Witchcraft Trial against a Sami Noaide – Anders Poulsen, Vadsø, 1692

The article deals with the last witchcraft trial in Finnmark, the northernmost district of Norway. The old Sami noaide, shaman, Anders Poulsen, was in 1692 accused of playing the rune drum and thereby performing devilish witchcraft. Through a close reading of the court records from the trial of Anders Poulsen, the article analyses the courtroom discourse, with particular weight on listening to the voice of Anders Poulsen and his presentation of the symbols of the rune drum before the court. Opposing the standpoint repeated by several scholars, that the court records from this case give the best possible insight into traditional Sami religion, the article’s author points to the fact that the description of the symbols of the rune drum given by Anders Poulsen are only in a few cases related to the pre-Christian Sami religion. The majority of Poulsen’s descriptions of the rune drum symbols are interpreted as Christian symbols, and his confession may well be a result of the severity of the trial, with a death sentence hanging over his head, and his wish to convince the court that he no longer believes in the traditional Sami religion, but has adopted the Christian faith.