacky American Religious Beliefs.
  • Congratulations to Hanna Pylväinen who, in addition to a steady stream of rave reviews, just won a $50,000 Whiting prize for "We Sinners."
  • Interested in exploring Sami history and culture? Check out the resources on my PSS blog.
  • You don't have to be an atheist to appreciate this "Matter of Doubt" podcast with Ed Suominen about his experience in leaving the LLC.  It has been downloaded over 3,800 times so far! You'll hear serious analysis but also some humor and uplifting thoughts. As Ed says in his conclusion: Reality isn't half bad. Life is amazing.
  • Last but not least, check out this music video. Some of you may recognize the surname of the talented artist. 



Got a video or link you'd like to share with our readers? Comment below or send me an email!

Take care,
—Free


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Peace

Longtime readers of this blog may remember previous discussions of Sámi heritage, including this old post from 2006, in which I quote Ruthann Cecil as saying that a family history of Laestadianism is the surest indicator of Sámi roots. After all, Laestadius was half-Sámi, and the movement began in Swedish Lapland, where the OALC still gets direction from "the elders."

I am told some Laestadian Sámi use only reindeer bone clasps.
I was dimly aware that I was related to some of those elders, who would visit the United States every few years and even come over for dinner (when I was a girl, I asked them for autographs as if they were rock stars! Which I suppose they are in that sphere). 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Judy's Blog

A new blog by an ex-FALC member went online this month, Finding My Way ...Finding My Voice

Only a few weeks old, she's already posted about Laestadianism, the Sami, and sexual abuse.

Reading Judy's posts was a good reminder for me that people are still leaving Laestadianism every day.

I wish Judy well in her journey.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Kautokeino Rebellion

Matt Perkins has a new blog post out this morning reviewing the movie Kautokeino Opprøret (The Kautokeino Rebellion). The movie and the review are both worth a look:

The Kautokeino Rebellion

It's been a couple of years since I've seen this film, but I will always be struck by how I felt sitting in the movie theater, coming face to face with Lars Levi Laestadius on the big screen. Even though he only makes a short appearance, I felt goosebumps seeing and hearing him thunder from the pulpit.

The film also reminded me of something that it's very easy to forget as an ex-Laestadian: that the movement in its early years spoke to real issues and real needs among its adherents. Temperance might seem like much ado about nothing to me today, but for the Sami in Lapland it was a real issue, and Laestadianism provided not only spiritual renewal but the justification to take on the established Lutheran church and other "powers that be."

At the same time, I couldn't help but wonder what the film says about the danger of populist movements getting out of hand. Luther had the Peasant's War, and Laestadius had Kautokeino.

SEE ALSO: Laestadian Films on Extoots

The Kautokeino Rebellion on Wikipedia

Other posts about Laestadianism by Matt Perkins

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Happy Sami Day

 
Happy Sami Day. Thanks to "Stranger in a Strange Land" for piquing my interest in my family's Sami roots.  Laestadianism's history is inseparable from the history of the Sami people. Someday when I have more time, I would like to investigate how ancient Sami culture is still expressed (and repressed) among its descendants.

This is my daughter last year at her elementary school's Cultural Festival. She chose a colorful outfit to go with the flag and was very proud to carry it.  

How about you? What is your connection to Sami history or culture?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Sami Hymn Singing

Someone sent me a link to this video, along with the following caption. The video won't embed, but here's the link. Enjoy!

http://www1.nrk.no/nett-tv/klipp/484409

These are a couple of Sami ladies from Kautokeino, Norway, singing a hymn I think we all recognize. However, I don't remember the name of this in English. They are singing in the Sami language. Apparently both women are well-known joikers in their community. Joiking and singing are very different and joikers often sing deeper in the throat. This way of singing influences Laestadians today. I can hear they sing much Laestadians from congregations that continue to sing their hymns a cappella in the USA, typically IALC and OALC. These women are part of the Lyngen branch of Laestadians known only in Norway. However, the Lyngen branch have many different splits, often along ethnic lines: Sami, Kven (Finnish-speaking) and Norwegian-speaking (though these congregants are a ethnic mix of Kven, Sami, and Norwegians).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tornedalsbloggen --in English

For those who liked the book Popular Music from Vittula, here's an English language blog from the Torne river valley in northern Finland/Sweden. According to Google Translate:

This Haparandabo writes in the local newspaper under a pseudonym on local political issues and other irritations in the Torne Valley and has now taken the step to continue to speak out on the Internet with this blog.

While this is a general interst blog, the author has posted about Lars Levi Laestadius and the Sami people within the last few months.

I'll be watching this blog with interest!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reindeer and Fighter Jets

It's not everyday that reindeer, fighter jets, NATO, and the Sami people are all mentioned in the same article. So I couldn't resist passing along this article from the Christian Science Monitor (a source I highly recommend for balanced and thoughtful international news.)

In Sweden's far north, a convergence of fighter jets, reindeer, and hurt feelings

'Lapistan,' where NATO is conducting war games, is fictional. But the exercises are testing real-life relations with the Russians as well as the indigenous Sami people.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Where Do Finns Come From?

