Lapp Mug

The item pictured is a traditional Lappish drinking cup/mug (known locally as a guksi) gifted to me by a local Saame (Lapp) woman while I was spending time in Finland in an area known as Lapland, which covers the northern expanse of the Nordic countries of Sweden, Finland, and Norway and is largely located within the Arctic Circle.

The Saame, the group to which the woman belongs, are a people indigenous to Lapland.

Although the woman did not speak English, my guide acted as an interpreter between us as I asked questions regarding the mug.


The mug itself is carved out of a single piece of wood collected from burls on birch tree trunks. The birch tree is ubiquitous in the Finnish wilderness and is the most commonly used material in the construction of most Lappish items, including the mug itself, sled frames, furniture, and even entire homes. Revered for its strong, hardy, and unyielding quality and capable shock resistance, the use of birch is an endless sight in Lapland.


The most significant characteristic of birch, as it relates to the mugs, is its antibacterial properties, which necessitates little to no cleaning. Thus, the mug bears with it benefits of both health and convenience. Any cleaning of the mug is to be conducted with a simple combination of cloth and water, as it is believed soap or detergents will damage the mug.


As for the actual construction of the mug, what is most noteworthy is the presence of two holes through which to place one’s fingers. This serves a practical purpose for maintaining additional stability as to not accidentally drop the mug, although the dual hole it is not a strict method of construction, as many guksis contain a single hole. Another benefit is the insulative properties of the wood when drinking hot liquids, as one can wrap their hand around the entirety of the mug without discomfort, as opposed to the tendency for ceramic mugs to become heated (hence the necessity of a handle.