Finnish mythology is the mythology that went with Finnish paganism which was practised by the Finnish people prior to Christianisation. It has many features shared with fellow Finnic Estonian mythology and its non-Finnic neighbours, the Balts and the Scandinavians. Some of their myths are also distantly related to the myths of other Finno-Ugric speakers like the Samis.
Finnish mythology survived within an oral tradition of mythical poem-singing and folklore well into the 19th century.
Although the gradual influence of surrounding cultures raised the significance of the sky-god in a monolatristic manner, the father god "Ukko" (Old Man) was originally just a nature spirit like all the others. Of the animals, the most sacred was the bear, whose real name was never uttered out loud, lest his kind be unfavorable to the hunting. The bear ("karhu" in Finnish) was seen as the embodiment of the forefathers, and for this reason it was called by many euphemisms: "mesikämmen" ("mead-paw"), "otso" ("wide brow"), "kontio" ("dweller of the land"), "lakkapoika" ("cloudberry boy") but not a god.
Study of Finnish mythological and religious history
The first historical mention of Finnish folk religion was by the bishop and Lutheran reformer Mikael Agricola (1510 - 1555) in the preface to his 1551 Finnish translation of the Psalms. Agricola supplied a list of purported deities of the Häme (in Swedish, Tavastia) and Karjala (Karelia), twelve deities in each region, with their supposed functions briefly set out in verse form. (Some commentators state that only eleven deities were listed for Häme, not counting Agricola's mention of Piru, the Devil.) Due to the lists, Agricola is considered to be the father of the study of Finnish religious history and mythology. Later scholars and students commonly quoted Agricola's lists as a historical source; only in the late eighteenth century did scholars begin to critically evaluate the "gods" in Agricola's lists and the information he presented about them, determining with further research that most of the figures in his lists were not gods, but local guardian spirits, figures from folk mythology or explanatory legends, cultural heroes, Christian saints under alternative names, and, in one case, a harvest-time festival.
Cristfried Ganander's Mythologia Fennica, published in 1789, was the first truly scholarly foray into Finnish mythology. In the 19th century, research into Finnish folklore intensified. Scholars like Elias Lönnrot, J.F. Cajan, M.A. Castren, and D.E.D. Europaeus travelled around Finland writing down folk poetry sung by runo (poem) singers. From this material Lönnrot edited the Kalevala as well as the Kanteletar. The wealth of folk poetry collected in the 19th century often deals with pre-Christian pagan themes, and has allowed scholars to study Finnish mythology in more detail.
The origins and the structure of the world
The world was believed to have been formed out of a waterfowl's egg exploding. The sky was believed to be the upper cover of the egg, alternately it was seen as a tent, which was supported by a column at the north pole, below the north star.
The movement of the stars was explained to be caused by the sky-dome's rotation around the North Star and itself. A great whirl was caused at the north pole by the rotation of column of sky. Through this whirl souls could go to the outside of the world to the land of dead, Tuonela.
Earth was believed to be flat. At the edges of Earth was Lintukoto, "the home of the birds", a warm region in which birds lived during the winter. The Milky Way is called Linnunrata, "the path of the birds", because the birds were believed to move along it to Lintukoto and back.
Birds had also other significance. Birds brought a human's soul to him at the moment of birth, and took it away at the moment of death. In some areas, it was necessary to have a wooden bird-figure nearby to prevent the soul from escaping during sleep. This Sielulintu, "the soul-bird", protected the soul from being lost in the paths of dreams.
Waterfowl are very common in tales, and also in stone paintings and carvings, indicating their great significance in the beliefs of ancient Finns.
Tuonela, the land of the dead
Tuonela was the land of dead. It was an underground home or city for all the dead people, not only the good or the bad ones. It was a dark and lifeless place, where everybody slept forever. Still a brave shaman could travel to Tuonela in trance to ask for the forefathers' guidance. To travel to Tuonela, the soul had to cross the dark river of Tuonela. If he had a proper reason, then a boat would come to take him over. Many times a shaman's soul had to trick the guards of Tuonela into believing that he was actually dead.
