"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Lapp Blood Will Out

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lapp Blood Will Out

Carl Jung called it synchronicity. I call it wonderful.

Last year with Theoforos' help, I corresponded with the utterly charming writer/professor/linguist/former Laestadian Bengt Pohjanen. He is the founder of Sirillus, a cultural center in Overkalix, Sweden. A prolific and protean talent, Poijanen has written several several novels and treatments of Laestadius, but alas, they are not yet translated into English. One title is Ropande röst or Huutavan ääni (Shouting Voice).

Shortly after we began our correspondence he wrote: "Your e-mail has started fantastic things. Two days ago a laestadian called me in an quite other affair than my novel, but he told me in the end of our call that he had heard about a laestadian preacher from our area, who hade preached and smoked cigars when Titanic was sinking. I didn't say a word, but I was exited because I have a laestadian preacher on Titanic in my novel. It is the first time when I looked on net for Titanic. I found Mr William Lahtinen, the preacher."

It's a good story. You can read about it here.

Later, Pohjanin wrote: "In my novel Pleasant Devils I have written about a totem that some relatives of mine and boys from Kuivakangas and Sattajärvi took from Haisla-Kitamat. Now I have found the tribe on (the) net. It is uncredible! The boys sold it to Mr Hansson, a Swedish diplomat near this area. This morning I found the facta about my story. I am happy! When a storyteller sees that he told true stories without knowing they were true, then he feels laestadian extasis."

The Haisla were selling t-shirts online to fund their repatration efforts. This was not one of them, but highly recommended for certain readers of this blog. You know who you are.

At FinnFest, I told this story to the Finnish-Canadian composer Ari Lähdekorpi (he wrote the score for the recent documentary Letters from Karelia. (Our conversation happened before I saw him perform in concert, and a good thing, as afterward I would have been stunned into silence by his other-worldly talent on the guitar.) He told me that the totem pole had been returned to the Haisla.

And so it has, just recently. The Swedes assert that the pole was taken via negotiation. The Haisla tell a different story, that it was stolen. A film Totem: The Return of the G'psgolox Pole tells the story of the repatriation project.

How can we get Bengt Pohjanen works in English? Could we importune Börje Vähämäki at Aspasia Books . He did a fine job with Laestadius' "Fragments of Lappish Mythology." If you haven't already, read the great review.

On a side note, I enjoy the pow wows at Discovery Park each summer, especially the grand entry where "united Indians of all tribes" dance in their resplendent costumes, from button blankets to apache feather crowns, with thundering drums and chants swirling among the tall firs and cedars. It is a rousing good time and has always moved me beyond words. I wondered recently if it would be acceptable to don a Sami outfit and enter the circle! To quote the freedom-seeking Lena Lingard in Willa Cather's My Antonia: "I guess that's what's the matter with me; they say Lapp blood will out."


  1. I want to order the t-shirt!!!

    And you are right-the Lapp Blood Will Out!

  2. Bengts family name is Pohjanen, not Poijanen (Google finds better that name)

    H. Finn

  3. It would be cool to meet father Bengt one day. We have a lot in common - the Laestadian background and the Orthodox faith.

  4. Yes, you do . . . and you are both polyglottes. I'm hoping he will come to Seattle to lecture at the UW. But if not, the mountain must to go to Mohammed, so to speak.

  5. Ah Free, the memories you evoke. My Antonia was the first Cather book I ever read, and I was instantly hooked on her writing. To this day it is one of my all time favorites. If you get the chance to read a short story of hers entitled The Good Neighbour (if my memory isn't failing tonight) and a short novel entitled Death Comes for the Archbishop, I think you'd enjoy them as well.