My cousin sent me this fascinating tip regarding Finnish origins. Now I'm eager to get my DNA tested, just to find out what it can tell me. Have you done that or pondered it?


Here's an excerpt. Read more by clicking on the title.

WHERE DO FINNS COME FROM?

Not long ago, cytogenetic experts stirred up a controversy with their "ground-breaking" findings on the origins of the Finnish and Sami peoples. Cytogenetics is by no means a new tool in bioanthropological research, however. As early as the 1960s and '70s, Finnish researchers made the significant discovery that one quarter of the Finns' genetic stock is Siberian, and three quarters is European in origin. The Samis, however, are of different genetic stock: a mixture of distinctly western, but also eastern elements. If we examine the genetic links between the peoples of Europe, the Samis form a separate group unto themselves, and other Uralic peoples, too have a distinctive genetic profile.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Laestadianism and Sami Culture


I recently had an email exchange with Nathan Muus of BÁIKI, The International Sámi Journal, and he gave me permission to post the following:
Yes my friend grew up in, and still is involved in the Firstborn . . . some of my ancestors participated in "like minded" religious movements in the 19th century in Norway. Home meetings, lay pastors, singing hymns with a one string instrument, suspicion of the Swedish/Norwegian state church and not wanting to pledge allegience to the king- the Laestedian movement was one of a number of such movements, not alone. People forget that.

However, the Laestedian movement was Sami led, and there are a number of "positives" to the movement at the time. Some of them are reflected in the Kautokeino revolt, which was Laestedian led also. Sami men were going to the city markets with a year worth of hides, crafts, goods to sell/trade. They were returning back to camp with nothing, no money, drunk..so is said. They were sold alcohol and cheated, taken advantage of. Sami languages were considered worthless, so was Finnish somewhat, by the way. The state church service was in Swedish, or Norwegian, with Latin flourishes. Laestedius deemed that Sami and Finnish were worthy languages to preach in. He deemed that simple was good, hence many people in a village dressing alike in traditional Sami clothing was ok. A simple Sami home or tent, not extravegantly adorned, was normal and was uplifted. I can understand why the movement had such a pull. The Sami traditional spiritual world had been battered for some centuries. This movement gave people an outlet.

I continue to be saddened that denial of Sami cultural heritage/identity today is still there. And I do know it is there. Yet some of the same people will often in their own ways, keep their Sami spirit and identity. I do not for a minute believe academically or otherwise, that traditional Sami spiritual beliefs and practices all were wiped out and went away. Evidence points otherwise to that. However, perhaps some people cannot reconcile the two religious worldviews well, hence continuing denial.

Popular misconceptions do not help either, ie."witches drum"; since when were those using a Sami drum a European style witch? The colonizers had many things wrong. Unfortunately some/a lot of that got transmitted into the various Lutheran church movements also. It's up to all of us to help sort it out. Blessings on your journey! Nathan

You may want to read this fascinating exploration of the impact of Laestadianism on Sami culture. (Among other things, it includes details about "Lapp Mary" that are new to me.)

Does Laestadianism keep Sami culture alive in some way? If so, how?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Something About Mary

I've been musing about Mary. Did you know that Lapp Mary, the woman through whom Laestadius found enlightenment, was actually named Milla? He met her in a parish in Asele, Sweden when he was 44 years old (and the father of 15 children with his wife Britta). Milla was 31, unmarried, a Sami, a Lutheran, a member of the Readers (devoted to self-study of the Bible), and passionately spiritual.

Why did he call her Mary? Did he wish to evoke Mary, mother of Jesus? Or was this skilled mythographer attempting to draw on something even older and more meaningful to the pagan Sami: the power of the feminine divine. If so, it would not be the only way in which Laestadius incorporated Sami traditions into his new religion.

In the history of humanity, goddess worship is the very earliest, symbolized in the Venus of Willendorf around 3,000 BCE. Later, she was revered as Inanna in ancient Sumeria, Ishtar in Babylon, Anat in Canaan, Isis in Egypt and Aphrodite in Greece. According to Joseph Campbell, remarkably similar stories of the sacred feminine are common to all cultures. For the ancients, The Great Mother was the Earth, growth, fertility, death and regeneration, and experienced in the flowers and trees, moon and ocean, cycles of life and nature. She was life itself.

Even as monotheism and patriarchal religions gained sway (often at the point of a spear), goddesses like Ashera, Ishtar or Anat retained a great following among the Israelites, particularly among women. (See Jeremiah 44:15-19). With Christianity came a retelling of an ancient tale of the goddess and her divine child who is sacrificed and reborn. As Hans Kung wrote in "On Being a Christian," the Virgin Birth is a "collection of largely uncertain, mutually contradictory, strongly legendary" narratives. Yet it has a power, metaphorically, that cannot be overestimated.

