Francis picture 3.jpg

Doctoral dissertation: Sami shamanism, Cosmology and art as systems of embedded knowledge


Article-based dissertation Sámi Shamanism, Cosmology and Art as Systems of Embedded Knowledge by MSc Francis Joy is combined with the study of Sámi religion, culture and art brings forward an extensive and broad investigation and research topic that covers three time periods, namely prehistorical research into rock paintings in Finland and at the Alta Fjord in Norway, which have been linked is academic enquiry with a hunting, fishing and trapping culture, considered to be the ancestors of the Sámi people.

The core of the Joy’s research regarding prehistory is focused on a number of questions concerning ambiguous claims as to in what ways the terminology used within the context of referring to the rock paintings as being ‘Finnish’, as is the case in academic enquiry, is justified given the fact that Sámi groups have populated the areas in central and southern Finland where the majority of the paintings are located.

The second time period in research is concerned with the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and Joy’s research summarizes the consequences of a loss of knowledge regarding an old Sámi drum because of colonialism, whilst the interview with the drum maker in Rovaniemi has revealed new forms of myths and stories that translate into knowledge systems, which have emerged from within a Sámi background, therefore, showing a contrast where the old drum is concerned with the spirits associated with hunting, fishing and trapping, whereas, the modern drums are concerned with forest spirits, animals and lunar and solar symbols.

“Because of the destructive nature of colonialism on Sámi religion, the sacred drums and culture, there are two further research paradigms in the dissertation that examine, firstly, the production and decoration of new types of shaman drums that are made by persons who are not Sámi as well as local companies who have reused the symbolism from the old Sacred Sámi drums, for marketing purposes”, Joy says.

The research examines these forms in relation to the cultural heritage of the Sámi and appropriation of their cultural symbolism and memory within tourism in Lapland is taking place and what the consequences of these are with regard to representation.

Joy points out a further study of other types of drums and handicraft productions in relation to the reuse of sacred drum symbolism is presented through a study of new kinds of drums by Sámi persons and how their artistic works reflect the old symbolism from the sacred drums of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and in what ways these are mixed with new kinds of symbolism within the tradition of duodji and other manifestations of handicrafts.

The results of the research in this case are a consequence of interviews with drum makers and handicraft persons, which have captured their attitudes and own personal stories concerning their work as shamans and artists.

Through a series of 6 interviews undertaken amongst Sámi persons in Finland and Norway, another chapter in the dissertation examines the practice of shamanism and healing in relation to the re-emergence of shamanism in Norway, which since 2012, has granted the Sámi shaman the same rights to conduct rites of passage rituals and ceremonies and to be free from persecution, as a Christian priest would have, thus allowing Sámi people engaged in the healing arts, and to be able to express themselves. The interviews bring forth a wealth of knowledge from different perspectives, ranging from drum making to the art of sacrifice, and how these modern practices reflect what has been written in older missionary and scholarly sources from the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries about Sámi religion.

“The overall results of my research data can be viewed in a broader perspective firstly, in relation to how the investigation into the relationship between prehistoric rock art in Finland and Norway and parallels in terms of figures and symbolism on sacred Sámi drums from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries re-opens a debate about the ethnicity of the people who created the rock paintings and ambiguous links with Sámi cultural history in central and southern Finland, which has been both debated and denied in scholarly discourse”, Joy argues.

The overall results of the study are important because there are many questions that have been asked in recent years about preservation of Sámi traditions, religious practices and culture and what this means with regard to identity and the existence of a common memory in both historical and modern research. It is also important to say that although the topic of ethnicity is reopened, so are questions concerning cultural heritage. The outcomes of the analysis provide some of the answers to these questions and furthermore, help establish parallels between generations and cultures.

Information on the public defence

The dissertation, titled Sámi Shamanism, Cosmology and Art as Systems of Embedded Knowledge by MSc Francis Joy will be publically examined in the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Lapland in the Esko ja Asko auditorium on 24 March 2018 at 12 noon. The opponent is Adjunct professor Th.D Risto Pulkkinen and Custodian Professor Timo Jokela. Coffee will be served in the restaurant Felli after the event. Welcome.

Information on the doctoral candidate

Francis Joy received a Master’s Degree at the University of Helsinki in 2007 in the Science of Religion, which was awarded for research into prehistoric rock art, and Sámi shamanism in Finland. Since this time, he has published a variety of scholarly articles on the subject of Sámi shamanism and sacred drums.

Further information

Sale of the dissertation: Juvenes webstore. Further information and press copies: Lapland University Press, tel. 040 821 4242, email: julkaisu (at)

Information on the publication

Francis Joy: Sámi Shamanism, Cosmology and Art as Systems of Embedded Knowledge, Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis367.ISBN 978-952-337-058-6.ISSN 0788-7604. Hansaprint Oy, Turenki 2018. Pdf: Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 234. ISBN 978-952-337-059-3. ISSN 1796-6310.

Additional information

LaY/Communications & Language centre/J-EK & AT

Our website uses cookies, read more. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. [I Agree]