Ukko, the God of sky and thunder
Ukko ("old man") was a god of the sky, weather, and the crops. He was also the most significant god in Finnish mythology and the Finnish word for thunder, "ukkonen" (little Ukko) or "ukonilma" (Ukko's weather), is derived from his name. In the Kalevala he is also called "ylijumala" (overgod), as he is the god of things of the sky. He makes all his appearances in myths solely by natural effects when invoked.
Ukko's origins are probably in Baltic Perkons and the older Finnish sky god Ilmarinen. Also Thor is related to Perkons. While Ukko took Ilmarinen's position as the Sky God, Ilmarinen's destiny was to turn into a smith-hero, or the god of the rock. In the epic poetry of the Kalevala, Ilmarinen is credited with forging the stars on the dome of the sky and the magic mill of plenty, the Sampo.
Ukko's weapon was a hammer, axe or sword, by which he struck lightning. While Ukko mated with his wife Akka ("old woman"), there was a thunderstorm. He created thunderstorms also by driving with his chariot in clouds. The original weapon of Ukko was probably the boat-shaped stone-axe of battle axe culture. Ukko's hammer, the Vasara (means merely "hammer"), probably meant originally the same thing as the boat-shaped stone axe. While stone tools were abandoned in the metal ages, the origins of stone-weapons became a mystery. They were believed to be weapons of Ukko, stone-heads of striking lightnings. Shamans collected and held stone-axes because they were believed to hold many powers to heal and to damage.
The viper with the saw-figure on its skin has been seen as a symbol of thunder.
Heroes, gods and spirits
Ahti (or Ahto), god of the depths, giver of fish.
In Finnish mythology, Ahti or Ahto is a heroic character of oral poetic tradition. Sometimes given in folk poetry the epithet of Saarelainen or the Islander, he is described as a fierce sea-going warrior. In the poems, Ahti makes a double vow with his wife Kyllikki, binding him to stay at home and not to engage in raiding, and her to stay faithful (in spite of Ahti being widely regarded by scholars as homosexual). However, Kyllikki breaks their oath, sending Ahti on a voyage with his old war companions. In some versions of the poem, he subsequently falls in combat.
Ahti Saarelainen was one of the heroic figures Elias Lönnrot artificially compounded with the character of Lemmink?inen when writing the Kalevala in the 19th century. The original poems in the Ahti cycle have been dated tentatively to the Iron Age based on their sea-going setting.
Sometimes the name of Ahti is used of a god of the sea and of fishing, portrayed as a man with a handlebar moustache and beard of moss. He is the consort of Vellamo, and they dwell in the undersea palace of Ahtola. He probably possesses some fragments of Sampo, which was broken and then lost at sea after a battle. Also Vetehinen and Iku-Turso live underwater with Ahti.
Popular culture and literature
Finnish Folk metal band Ensiferum has a song on their 2007 album Victory Songs titled Ahti. Lyrically, the song describes a god of the sea. The music video however, is about the hero that falls in combat.
In the 2003 video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic by Canadian developer BioWare the player visits the planet Manaan, the capital of the planet is called Ahto City.
The historical fiction story Lemminkäisen laulu (English: The song of Lemminkäinen) by the Finnish author Juha Ruusuvuori is a modern rendition of the poems concerning Ahti Saarelainen.
Ajatar (sometimes Ajattara), an evil forest spirit.
In Finnish folklore, Ajatar (also spelled Aiatar, Ajattaro or Ajattara) is a spirit known as "Devil of the Woods". It is an evil female spirit that manifests as a snake or dragon. Ajatar is said to be the mother of the devil. She spreads disease and pestilence, any that look at her become ill, and she suckles serpents. Ajatar is related to the Lithuanian Aitvaras and the Estonian ?i, ?ijo or ?ijattar. She is in some ways similar to Babylonian Tiamat, dragon mother of the gods and goddesses.
The word "ajatar" is possibly derived from the verb ajattaa, "make to pursue", of Finnish word ajaa, "to pursue" (also: "to drive").
Akka ("old lady"), female spirit, feminine counterpart of "Ukko"
Akka is traditionally a female spirit in Sámi and Finnish mythology.
