Document Type


Date of Award



Shamanism, Finland, Medicine, Magic, mystic, and spagiric, Finland

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Brian L. Foster

Second Advisor

Neville Dyson-Hudson

Third Advisor

H. Stephen Straight


This study is concerned with the structure of the traditional shamanic therapy in the rural Finnish society of the past one hundred years. The emphasis is on the organization of the most salient dimensions of the shaman-client interaction and their causal antecedents.

As a secondary objective, an evaluation is made of the utility of oral narratives for anthropological research into shamanism. The kinds of information they provide, the lacunae and biases they possess are discussed.

The primary sources of the study consist of oral narratives, such as memorates, belief stories, legends and rite descriptions, from Finnish archives and from the author’s own field work. These are analyzed to establish the traditional frames of reference in terms of which the people viewed their world and oriented their behavior. The regional variations in the shamanic practices between East and West Finland and among the smaller administrative districts are related to the previously established beliefs and cognitive categories. Cross-tabulation is employed to reveal patterns of shamanic therapy corresponding to particular community traditions and social relations. The shaman is shown to be a skilled manipulator of traditional symbols who often achieves dramatic results by motivating the suggestive powers inherent in the culturally shared beliefs and values. He is also revealed to be a charismatic figure who can achieve similar results by the force of his personality without this shared perspective. Upper and middle class individuals, who had not been able to get help elsewhere, also often benefited from shamanic therapy without a full understanding of its assumptions.

The dynamics of the therapeutic relationship are clarified by the use of a model illustrating relationships of the client’s attitudes toward his problem and its elimination or mitigation through shamanic therapy. Both adaptive and dysfunctional effects of shamanic practices are discussed and reasons proposed for their persistence in the rural milieu.