Sarahkka (How art helped me to connect with my roots)

“Sarahkka” by Niina Niskanen

Sarahkka is one of my paintings representing Saami goddesses. In my previous post, I talked about her sister painting Juksakka and how I connected with my Saami roots.

Saami´s are native people of Scandinavia and I have Saami ancestry from the Lapland of Finland and Sweden. I have always been drawn to myths and folklore so becoming familiar with the Saami culture through their myths was a natural thing to do.

Sarahkka is one of my favourite mythology-themed paintings I have ever created and I greatly enjoyed doing the research for it. In the Saami culture, Sarahkka is the goddess of birth. She is the protector of pregnant mothers and goddess of motherhood. The Baby´s cradle that you can see in the painting is a traditional Saami cradle called Komsio. I wanted Sarahkka to look maternal, loving and earthy, which is why I chose a warm brown palette. The background texture was made with a sponge.

In the early Saami culture, the gender roles between men and women were very strict. Sarahkka´s sister Juksakka was the protector of boys and men. Sarahkka was the goddess of girls and women and women could pray to her and lean on to her during the difficult times in their lives and she would bring them comfort. Expecting mothers called her to ease their pain during giving birth. If a couple wanted to have a girl child, they would hang feathers of the Snow grout into the komsio. Snow grout was Sarahkkas´s signature bird and it symbolizes new life and purity. Komsio´s colour is red because red is the colour of life.

Ever since I first heard of the myth of Sarahkka I just fell in love with it. Let´s face it, being a woman is not always very easy. World mythology knows many mother goddesses. Sarahkka was worshipped by my ancestors and thinking of her, makes me wonder what their life was like.

To me, art has always been a way of self-expression and my mythology paintings are inspired by my favourite myths. Here are some of my other favourite folk tales from Saami mythology that excite the imagination.

In the Saami folklore northern lights were created by a giant fox who ran in the snowy hills and the Finnish name for the northern lights revontulet means “fox's fires” and originates from this myth. According to some Saami beliefs, ancestor spirits live in the northern lights.

Some of the deepest lakes in northern Finland are called bottomless lakes. They are not exactly bottomless, often they have a fake bottom, meaning that there are caves and underwater tunnels in the bottom of the lake. It was believed that the oldest and biggest fish of the lake was the “emuu” of all other fishes. Emuu is an old word for mother (in folklore this creature can be gender-neutral). Emuu is the creator spirit of a species. Lakes in Finland are often very deep since many of them were born from crashing meteorites.

One of the most important elements in the Saami mythology is the presence of nature. I tried to corporate that into “Sarahkka” painting as well. There is the sun, the moon, snow and of course, the northern lights.


Prints and other merchandise with Sarahkka are available in my store.

I want to become better at talking about my art so I am writing short-form stories of how I became an illustrator and stories behind my artworks. Subscribe to follow the journey.

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Niina's Fairychamber

Illustrator, writer and folklorist. Likes cats, tea and period dramas. A host of the Little Women Podcast.