In Sámi mythology, the first akka was Maderakka and her daughters were Sarakka, Uksakka and Juksakka. Some S?mi thought they lived under their kota tents.
Worship of akka was common, and took the form of sacrifices, pleas for help and various rituals. Sarakka was thought to be especially helpful for pregnant women, and after a birth, a woman would eat a special porridge dedicated to her.
Yambe-Akka or Jabme-akka is a Sami goddess of the underworld. Her name means 'The Old Woman of the Dead'. Spirits of lost babies are soothed and comforted by her, but all other spirits dwell in sorrow. The land of the dead is said to be a mirror of the land of the living where everything is the opposite. So, the dead are buried with the essentials of living (e.g. knives) and anything that would make their afterlife better.
In Finnish mythology, Akka is the wife of Ukko, and she is the goddess of fertility. As they make love, thunder rolls. She could be seen as the female side of nature, maaemonen, the "mother earth" whom Ukko fertilizes. In Estonian mythology she is known as Maan-Eno.
Äkräs, the god of fertility and the protector of plants, especially the turnip.
Äkräs (also Ägröi, Egres) was the god of fertility in the Finnish mythology. He was also the god of turnip and the protector of beans, peas, cabbage, flax, and hemp. In Karelia he was called Pyhä Äkräs (Holy Äkräs).
Antero Vipunen, deceased giant, protector of deep knowledge and magic.
Antero Vipunen is a giant who figures in Finnish mythology and Kalevala folk poetry. He is buried underground and possesses some very valuable ancient incantations.
The god-hero Väinämöinen has an incantation with three words or luotes missing. In order to get them, he goes to wake up the sleeping Vipunen by putting sharp stakes into his grave or through his mouth to his stomach. Väinämöinen hits Vipunen in the stomach so hard that he gives up, and hands over the words to get rid of stomach-ache.
Hiisi, demon, originally meaning a sacred grove, later a mean goblin.
Hiisis (root: hiisi, plural hiidet) are a kind of tutelary spirits in mythologies of the Baltic Sea area, especially in Finland. In Christian tradition, they are most often considered to be malicious or at least very horrifying. They are found near salient promontories, ominous crevasses, large boulders, potholes, woods, hills, and other awesome geographical features or rough terrain. Originally, the term meant "holy place". In the related Estonian language 'Hiis' still means sacred forest.
The eponymous chief Hiisi is helped by a number of smaller hiisis in the Kalevala. In Poems 13-14, Lemminkäinen pursues the chief Hiisi's elk.
"Hiisi" was also one of the twelve sons of Kaleva, the great king of Kainuu in Kalevala. Those sons were later transformed into twelve constellations in the sky.
Later the original aspect of nature's awesomeness inherent in the hiisis was diminished, and they passed into folklore as purely evil spirits vaguely analogous to trolls. According to this later view, Hiisis were often small in size, on some occasions gigantic. Hiisis could travel in a noisy procession, and attack people who did not give way to them. If somebody left his door open, a Hiisis could come inside and steal something. If you were chased by a Hiisi you should seek safety in a cultivated area. In folklore, it was the cultivated areas which were blessed in contrast to the pagan holiness residing in the awesome and forbidding features of raw nature, and evil hiisi could not step inside areas sanctified by human cultivation.
Pre-historic stone structures and large stone boulders were thought to have been erected by Hiisis or giants. The Finnish term for a Bronze Age cairn grave (consisting of a pile of rocks) is still called a hiidenkiuas, Hiisi's pile of rocks. A giant's kettle is called a hiidenkirnu (literally, a hiisi's churn) in Finnish.
Often, the English "goblin" is translated as "hiisi" in Finnish, due to the numerous similarities between the typical goblin and hiisi. In the Finnish translations of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, where the word "goblin" is a synonym for "Orc", hiisi is used as the translation for "goblin", whereas "orc" is translated as "?rkki".
Iku-Turso, a malevolent sea monster; probably same as Tursas.
