Uksákká is a midwife deity whose role revolves around protection, specifically of the newborn babies she helps bring into the world in Sami culture. Her resilience and protective nature is often associated with a rowan tree, just one aspect of nature that Uksákká is connected to.
Overview of Uksákká
Uksákká is known as the Sami midwife and is the daughter of Máttaráhkká, known as The Mother. She and her two sisters, Juksákká and Sarahkka, work together with their mother to support the Sami women during childbirth and join in the journey of childbirth to ensure the safety of the babies. Uksákká specifically seeks out the interests of the newborn and is a natural protector and caretaker. She is known to be a deity who positions herself at entrances to be a protector, such as a door entrance, a tent entrance, or even the entrance of a cave. Uksákká is also associated with the rowan tree, which is seen as a tree of protection.
Source: Audley Travel
Uksákká is known as the goddess of midwifery and the goddess of birth. She is also known as “The Lady next door” or guardian or the door—which is a reference to her being stationed at doors or tent entrances. Different spelling variations include Uks-Akka, Uksahkka and Uksákká.
Uksákká’s role in the process of children entering the world was to protect, which involves protecting both the mother and children. She welcomes newborns into the world and sees that they are safe from harm and illness. Uksákká lives by entrances to bless all who enter and leave. She is thought to be the protector of tents and doors, including protector of animal habitats like cave entrances and bird nests.
Uksákká is associated with the rowan tree, which is a tree of protection. The tree is deep in folklore and has many different names. For example, it is seen in Norse, Scandinavian and British folklore. The berries on the rowan tree have a pentagon opposite its stalk. The pentagon is a sign of protection and is an ancient protective symbol. The color of the berries, red, also symbolized protection, for red was thought to be associated with it. Rowan tree branches and twigs were carried around to ward off harm and evil spirits.
Source: Trees for Life
In Sami shamanism, the generalized female spirit is called akka. Máttaráhkká is thought of as the first akka. Women and girls belong to here and her akka spirit, and boys do as well until they reach the point of manhood. Worshiping akka is common practice in forms of rituals, prayers and sacrifices. Uksákká and her sisters are also akkas. Juksákká is the goddess of boys and men and goddess of hunting and Uksákká is protector of children. All sisters have “akka” following their names. Uksákká and her mother and sisters live under the earth under the tents (Kota) of women and children, but Uksákká is thought to live by the tent entrance.
History of Sami mythology
In the 1970s, the Sami feminist movement began to open discussion for women’s roles in society and to redefine their roles as they once were when the deities were a major part of Sami culture. The arrival of modern society and Christianity made the Sami women lose their power in Sami society. The movement began with women reindeer herders wanting the same rights and respect as the male reindeer herders. Not all Sami women were on board with the idea of feminism because they thought it made women the victims.
Sami, also spelt Saami, is the population of people who inhabit the region of Sapmi, which is comprised of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Sami is its own language and is part of the Uralic language linguistic group. Other languages in this group include Finnish and Hungarian. The Sami people are descendants of nomadic communities who lived in northern Scandinavia for thousands of years. Reindeer herding, sheep herding, fishing and fur trapping are a few livelihoods the Sami are known for.
Traditional Sami religion and spiritual practices are considered to be animism—the belief that all naturalistic objects possess a soul. Examples can include rocks, plants, animals, and anything in the natural world. The Sami religion and beliefs can vary slightly from region to region, but the main deities of the Sami culture remain mostly the name, even though some may have different names for the same deity.
Unfortunately, very little of Sami religion and mythology has been translated into English. In the 1800s, a Luther pastor named Levi Laestadius collected some fragments of this mythology, but it was poorly translated and weak explanations for lost historical resources. The Kalevala is a written book that focused on Finnish mythology, but also spoke of deities that were similar to the ones in Sami culture.
Influences of other religions/cultures
The presence of Christainty in Sami culture was active during the Roman Catholic middle ages, but the 17th century is when Norway and Sweden colonized Sami and Christianity was a main focus. In the kingdom of Denmark-Norway, the practicing of Sami religion resulted in a death penalty, for it was thought of as witchcraft. A Chrisitan mission was enacted in the 17th century to convert the Sami people to Christianity. During this period, the Sami people practiced Christianity in public, but in private, still continued their Sami religion.
Before Christinaity, women in Sami culture had higher regards in society because they were seen as the primary caregiver of the family and the one responsible for the family’s survival. Uksákká and the many other female deities contributed to the idea that Sami women were well-respected in society and were mainly equal to men, especially since Uksákká was seen as a protector. However, once the ideas of Christianity reached the Sami people, this ideology changed.
In the Thor comics, Uksákká and her sisters make minor appearances, otherwise, the modern appearance of Uksákká is limited. If you have more information or legends that you can share, please do reach out!
Uksákká and her family members all have roles that align, but Uksákká’s role establishes the well-being and growth of a child after the birthing process is finished. She continues to be of help and looks out for the Sami people as she blesses those at the entrance of a door. Her protective nature as a female deity establishes the power of female culture in Sami society before the rise of Christianity and as a way to look back in history to see how past cultures operated.