Spirituality of the Komi
The Komi are an ethnic group in north-eastern Russia. Most of the people live in the Komi Republic and the surrounding areas. Komi language is a Finno-Ugric language and belongs into most northern sub-group Komi-Izhemtsy (named after the river Izhma). There is about 15 600 speakers of the Komi language. Religion of the Komi is an interesting mixture of ancient shamanic practices and Eastern Orthodox. In this article I have listed some of the most important Komi gods, mythical creatures and shamanic myths.
Most important god of the Komi was En (Eh). En was the god of strength. He was the creator god who appeared in the form of a swan. Another important god was Kul (also known as Omöl). Kul was the evil creater god who ruled water and death. Kul appeared in the form of a grepe.
Like among many Finno-Ugric tribes Komi believed that the world was created by water bird(s). Creation myth of the Komi is very similar to proto-Uralic creation myth where two waterbirds create the world. In the Komi story duck gave birth of En O mol the spirits of good and evil. Two birds, the swan and the grebe dived into the primordial sea and brought pieces of land to the surface creating our world. In the Proto-Uralic myth the evil bird/spirit steals some of the dirt and as a punishment they become the ruler of the underworld. There are many ways to interpretate these myths. In several Finno-Ugric cultures birds were seen as souls of humans. Shaman who´s job was to travel between different worlds and different levels of consciousness often took a form of a bird and birds also worked as spirit guides.
Spirits of Home
Like in many cultures Komi also had their own protector spirits. Rynyshsa was the protector spirit of sauna´s and bath-houses. It appeared in the form of an old white-bearded hunchbacked man.
Olys (also known as Olysya) was the hearth spirit. Olys would take care of the fire and lived in the darkest corner of the kitchen. They were similar to Russian Domovoi.
Protector of the house or a building was called Aika. Creature that was similar to Finnish tonttu and Scandinavian Nisse.
Pyvsyansa was the master of the bath house. It appeared as a little man wearing a red hat and it´s eyes burned like red flames. It was equivalent to Russian Bannik.
Spirits of Nature
Vasa (Baca) was a water spirit that could be malicious. To please Vasa people threw bread, cakes and tobacco into the water. Vasa was protector of millers.
Peludi-Aika whos name literally means ”father cornflower” was the protector of the corn and the farm land.
Vörsa was the spirit of the forest. Hunters offered furs, bread, salt and tobacco for Vörsa so that he would help them to catch game.
Ort means ”double”. It appeared as a premonition of death to the person or their family.
Evil witches were known as Yoma-Baba.
River Between The Worlds
In all Uralic myths ”the land of the dead” is described to be in north. Usually it is beyond mountains, rivers and forests.
Komi mythology is no exception. Land of the death was located in far-away north and to get there person had to across river of death. This river was called ”Syr Yu” River of pitch and it separated the world of the living from the world of the death.
Belief for the Afterlife
It was believed that when person entered to the river bank in the afterlife a bridge would appear. Depending on their sins the bridge would be either an iron bridge, a shaky beam, thin pole or a cobweb.
After crossing the bridge person had to climb a slippery mountain and then they would officially arrive to the land of dead.
Belief for the afterlife was strong and these stories also served as moral guidelines for the Komi. In their everyday lives people took special care of their fingernails that they would be strong when they would have to climb this mountain. Komi´s were buried with fingernail clips so that they could take care of their fingernails in the after life as well.
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Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler and a Fairy Shaman.
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