Iku-Turso ("the eternal Turso"; also known as Iku-Tursas, Iki-Tursas, Meritursas, Tursas, Turisas among others) is a malevolent sea monster in the Finnish mythology. Nowadays Meritursas means octopus in Finnish, named after Iku-Turso, but originally tursas is an old name for walrus while the more common term is mursu. However, it is more common to see the word Mustekala (lit. "ink fish"), the name of its Subclass Coleoidea in Finnish, for the octopus.
Ilmarinen, the great smith, maker of heaven. Designed the Sampo mill of fortune. Originally a male spirit of air.
Seppo Ilmarinen, the Eternal Hammerer, blacksmith and inventor in the Kalevala, is an archetypal artificer from Finnish mythology. ("Seppo" is a popular boy's name and the Finnish word for smith "seppä" is derived from it, or vice versa.) Immortal, he is capable of creating practically anything, but is portrayed as unlucky in love. He is described as working the known metals of the time, including brass, copper, iron, gold and silver. The great works of Ilmarinen include the crafting of the dome of the sky and the forging of the Sampo.
Other names for Ilmarinen that are found in rune variants include Ilmorinen and Ilmollini. The name Ilmarinen is also close to that of the Udmurt deity Inmar. Originally a sky god credited with creating the sky (ilma means air in Finnish), he is believed to have taken on the qualities of a smith through the Proto-Finnic contact with the Indo-European Balts. He is also directly appealed to for aid in several incantation runes. Insofar as Elias Lönnrot heavily redacted the original runes collected by him and others, it's valuable to differentiate between the Kalevala and the original poems sung by rune singers.
Ilmatar, female spirit of air; the daughter of primeval substance of creative spirit. Mother of Väinämöinen in Kalevala.
The name Ilmatar is derived from the Finnish word ilma, meaning "air," and the suffix -tar, denoting a female spirit. Thus, her name literally means "female air spirit." In the Kalevala she was also occasionally called Luonnotar, which means "female spirit of nature" (Finnish luonto, "nature").
In Kalevala, Ilmatar is portrayed as androgynous with both male and female aspects, though she is primarily female. She was impregnated by the sea and wind and thus became the mother of Väinämöinen.
Kullervo, tragic antihero. Model for Túrin Turambar in Tolkien's Silmarillion.
Kullervo is fairly ordinary in Finnish mythology, in being a naturally talented magician. However, he is the only irredeemably tragic character in Finnish mythology. He showed great potential, but being raised badly, he became an ignorant, implacable, immoral and vengeful man.
The death poem of Kullervo in which he, like Macbeth, interrogates his blade, is famous. Unlike the dagger in Macbeth, Kullervo's sword replies, bursting into song: it affirms that if it gladly participated in his other foul deeds, it would gladly drink of his blood also. This interrogation has been duplicated in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Children of Húrin with Túrin Turambar talking to his black sword, Gurthang, before committing suicide.
Some literary critics have suggested that Kullervo's character is a bitter metaphorical representation of Finland's frequent struggles for independence. This proposal is contested. Certainly Jääkärimarssi (Jäger March), a well-known Finnish military march, contains lines me nousemme kostona Kullervon/soma on sodan kohtalot koittaa (We arise as vengeance of Kullervo/so sweet are the fates of war to undergo).
The story of Kullervo is unique among ancient myths in its realistic depiction of the effects of child abuse. The canto 36 ends in Väinämöinen stating that an abused child will never attain the healthy state of mind even as adult, but will grow up as a very disturbed person.
Kuu, goddess of the Moon.
Kuu was a moon goddess in Finnish mythology. According to the Kalevala, the daughter of the air Ilmatar allowed a teal to lay its egg on her knee as she floated in the abyss. The egg fell and its parts formed the universe: the white of the egg became the moon.
Lemminkäinen (Ahti Saarelainen, Kaukomieli), a brash hero.
Lemminkäinen or Lemminki is a prominent figure in Finnish mythology. He is one of the Heroes of the Kalevala, where his character is a composition of several separate heroes of oral poetry. He is usually depicted as young and good looking, with wavy blonde hair.
