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Ancestors, gods and guardian spirits Tiina Airaksinen Introduction Beliefs in gods and spirits, as well as the religious beliefs, myths and rites in general, are connected to matters that are significant and essential to the society. Considering the weather conditions in Finland1, securing of the sources of livelihood have been of great importance. However the differences between the eastern and western cultural areas are to be noticed. By following the development of the worldview on cultural areas and eras it is possible to achieve knownledge about the conditions the society has lived in. We can see the objects of special attention for which people have asked protection from the gods and spirits. What have the Finns worshipped? It is possible to make a rough division into two categories: first the ancestors and second the guardian spirits. Before focusing on these subjects, we will discuss the worldview on different cultural areas and eras. Here we can see that the ancestors and guardian spirits (including ´gods´) were a part of an everyday life. We will see how the cult of the dead was formed and what kind of rituals there were. After having talked about the guardian spirits in Finnish mythology in general we will take a look at Mikael Agricola’s list of Finnish pagan gods. In this list, written in 1551, Agricola describes 12 eastern and 12 western “gods”. We will discuss this division and take a closer look at some of these supranormal beings. The concept of ‘god’ appears to be somewhat problematic in the Finnish religiohistorical context. When talking about Finnish folk religion, the concept of god does not refer to a supreme being or celestial divinity. There is no such hierarchy in Finnish folk religion. In this chapter the concept of ´god´ refers to both the guardian spirits and the deceased. Both the spirits and the deceased are respected, feared and honored in order to secure the well-being of the family or society. When Mikael Agricola writes about the eastern and western gods, he actually writes about various kinds of guardian spirits, both cultural and natural; patrons of various economic activities; heroes and belief beings. Often these ´gods´ have received their names from the object their guard.
In this article Finland means the area that besides the present state of Finland includes Ingria, South Karelia, Ladoga Karelia, Olonets, Dvina (Archangel Karelia) and the Finnish settlements in Sweden (Västerbotten), Norway (Finnmark) and Murmansk (Kola Peninsula). Sarmela 1994.
Nature and environmental condition as a basis for worldview
Worldview and religion Worldview and religion explain the reality the people live in. They are a part of their culture which includes also other immaterial and material elements, such as the means of livelihood, the economy, the social structures and the life cycle. By worldview we mean people’s thoughts about “himself, his lifecycle and happiness, about death and life after death, concepts of natural and supernatural, thoughts about the society and its relations with nature, the universe and its structures and forces” (Hyry et al. 1995, 14). When talking about worldview, some of the most important questions are: What was the world of an ancient Finn like? What was his way of living, feeling and experiencing? How did he see the world and its elements and what was his place in this world and what were his relations to other people, nature, time and place? (E.g. Pentikäinen 1995, 28–32). The folk beliefs mediate us the prior concepts and questions concerning the worldview. In folk beliefs the focus is on living and experiencing people, not on doctrines and sacred writings. The folk beliefs, as well as the whole culture, have formed among the people due to the geographic and historic environment and are an inseparable part of their lives. It could be defined as a way of living, experiencing and feeling. “Folk belief can be characterized as a mother tongue, a worldview, a learned way of surviving. It has transferred from generation to generation talked, sang and acted, first orally, later also written” (Hyry et al. 1995, 11). The folk beliefs did not only give answers to the ultimate questions of life and death, the questions of the sacred, holy and profane. But more, it showed the idea of balance between people and universe and the togetherness of everything (Pentikäinen 1983; 1987c; Sarmela 1994, 14).
Environmental and cultural surroundings The northern hunting peoples have lived in harsh environmental conditions. Winter is long, the weather is quite calm most of the year. Much of the life and daily routines concerned survival in nature. The religious systems and beliefs concerned the matters that are the most important to the
group – in this case the survival in the harsh nature and the gathering of food and the hunting of the animals. It was the surrounding nature that defined the means of livelihood and survival. Most Finns lived in hunting, fishing and gathering cultures which later were combined with first slash and burn cultivating and later cultivating the fields. In order to ensure living in these environmental conditions all possible ways of using nature and its products were used within the natural limits and conditions. The harmony and balance between human beings and nature was the basis for everything when the goal was to stay alive. Nature defined the sources of livelihood, the way of life and the culture including religion and beliefs (about the ecological approach to religion see e.g. Hultkrantz 1966, 137–138; Laitila 1987, 181–183; Pentikäinen 1995; Sarmela 1994, 14).
