THE SHAMAN OF ALTA
THE 1627 WITCH TRIAL OF QUIWE BAARSEN
Rune Blix Hagen
© Rune Blix Hagen 1998-2013
Source: Court Book ("Tingbok"), No.2 for Finnmark, March 1627 - August 1633, 4a-5b
A criminal case was brought against a Sami shaman (noaidi ) called Quiwe Baarsen, working as a servant for Norwegians at Aarøya, in Altafjorden. From 1603 until 1607 he lived in Lappojavrre, at this time in the Swedish-Norwegian borderlands (Lapland). In 1608 he moved to Porsangerfjorden and after 1613 we can find him at Talvik and Lagnes in Altafjorden before settling down at Aarøya in the early 1620's. He is one among twenty-six Sami accused of witchcraft in Finnmark (or Vardøhus Len) in the 17th century.
FROM THE COURT RECORDS:
On 9 May 1627, the local court was in session, at Hasvåg, in the presence of Bailiff Niels Knudsen and a jury. The bailiff questioned a Sami male, Quiwe Baarsen, about what he did the time he made sailing winds for Niels Jonsen, from Rognsund, two years before (1625). Quiwe confessed that Niels came to him on the eighth day before All-Saints Day, in 1625, and asked for a sailing wind for him to get to Hasvåg, saying that he would pay him well when he came back. Quiwe agreed to this, took off his right shoe (komage), and washed his bare foot in calm sea waters, saying:
"Wind to land, wind to land!".
Niels and his fishermen then got a favourable sailing wind. Before sailing to Hasvåg, Quiwe told the fishermen not to set the sail too much before they passed Klubbenes; after that, they could set the sail as much as the boat could carry.
The Saturday before All-Saints Day, Trine, the wife of Oluf Øresen, came to Quiwe and asked him to make a sailing wind so that her husband, who had sailed with Niels Jonsen, could come home soon. She promised to give him a keg of beer if he would raise the wind. Again Quiwe agreed, and this time he took a piglet, throwing it into the sea and invoking the winds with:
"Wind to sea, wind to sea!"
But the piglet squirmed too much under the sun (snode sig formegit vnder soelenn), and the wind became too strong. Quiwe said to Trine: "God have mercy on them. I am afraid that they have left prematurely and that the wind will be too strong. If they sailed at the beginning of the storm, may God have mercy, or they will not return."
Niels Jonsen, Oluf Øresen and three boys from Hasvåg - Jon Olsen, Hans Poulsen and Matz Olsen - all perished in that storm. The bailiff asked if Quiwe had raised the wind other times. Quiwe replied: "Yes, I have often made wind for people. Four years ago I made wind for a ship from Nordlandene, lying at Karcken, because the men aboard requested that I make wind for them. So I washed my foot and stirred a gentle southern wind."
Furthermore, the Bailiff asked whether he knew how to do sorcery (gand). Quiwe answered that he had never taken anything to conjure runic spells (rundom). The Bailiff then wanted Quiwe to explain what the runic spells were. Quiwe answered:
"When they want to cast runic spells, they use a Sami drum – (goavdi) (runebomme). The drum is made of pine root and covered with reindeer hide or buckskin. They use a piece of wood, as a handle under the drum, and claws from every kind of animal native to this county are hung around the drum. Nine lines are painted on the drum with alder bark; this bark is also used to paint domestic pillows in the huts of the Sami. The first line on the drum represents their god, the second the sun, and the third the moon; these, in turn, symbolise the animals which can bring them luck or inflict harm on their enemies. And when two sorcerers (gandmen) want to test whose craft is the strongest, they paint two antler-butting reindeer on the drum. Whichever one turns out to be the strongest will indicate which master is strongest and most cunning. And when they want to ask their apostle (demon or guiding spirit) about something, they will take some small pieces of copper and hang them on the wings of a bird made of copper, which they then place on the drum. Striking the drum with a horn hammer, lined with beaver skin, the bird leaps around on the drum and finally stops on one of the lines. Then the master knows immediately what the apostle has answered. To protect the master, or whoever else may be in the hut (gammen), from accident, they beat the drum with the hammer. He whose bird falls from the drum will not live long."