The original, mythological Lemminkäinen is a shamanistic figure. In the Kalevala, he has been blended together with epic war-heroes Kaukomieli/Kaukamoinen and Ahti Saarelainen.
In one myth he drowns in the river of Tuonela (the underworld) in trying to capture or kill the black swan that lives there as part of an attempt, as Ilmarinen once made, to win a daughter of Louhi as his wife. In a tale somewhat reminiscent of Isis' search for Osiris, Lemminkäinen's mother searches heaven and earth to find her son. Finally, she learns of his fate and asks Ilmarinen to fashion her a rake of copper with which to dredge her son's body from the river of Tuonela. Thus equipped, she descends into the underworld in search of her son. On the banks of the river of the underworld, she rakes up first Lemminkäinen's tunic and shoes, and then, his maimed and broken body. Unrelenting, she continues her work until every piece of Lemminkäinen's body is recovered. Sewing the parts together and offering prayers to the gods, the mother tries to restore Lemminkäinen to life, but succeeds only in remaking his body, life is still absent. Then, she entreats a bee to ascend to the halls of the over-god Ukko and fetch from there a drop of honey as ointment that would bring Lemminkäinen back to life. Only with such a potent remedy is the hero finally restored.
Lemminkäinen and the Scandinavian Balder have many things in common in their respective myths (for example both are killed by a blind man at the feast of gods or heroes) which has led some researchers to believe they share common origin.
The 2007 album (Silent Waters) of Finnish metal band Amorphis is about the story of Lemminkäinen.
Lempo, originally a fertility spirit, became synonymous with demon in the Christian era.
Lempo is a sort of fiend from Finnish folklore and mythology. Lempo is the personification of love, but not necessarily a good deity. Lempo is usually evil character in Finnish folklore, as love can be capricious, even dangerous, and can take control of a person and lead him to destruction.
The words "lempo" and "hiisi" are also used as very mild swear words in the Finnish language. "Piru" is a slightly stronger swear word.
Lalli, Finn who slew Bishop Henry on the ice of Lake Köyliö, according to a legend.
The story tells that when Lalli returned home one day, his wife Kerttu informed him that the bishop recently visited their house and had departed without paying for his food, drink, or fodder. When Lalli heard of this, he became enraged and left to pursue the bishop. At Bishop Henry's bidding, his entourage fled and hid in a nearby forest, while Lalli decapitated Henry with an axe.
Lalli took the bishop's hat from his decapitated head and cut off the bishop's finger to take his ring. The hat became fused to Lalli's head and when he tried to remove it, it tore his scalp off with it. When Lalli tried to remove the bishop's ring from his finger, it likewise tore his finger off. Afterward, Lalli drowned in the lake Köyliönjärvi. Per the bishop's last wish, his body parts were collected by his servants and transported with oxen. Where the oxen stopped became the site of the first church in Finland.
The legend is enshrined in a famous Finnish folk poem called Henrikin surma ("The Slaying of Henry"). The poem includes such characters as a talking statue of Christ and the lying wife, who falsely accuses Bishop Henry of theft. This negligence was probably seen as criminal at the time of the story's setting, but the poem also presents Lalli as a violent madman. One of the versions of the poem is found in the Kanteletar, a collection of old Finnish folk poetry.
Louhi, the matriarch of Pohjola, hostess of the Underworld.
Louhi is described as a powerful witch with the ability to change shape and weave mighty enchantments. She is also the main opponent of Väinämöinen and his group in the battle for the magical artifact Sampo in the Kalevala. She has a number of beautiful daughters, whom Ilmarinen, Lemminkäinen and other heroes attempt to win in various legends. Louhi, in true fairy tale form, sets them difficult to impossible tasks to perform in order to claim such a prize.
As many mythological creatures and objects are easily conflated and separated in Finnish mythology, Louhi is probably an alter-ego of various other goddesses, notably Loviatar.
Loviatar, the blind daughter of Tuoni and the mother of Nine diseases.