Cultural areas In Finland some places were more suitable for hunting whereas other areas had better soil for cultivation. These environmental conditions were the most significant reasons that led to regional differences. The counterparts were the inland hunting societies and the coastal cultivating villages and later the eastern slash and burn culture (which began during the second millenium AD) and the western farmer and peasant culture (which began during the first millenium BC). Besides the sources of livelihood these differences concern the whole culture including the worldview and reactions towards natural and cultural environment, the whole world and life cycle. The differences were so significant that it is possible to talk about different cultural areas or religions, by this I mean the culture and religion of the eastern hunters and the western farmers . In the structures of the Finnish worldview, in the way of life as well as in the language and religion we can see the effects and influences of surrounding cultures. Christianity was the most powerful element to change the worldview of the Finns. It is to be noticed that it was different in eastern and western parts of the country. To the western parts Christianity spread as Catholic faith (and later the protestant Reformation) but to the eastern parts as Orthodox faith from Russia. The Christian way of life was adopted more quickly in the western parts where the village community was more organized than in the eastern parts of the country where people still lived in smaller communities and extended families (cultural areas, see e.g. Talve 1997; Sarmela 1994; Virtanen 1988, 63–65; Hyry et al. 1995).
Cultural eras Historically we can define certain archeological periods2 but beside these, we can also define tradition or cultural eras, which are defined on the basis on significant changes especially in the sources of livelihood. The whole worldview alters when the basic elements of life and livelihood alter. Finnish culture can be divided into three major tradition or cultural eras. First is the northern hunting era, which changed into the second period, the slash and burn culture during the second millenium BC The third period is the agricultural village culture from the times of the class society in the 17th century (cultaral eras, see e.g. Sarmela 1994).
Worldview of the hunting society The first Finns were hunters and woodcraftsmen.3 The livelihood was made by fishing, hunting and gathering the products of nature. The hunting society was completely dependent on nature and its maintenance and renewal. The most central idea was the cycle and renewal of everything. In nature spring came after winter, day after night, the prey the hunter killed was replaced by a new animal (see Airaksinen 2001, 96–99 for the returning of the bear). In the community of people birth followed death. The whole universe operated in cycles (Pentikäinen 1983; 1995; Sarmela 1994). Animals, the bear, the elk, the beaver and the seal and numerous smaller animals were of great importance for the hunting societies. Their survival was dependent on these animals. Researchers have found a lot of animal figures in rock paintings by the places of worship and animal bones by the places of sacrifice. The hunting people thought they were equal with animals, they also believed the animals to have a soul. The universe was arranged according to the fauna. Each animal species had an owner or the guardian spirit of its own. One of these was seen to rule over the animal community or the cosmos. The bear was often referred to as the king of the forest (Haavio 1967; Hultkrantz 1987b; Sarmela 1994; Pentikäinen 1983; 1987; Talve 1997, 72–74). The Finnish word for the forest, metsä, first ment something that is faraway, an edge, a border (Kulonen et al. 1995, 163). Metsä was a kingdom with its own laws and forces. Everytime a
The stone age, the bronze age, the iron age, the viking and crusade age, the middle age and the age of class society. The first people lived in Finland right after the ice age (about 10 000 B.C.). Anyhow the first archeologic cultural layer covering the whole area is the typical comb ceramic culture at 3300–2500 B.C. (Huurre 1979; Suomen historia 1984– 1985).
