The magic within the animals of Lapland

24/09/2020

Animals are important in northern cultures. Finding antlers or teeth is supposed bring luck and there are a lot of them in the forests of Northern Lapland. What other magical powers do the arctic animals have?

The crown heads

Once again, I can't not mention the most symbolic animal, when it comes to Lapland - the reindeer. These furry wanderers of the fells have special gifts, when it comes to sight. They can actually see UV-lights and their eye color changes with the seasons. They take advantage of these features in navigating and reflecting light. 

Reindeer antlers are a common sight, if you move a lot in the northern nature. This creature grows and drops antlers and then grows a new pair. A powder medicine is made from the antlers. They can grow several cm in one day. 

These crown heads bring luck in other ways too. A specific reindeer can be the source of  witch-like powers. A white individual is a good luck talisman for a herder and a sacred kind of reindeer in general. The white reindeer is believed to have a special kind of soul, a soul, that has continued living after their former body has died.

The moose is a very common sight in the forests of Lapland too. As a vital game animal from centuries ago in our country, moose has been connected into beliefs and magic. The skin is supposed to shield even from the most deathly weapons and there are crazy stories about huge individuals with antlers as wide as a small plane.

The birds

There are bird species that bring either good or bad signs. The raven is definitely a striking one, with the conflicting beliefs about it. The black bird brings bad news, but they're supposed to have a good luck feather, with hunting instinct in it. There are several other bad luck birds, but I consider raven to be the most meaningful.

From the few good luck birds, I'll have to bring up the Siberian jay. I have been told, that if you get lost, yo will find your way back to the civilization by following this bird. I actually have experiences with this amazing species. I was hiking alone it the forest and a couple of Siberian jay started to fly around me, from tree to tree. They really tend to find people and campfire spots, because they are almost tamed and always after any treats. It is easy to follow a bird, that stops at every other tree. They are also famous for their not so pretty singing.

There's a lot of general superstition, when it comes to the cuckoo. The voice has a lot of beliefs; the timing and the number of cuckoos can predict your lifespan or things about the present year. In Lapland, the species has a more special meaning; a witch bird.

To mention a few more, there are a lot of stories about the willow grouse and the rock ptarmigan. These species are combined to the areas, that have Lapland mountains. They have a strong seasonal change of color. The ptarmigan is a rare bird, that only likes it in the most arctic conditions and the willow grouse is a very important species for the locals; in the past, it has even worked as a currency.

The most striking migratory bird is definitely the swan. There are many songs about those white creatures and in some pieces the message is about Lapland. The whooper swan is the national bird of Finland and an important animal for Finns. The whiteness and the monogamy of the swan invites reflections on life, death and marriage. It is a wistful but beautiful thought, that they go to South every year, but they always come back, all the way to the northernmost Lapland. They know, which pond is their home.

The beasts

The bear is certainly the most sacred type of animal, as well as the king of the forest. As the biggest beast we have, it gains respect from the human kind. That respect is expected to be given back as not killing humans. Bear hunting is a thing though, especially, when the bear breaks the "contract". According to beliefs, it is important, how the hunting and burial is done. All things related to bears have to be done the right way, respectfully. The bear is also one of the possible "transformation" animals, that humans could possibly change into.

I can say, that all the beasts, that kill reindeer, are truly hated. The wolverine is the one, that comes up a lot in my surroundings, but the wolf is also kept guilty. I feel that all of the arctic beasts from fox to marten species have stories and meaning in the eyes of people.

In the end, animals are considered sacred in many northern beliefs and cultures, as well as all things about nature. That is something ancient, I can relate to. I keep certain things about nature personally sacred to me, as they have very deep meaning for me. I find it easier to believe in things closer to nature. Anyway, this was just a peek, there are certainly more beliefs, more animals and more magic in these arctic forests!

LaplandU Girl



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