Loviatar, alternative names Loveatar, Lovetar, Lovehetar, Louhetar, Louhiatar, Louhi is a blind daughter of Tuoni, the god of death in Finnish mythology. She was said to be the worst of them all. She was impregnated by wind and gave birth to nine sons, the Nine diseases. In some poems, she also gives birth to a tenth child who is a girl. She is mentioned in the 45th rune of the Kalevala.
Menninkäinen, a fairy spirit, gnome.
In Finnish mythology and lore, a menninkäinen is believed to be a leprechaun-like inhabitant of the forests. Fairy tale depictions often involve riddling, dominance struggles and favors elicited. Menninkäinens were probably originally thought to be spirits of dead people, but folklore about them has changed during time, and they turned to be something else.
In modern usage, the word is usually used to mean goblins, hobgoblins and gnomes. Not all Finnish words for the little folk have an English equivalent, and vice versa, so confusion in the translation of these terms is quite common.
Mielikki, wife of Tapio, the goddess of the forest.
Mielikki is the Finnish goddess of forests and the hunt. She is referred to in various tales as either the wife or the daughter-in-law of Tapio. She is said to have played a central role in the creation of the bear.
In the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic based on Karelian folklore, the hero Lemminkäinen offers her and Tapio prayers, gold and silver so he can catch the Hiisi elk. In another passage, Mielikki is asked to protect cattle grazing in the forest. In a country where the forest was central to providing food through hunting, gathering and cattle grazing, it was thought very important to stay on her good side. She is also offered prayers by those who hunt small game and those who gather mushrooms and berries.
Mielikki is known as a skillful healer who heals the paws of animals who have escaped traps, helps chicks that have fallen from their nests and treats the wounds of wood grouses after their mating displays. She knows well the healing herbs and will also help humans if they know well enough to ask her for it. Her name is derived from the old Finnish word mielu which means luck.
Nyyrikki, the god of hunting, son of Tapio.
Nyyrikki is the Finnish god of the hunt, and son of Tapio. He has been tenuously associated with Nimrod.
Näkki, the fearsome spirit of pools, wells and bridges
In Finnish mythology, a Näkki is a Neck that resides in murky pools, wells, docks, piers and under bridges that cross rivers.
He has been borrowed from Näcken in Scandinavian folklore and is closely related to Russian Vodyanoi.
He is principally known for pulling young children into the depths, if they lean over bridge railings, docks or otherwise look into water surfaces to see their own reflection and touch the water. Näkki is a fine example of a spirit enlisted by parents to guide children away from unsafe practises.
It is also said that although Näkki is very beautiful from the front, his backside is hairy and extremely ugly. Other stories tell that a Näkki is an ugly "fishman" which can at will turn itself into a beautiful woman who either is extremely voluptuous or has three breasts or alternatively into a silvery fish, horse or a hound. Näkki is also called Vetehinen or Vesihiisi (water fey, see Hiisi).
Otso, the spirit of bear (one of many circumlocutory epithets).
In Finnish mythology Otso, Ohto, Kontio, metsän kuningas (the king of the forest), and mesikämmen (honeypaws) are some of the many rarely uttered circumlocutory epithets for the spirit that was never directly named. Generally, the spirit of the bear was referred to as friend, brother, uncle, or forestcousin, or ways were thought up that would bypass the need to refer to the spirit at all, even indirectly.
Some sub-traditions considered the bear to be a relative who had fled the community and been transmogrified by the power of the forest.
If a bear had to be killed, a sacred ritual of Peijainen (which some consider the source of the Odin and Wotan myths) was held, and the bear's spirit in the form of its skull remained in a sacred clearing which was upkept, and people would bring expiatory and tributory gifts to it.
Pekko (or Pellon Pekko), the god of crops, especially barley and brewing.
Peko (Finnish spelling Pekko, Pekka, Pellon Pekko) is an ancient Estonian and Finnish god of crops, especially barley and brewing. In the area of Setumaa, between Estonia and Russia, inhabited by the seto-speaking Setos, the cult of Peko was alive until the 20th century. Today, the Seto people (an ethnic group of Estonians in the south-east of the country) also revere Peko as their national hero and king, the name and figure are widely used as a national symbol.
