chapter  17
14 Pages

Towards New Northern Heritages – The Witch and the Shaman in Official and Public Heritage Productions

In both the Nordic and a wider international context, the heritage of the northern regions of Scandinavia is associated with a dark and mystical region populated by primitive peoples, witches and heathens. Through journey descriptions and accounts written by priests, missionaries and explorers to the north from the early 1600s onwards, images of the north emphasising its difference from mainstream Nordic culture were published and made available to a wider European public. In contemporary culture, these images have been popularised and given characteristics and content far exceeding the way they were described in the historical literature. This chapter discusses the current use of two of the most popular images from this period − the witches of the north and the Sami shamans who were persecuted and subject to witchcraft trials during the seventeenth century. The images created during the age of European expansion and colonisation hundreds of years ago continue to influence the way northern heritage is presented and practiced today, by heritage managers as well as by public groups. But what is the difference between how heritage is practiced inside and outside of professional heritage institutions? This chapter asks how the images of witches and shamans, as described in academic texts, are made use of and practiced in different ways by public groups and by professional institutions. From a post-colonial point of view, the prejudices and world views of these early accounts, through their status as historical documents, may continue to dominate the way indigenous and northern heritage is conceived of and practiced. It is argued that alternative heritage as practiced by indigenous peoples and other public groups does not receive the same recognition by management systems as authorised, ‘real’ heritage (Smith 2006). For instance, the shamans’ use of the drum in Sami pre-Christian religion was judged to be a heathen practice, and for a long time continued to be represented as such in museums and literature on Sami culture.