The magic of the Laplanders and Finns

This précis of Johannes Scheffer's History of Lapland is taken from Nathaniel Crouch, The Kingdom of Darkness (London, 1688).

It has been a received opinion among all that do but know the name of Laplanders that they are people addicted to Magick, and they are described both by ancient and Modern Writers to have arrived to so great skill in enchantments that among several strange effects of their Art they could stop Ships when under Sail, which demonstrates them to be the Successors of the Biarmi, who could either by their looks, words, or some other artifice so insnare and bewitch men as to deprive them of the use of Limbs, and reason, and oft indanger their lives; But though in these latter times they do not so frequently practise this, and dare not profess it so publickly as before, being severely prohibited by the King of Sweden whose Subjects they are, yet there are still many who give themselves wholly to this study, as thinking thereby to be defended from the injuries and malicious designs of others, and therefore they have Teachers and Professors of this Science; and Parents in their last Will bequeath to their Children as the greatest part of their Estate those Spirits and Devils that have been any ways serviceable to them in their life time. Gunilda a Virgin (says Sturlesonizs) was sent by her Father Odzor Huide who dwelt in Halogaland to Motle King of Finlapland in Norway to be instructed in this Art, and many arrive to great perfection in these cursed studies. Each house hath peculiar Spirits and of different natures, some being not to be prevailed upon but by much intreaty, whereas others offer themselves even to little Children whom they find fit for their turn, so that divers of the Inhabitants are almost naturally Magicians even from their Infancy, in which tender age if the Devil takes a liking to any person as a fit instrument for his designs, he presently seizes on him by some disease, in which he haunts him with several Apparitions, from whence according to the capacity of his years and understanding he learns what belongs to his Art, and becomes so knowing that without the use of the inchanted Drum (of which we shall relate something) they can see things at the greatest distance, and are so possest by the Devil that they see them even against their will, of which take the following example. A certain Laplander who is yet alive, upon my complaint against him for his Drum, brought it to me and confest with tears, that though he should part with it, and not make another he should have the same Visions he had formerly, and he instanc't in my self, giving me a true and particular account of what had happened to me in my Journey to Lapland. And he further complained that he knew not how to make use of his eyes since things altogether distant were presented to them.

This Drum is made out of a hollow piece of wood, and must either be of Pine, Firr, or Birchtree which grows in such a particular place and turns directly according to the Suns course, whom they worship with all imaginable devotion under the Image of Thor; the piece of wood they make it of must be of the root cleft in sunder, and madehollow on one side, upon which they stretch a skin, so that it is like a Kettle-drum, on which they paint several red Pictures, and draw in the middle divers lines quite cross, upon which they place those Gods to whom they pay the greatest adoration, as Thor the chief God with his Attendants which are drawn on the top of the line, after this they draw another line parallel to the former on which stands the Image of Christ with some of his Apostles, and above these, Birds, Stars, and the Moon, below the Sun they paint Bears, Wolves, Rain-dears, Otters, Foxes, Serpents and the like; Upon the Drum they have a Hand or Index like that of a Clock, and then with an hammer made of a Rain-dears horn they beat the Drum softly at first, and then louder till they move the hand over the pictures and find out what they desire, and hereby they believe they can effect very strange things especially as to their hunting, their religious affairs, or lastly inquiring of things in Forreign Countreys or at a far distance, both he that beats the Drum and the rest are all upon their knees; Those who desire to understand the condition of their Friends, or concerns abroad though at five hundred or a thousand miles distance go to some Laplander or Finlander skilfull in this art, and present him with a linnen garment or piece of Silver as a reward for satisfying their demands; Of which we read this instance upon record at Bergen a famous Market Town in Norway where the effects of the German Merchants are registred. In this place one John Delling then Factor to a German inquired of a certain Finlapper of Norway about his Master then in Germany, the Finlapper readily consenting to tell him, like a drunken man presently made a great bawling, then reeling and dancing about several times in a Circle fell at last upon the ground lying there some time as if he were dead, then starting upon a sudden, he related to him all things concerning his Master, which were afterward found to agree to what he reported; There are many more instances of this kind, the most considerable is one concerning a Laplander now living who gave Torneus an account of the Journey he first made to Lapland though he had never seen him before that time, which though it were true, Torneus dissembled to him lest he might glory too much in his devilish practices, and rely upon them as the only means whereby he might attain to truth.