hunter entered the forest he was an interloper or an intruder on someone else’s territory. The animation of nature was one of the central ideas. This means that everyplace and everything, animals, plants and rocks were believed to possess a spirit and a character of its own and therefore must be addressed properly. The hunters asked the forest spirits for permission to enter the forest. There were certain rituals for crossing this border. Through the spirits men were in contact with the forest and by honoring them they ensured that the forest was not hurt by any actions. Beside the best hunting places the hunter also had to know about the beings that ruled over the forest and its inhabitants (Hultkrantz 1987b; Krohn 1914, 68–85; Sarmela 1994, 17–21; Pentikäinen 1983; 1995; Hyry et al. 1995). The spirits of natural areas (see chapter “Spirits” in this article) had many names and forms. They took care of the trees and the animals. A lot of stories have been collected for example about the owner of the bear who fed the animal during hibernation and who was also believed to tell the bear about the death it will meet. “In their own territory and among their own species the spirits were guardians of the invisible border between human and nature. The success of people was also dependent on the propitiousness of the spirits.” (Sarmela 1994, 158). When men were in the forest the spirits told them about dangers. It was said to be safe to spend the night in the forest because if there was any threat or danger the spirits would wake up the men and tell about the danger. The spirits also led the men to good hunting places or showed the way for example to the place where the bear was hibernating. If the spirits were angry for some reason they could also cause damage to the hunters (Sarmela 1994, 158–165, 17–20. About the owner of the bear see “The bear cult” – article in this book by the author). As a conclusion of the worldview of the hunting society it can be said that in the religious tradition of the hunting society it was important that the relations to guardian spirits and owners of animals and places were good. The existence and happiness of the community was dependent on these relations. By special attention towards the spirits the hunters aimed at ensuring the renewal and the cycle of nature, animals and people. The aim was the balance between the microcosmos of people and the macrocosmos of nature.
Worldview of the slash and burn society The cultural differences became more profound when cultivating and cattle breeding began 2000– 1500 BC on the coastal area. Permanent inhabiting spread east from central parts of Finland and the
large hunting areas reached the hills of Eastern Finland. There were neither fields nor soil for cultivating but the hunters developed very complicated methods of slash and burn cultivation during the 14th–17th centuries. Besides hunting this form of life became a major source of livelihood and lasted in Savo–Karelia until the 19th century. From then on private owning of the forest and sawmills displaced the slash and burn way of life (Sirelius 1989; 238–254; Sarmela 1994, 21–31; Talve 1997, 52–55; Vilkuna 1948; Suomen historia 1984–1985). When the sources of livelihood changed the worldview and religious thinking changed, too The hunters’ view of the world did not give answers to everyday demands and needs of the slash and burn society the same way it had in the society of hunters. For example the before so mythical and honored bear became an enemy and a competitor who would ruin and steel the grain and the cattle. The mythical ancestor became an animal of harm and destruction (Klemettinen 1999; Airaksinen 2001). The slash and burn society had very different view and way of life from the hunting society. Before the survival and sources of livelihood were dependent on animals and hunting. Now it was more dependent on the crops of cultivating and harvest and especially the weather conditions. Previously people were constantly wandering, they had separate winter and summer villages, but now permanent inhabiting increased. The area where they moved around diminished. When they looked at the world from their home ridge, the world seemed to be divided into their own territories and those of the others. The environment they lived in contained more strange and unsecure elements. During this cultural era certain rites and magic to protect the livelihood were born. “In order to feel safe people had to believe that they were in control of their surroundings and that they were able to reject the outside competitors that threatened their habitat, work and share of nature” (Sarmela 1994, 30). When dwellings stabilized the meaning of the society became more important. People were dependent on each other but the family remained the most important institution of the slash and burn society. Large families formed autonomic, self–sustaining units in which men, women, children and the elderly had their own tasks. The most important tasks for women were the life cycle rites from birth to death (about the social institutions see e.g. Talve 1997, 170–182).
— Deadcult An important matter in the eastern slash and burn society was the deadcult. Remembering and