Then Quiwe was asked if he had studied this craft for some time. Such things were introduced to him when he was a mere boy, he replied. He was also asked how often he himself had been involved in beating such a drum. He answered that once many sorcerers (gandmenn) came together to drum, to see whose craft was strongest.
Quiwe was also interrogated about who had taught him to raise the wind (gjøre bør). He then said:
"A Sami, now dead, by the name of Lauridtz Quern (from Kvalsund), before the time of the war" (i.e. the Kalmar War with Sweden, 1611-1613).
Two days later, on 11 May, the court was again in session. Quiwe Baarsen's account was read to him, and he was asked to confirm his statements. He pleaded guilty to the charges. The bailiff asked the court to arrive at a verdict and wanted the penalty to be strong. According to the bailiff, Quiwe Baarsen should be given the death penalty and be burned at the stake. In the verdict, the local court said that Quiwe Baarsen had made a free confession about the use of diabolic spells and that he had used witchcraft to drown five people. The court in Hasvåg sentenced Quiwe Baarsen to death and to be burned at the stake.
Hagen, Rune "The witch-hunt in early modern Finnmark," Acta
Borealia 1- 1999: 43-62
Hagen, Rune Blix, The Sami – Sorcerers in Norwegian History. Sorcery Persecutions of the Sami, CálliidLágádus, Kárásjohka- Karasjok 2012.
Nielsen, Jens Petter: Altas historie, Bind 1, Alta 1990
Livsfarlig trolldom (fra Labyrint nr. 4/2011)
Some notions of Sami Witchcraft and Magic
Sami witchcraft was known
to entail three characteristics, according to educated Europeans of the early
modern age. The Sami were renown for their abilities
to tell fortunes and predict future events. Ever since the Nordic sagas were
recorded, this feature of the indigenous populations of the North was
well-known. It was forbidden to travel to Finnmark's
Sami, according to ancient Norwegian laws, to have one's fortune told. But
closely associated with their powers of prophecy were their abilities to
narrate events. By the use of a magic drum (runebomme),
and other rituals, a Sami shaman (noaidi)
would allow himself to fall into some kind of a trance - at which time his
spirit would be led far away. Upon awakening, he could tell a patron of
events that had occurred at the site to which his spirit had travelled.
of The article:
On the picture I'm
holding the original runebomme, which was
confiscated from Anders Poulsen in Nesseby, Eastern part of Finnmark,
late 1691. The drum is preserved
at De Samiske Samlinger (Sámiid Vuorká Dávvirat) in
In Arctic Norway over 175 people were prosecuted for the crime of witchcraft from 1593 to 1695. The witch trials of the far north are distinctive in a European context because of the elements of Sami magic. About 20% of the witch trials are known to have affected the Sami. But only a few of these trials show traces of Sami shamanism. In Sami shamanism the drum, runebomme, is of great importance, and often linked to ecstatic divinations. The Sami shaman, noaidi, played his drum when he wanted to heal, divine, or to bring luck during hunting, and when he wanted to communicate with his gods. During the witch trials in Finnmark, two Sami drums were confiscated. One of the owners had to answer questions about the use of the drum and about the meaning of all the figures and symbols on his drum. Trying to find traces of shamanism, the article emphasises on the trial records of this particular case. These records date from one of the last but most momentous witch-trial in 1692. An old Sami shaman, Anders Poulsen, told the court about the symbols and the use of his magic drum. He also stood up and demonstrated the instrument for the people being present in the court house of a small fishing village called Vadsø.The assessment of the court case upholds the findings which criticise ecstasy and trance as choice characteristics when trying to determine what exactly the shaman world view consists of.
(leicht veränderte Version des Artikels im NBL: Quiwe Baarsen, Norsk Biografisk Leksikon, Oslo, Kunnskapsforlaget, Bd. 7, 2003, s. 293)
Same, Knecht; 1627 als Hexenmeister (noaidi) in Hasvåg, Westfinnmark verurteilt. Geboren in schwedisch Lappland; ledig. Verbrannt im Mai 1627.
