Finnish mythology is a commonly applied description of the folklore of Finnish paganism, of which a modern revival is practiced by a small percentage of the Finnish people. It has many features shared with fellow Finnic Estonian mythology and other Uralic mythologies, but also shares some similarities with neighbouring Baltic, Slavic and, to a lesser extent, Norse mythologies.
Finnish mythology survived within an oral tradition of mythical poem-singing and folklore well into the 19th century.
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 circumlocutions: mesikämmen ("mead-paw"), otso ("browed one"), kontio ("dweller of the land"), metsän kultaomena ("the golden apple of the forest") but not a god.
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. Castrén, and D.E.D. Europaeus travelled around Finland writing down folk poetry sung by runo (poem) singers, many of whom were tietäjät (traditional ritual specialists). The genres they collected included material like the synnyt, which give mythical accounts of the origins of many natural phenomena. 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 world was believed to have been formed out of a pochard egg. 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. In Modern Finnish usage, the word lintukoto means an imaginary happy, warm and peaceful paradise-like place.
Birds also had other significance. Birds brought a human's soul to the body 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 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 the shaman had a proper reason, then a boat would come to take them over. Many times a shaman's soul had to trick the guards of Tuonela into believing that they were actually dead.
Ukko ("old man") was a god of the sky, weather, and the crops. 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, Supreme God), 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. 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 and his wife Akka ("old woman") mated, 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.
47171 Lempo , provisional designation 1999 TC36, is a trans-Neptunian object and trinary system from the Kuiper belt, located in the outermost regions of the Solar System. It was discovered on 1 October 1999, by American astronomers Eric Rubenstein and Louis-Gregory Strolger during an observing run at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, United States. Rubenstein was searching images taken by Strolger as part of the Low-Z Supernova Search program. It is classified as a plutino with a 2:3 mean-motion resonance with Neptune, and, currently only being 30.5 AU from the Sun, is among the brighter TNOs. It reached perihelion in July 2015. This minor planet was named after Lempo from Finnish mythology.The trinary system's other two components, Paha and Hiisi , were discovered in 2001 and 2007, respectively, and later named after Lempo's two demon cohorts, Paha and Hiisi.Antero Vipunen
Antero Vipunen is a giant who appears in Finnish mythology and Kalevala folk poetry. He is buried underground and possesses very valuable spells and knowledge.
The god-hero Väinämöinen has a spell with three words or luotes missing. In order to obtain them, he goes to wake up the sleeping Vipunen by pushing sharp stakes into his grave and through his mouth and stomach. Väinämöinen hits Vipunen in the stomach so hard that he gives up the luotes to get rid of the stomach ache.Finnic mythologies
Finnic mythologies are the various mythologies of the Finnic peoples.
Estonian mythologyFinnish flood myth
In the Kalevala rune entitled "Haava" (The Wound, section 8), Väinämöinen attempts a heroic feat that results in a gushing wound, the blood from which covers the entire earth. This deluge is not emphasized in the Kalevala version redacted by Elias Lönnrot, but the global quality of the flood is evident in original variants of the rune. In one variant collected in Northern Ostrobothnia in 1803/04, the rune tells:
The blood came forth like a flood
the gore ran like a river:
there was no hummock
and no high mountain
that was not flooded
all from Väinämöinen's toe
from the holy hero's knee.Matti Kuusi notes in his analysis that the rune's motifs of constructing a boat, a wound, and a flood have parallels with flood myths from around the world. There are sources that cite this flood mythology to the nature of Kalevala as a comparative mythology, which borrowed elements from stories found in other ancient sources such as the Persians, Phoenicians, the Bible and the Greek mythology, then integrated it with the myth's personification of nature. The account of the great flood was embedded in a narrative that also featured the Greek sun-myths and moon-myths. These influences are not found in the myths of Finland's Slavic and Scandinavian neighbors. However, a theory explained this aspect to Finnish myth as a relic of the earliest Asiatic life of one of the Finnish ancestors, the Ugrian tribes.
According to Anna-Leena Siikala, Väinämöinen's legs are of mythological and cosmogonic significance throughout Finnish mythology. For example, it is originally on Väinämöinen's knee that the primordial water-fowl first lays the world egg.Ilmarinen
Ilmarinen, the Eternal Hammerer, blacksmith and inventor in the Kalevala, is a god and archetypal artificer from Finnish mythology. He is immortal and capable of creating practically anything, but is portrayed as being 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. His usual epithet in the Kalevala is seppo, a poetic word for "smith". and the source of the given name Seppo.Joulupukki
Joulupukki is a Finnish Christmas figure. The name "Joulupukki" literally means "Christmas goat" or "Yule Goat" in Finnish; the word pukki comes from the Teutonic root bock, which is a cognate of the English "buck", and means "billy-goat". An old Scandinavian custom, the figure is now being eventually conflated with Santa Claus.Kyöpelinvuori
Kyöpelinvuori (Finnish from kyöpeli = obsolete word for ghost and vuori = mountain), in Finnish mythology, is the place which dead women haunt. It is rumoured that virgins who die young gather there after their death at the start of their afterlife. It corresponds to Blockula (in modern Swedish Blåkulla) of Swedish mythology.
Kyöpelinvuori is also well known in Finland due to Easter: it is said to be the ancient home of mountain witches who fly on brooms with black cats. The witches leave the area only during Easter in order to spook children. These witches have also been humorously referred to be spinsters who will end up there in order to escape from the "old maid" tax.