honoring the dead ones of the society gave a feeling of continuance. Death was seen as a natural part of the life cycle, the continuum. The idea of life continuing after death proceeded the deadcult. Life after death was believed to be similar to life on earth, with normal activities, dwellings, clothes and food. When the body was buried food and objects, such as weapons and tools the deceased had used, were buried with the body. In Paanajärvi village, in Dvina (Archangel Karelia) a Karelian wife told me that nowadays only the glasses and dentures are buried with the body (Airaksinen 2002, 8). In Jyskyjärvi village a Karelian wife described how the body was dressed in his best clothes, soft footwear was important, too (Ahopalo 2001–2002). It was believed that the deceased affected the society. Uno Harva writes about the social role of the ancestors. In this quote the dual function of the deceased can be seen. On one hand they protected the family but on the other hand they could also punish. There are countless examples to prove that those who had passed on into the underworld played a particularly important role in the beliefs of the ancient Finns. The object of worship proper was not however the dead person himself but all the dead of each individual family, whose descendants were entrusted with the sacred duty of continuing their work and fulfilling their wishes. This custom lay at the base of the ancient Finnish community. The dead ones were the guardians of morals, the judges of custom and they maintained the order of society. In this respect not even the god of the upper region could compete with them. (Harva 1948, 510–511. Translation by Pentikäinen (http://virtual.finland.fi/info/english/muinueng.html). It was important to show respect to the deceased, e.g. by taking food to the graves. Mikael Agricola writes about the deadcult and the continuous caretaking of the dead in 1551: “They took food to the graves of the dead and wailed, cried and wept there” (“Cooludhen hautijn Rooca wietin joissa walitin parghutin ja idketin”. Translation by the author). The close relations between the dead and alive can be seen here. The graveyard was a village of the dead and it was also a place for the dead and alive to meet. It was a place to communicate. On my journey to Karelia in June– July 2002 I saw men drinking vodka in the graveyard around one grave. They were sitting and chatting there as though the deceased was accompanying them (Airaksinen 2002, 5). An old man in Paanajärvi–village told me that after coming home from the graveyard the family eats and talks about the deceased, his life and deeds as though he himself was present (Airaksinen 2002, 10). The responsibility of the living was to take care of the deceased and reciprocally the dead ones would protect the life and actions of their kin. If this caretaking was neglected, the ancestors were believed to punish the neglectors. These punishments were seen as different kinds of accidents, for example a death of a household animal. In case of neglection, the family arranged a ritual in order to
compensate for the deceased (Krohn 1914, 40–58; Harva 1948, 502–503; Pentikäinen et al. 1987, 45–49; Sarmela 1994, 29, 47–48, 56–60; Talve 1997, 201–206; Virtanen 1988, 271; Ahopalo 2001– 2002). The family was formed out of all its members, whether they were dead or alive. The end of physical life was not a turning point where a person would cease to be a member of a family. Rather it was a gradual transfer from this life to the honored community of the dead ones. The soul was believed to live for six weeks in between the society of the living and the dead. The purpose of the rituals during this period was to guarantee a place for the soul in the community of both the living and the dead (Krohn 1914, 40–58; Harva 1948, 488–490; Haavio 1967; Pentikäinen 1969, 95–96; Pentikäinen 1987c, 40–41; Pentikäinen et al. 1987, 48).
— Rituals for the deceased In the eastern parts of Finland the deceased were remembered on certain days after death. The Orthodox church adopted to this family centered thinking, and the cult of the ancestors became a part of the Christian tradition.4 These traditions are still living among the Orthodox people in Dvina (Archangel Karelia) and Olinets. The family has remembering days for the deceased three, nine and fourty days and one year after the death. The most important of these is kuusviikkoiset or kuusn’etäliset, “the sixweek festival”, held fourty days after death. The feast takes place in the house of the deceased. For this feast the house is cleansed and food and beer is prepared. The whole family and friends gather together for visiting the grave of the deceased. Before they took some liquor and food to the graves and asked the deceased to join the feast, to be a part of the togetherness of the family. They ate the feast meal in the graveyard. Nowadays it is more common to have the feast in the house of the deceased. In the table a seat is reserved for the deceased and some food is left untouched. In these feasts the deceased and also all the other ancestors, their lives and deeds are remembered (Krohn 1914, 47–51; Harva 1948, 503–507; Sarmela 1994, 47, 56–60; Pentikäinen 1983; Airaksinen 2002; Ahopalo 2001–2002). The family has the last private rituals for the deceased after one year of death. After that he becomes a part of the honored community of the dead ones and is remembered on certain remembering days during the year (Sarmela 1994, 57–60; Airaksinen 2002; Ahopalo 2001–2002;
Krohn 1914; 47–51; Harva 1948, 503–507).
