You are on page 1of 5

Finnish mythology

Finnish mythology consisted of a belief in various indigenous nature spirits and gods,
mixed with the more shamanic influences of the Sami people in the north and the Baltic
and Viking influences from the south and the west.
Elements of Finnish mythology survived within oral tradition of mythical poem-singing
and folklore well into the 18th century.
Although the gradual influence of surrounding cultures raised the significance of the skygod in a monolatristic manner, the father god "Ukko" (Old Man) was originally just a
nature spirit like all the others. The most sacred animal, whose real name was never
uttered out loud, was the bear. The bear was seen as the embodiment of the forefathers,
and for this reason it was called by many euphemisms: "mesikmmen" ("mead-paw"),
"otso" ("wide brow"), "kontio" ("dweller of the land").
The first historical mention of the beliefs of the Finns is by the bishop Mikael Agricola in
his introduction to the Finnish translation of the New Testament in 1551. He describes
many of the gods and spirits of the Tavastians and Karelians. Wider studies into Finnish
mythology were made only in the 18th century by the preacher-ethnologist Lars Leevi
Laestadius in his treatise of Lappish beliefs. The greatest studies were made through
historians in the 19th century recording old rural poetry and folklore, most notably Elias
Lnnrot who compiled the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic.

The origins and the structure of the world


[[image:suomimaailma.jpg|320px|thumb|
Structure of the world, according to Finnish mythology.
A Sky Domes. For example 6
or 9 of them.
B North star
C Column of sky

D {{Kinahmi}}, the
Whirl
E northern region,
{{Pohjola}}
F habitable world

G {{Lintukoto}} at the edge of the


world
H Land of the dead, {{Tuonela}},
probably upside down

]]
The world was believed to have been formed out of a bird'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 underground land of dead,

Tuonela.
Earth was probably 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 was
called Linnunrata, "the path of the birds", because the birds were believed to move along
it to Lintukoto and back. The Milky Way is still called "Linnunrata" in Finnish.
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


The Finnish version of Hades, the land of dead was Tuonela. 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 "ukkonen" (thunder) 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 above. 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. In the epic poetry of the Kalevala,
Ilmarinen is credited with forging 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 stoneweapons 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. There are
stone-carvings which have features of both snakes and lightning bolts.

Heroes, gods and spirits


*Ahti; (or Ahto) god of the depths, giver of fish.
*Ajattara; (sometimes Ajatar) an evil forest spirit.
*Akka; ("old lady") female spirit, feminine counterpart of "Ukko".
*Antero Vipunen; deceased giant, protector of deep knowledge and magic.
*Hiisi; demon, originally meaning a sacred grove. (Can sometimes mean goblin). It is
possible that originally Hiisi was not a demon or a mean goblin but one of the oldest gods
in Finland. In Estonian the word means "giant".
*Ilmarinen; (also "Seppo Ilmarinen") the great smith, maker of heaven. Originally a male
spirit of air. Related to Inmar.
*Ilmatar; female spirit of air; the daughter of primeal substance of creative spirit. Mother
of Vinminen.
*Jumala; generic name for a major deity. Originally the name given by the Finns to the
sky, the sky-god, and the supreme god. Later taivas and Ukko were used as the names for
the sky and the sky-god. The word means god and was later used for the Christian God.
Derived from Jomali, the supreme deity of the Permians. Originates to word jumi,
meaning "eternity".
*Kalevan poika; (son/man of Kaleva) a giant hero who can cut down forests and mow
down huge meadows, identical with Estonian national epic hero Kalevipoeg.
*Kave; ancient god of sky, later the deity of the lunar cycle. Father of Vinminen.
Also Kaleva.
*Kotitonttu; tutelary of the home.
*Kullervo; tragic antihero. Model for Trin Turambar in Tolkien's "Silmarillion".
*Lemminkinen; (Ahti Saarelainen; Kaukomieli) Literally "loverboy", a brash hero.
*Lempo; Originally a fertility spirit, became synonymous with "demon" in the Christian
era.
*Lalli; (Laurentius) Finn who slew Bishop Henry, according to legend.
*Louhi; (also "Loviatar") matriarch of Pohjola, hostess of the Underworld.
*Loviatar; goddess of Death.
*Luonnotar; spirit of nature, feminine creator.
*Maaemo; literally "Earth Mother", see Akka or Louhi.
*Menninkinen; a fairy spirit, gnome.
*Mielikki; wife of Tapio, the goddess of the forest.
*Nyyrikki; god of the hunt, son of Tapio.
*Nkki; fearsome spirit of pools, wells and bridges.
*Otso; the spirit of the bear (one of many circumlocutory epithets).
*Peikko; troll.
*Pekko; (or Pellon Pekko) the god of crops, especially barley and brewing.
*Perkele; the head-demon (later Devil) Originally Perkele was not the Devil but a god of
thunder and can be seen as an earlier form of Ukko. Related to Baltic Perkunas and
Germanic Thor.
*Pellervo; (also "Sampsa Pellervoinen") the god of harvest.