Perkele, the Devil. Originally a god of thunder, Perkele was demonized with the introduction of the Christian religion. Related to Baltic Perkunas and Norse Thor.
Perkele is the god associated with thunder in Finnish mythology, like Thor of Norse mythology. In modern Finnish perkele is a common swearword
As "Perkele" is the original name for Ukko, it has a history of being used as a curse: a cry for the god for strength. It still is a common curse word in vernacular Finnish. To a Finn, the word entails seriousness and potency that more lightly used curses lack. Also, when the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland held a popular contest to nominate the "most energizing" word in the Finnish language, one of the suggestions was Perkele because "it is the curse word that gave the most strength for the reconstruction of Finland after the wars." However, the popular vote was won by the word "Aurinko", sun.
As Christianity was introduced to Finland, the church started demonizing the Finnish gods. This led to the use of "Perkele" as a translation for "devil" in the Finnish translation of the Bible, thus making the use of the word a sin. Later, in 1992 translation, the word is switched to paholainen.
Pellervo (or Sampsa Pellervoinen), the god of harvest.
Sampsa Pellervoinen is a mythological person from Finnish mythology, who sows all vegetation on earth, all the forests, swamps, meadows, and rock lands too. In the original folk poetry the sowing is done with the help of small pieces of sampo. In the Kalevala, Elias L?nnrot changed the order of things so that the sowing happens before the forging of sampo, in the second poem of the Kalevala during the land's creation. Sampsa is commonly described as a slender youth carrying either a bag or a basket around his neck. He appears as a god of fertility, who has to be ritually awakened every summer.
Karelian folklore has preserved possible earlier versions of Sampsa's awakening, where his character is directly connected to old fertility rites. There are many versions of the awakening of Sampsa poem. In the poem, people look for the awakener of Sampsa, so that he would rise to water the plants and fertilize the fields. There are three girls who try to wake him: winter girl, spring girl, and summer girl. Only the last one is successful. In some versions of these poems he inseminates either his sister or his mother to be able to provide fertility for fields and orchards. Feast of Sampsa has been traditionally held on June 29. (at least in Ingria) in connection with the midsummer festivities.
Kaarle Krohn compared Sampsa to Scandinavian fertility deities Frey and Njord. According to Heikki Kirkinen Sampsa's name could be derived from Saint Sampson the Hospitable, a saint of the Eastern Churches. Raymond Chambers has called attention to the possible connection between Sampsa and Scyld Scefing from the Beowulf.
Piru, spirit, demon.
A piru is a minor evil spirit or demon in Finnish mythology. In folklore, a piru is often featured as a nasty spirit of the forest with which a wise-aleck either wins or loses a battle of wits, giving or receiving a forfeit in return. In many cases, poltergeist and haunting phenomenons are described as "pirus". The Devil is often referred to as proper noun Piru or Pääpiru, the main piru.
"Piru" is also a mild swearword in Finnish.
Surma, the personification of a violent death.
Surma is a character in the Finnish mythology of Kalevala. Surma is a terrible beast, embodies sudden, violent death and guards the gates of the Tuonela to prevent escape. It is often described as being a large dog with a snake-tail and can turn you into stone (with a stare). An often-used Finnish metaphor is surman suuhun "into Surma's mouth", as if the victim was mauled to death by Surma.
Surma also means kill, or specifically a kill and the verb surmata, to kill or to slay, is derived from it.
Tapio, the god of the forest.
Tapio is an East Finnish forest spirit or god, who figured prominently in the Kalevala. Hunters prayed to him before a hunt. His wife is the goddess of the forest, Mielikki. He was the father of Annikki, Tellervo, Nyyrikki (the god of hunting), and Tuulikki. Fitting the Green Man archetype, Tapio has a beard of lichen and eyebrows of moss.
He lends his name in the form of Tapiola to: (a) one of the major urban centres within the city of Espoo, outside of Helsinki; and (b) an unincorporated community in the USA state of Michigan. He also appears in the Nightwish song, Elvenpath, as Tapio, bear king, ruler of the forest.
Jean Sibelius's tone-poem Tapiola (1926) is a depiction of the forest Tapio inhabits.
