The Sami (Laplanders) are nomadic reindeer herders who live in the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Sweden and Norway. They see the world tree as a pillar they call “stytto” that reaches to the North star and holds up the universe. This belief is similar to the Siberian and Germanic/Norse cosmology of the world tree.

The forest-god of the Sami is called Leib-Olmai who is associated with the Alder Tree. In honor of Leib-Olmai, hunters’ sprinkle ground-up alder bark and water on their faces to ward off bears and bring good luck. The Alder bark creates a reddish color that resembles blood. The juice from the alder tree is also used to mark the drums of the Sami.

Etching of a Sami noaidi shaman with a drum called a meavrresgárri. By O.H. von Lode and Knud Leem (1767)

A shaman, called a noaidi, acts as an intermediary between the spiritual and material worlds. They would enter a trance by beating on a drum made of wood and reindeer hide while chanting. The antlers of the reindeer are symbolic of the world tree.


The Sami believe that both living beings and inanimate objects such as trees have souls. They share a sacred connection with reindeer and the ancestor spirits of the Taiga Forest.

Irmine and Laural with traditional Sami drums. Photo by Laural Virtues Wauters.

The symbol of the Tree of Life is painted in the center of the meavrresgárri/kannus drum and used for divination. This symbol is also called the solar cross. It is a top down stylized perspective of the tree of life protecting all four directions. The hole painted in the center of the drum is the core of the tree that acts as a portal for traveling to different levels of existence.