Quiwe Baarsen ist einer von 37
Samen, von denen wir mit Sicherheit wissen, daß gegen sie ein Urteil wegen
Hexenverbrechen in Nordnorwegen im Zeitraum 1593 – 1692 erging. Der gegen ihn
geführte Prozeß ist eine der bekanntesten Hexensachen in Norwegen. Im
Gegensatz zu zahlreichen verurteilten weiblichen Hexen aus norwegischen
Fischerdörfern, waren es meistens Männer, die aufgrund Hexerei in samischen
Milieus verurteilt wurden. Unter den Samen waren Hexenfertigkeiten
traditionellerweise mit Wissen verbunden, das dem männlichen Geschlecht
vorbehalten war. Samische Männer sind unter den der wegen Hexerei
verurteilten in der Westfinnmark in der Mehrzahl.
Aus den Gerichtsakten geht
hervor, daß Baarsen auch eine ausführliche Deutung magischer Instrumentarien
der Samen, wie zum Beispiel Zauberei und dem was im Gerichtsprotokoll als
„rundom“ bezeichnet wird, gab. Der Prozeß gegen Quiwe beiinhaltet die erste
uns bekannte Beschreibung in norwegischen Rechtsquellen einer Schamanentrommel,
auch bekannt als „Runebomme“ ( = magische Trommel der Samen; Anm. d. Übers.).
Quiwe ist wohlvertraut mit der Trommel und er berichtet freimütig wie sie
gemacht ist und ebenso über ihre Symbole und Figuren. Er wurde in dieser
Kunst von einem Kvenen (Lauritz Kven), wahrscheinlich aus Kvalsund,
mutmaßlich vor 1611 unterwiesen.
Hagen, Rune Blix, The
Sami – Sorcerers in Norwegian History. Sorcery Persecutions of the Sami, CálliidLágádus, Kárásjohka- Karasjok 2012.
Same. Fra Årøya i Alta. Siden det ikke eksisterte
tinglag (domstol) i Alta-området, ble QUIWE dømt i Hasvåg 11/5 i 1627. Her
ble han også brent etter å ha blitt idømt dødsstraff.
Fra 1603 til 1607 er han omtalt i de svenske skattelistene fra Lappojavrre.
Opplært som noaide før Kalmarkrigen av Lauritz Kven fra Kvalsund. Ble ofte brukt fordi han kunne lage bør. Trondheimsborgeren Jens Jacobsen hadde brukt QB som forløser engang hans kone skulle føde.
Da Niels Jonsen fra Rognsund høsten 1625 skulle seile til Hasvåg for å levere fisk, fikk han QB til å lage bør. QB laget denne gangen vind ved å ta komagen av sin høyre fot, deretter dyppet han foten i vannet mens han sa landvær, landvær. De fikk da en fralandsvind. QB sa til Niels Jonsen at de ikke burde føre for mye seil før de kom forbi Klubbneset ytterst i Rognsund. Jekta kom fram til Hasvåg. Forliset inntraff på tilbaketuren. Det er Trine somvil ha QB til å lage ny bør for å få sin mann Oluff Øressen, som var med på jekta til Hasvåg, snarest mulig hjem igjen. Hun kjøpte vind for ei kanne øl. Denne gangen laget han vind ved å kaste en grisunge på sjøen mens han sa 'havvær,havvær'. Men siden grisungen snudde seg for mye under solen, ble børa for sterk. Jekta gikk ned i stormen og Niels, Oluff samt tre av drengene til handelsmannen og underfogden Jens Jensen Vendelbo omkom.
Fogden spurte QB om gankunst og runebommen. QB gir en lang beskrivelse av runebommen i rettsreferatet fra 9/5-1627.
(Stor takk til MARK LEDINGHAM i Tromsø Kommune for hjelp med den engelske oversettelsen av sakspapirene)
Alta with Årøya in the middle of the map.
© Rune Blix Hagen 2013
Oppdatert i mai 2013