Worldview of the agricultural society In the western parts of country people inhabited the riversides and passages. The neighbors at the riverside knew each other and formed communities. People had to co–operate and be in touch with each other. There had to be moral codes, agreements and inner control there in order the community to succeed. The self-sufficient local communities were dependent on the production of their fields. The risks of environment and natural conditions were to be minimized. Also good conditions of growth were to be improved. The farmer had to rule over his environment, nature and its conditions. The more he worked, the better he succeeded. By developing grain and animals for his own use, he was able to increase the security of his community and enable the growth of the population. The cultivating society also protected the production by rites of fertility (Sarmela 1994, 31–37; Talve 1997, 56–72). The center of the worldview of an agricultural society was their own village. The outside world was the nature with its unexpected forces. The farmer had to be able to anticipate and know the natural conditions and to minimize the threats and negative impacts. The beliefs concentrated on their own environment – the village, the house, the family. They had numerous stories of guardian spirits of home, sauna, mill, cattle shed etc. These guardian spirits were believed to take care of the house, its inhabitants and their work. They were also guardians of moral and proper behavior. Where the family in the east honored the ancestors by giving them food and treating them with respect, the people in the west honored the guardian spirits the same way. It was also believed that if the spirits were neglected they would cause damage. The spirits were given regular offerings according to the cycle of the year. This formed into the cult of the guardian spirits which after the christianization was combined with and slowly transformed into the cult of the Catholic saints (Sarmela 1994, 32–34, 158–163; Virtanen 1988, 274–276; Talve 1997, 32–33; Haavio 1959a; Sirelius 1989, 254–264). The aim for the agricultural society was as good a production as possible. That is why they had to maintain certain order and rituals in their lives. The community transferred their knowledge of nature into calendar tradition, which determined the life cycle. The calendar contained
In western parts the Lutheran church forbid the deadcult. Only some remnants have remained in burial customs.
instructions, schedules and restrictions for cultivation and harvest. Also the social life was arranged by this calendar which was based on the cycle and renewal of nature (Haavio 1959a; Hyry et al. 1995, 23–25).
The spirits, in Finnish called haltijat, are “supernatural inhabitants of certain place and protectors of living creatures. They live in an invisible environment but can show themselves to people and appear in this reality” (Sarmela 1994, 158). These spirits guard the invisible borders between human and nature in their own territory. In general the guardian spirits can be classified as two types: The spirits of natural areas and the spirits of cultural areas (the division of Finnish guardian spirits by Sarmela (1994, 158–165); see also Virtanen 1988, 274–276). The spirits of natural areas are supernatural inhabitants of lakes and forests or supernatural owners of animal species. There are only a few narratives of these spirits. More than that they concern beliefs and codes of behavior, such as asking permission when entering certain areas. Natural spirits are more characteristic of Eastern Finland culture. The spirits of cultural areas live in surroundings built by people, for example houses, sheds, mills and saunas. They are surrounded with rich narratives with a plot and are more characteristic of the western culture (Sarmela 1994, 158–165). In the eastern cultural area only some far–away buildings in hunting areas were believed to possess a guardian spirit. If one was to build a hunting hut one first had to ask for a permission from the spirit of the area or place. The spirits of nature in Eastern Finland were typical to an old hunting–culture. For example the forest, metsä, was seen as someone else’s territory. When entering the forest the hunters had to ask the spirit for a permission to enter the forest. When the men killed an animal they left an offering to the owner of the animal (see e.g. Airaksinen 2001). The appearance of the eastern spirits of nature varied. They were often believed to appear in a shape of some animal. Some spirits were given names, others were just called by their power. Usually these spirits did not have much to do with the everyday lives of people when not hunting. In the western parts of the country the spirits were mostly spirits of cultural areas and
were attached often to dwelling sites. The western house-spirit, tonttu, was believed to look like a human being. Spirits helped people with their household work, for example the spirit of a cattle shed took care of the animals. Their actions were seen to be in connection with the well-being of the household and the family. Where owners of the animals were left offerings when an animal was killed, spirits of cultural areas were given regular offerings, food and sauna. The western spirits had three different roles: they acted as owners of places, as guardians of proper behavior and as guardians of happiness. One explanation for the spirit beliefs to have been so strong can be explained by their function: the spirits defined and strengthened the social values and moral norms of the society. The church, however, forbid the cult of the spirits. “The specification of the roles and the allocation of the fields of responsibility attributed to the spirits was continued in the Catholic calendar of the saints. As patrons of various economic activities the saints entered into the former system of guardian spirits” (quote from Pentikäinen (http://). Sarmela 1994, 158–165, 30–34; Virtanen 274–276).
