Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Divining Ecology: The Sámi Shaman Drum
by Michetti, Laura, Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2020, 216; 28088391
Abstract (Summary)

Humans have long sought knowledge of the future, and in their seeking have turned to rocks, sticks, stars, and even the body for answers. Divination is one of humanity’s oldest spiritual practices and its cultural significance reveals much about the lived experience of people and the places they inhabit. Whether a burning bush, an auspicious star, or a symbolic dream, the tools, rituals, and practices of divination are necessarily rooted in the natural world but invite participation in the supernatural.

The Sámi people are an indigenous community who have lived in the circumpolar region of Eurasia for millennia. Before forced Christianization, Sámi culture was anchored in a shamanic worldview that was deeply connected to and influenced by the natural environment of the Arctic. One especially unique feature of this pre-Christian tradition was the Sámi shaman drum—a sacred tool used for ritual, music, and most importantly, divination.

This dissertation examines the relationship between divination and ecology in the context of the Sámi shaman drum. Drawing upon methodological approaches from religious studies and the philosophy of religion, the research draws attention to the way certain dominant epistemologies and methodologies limit our understanding of divination and other forms of traditional ecological knowledge. By analyzing the historical context and symbolic language of the drum of Sámi noaidi Anders Poulsen (c.1600–1692), this dissertation demonstrates the benefits of utilizing indigenous research methods for deeper understanding of embedded and embodied knowledges.

The findings of this research show that the divinatory use of the Sámi drum supports its function as an ecological and cosmological symbol within Sámi culture. Additionally, the methods used provide a template for further examinations into the ways cultural divination practices reflect a spiritual relationship to the natural world. Finally, these results suggest that by imbuing nature with the capacity to generate and reveal knowledge, divination is more than just the solicitation of answers; it is also a spiritual practice to make divine the natural world.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sherman, Jacob H.
Commitee: Kelly, Sean, Joy, Francis
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Humanities with a concentration in Philosophy and Religion and an emphasis in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ethnic studies, European history, Religious history
Keywords: Divination, Ecology, Indigenous, Sámi, Shamanism, Witchcraft
Publication Number: 28088391
ISBN: 9798672169262
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