Finnish gods and spirits

Resources and links to information on immortals from various cultures.
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hupsu
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Finnish gods and spirits

Postby hupsu » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:44 pm

FINNISH GODS AND SPIRITS

Introduction

First I'd like to say I'm not an expert on the topic. My interest in Finnish mythology has blossomed within past few years and thus lacks some depth. It is a sad fact that our old beliefs are not tought in school. Only some things through the Kalevala (our national epic) in literature class but it barely scratches the surface. In defence of the school system, our old ways are bits and pieces gathered from oral tradition and retaining knowledge got more difficult with the arrival of Christianity several centuries ago. I will try to give an introduction to our old gods and beliefs.

Finns of the old were known throughout Europe and even down to Arabia as sorcerers and fierce warriors. I'd like to quote "The Golden Bough" by Sir James Frazer:

"Finnish wizards used to sell wind to storm-stayed mariners. The wind was enclosed in three knots; if they undid the first knot, a moderate wind sprang up; if the second, it blew half a gale; if the third, a hurricane."

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Spirit folk

Everything has a spirit. The trees, rocks, wind, the moon. These were called "haltija". They took on many forms. Depending on where they reign, they might appear as a small person, a beautiful young lady, and animal, a ghost and many other things. Every home was thought to have a haltija that took care of the place and people treated them with respect, often giving offerings. It was also customary to ask for permission from haltija if you wanted to build something on a certain area. Especially sacred places were thought to have haltijas. They didn't have stone temples. Instead groves, rocks, meadows, cliffs and many other places in nature became sacred places for worship. Groups of haltija were called "väki" or folk. You'd have lake folk, forest folk, folk of the dead and so on. Not all of them were friendly and making them angry was a bad idea.

The world

The world was believed to have hatched from the egg of a waterfowl. The egg broke to pieces into the primordial sea and became everything. The world was flat and covered with a big dome. A world pole or a world tree held up the dome and acted as a center for the the sky to revolve around. (Birds seem to have importance in other things too. For example the milky way is called "linnunrata" or bird's path.)

The world was divided into three parts: The upper world, the middle world and the underworld or "Tuonela". A world river runs all the way from the upper world down towards the underworld, passing the world of humans and the land of evil, "Pohjola", where it becomes a maelstrom which leads to the underworld.

All who died ended up in Tuonela (underworld) whether they were good or bad. Tuonela was either underground or under water or on an island. If a living person wishes to enter it, he will need to cross the Tuonela river and will need to the aid of the boat woman to do it.

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The soul and death

Soul was made of several parts each of which were a seperate being. There was what you might call the self and a shadow soul or duplicate and for lack of a better word, breath. The soul might leave the body temporarily in case of sickness but could be retrieved. The loss of breath though meant death. After dying it would take a while for them to reach Tuonela and they might visit their family. Their aid could be asked even after they had arrived there.

Gods and mythic heroes

Note: Here are only a few of them. Not a complete list by a long shot.

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Väinämöinen

He was one of the first humans created and the first to step on land. He can be considered godlike if not a god. He was a great "tietäjä" for which the direct translation would be knower. A tietäjä was a healer, singer, storyteller. Sort of like a shaman. Väinämöinen was known for the great spells he did with his singing and his musical talent with the kantele which is a musical instrument. One known tale is when he was challenged to a singing contest (and thus a spell casting contest) by Joukahainen. Väinämöinen was unmatched as he turned the ground under Joukahainen into swamp with his singing and won as Joukahainen sank into it. He is old (born old), very wise and a great healer. He liked to travel by water and so is the god of boats and moving on water. Väinämöinen has also travelled to Tuonela looking for knowledge, fooling the boat woman into thinking he was dead (which she ended figuring out). Väinämöinen has promised to return when he is needed most.

He can teach you much about spell casting, music, poetry and has many stories to tell.

Ilmarinen

God of sky and air. The legendary blacksmith. Brother of Väinämöinen. He crafted the sky, made the aurora borealis, the colors of the dawn and the dusk. He could craft anything. The most famous of his creations is the Sampo which was a machine that could make money, grain and salt. It was meant to be given to Louhi in exchange for her daughter. Ilmarinen has a strong connection to iron and fire and working with your hands.

Those who do handicrafts or wish for the power of the air and sky are wise to seek his counsil.

Lempo

Goddess of fertility, sexuality, passion, love, sacred fire. In a roaring fire you can see a woman with flowing red hair. She received deceased who were cremated and carried them to the afterlife. Also the goddess of female tietäjäs. Animals close to her are cats and red ladybugs. Later she was demonified by Christianity.

Want good luck with love, fertility, farming? She's your lady.

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Ukko

A masculine god of thunder and weather. He strikes down lightning with his axe or hammer (very similar to hammer of Thor). More aggressive in weather than Ilmarinen. Important god for farming as he created rain for the crops. He was feared and respected and lightning strike was thought to be a punishment from him. A previous form of this god is thought to be a thunderbird.

This is a real powerhouse god for those who like lightning and power.

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Tapio

God of the forests. Also called king of the forest. Takes care of forests and creates them. His beard is made of lichen, eyebrows out of moss and hair out of pine needles. Hunters prayed to him for good luck in hunting.

Hunters and gatherers in forest are sure to help their trip with a prayer to Tapio.

Mielikki

Goddess of the forest, wife of Tapio. She's a healer and takes care of the animals of the forest. She also cleans it and makes it pretty. She knows the healing plants and can help those in need. Sometimes she wears her husband's clothes so if you see an old person looking for berries in the forest, it could just be Mielikki.

If you're gathering berries or mushrooms or hunting, a prayer to Mielikki (or Tapio) will help you on your way. Also good idea for those looking for healing plants.


ADDING MORE GODS A BIT LATER. TOO TIRED NOW. :snore:

Last updated: 2010/10/14


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Re: Finnish gods and spirits

Postby crone maatkaere » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:08 pm

hi hupsu! ::wave:: :thumbup: :thumbup: well written and thanks so much for sharing of your heritage as you have here. :) :grouphug: vainamoinen has become one of my favorite immortals to work with since doing the work for you earlier this year. :)


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Re: Finnish gods and spirits

Postby Nephret » Sat Jan 15, 2011 12:31 am

Thank you, this is so informative! ::hail::


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Re: Finnish gods and spirits

Postby hupsu » Sat Jan 15, 2011 6:43 am

Glad to be of help. I'll try adding more info sometime later. :D


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Re: Finnish gods and spirits

Postby Aurum » Sat Nov 19, 2011 4:53 pm

Wow cool. I just noticed this thread today. I am also very interested in Finnish spirits and gods. I like to read Kalevela and it has inspired some of my artworks, but it is good to remember that it is heavily influenced by christianity and Elias Lönnrot´s own views.



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Re: Finnish gods and spirits

Postby Granato » Sat Nov 19, 2011 7:45 pm

Thank yo very much. I am also very interested in northern mythology.




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