Mikael Agricola (1510–1557) and the list of the Finnish “gods” Mikael Agricola is known as the most important figure in the Finnish Reformation and also as the father of Finnish literature, the father of written Finnish language and the father of Finnish religious history. The first written source concerning Finnish folk belief is written by Agricola.5 He translated 150 psalms of David in 1551. In this book he wrote a prologue which contained a list of eastern and western pagan gods. This list was not actually a research but Agricola rather wanted to polemicize against the pagan considerations. Agricola tells how people continue to worship these pagan gods both in public and secretly even in the Christian times, despite the doctrines of the pope (Heininen). In Agricola’s list there are 12 western and 12 eastern gods. The Finns have never had an Olympus of 12 gods but the number 12 is, nevertheless, not a coincidence. In Classic mythologies there is a system of 12 gods and Agricola wanted to create similar system for the Finns. Agricola names altogether original 23 characters in his list of gods. When listing the western gods Agricola added Devil as one of the 12 in order to complete the demanded number. Agricola also wanted to write the list in verse. When putting emphasis on the metre Agricola was forced to give the gods functions that did not necessarily describe the characteristics of the god but suited the
Agricola´s list was not unique in that sense that similar texts and lists were published also in many other countries in the middle of the 16th century together with the Bible translations.
metre well (Heininen; Haavio 1959a; 1967). “Agricola’s list of deities was not only the most important but for two hundred years also the only literary basis for Finnish folk religion. Following Agricola it was 1766 before any new material came to light [...]“ (Pentikäinen (http://)). This is Agricola’s list of the pagan gods of the ancient Finns:6 Many pagan gods were worshipped here before faraway and near. These were bowed in Tawast by both men and women. Tapio gave game from forest Ahti brought fish from lake. Äinemöinen hammered the runes Rahkoi painted black the moon. Lieckiö ruled over the grass and trees and roots and other greens. Ilmarinen made the calm and wind and helped the travellers on their way. Turisas gave victory in war Kratti took care of the goods. Tontu ruled over the room when Devil made the people wild. Caves7 too ate up the moon the sons of Caleva harvested the fields. But these were the pagan gods prayed by the Karelians. Rongoteus gave the rye Pellonpecko made the barley high. Wirancannos took care of oat otherwise there was no oat. Egres gave peas, beans and turnips and grew hemp, flax and cabbage.
Translation by the author. The list of pagan gods of Tawast and Carelia was written by Agricola in 1551 originally in Finnish: “Epejumalat monet tesse muinen palveltin caucan ja lesse. Neite cumarsit Hemelaiset seke Miehet ette Naiset. Tapio Metzest Pydhyxet soi ja Achti wedhest Caloja toi. Äinemöinen wirdhet tacoi Rachkoi Cuun mustaxi jacoi. Lieckiö Rohot jwret ja puudh hallitsi ja sencaltaiset mwdh. Ilmarinen Rauhan ja ilman tei ja Matkamiehet edheswei. Turisas annoi Woiton Sodhast Cratti murhen piti Tavarast. Tontu Honen menon hallitzi quin Piru monda willitzi. Capeet mös heilde Cuun söit Calevanpojat Nijttut ja mwdh löit. Waan Carjalaisten Nämet olit Epejumalat cuin he rucolit. Rongoteus Ruista annoi Pellonpecko Ohran casvon soi. Wirancannos Cauran caitzi mutoin oltin Caurast paitzi. Egres hernet Pawudh Naurit loi Caalit Linat ja Hamput edestoi. Köndös Huchtat ja Pellot teki quin heiden Epeuskons näki. Ja quin Kevekylvö kylvettin silloin ukon malja jootijn. Sihen haetin ukon wacka nin joopui Pica ette Acka. Sijtte paljo Häpie sielle techtin quin seke cwltin ette nechtin. Quin Rauni Ukon Naini härsky jalosti Ukoi pohjasti pärsky. Se sis annoi Ilman ja WdhenTulon käkri se liseis Carjan casvon. Hiisi Metzeleist soi woiton Wedhen Eme wei calat vercon. Nyrckes Oravat annoi Metzast Hittavanin toi Jenexet Pensast.” 7 Cave is the singular form for capeet.
Köndös slashed and burned their fields when he saw their disbelief. When sowing the seed in the spring they drank in honor of Ukko. When they brought a bushel of Ukko the maid and women all got drunk. They performed disgraceful deeds which could both be heard and seen. Rauni, Ukko’s wife quarreled and Ukko thoroughly splashed8 So came the weather and the year. Kekri grew the cattle bigger. Hiisi gave victory over the game Veden Emä brought fish to the net. Nyrckes gave the squirrels in the woods Hittavainen brought the hares from the bush. These listed creatures were not really gods but rather various kinds of guardian spirits, both cultural and natural; heroes and belief beings.
