Beaivvi The Sun Goddess of the Sápmi

Niina Pekantytär

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Beaivvi (Beiwe) is the sun goddess of the Sapmi people. She is more of a force of nature than a personified goddess. She has been depicted both as feminine and masculine. The archetype of the feminine Beaivvi has been connected to springtime and fertility. White animals were sacrificed in her honour. If white animals were not available, the animals had to at least have a white ribbon tied to their ear. Mostly white female reindeers were sacrificed in a mid-winter festival celebrated to her honour. The entrance of the Kota was greased with butter so that Beaivi could “eat” and become stronger every passing day before returning to the sky. The sacrificial rituals were an important role while saying farewell to the Kaamos (time period when the sun does not come up) and returning of the sun. The returning sun was welcomed by bowing.

Goddess had the ability to bring light and ease the mental health of those who got depressed during the dark winter. She was also connected to the fertility of the plants and the animals. During the summer solstice, people crafted sun wheels from branches and flowers and they tied white ribbons to them. In the winter sacrificial food was made from flour and reindeer blood. This cake was hanged on a tree near the kota for the sun to “eat”.

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The Sun Maiden

Moon, stars and the sun are often depicted in the shaman drums. Sun is in the middle of the sun-centric drum. A personalized aspect of Beaivi was Beaivvi Nieida the sun maiden. In some stories, the sun maiden is Beaivvi´s daughter. In other stories, she is Beiaivvi herself. Sun porridge was left to Beaivvi Nieda as a sacrifice. It was believed to heal illnesses and bring good reindeer luck. It was polite to perform the sacrificial rituals during wintertime because the flames would not compete with the sunlight.

Northern Lights Podcast

Sapmi culture and the importance of the sun

Sapmi´s were known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. The reindeer sacrifice to Beaivi was believed to end the winter season. In Lapland Kaamos (Finnish) begins at the end of August and ends around January. Reindeer was sacrificed to honour Beaivi for she brought the summer with her.

The meat was placed on sticks. Sticks were bent to circles and white ribbons were tied to them. Circles represented the sun. People believed that by doing this they would help Beaivvi to gain more strength so that she could return in the spring. Sapmi´s would smear butter to the entries and the doorsteps.

Butter was sacred, especially during the winter months, because the animals would produce way less milk during the wintertime. Therefore butter was a valuable sacrifice and it would melt in the sunshine, which symbolized goddess returning and her rising higher in the sky as the season was progressing.

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Ritual was an invention from people to bring the goddess back. In the summer months, people would pin the sun wheels to their doors and butter was eaten as a sacred meal.

Beaivvi Nieda was described to be a beautiful woman with reindeer antlers. She would bring the spring with her and reindeer would flourish in her presence. Flowers and plants would grow wherever she walked.

Beaivvi Nieda is associated with the earth goddess of the Sapmi, Matterahkka. She was the goddess of wealth, good fortune and sustainable life.

Sapmi would pray Beaivvi to help those who were depressed to cope with their mental illness. They saw the connection between the depression and the lack of daylight.

Kaamos masennus (winter depression) = depression disorder that people who normally don´t show signs of depression, exhibit depression symptoms within the winter months.

She was called upon to restore the mental health of those who had been affected by her absence during long winter months. People came together as a community to take care of the well-being of each other.

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Folklorist and historian. Alcott essayist. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

Finland, MN
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