Friday, July 4, 2008

The Noitarumpu Lapland Witches Drum

Hi all,

Yesterday, I mentioned the Noitarumpu drum and teased you with a photo of one that was made recently. Today, I will tell you a little more about just what a Noitarumpu actually is.

The Noitarumpu drum, when translated literally from the Finnish word, means Witches Drum... Noita = Witch and Rumpu = Drum. It can however also be written as Shamaanirumpu the Shaman's Drum.

It's history is long and indeed ancient... yet much information has been lost because of the Witch trials in history... that too came to Finland and the regions of Lapland. It was a time when Christianity poured throughout the land and endeavoured to flush the local paganism away.
( Note: 'Endeavoured' meaning that they never truly succeeded! :D ) Hundreds if not thousands or more drums were destroyed... and because there were so many drums freely given up by the trusting dwellers of this land at that time - too many to be taken away for destruction - that it is recorded that they were all burnt on the spot!

My heart feels heavy with that...but it is a historical fact that I cannot run from. Fortunately, several Shamans were wise enough to store their drums away and hid them - many staying hidden for centuries - cared for by the secret custodians with in the family, who ensured that the old world beliefs stayed alive, if not quietly 'underground'. These drums - and I believe that there are around seventy of them - are now safe, held in many museums around the world. :D It is from these drums and the symbols found upon them, that the drums of today are founded.

Used ceremonially from a time before records began, the noitarumpu is deeply engrained in the Saami heritage. The local Shaman, much like the wise woman in many villages across the world, would be the healer, the wise one, the one who had visions and entrusted by his people to care for them physically and spiritually. The Shaman was THE great person, second only to the spirits or gods.

The drum was the Shaman's aid to the other worlds, with ritual and chanting, the use of natural powers also came from natural objects such as stones, feathers etc. The Shaman would call for the help of the great spirits by beating on the drum, with a reindeer horn hammer - and he would do so rythymically, until falling into a trance like state. During trance, he would walk the underworld, where the dead would help provide advice or solve a problem. At other times, the Shaman could predict the future with the drum. The divination of such came from the symbols on the drum.

Each Shaman would have made their own drum and chosen the placement and indeed which symbols to have on the drum - which ones resonated the most for him, or worked best for him in ritual - which Gods he had the greatest connection with for example. I will cover this subject again later...

There are a few different styles of drums, but effectively they were and still are made today from Reindeer leather and Birch Wood. There are some touristy versions of it.. but the true Noitarumpu is a handcrafted, unique item. The sort of gift one would give to a very important person..or purchased by those interested or involved in spiritual activities.

Here are a few more images.....

By the way.. Happy Independence Day to all the American readers! Have a good day! Finlands Independance Day is not until December 6th!