Pagan gods of Tawast Characteristic to the western cultural area are the guardian spirits of cultural areas. In Agricola’s list we can find Tonttu, the guardian spirit of home and Kratti, the guardian spirit of wealth. As we have seen, there was also tonttu, a special guardian spirit for sauna, mill, shed and barn. Tonttu was very humane and in reciprocal communication with the people on whose domain it lived in (Sarmela 1994, 30–34, 158–164; Virtanen 1991, 274–276; Krohn 1914, 94–103; Harva 1948, 320–348). The spirits of natural area in the west were Tapio in the forest and Ahti in the water. “Of all the devine creatures were the forest spirits the most dearest to our fore–fathers [...]. People whose main source of livelihood was hunting, needed of course most the help from the spirits in that area” (Krohn 1869, 44). Tapio was the owner of the game and when hunting the first prey of the season was offered to Tapio, on Tapio’s table, a short and wide spruce in the forest (Haavio 1967, 62–65; Krohn 1914, 107–108; Harva 1948, 349–357). Two of these western creatures are associated with the moon. There are only a few
What Agricola ment by words härsky and pärsky is uncertain. One traditional interpretation of the phrases is that Ukko and Rauni are quarreling (e.g. Harva 1948.). Itkonen et al. (1992, 460) explains that the verb härskätä means “to make noise, to argue, to quarrel” and especially in Agricola´s context “to speak in an insulting manner”. Pärskyä means “to sneeze, to snort, to splash” (Kulonen et al. 1995, 210). There is no concensus even on whether Rauni is Ukko´s spouse
beliefs concerning the sun among the ancient Finns, but the moon, its waxing and waning, appearing and disappearing have been of great interest. Rahko, a belief being who makes the moon vanish, is widely known in Northern Finland. There are narratives about Rahko, a thief. The bright light of the moon disturbs his secret deeds, so he takes a bucket of tar and ladders and climbs up to paint black the moon. The word Rahko has also another meaning, a disease such as tulirahko (i.e. – rokko), scarlet fever or isorahko, smallpox (Kulonen et al. 2000, 37–38; Harva 1948, 152–163). Kave (pl. Kapeet), a mythological creature who ate up the moon is a part of an international myth complex. In these myths often a wolf or a dog is believed to swallow the lights of the skies (Haavio 1967, 216–231; Itkonen et al. 1992, 334; Harva 1948, 164–167). Agricola writes about Lieckiö who rules over the grass and trees. Probably this suited the metre well but the content is false. In narratives Lieckiö is a ghost or a dead being. It is a restless soul of a dead child wailing in the forest, comparable to ihtiriekko in Central Ostrobothnian tradition or eahpáraš (see ch. III: “The restless souls”) in Sami tradition (Kulonen et al. 1995, 69; Krohn 1914, 99–100; Pentikäinen 1995; Harva 1948, 451–462). Äinemöinen, Ilmarinen, Turisas and Kalevanpojat, the sons of Kaleva can be defined as heroes or cultural heroes. Äinemöinen, i.e. Väinämöinen is a mythical hero, a smith, a rune singer, a wiseman. He is the central figure in Kalevala, the national epic of the Finns (Krohn 1914, 316– 343; Kulonen et sl. 2000, 478; Harva 1948, 370–375). The name Ilmarinen is derived from the word ilma, meaning both weather and air, and in some dialects also the sky. He is suggested to be traced to Inmar, the god of the Udmurts. Inmar was a personal god living in the sky. In Finnish folk poetry Ilmarinen appears also as a smith. There is no consensus among the scholars on these questions concerning Ilmarinen’s characteristics (Haavio 1967, 125–147; Krohn 1914, 111–126; Pentikäinen (http://); Itkonen et al. 1992, 225; Harva 1948, 137–151). The sons of Kaleva refer to the well–known narratives of the giants who harvested the fields (Krohn 1914, 304; Itkonen et al. 1992, 283–284). Also Turisas is a giant or a monster. Is he some kind of a water monster or might he be connected to Thor, the war god of ancient Scandinavian tales is vague (Haavio 1967, 102–124; Kulonen et al. 2000, 337; Harva 1948, 389– 390). The 12th creature in the list is Piru, the Devil, who according to Agricola drew people to worship and believe in these pagan gods.
Pagan gods of Karelia
or another (thunder)god (e.g. Harva 1948; Haavio 1959, 79–102).