We are so immersed in the patriarchy of the Judeo-Christian tradition that it is difficult to imagine a worldview in which the divine was feminine. But for the Sami, whom Laestadius worked so diligently to convert, goddesses were natural and their names familiar: the mother Mátaráhkka with her daughters Sáráhká, Uksáhkka and Juksáhkka, who took care of the family and guarded the home.

No doubt for many Sami, even those already converted to Christianity, the demands of Laestadius were severe. They were compelled to give up goddesses, shamans, drums, joiking (singing), dancing, unmarried sex and whiskey. However, he allowed them a vestige of their ecstatic trances in "the movement" of repentance, and in the gift of Lapp Mary, a new kind of shaman or spirit guide, pointing not only to the Virgin but beyond, beneath, behind, to the eternal feminine.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Devil Made Me Do It

One of the great gifts I gave myself on leaving the OALC was the latitude to doubt anything and everything, whenever the impulse arises. I have what you might call provisional faith -- always open to adjustment with new insight. That's what kind of "believer" I am: uninterested in "the facts" that some would say are essential to belief -- but passionate about the metaphors we use to make sense of our world.

As much as I regret my own experiences with his adherents, I respect Laestadius for his work describing the Sami. (His book on Sami mythology is now available on amazon.com). There is no doubt he was modernizing and democratizing the Church in emphasizing personal understanding of Scripture (LLL was affiliated with the Readers sect that read the Bible in their homes) and by promoting the priesthood of believers (meaning Christians could be each others' confessors). While he can be blamed for banning the Sami drums and yoiking, he can be thanked for preserving their language and incorporating their trances into the church (now a pallid exercise called the "movement" -- at least I haven't seen any of the jumping and fainting described in the histories). Some writers credit him with profound psychological insight. I think he was insecure and felt rejected by academia and society, especially women -- he was rather obsessed with female sexuality -- and if he was on the couch today, he would probably be treated for manic depression. He was charismatic enough to attract devout followers, even to the point of murder (LLL fanatics killed a sheriff/whiskey merchant). He was certainly polarizing, and proud of it. When he refused communion to an unwed mother, the Princess of Norway and Sweden wrote to him, admonishing his lack of compassion for sinners. He remained defiant. (Of course, none of this history is taught in the OALC.)

The OALC emphasis on sin seems a perversion of Christianity, which offers an incredible model for "loving one's enemies," and follows repentance with reconciliation. It seems OALC encourages folks to repent continually, but not to reconcile what has been broken, through works of kindness, compensation or whatever. If there was an OALC court, the judge would be satisfied with a defendant's "I'm sorry." That "works alone" do not lead to grace does not undermine their importance.

You could call it an immature treatment of the human condition -- the-devil-made-me-do-it defense. It releases the person from the consequences of his/her actions and doesn't promote personal growth. To focus on silly transgressions such as nail polish is a grand diversion from the Elephant on the Table, i.e., the sin of being human, which is our participation (conscious or not) in the extinction of other life (human, animal, vegetable and mineral).

(Let me digress to muse about a Christian ritual: saying grace before meals. I think this is probably a universal ritual that finds many forms because it fulfills a need for us, as humans, to acknowledge that our sustenance depends on the sacrifice of other forms of life. In any case, it's a useful meditation on interconnectedness. I always found it odd that the OALC doesn't practice it.)

Imagine an alien reviewing our planet's history and trying to understand the different religions and how they deal with the problem of evil. Think of the long history of sacrifices (human and otherwise) that people all over the planet used to gain favor with fickle gods, who could punish them with earthquakes, drought, pestilence and famine. Or could, with appropriate sacrifices, be made happy.

Are not these gods externalizations of the human impulses for punishment and retribution and forgiveness? And weren't the sacrifice victims stand-ins for the people? To be human is to know that the capacity for evil is in oneself -- no one is exempt. And to be human is to know that the capacity for love is enormous. What is revolutionary about Christ is the profound personalization of that drama. He took this history of sacrifice and said, basically, it stops here. I am you (whatever your color or sex or status) and I paid the price, and you are forgiven, now and forever. Furthermore. . . . that enormous love you feel? THAT is God. God is love. God is in you. So act on it.

Now, to feel forgiven for being human (the original sin) and to feel the enormous love within: that is truly living in grace. It inspires us to be hopeful, compassionate, forgiving. Happy. Appreciative of our existence for this brief moment in the history of time. Intensely aware of the oneness of all life.

Perhaps the profound depression in the OALC -- both doctrinal and psychological (a dense fog hangs over the whole enterprise) -- is due to a wobbly faith in (1) one's own perpetual state of grace, and (2) God's indwelling. In psychological terms, the OALC continues to externalize Good and Evil. Until they are internalized, with Good/God/Love the victor, and the victory emphasized continually through worship and/or practice, the tendency is toward insecurity, depression, and passive-aggressive narcissism. (Does this make sense? I have provisional faith in the idea. Prove me wrong!)

Here is an interesting link to the psychology of forgiveness:
http://www.guidetopsychology.com/forgive.htm

And here's to the joyful life!