Illustration 1: Photo: Nordiska Museet collection nordiska@nordiskamuseet.


A Sami Wooden Idol
Clifford C. Richey November 2013
It might be helpful to refer to: !15/"ni#ersal$%rehistoric$&epicted$'ign$(anguage when reading this paper as it e)plains the use of *orm+ Imager,+ -esture signs+ 'tance+ allusion and position as used in composing gl,phs.

Illustration 2: “Gobba,” a Sami wooden idol from Stor uktan, !"sterbotten #ount$,Sweden%

Illustration &: 'lternate !iew

.lthough the wooden *igure in the Illustrations is called an idol it is actuall, more of a cosmological representation and was created from a combination of signs based on depicted sign language. /his s,stem of composition is #er, ancient dating back perhaps !0+000 ,ears or more. It was used b, a #ariet, of cultures all o#er the world. 0ecause of this there is no need to entertain a rather wisp, 1ungian framework about a human collecti#e unconscious. 2an, ancient compositions were based on a 0od, template of some kind. 'uch templates were human+ animals+ plants+ or e#en ob3ects. /he templates pro#ided a base upon which the signs could be organi4ed much as the, would ha#e been when the gesture signer organi4ed his signing around his own 0od,.

Illustration (: )otal *orm

Illustration +: ,ri-inal

/he *orm of the 0od, is #ague but might be the in the shape of a /ree with its roots and branches. /his is made more probable in that the *igure was made from the parts of a tree. If such was the case then the /ree ma, ha#e represented the ancient concept of the /ree of (ife. %arts of the ancient cosmologies were based on a metaphor made with the water c,cle. In the case of the /ree the underl,ing concept was a metaphor based on a knowledge of osmosis. 5ater+ containing female$water$spirits+ was taken up from the *eet of the /ree 6its roots7 and up the /runk of 0od, to the (imbs 6the arms7 to the 8ands 6the lea#es7 from which the water arose to the 'k, in the form of 5ater$drops 6parts of the water or particles of water7. 9iewed in the abo#e manner the tree is not an idol but rather a configuration of signs that represent words and phrases. /hese messages not onl, carried a cosmolog, but also knowledge of the natural world.

Illustration .: #olor #oded In the abo#e Illustration we can see that the 0od, had a 8ead+ /hroat+ /runk+ and (imbs. /he 8ead was in the *orm of a 6blue7 0ird:s 8ead 6indicating+ flight7. /he 6tan7 .rm and 8and is relati#el, (arge indicating great. /he .rm was used to represent a warrior while the 8and indicated+ a steward of the Sun. 1ointl, the .rm sand 8and represented+ a warrior-priest of the Sun. /he .rm and 8and was positioned as on the side. /he area of the /hroat alludes to a tube or tunnel connecting the 2outh 6the water-source7 to the lower le#els. /he 'tomach where things are broken down into smaller particles. /he slender sign at the /hroat is a 6tan7 'e#ered *inger pointing a direction+ here, where it meets the .rm and 8and of the *igure. 0elow the 'e#ered *inger are 6green7 /wo 9ertical ;ectangles 6the deep places7+ the <=> within, positional+ indicating an e)change or transformation(s). *urther below is the 6red7 /riangular sign indicating. the earth-female 6based on the *orm of human female genital area7. /he 6tan7 (eg and *oot meaning+ a long-journey7 or rather the allusion to it has the upside down <9> sign for+ held down, positionall,+ /he 3ourne, is+ positionall,+ on the side of the earth.

Illustration /: ' 0ird1s 2ead ;eturning to the *orm 0ird:s 8ead 6blue outline with its 0eak outlined in ,ellow7and we can see that the *orm of the se#ered *inger is pointing toward the .rm and 8and. /his indicates that the flight that the 0ird represents is that of the .rm and 8and+ the warrior-priest of the Sun.

Illustration 3: 4ual 0ird 2and Ima-er$ In Illustration ? we can see that the wood of the .rm and 8and has been subtl, cut to depict the Image of a 0irds and that the .rm can now be #iewed as a (arge 'e#ered *inger whose *orm is that of the gesture sign for+ the great 6relati#e si4e7 arising. /he 0ird+ the flight. /he 0eak is the 2outh of a 0ird and thus represents+ a water so rce. /he @,e of the 0ird is the Aircular location, the one sign that has a small 6tan7 *inger pointing at a 6green7 9ertical ;ectangle 6a vertical-place7. /he @,e alludes to the area where the actual @,e of the 0ird would be positioned. /his section+ at the Imager, le#el+ would read+ The great arising, the flight, from the water-source, here, at a vertical place, the location, the one, the eye of the Sun.

Illustration 5: 'lternate !iew

Illustration 16: 'lternate !iew #olor #oded

I this alternate #iew of the *igure we can see that the Imager, changes a bit with the different perspecti#e. 5e can see the 6light blue7 Butline of a *ace 6his appearance7 the *ace is made up of &ots in a /riangular *orm that creates the sign for+ a female-spirit. /here is also a 6red7 /riangle that indicates+ the earth-female. %ositionall,+ the *ace is+ on the side of the earth-female. /he 6dark blue7 Cuarter Aircle above the *ace is the sign for+ the upper$side or the upper-world. 'ummar, 5hat upon cursor, e)amination appears as a crude twig like idol can now be seen as a Duite sophisticated s,stem of signs. /hese signs were consciousl, organi4ed in a manner that could communicate a great deal of information. 0ecause this s,stem of depicted sign language was thought to ha#e been restricted to the %lains Indians of Eorth .merica 6and e#en then poorl, understood7 there was little attempt b, researchers to make comparisons between these signs and those found in other parts of the world. /he 'ami compositions like man, other cultures using the depicted sign language s,stem was in the ad#ent of Ahristianit, #iewed as idol worship and such compositions were often destro,ed as the works of 'atan. *ortunatel, much of the s,stem was preser#ed in petrogl,phs+ pictographs+ and upon some well preser#ed potter, from a #ariet, of ancient cultures. In this 'ami composition we ha#e seen how the combination of la,ered *orm+ Imager, and gesture signs combined to make a s,stem that allowed aspects of their cosmolog, to be recored for posterit,. /he cosmolog, was partl, based on the water c,cle and an understanding of transpiration1 in plants.
1 /o see how the 2a,an culture depicted a similar cosmolog, and understanding o ft transpiration see: !! 21!7//he$Aa,man$/he$Arust$of$the$@arth$.$2a,an$Aomposition

/he cosmolog, was rather technical as it combined science and religion into a whole. In a generali4ed wa, the ancestors+ especiall, warriors and priests+ were remembered in re#erence for their contributions to the sur#i#al of their people and culture. Bfferings were made in thanksgi#ing to the spirits of the deceased as well as seeking their continued fa#or. /he so called <idols> were actuall, formations of words composed out of natural materials. 5e can now better appreciate the #er, different wa,s in which the people who understood the signs saw the *igure #ersus the Ahristians who were bent on imposing their belief s,stem upon an earlier one.

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