Of the 12 Karelian gods Hiisi and Veden Emä (Mother of Water) are comparable to the western Tapio and Ahti (Krohn 1914, 103; Harva 1948, 349–354, 375–377). The other ten belong to the Karelian calendar. Agricola’s list of the deities is at the same time a list of important dates of the occupational year. The Karelians have actualized their gods on certain dates in order to make a rhythm to their sources of livelihood, hunting, cattle breeding and agriculture. The gods have specialized on certain fields and they are actualized on certain dates according to that. Individuals can actualize a god by prayers and a group by rites (Haavio 1959a, 284–300). By remembering the highlights of the life of a certain god told in myths, remembering especially his death, an occupant asks help for certain sources of livelihood by prayer. [...] Right now, in an important time for the occupation, the god is actual. The wheel continues to spin, times change, god loses his actuality. This god is actual again when the wheel of the year has spinned, new names, actual at their time, have appeared on the cycle. Like this the year divides into periods (Haavio 1959a, 288). Three of these gods, Ukko, Rauni and Kekri, are of pre–Christian tradition. In Finnish mythology there is no hierarchy of the gods, but in the folk poetry and narratives Ukko is often referred to as the supreme god, a feature that probably represent late tradition with Christian influences. Ukko is best known as a weather god. His name is connected to word ukkonen, thunder and is though connected to an international myth complex of a weather and thunder god. Ukko was the most important deity of the agricultural people. Agricola gives a short description of the fertility rites in order to guarantee good weather conditions and good growth of the grain. Ukon vakat, a feast for Ukko, was a religio-social institution that gave a feeling of togetherness for the community. A lot of descriptions have been gathered of the feast widely around western, southern and eastern Finland (Haavio 1959a, 79–102; Haavio 1967, 148–178; Krohn 1914, 115–126; Harva 1948, 74– 122; Pentikäinen (http://); Kulonen et al. 2000, 369). Ukko can be also said to be a general god to whom people turned to in various situations. In 1789 Kristfrid Ganander wrote about Ukko: ”numerous talents and tasks were addressed to him and he was called for help in all attempts” (Ganander 1995. Haavio 1967, 160). Rather than a spirit or deity Kekri is a feast celebrated at the end of an agricultural and cattle breeding year. Kekri was celebrated on November 1st, until this date the cattle was out on pastures. During this new year’s time was also a division time (jakoaika). The ancestors and the guardian spirits were given their share of the year’s production (Haavio 1959a, 15–78; Itkonen et al. 1992, 339).
Out of the last seven, Rongoteus (Haavio 1959a, 259–272; Krohn 1914, 134, Harva 1948, 221–224), Pellonpekko (Haavio 1959a, 103–127; Harva 1948, 189–208), Virankannos (Haavio 1959a, 245–257; Harva 1948, 225–233), Ägräs (Haavio 1959a, 219–244; Krohn 1914, 136–137; Harva 1948, 209–220) and Köndös (Haavio 1959a, 129–159; Krohn 1914, 137; Harva 1948, 170–177) are the guardian spirits of special variety of grain and Nyrkäs (Haavio 1959a, 181– 218; Krohn 1914, 170–201; Harva 1948, 362–363) and Hittavainen (Haavio 1959a, 161–179; Harva 1948, 363–365) the guardian spirits of certain animal species. They are of Byzantine origin but free from Christian connotations. They were saints of the Christian church year that had lost their original character. The saints entered the former system of guardian spirits as patrons of correspondent elements.
Conclusions In this article we have seen how the ancestors, gods and guardian spirits affected the life of the society. The gods and spirits were turned to in need of protection and in order to guarantee the continuance and renewal of nature and its sources. The spirits in the eastern cultural area were mostly spirits of natural areas. They acted as guardians of places or owners of animals species. The western spirits of cultural areas lived on people’s domain and were believed to help with the household work. The deadcult and honoring and remembering the deceased gave a feeling of continuance. The ancestors protected their kin and were in reciprocal communication with them. The characteristics of the objects worshipped have changed among with the changes in the cultural and environmental surroundings. The most significant are those concerning the sources of livelihood. These changes lead to the differentation of eastern and western cultural areas as well as the cultural eras. Even though the worldview alters some elements are always preserved, elements that have basis on the natural conditions, in the ways of thinking, living and experiencing and surviving that have been learnt from the ancestors. This landscape of mind transfers as a cultural mother tongue and ethos or national character from generation to generation.
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