Tuonetar, name referring to both the mistress and the daughter of Tuoni.
Tuonetar, in Finnish mythology, is the Queen of the Underworld.
She is the wife of Tuoni, with whom she rules over the Underworld, Tuonela. Also, when the dead arrive to their kingdom, they are their kind hosts and are delighted to offer their guests a tankard full of frogs and worms.
She is recognized as the Virgin of Death and the goddess of the subterranean worlds. She is also the mother of Kipu-Tyttö and Loviatar.
Tuoni, the personification of Death.
In Finnish mythology, Tuoni was the god of the Tuonela (Underworld).
Ukko ("old man") the god of the sky and thunder, related to Thor
In Finnish mythology, Ukko, sometimes also Äijä or Äijö (Finnish: male grandparent, old man, also thunder), parallel in Estonian mythology to Uku, is the god of the sky, weather, crops and harvest, and other natural things. The Finnish word for thunder, Ukkonen, is the (rather honourable) diminutive or vocative form of the name Ukko. Ukko is often equated with Perkele, and some hold Perkele to be the original personal name of Ukko with the name Ukko being an euphemism. Ukko is held the most significant god in the Finnish and Estonian mythologies, and as the one who created the spiritess Ilmatar, creator of the world.
In the folk poems and prayers he is also called Ylijumala (English: Overgod), probably in reference to his status as the most highly regarded god and and on the other hand his traditional domain in the heavens. Other names for Ukko include Pitkänen (pitkä, "long"), Isäinen (isä, "father"), Isoinen (iso, archaic form of the above, with modern meaning of "great") and Äijö. Although portrayed active in myth, Ukko makes all his appearances in legend solely by natural phenomena when appealed to.
Vellamo, the wife of Ahti, goddess of the sea, lakes and storms.
In Finnish mythology, Vellamo is the goddess of the sea, the wife of Ahti. The name is derived from the verb velloa, "to rock oneself." She is sometimes described as "cold hearted". Along with Ahti, she dwells in the undersea palace of Ahtola. She is often pictured as a mermaid.
Väinämöinen, the old and wise man, who possessed a potent, magical voice. The central character in Finnish folklore and he is the main character in the Kalevala.
The first mention of Väinämöinen in literature is from a list of Tavastian gods by Mikael Agricola in 1551. He and other writers described Väinämöinen as the god of chants, songs and poetry. In many stories Väinämöinen was the central figure at the birth of the world. The Finnish national epic, Kalevala tells of his birth in the creation story in its opening sections. This myth displays elements of creation from chaos and from a cosmic egg, as well as earth diver creation.
At first there were only primal waters and Sky. But Sky also had a daughter named Ilmatar. One day, seeking a resting place Ilmatar descended to the waters. There she swam and floated for 700 years until she noticed a beautiful bird also searching for a resting place. Ilmatar raised her knee towards the bird so it could land, which it did. The bird then laid six eggs made of gold and one made of iron. As the bird incubated her eggs Ilmatar's knee grew warmer and warmer until finally she was burned by the heat and reacted by jerking her leg. This motion dislodged the eggs, which then fell and shattered in the waters. Land was formed from the lower part of one of the eggshells while sky formed from the top. The egg whites turned into the moon and stars, and the yolk became the sun.
Ilmatar spent another few hundred years floating in the waters, admiring the results of these broken eggs until she could not resist the urge growing inside her to continue creation. Her foot prints became pools for fish and simply by pointing she created contours in the land. In this way she made all that is. Then one day she gave birth to Väinämöinen, the first man, whose father was the sea. Väinämöinen swam off until he found land, but the land was barren so he asked the Great Bear in the sky for help. A boy carrying seeds was sent down to him, and this boy spread flora across the land.
In the 18th century folklore collected by Cristfried Ganander, Väinämöinen is told to be son of Kaleva and thus brother of Ilmarinen.
Table of contents
- Finnish Mythology
- Study of Finnish mythological and religious history
- The origins and the structure of the world
- Tuonela, the land of the dead
- Ukko, the God of sky and thunder
- Heroes, gods and spirits