The Saami - A Cultural Encyclopaedia - The Ovdasas
Type of spiritual experienceHallucination
The implication is that the ovdasas was either a visitation of your Higher spirit - you seeing your higher spirit, or was the visit of a spirit helper, or was the image of a bodied soul who was at the time out of body
A description of the experience
The Saami - A Cultural Encyclopaedia - edited by Ulla Maija Kulonen, Irja Seurujarvi-Kari and Risto Pulkkinen
An Ovdasas is a visual or auditory apparition predicting a person's actual arrival. A visual ovdasas may be in the form of an identifiable individual, but more common are auditory visitations like the sound of knocks, steps or skis in the snow where the identity of the visitant is unclear, or at least uncertain. Although in principle anyone could encounter an ovdasas, experiencing powerful visual apparitions was thought to be possible only for the 'strong-blooded' (nanavaralaccat), i.e. persons who were generally disposed to seeing supranormal beings such as vaki spirits.
Traditionally, such experiences were not felt to be threatening, although seeing an ovdasas was sometimes thought to be an omen of death, especially if it was a visually unclear apparition (vaiggas).
Apart from apparitions proper, which appear before one, in the Saami tradition there are also types of ovdasas that followed one (mannasas) . The word farrosas 'travelling companion’ covers both types.
Stories about apparitions are very common in Saami folklore. The Saami themselves did not speculate about the actual nature of the ovdasas. In terms of the phenomenology of religion, it has been suggested it was a manifestation of a 'free soul’ but this is not a plausible interpretation because the farrosas might appear to a person who was not in a state of trance, sleep or unconsciousness.
From the point of view of comparative religion, the farrosas rather represents a kind of spiritual double of a kind fairly common in folk beliefs, a guardian spirit who looks after a person's well-being and happiness. At the level of folk religion, conceptions about man's spiritual dimensions (the 'free soul', the fellow traveller) are fairly fuzzy, and there is also considerable variation from place to place. [Itkonen T 11948, Pentikainen J 1995.]