As to the method of making discoveries it is very different; Olaus Magnus describes it thus; The drummer goes into some private room accompanied by one single person, besides his wife, and by beating the drum moves the Index about, muttering at the same time several charms, and then presently he falls into an extaly, and lyes for a short time as if dead; Mean while his companion takes great care that no Gnat, Fly, or other living creature touch him; For his Soul is carried by some evil Genius into a Forreign Countrey from whence it is brought back with a Knife, Ring, or some other token of his knowledge of what is done in those parts; Afterward rising up he relates all the circumstances belonging to the business that was inquired after, and that they may appear certainly to be true he shews what he brought from thence; Some think them not really but in appearance dead during this trance, others are apt to believe that the Soul departs from the Body, and after its travel abroad returns home again; But without doubt it is impossible either for Man or Devil to restore the Soul to the Body it hath once left, so that it is more probable the Devil only stifles the faculties of the Soul for a time, and hinders their Operations. After the Drummer falls down they lay his Drum near his head, and leave not off singing all the time he lyes sweating in this agony, which they do, not only to put him in mind when he awakes of the business he was to know, but also to recover him out of his trance, which he would never do, as they imagin if they either ceased finging or any one stirred him with their hand or foot, perhaps and this is the reason they suffer no Fly nor other living creature to touch him, and upon this account only watch him so diligently, and not out of any fear they have lest the Devil should take away his body, as some affirm; It is uncertain how long they lye in this manner, but it is commonly according as the place where they make their discovery is nearer or farther off, but the time never exceeds twenty fours hours let the place be at never so great a distance. After which he awakes, and as we have said shews some tokens to confirm their belief of what he relates to them. Several Inhabitants of Kiema in Lapland were apprehended in 1671. with Drums for this purpose, of so large a size that they could not be removed from thence but were burnt in the place. Among these Laplanders there was one of fourscore years of age that confessed he was bred up in this Art from his Childhood, who in 1670. upon some quarrel about a pair of Mittens caused a Countreyman of Kiema to be drowned in a Cataract, for which he was condemned to dye, and in order to that was to be carried in chains to the next Town in Bothnia, but in the Journey he contrived so by his Art that on a sudden, though he seemed well and lusty, he died on the Sledge, which he had often foretold he would sooner do than fall into the Hangmans hands. Hist. Lapland. p. 58.

These Laplanders have likewise Magical Darts of Lead about a finger in length by which they execute their revenge upon their enemies, and according to the greatness of the injury received they wound them with cankrous swellings either in the arms or legs, which by the extremity of its pain kills them in three days time. They shoot these darts towhat distance they please, and that so right too that they seldom miss their aim; They have likewise another Devilish instrument of vengeance called a Gan much like a Fly, but really thought to be some little Devil, of which the Finlanders in Norway who exceed others in this art, keep great numbers in a leathern bag, and dispatch dayly some of them abroad; Of whom this Story is related that happened not long since; An Inhabitant of Helieland who is still alive going toward the mountains of Norway to hunt Bears, came to a Cave under the side of an Hill, where he found an Image rudely shapen, which was the Idol of some Finlanders, near this stood a Ganesk or Magical Bag or Satchel, he opened it, and found therein several blewish Flyes crawling about which they call Gans or Spirits, and are dayly sent out by the Finlanders to execute their devilish designs; And it is related that the Finlanders cannot live peaceably except they let out of their satchel every day one of these Flyes or Devils; But if the Gan can find no man to destroy after they have sent him out, which they seldom do upon no account at all, then he roves about at a venture, and kills the first thing he meets with; Sometimes they command it to go into the mountains to cleave Rocks asunder: However these Conjurers will for very trivial causes send out their Gan to ruin men; This they use likewise as well against one another as strangers, nay sometimes against those whom they know are their equals in the art.

Of this kind there happened a notable passage betwixt two Finlanders, one of them called Asbioren Gankonge from his great knowledge in the art, the other upon some small difference concerning their Skill or some such trifle would have destroyed Ashioren but was still prevented by his too powerful art, till at last finding an opportunity as Ashioren lay sleeping under a rock, he immediately dispatcht away a Gan that cleft the rock in sunder and tumbled it upon him. This happened in the time of Peter Claud not long before he writ his History; Some of their Conjurers are contented only with the power to expel them, and free men from the mischief that they do them, as also to Beasts. This is remarkable among them that they can hurt no man with their Gan except they first know his Parents name.

Now all that the Finlanders and Finlappers of Norway effect by their Gan, the Laplanders do by a thing that they call Tyre; This Tyre is a round ball about the bigness of a walnut or small apple made of the finest hair of a beast, or else of moss, very smooth, and so light that it seems hollow, its colour is a mixture of yellow, green and ash, but so that the yellow may appear most, I had one of them given me (faith my Author) by a Gentleman. This Tyre they say is quickned and moved by a particular art, it is sold by the Laplanders, and he who buys it may hurt whom he pleases therewith; They perswade themselves and others that by the Tyre they can send either Serpents, Toads, Mice, or what they please into the body of any man to make his torment the greater; It goes like a whirlwind, and as swift as an arrow and destroys the first man or beast that it lights on, of which there are dayly too many Instances in that Countrey which abounds with these miserable Vassals of the Devil. Ibidem. p. 60.

Another thing wherein the Laplanders have for many ages been accounted famous or rather infamous is their selling of Winds to Saylers, to which they have proper instruments as well as in the rest of their wretched Sciences; They tye three magical knots in a cord, when they unty the first knot there blows a favourable gale of Wind, when the second a brisker, when the third the Sea and wind grow mighty stormy and tempestuous, so that they will neither be able to direct their Ship, avoid the rocks, or so much as stand upon the Decks or handle their tackle; Now those that are skilled in this art have command chiefly over the winds that blew at their birth, so that this wind principally obeys one man, that another, as if they obtained this power when they first received their breath; And from hence they are able to stop the course of Ships, and according to the different affections they have for Merchants can make the Sea either calmer or more tempestuous. Ibidem. p. 58.