According to the National Land Survey of Finland, there is a total number of 32 Kyöpelinvuori hills in Finland.Lalli
Lalli is an apocryphal character from Finnish history. According to the legend, he killed Bishop Henry on the ice of lake Köyliönjärvi in Finland on January 20, 1156.Lemminkäinen
Lemminkäinen (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈlemːiŋˌkæinen]) or Lemminki (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈlemːiŋki]) is a prominent figure in Finnish mythology. He is one of the Heroes of the Kalevala, where his character is a composite of several separate heroes of oral poetry. He is usually depicted as young and good-looking, with wavy red 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 while she succeeds in remaking his body, his 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 a common origin.List of hunting deities
A hunting deity is a god or goddess in mythology associated with the hunting of animals and the skills and equipment involved. They are a common feature of polytheistic religions.Menninkäinen
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. Menninkäinen 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.
Menninkäinen are mentioned in the Milo Murphy's Law episode "Star Struck", in which Tobias Trollhammer believes Milo Murphy to be a menninkäinen.Näkki
In Finnish mythology, a Näkki (Estonian: Näkk) is a Neck, a shapeshifting water spirit who usually appears in human form, that resides in murky pools, wells, docks, piers and under bridges that cross rivers.
They are 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 practices.
According to Nordic mythology, during Midsummer's night, Näkki rises from the water to dance in the middle of the celebrating people.
It is also said that although Näkki is very beautiful from the front, their 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, which are only ways to lure their unwary prey to the water. Näkki is also called Vetehinen or Vesihiisi (water fey, see Hiisi).Pohjola
Pohjola (Finnish pohja 'base, bottom', but used in derived forms like pohjois- to mean 'north' + -la 'place'), sometimes just Pohja, is a location in Finnish mythology. It is one of the two main polarities in the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, along with Kalevala or Väinölä.Rauni (deity)
Rauni is a name for a being in Finnish mythology. The exact role and identity of Rauni is debated, and theories range from Rauni having been a mother goddess and consort of Ukko to being identified with Ukko himself.Sampo
In Finnish mythology, the Sampo or Sammas was a magical artifact of indeterminate type constructed by Ilmarinen that brought riches and good fortune to its holder. When the Sampo was stolen, it is said that Ilmarinen's homeland fell upon hard times and he sent an expedition to retrieve it, but in the ensuing battle it was smashed and lost at sea.Sampsa Pellervoinen
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 Lönnrot 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.Surma (Finnish mythology)
Surma is a character in the Finnish folklore 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 people 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 Finnish verb 'surmata', to kill or to slay, is derived from it.Tuonela
Tuonela is the realm of the dead or the Underworld in Finnish mythology. Tuonela, Tuoni, Manala and Mana are used synonymously. In Estonian mythology, it is called Toonela or Manala.
According to traditional Finnish religion, the fate of good and bad people is the same and the dead wander the afterlife as shadow-like ghosts. Tuoni and his wife Tuonetar are the rulers of Tuonela. At times living people visited Tuonela to gather information and spells. The trip there required weeks of trekking in a desert, and finally the crossing of the river with the help of a ferryman (similar to Charon in Greek mythology). Shamans could visit Tuonela by falling into a trance and tricking the guards.
Tuonela is best known for its appearance in the Finnish national epic Kalevala. In the 16th song of Kalevala, Väinämöinen, a shamanistic hero, travels to Tuonela to seek the knowledge of the dead. On the journey, he meets the ferryman, a woman, Tuonen tytti, or Tuonen piika (Death's maid), who takes him over the river of Tuoni. On the isle of Tuoni, however, he is not given the spells that he was looking for and he barely manages to escape the place by turning into a snake. After his return, he curses anyone trying to enter the place alive.
Tuonela is used as the translation for the Greek word ᾍδης (Hades) in Finnish translations of the Bible. In Finnish Christianity it is often interpreted as the place of the dead before the Last Judgement.Tuonetar
Tuonetar (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈtuɔnetɑr]) is the Queen of the Underworld in Finnish mythology.
Tuonetar is the wife of Tuoni, with whom she rules over the Underworld Tuonela.
In the 16th song of Kalevala, Väinämöinen arrives in their kingdom. Tuonetar is delighted to offer him a golden goblet of beer, but when he looks closer he can see it is really a black poison made of frog spawn, young poisonous snakes, lizards, adders, and worms. If a person drinks the brew, known as the beer of oblivion, they forget they ever existed and are unable to return to the land of the living, for only Tuonetar and Tuoni's children were allowed to leave Tuonela.When Väinämöinen asks Tuonetar to reveal the three magic words he is seeking she refuses and vows that he will never leave Tuonela alive. She then puts him to sleep with her magic wand and has her three-fingered son weave a thousand nets of iron and copper to catch him if he tries to escape down the river of Tuoni. Väinämöinen succeeds in escaping by turning into a serpent and swimming through the nets, and when he returns to Kalevala he warns people never to sin lest they end up in Tuonela.
Tuonetar is recognized as the Virgin of Death and the goddess of the subterranean worlds. She is the mother of Kipu-Tyttö, Kivutar, Vammatar, Kalma, and Loviatar, as well as numerous plagues, diseases, demons, and monsters.
Mythology of Europe
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