The title page

Sami worship
Sami worship

Sami magic drum
Sami magic drum


Sami tent
A sami tent
Johannes Schefferus
(1621 - 1679)

Kristina Augusta (1626-1689) was the queen of Sweden from 1632 until her abdication in 1654. She placed Sweden on the intellectual map of Europe by inviting a number of foreign scholars to settle in the country. Among these were Johannes Schefferus who came to Sweden, from Strasbourg, in 1648. He was granted a professorship in rhetoric and political science at the University of Uppsala. In this position he tutored rising government officials and the diplomats of the Swedish foreign service. Schefferus had an impressive capacity for work and rare intellectual talents. Not only did he master rhetoric and politics but is also regarded as Sweden's first philologist. Further, he is revered as the father of Swedish literary history, and he was eventually awarded an additional professorship in natural- and international law. His posthumous reputation is primarily associated with his work on the manuscript Lapponia - a book that he described as a new and truthful rendition of the Sami land and its people.

The original Latin edition of Lapponia was published in Frankfurt am Main in late 1673. This was closely followed by English, German, French and Dutch translations. And in 1956, nearly 300 years after the publication of the first-edition, the book was printed in Swedish as Lappland. The Sami, it should be noted, dwelled in a world of myth before the publication of Schefferus' writings. His manuscript can therefore be regarded as a pioneer project. It has, in fact, been classified as one of world literature's great classics.

Schefferus's Lappland monograph is the first comprehensive depiction of the Sami people. But in contrast to many other topographic and ethnographic descriptions of the early modern era, the thirty-five chapters of Lapponia are built upon a number of contemporary reports which were forwarded to the author by clergymen living in Swedish Lappland. These letters were known as the so-called "clergy correspondence". The chapters cover topics as various as Sami extraction, language, dwelling-places, clothing, handiwork, gender roles, hunting, child raising, pagan religion and additional chapters on metals, flora and animal life in northern Sweden.

The task of writing an elaborate account on the Sami came from the Swedish chancellor, Magnus De La Gardie, and his reason for doing this was based upon the need to present factual information in the struggle against ill-natured foreign propaganda. Germany, in particular, claimed in pamphlets that Sweden had won victories on the battlefield by means of Sami magic. Such rumors were nothing less than gross slander on Swedish honor and the country's ability to conduct warfare. Schefferus was given the task to refute insinuations of this kind that were being spread abroad. Such rumors were to be contradicted by a truthful depiction of the Sami and their conditions.

Even though the author aimed at critical objectivity in his presentation, Lapponia came to confirm preconceived notions of Sami magic. Adapted and abridged versions of the book were printed in both The Netherlands and Germany. The exotic nature of Sami religious practice was focused upon in these editions. Chapters on living conditions, topography and the environment were replaced by chapters on magic, sorcery, drums and heathenism. These volumes were illustrated, too, with copperplates that focused on the diabolic nature of Sami shamanism. And, as a result of this, Lapponia substantiated the myths surrounding the indigenous people of the North.


   © University Library of Tromsø - 1999.
The Northern Lights Route is part of The Council of Europe Cultural Routes. The Cultural Routes are an invitation to Europeans to wander the paths and explore the places where the unity and diversity of our European identity were forged.