*Pihatonttu; tutelary of the yard.


*Piru; spirit, demon. Probably later loan word related to "spirit".
*Pivtr; the goddess of day.
*Rahko; the Karelian god of time; Rahko tars the moon describes the phases of the moon.
*Surma; literally "(something that) slay(s)" the devouring beast of death, pet of Loviatar.
*Saunatonttu; tutelary of the sauna.
*Tapio; the god of the forest.
*Tellervo; the goddess of the forest, daughter of Tapio and Mielikki.
*Tonttu; generally benign tutelary. Originally, a patron of cultivated land, keeper of lot.
*Tuonetar, (Tuonen tytti) Daughter of the gods of the Underworld.
*Turisas, the Tavastian god of war. Same as Norse mythology Tyr and Germanic
Thurisas.
*Tuulikki, Daughter of Tapio and Mielikki, goddess of animals
*Ukko; the god of the sky and thunder, related to Thor (Estonian Taara).
*Vellamo; wife of Ahti, goddess of the sea and storms.
*Vedenemo; "mother of the waters"; Karelian goddess of water
*Vinminen; the wise man and magic musician.
*grs; the protector of plants, especially the turnip, and the god of wine.

Places
*Kypelinvuori (Raatikko); where women who die as virgins go.
*Tuonela; (also Manala, Pohjola) abode of the dead, Underworld.
*Kalevala
*Pohjola

Animals
* Swan of Tuonela; (Tuonelan joutsen).
* Elk of Hiisi; (Hiiden hirvi).

Artifacts
*The Sampo, a magical artifact that brought good fortune to its holder; nobody knows
exactly what it was supposed to be. (According to Lnnrot's interpretation in the
Kalevala, it was a mill of some sort that made flour, salt, and gold out of thin air.)
*Vinminen's magic kantele which he made from the jaws of a huge pike.
*Vinminen's great sword, which shines like sun and is extraordinarily sharp.

Ahistorical traditions
Saint Urho
It should be noted that no legend of a "St. Urho" exists in the Finnish mythology. He is
supposed to be the holy man who drove away the grasshoppers from Finland using the
incantation "Heinsirkka, heinsirkka, mene tlt hiiteen!" ("Grasshopper,
grasshopper, go from hence to Hell!"), thus saving the Finnish grape crops. (An alternate
version of the legend uses frogs in place of grasshoppers.)
Credit for the creation of St. Urho has been given to Richard Mattson, who worked at

Ketola's Department Store in Virginia, Minnesota. Mattson is credited with conjuring up


the legend of St. Urho in the spring of 1956, but many others have contributed to the
legend since then. The legend in the St. Urho was originated as a joke, copied from the
Irish St. Patrick's Day tradition to give the Finns their very own equivalent of St. Patrick's
Day. It is celebrated today among many Finns, primarily in America, as St. Urho's Day
but is acknowledged as a joke. The selection of the name Urho is likely came from
former Finnish President Urho Kekkonen.
St. Urho's Day is celebrated on March 16 (the day before St. Patrick's Day) every year.
His feast is supposed to be celebrated by wearing the colors Royal Purple and Nile Green.
There are St. Urho fan clubs in Canada and Finland as well as the US. The original statue
of St. Urho is located in Menahga, Minnesota. There is a beer restaurant called St. Urho's
Pub in central Helsinki, Finland