Louhi´s origins are most likely in the Saami goddesses who were connected to life, death, power of the moon and the divine feminine. The name Loviatar comes from Finnish expression langeta loveen which is a state where shaman falls into trance. Another origin of her name is old Finnish word lovi meaning door, entry and vagina. Louhi´s magic and connection to the moon and wolves represented the independent nature of women. Among Uralic tribes, the first ruler of the underworld was a male waterbird. When culture became more patriarchal there were more suspicious qualities connected to the moon and towards women. Louhi became the goddess of the underworld.
This also meant a shift in the ways people saw the underworld. In the shamanic world view Alinen the underworld was not like the Christian hell. It was a place where spirits waited their turn to be reborn. When Finnish mythos got more influences from other cultures and later on from Christianity underworld became a place of all misery and torture. Louhi was demonized and became a presentation of the Christian devil. She was turned into an old hag who gave birth all the evil things to this world: sicknesses, pain and death. In Lönnrot´s epic Kalevala Louhi is portrayed as the evil witch of the north.
Louhi shared her faith with several other witch goddesses around the world. She is the goddess of the seekers, fortune-telling and hidden knowledge. Louhi is connected to the moon, winter, north and her sacred animals are wolves, snakes, lizards and dragons. She represents freedom, independence, magic, intuition and self-trust.
The strong role of female deities in Finnish mythology can be found from the surrounding cultures as well (Baltic, Scandinavia and the Saami´s). In the Saami mythology, the most important deity of all was Madderakka the earth goddess and her three daughters Sarahkka, Juksakka and Uksakka. Madderakka was goddess of women and was in charge of fertility and pregnancies. Her three daughters were all protectors of children and childhood. Madderakka was believed to be the earth itself. She was the protector of of all life. It was believed that when a child was conceived, Madderakka received the soul of the child from Radien, the god of community and it was her job to attach the soul of the child to the body.
Sarakka was the protector goddess of women and many rites dedicated to her were only allowed for women. She was the goddess who lived in the hearth fire. Sarakka protected the pregnant woman and aid her in giving birth. Sacrifices in her honour were made before going into labour and after. Sarakka protected the woman throughout their whole life, from the moment of conception to the old age. Her symbol was the snow grout.
Juksakka was the protector of men and boys. She was an archer goddess and the goddess of the hunt. If parents wished for a boy child they attached bow and arrows to the komsio (Saami baby basket/cradle).
Uksakka´s name means the woman of doors. She was the protector of entries. She was the midwife and delivered the child safely to the world. Uksakka protected the child since the day they were born until the day they moved away from home.
Names of the Saami goddesses here are their Finnish names. There are several different Saami languages and their names in those languages vary.
Kiputyttö (pain girl) (also known as Vammatar and Kivutar) was one of the creators who lived in Alinen the underworld. People prayed for Kiputyttö to heal them and ease their pain. In the stories, she sat in a special stone called kipukivi. She took the pains of the person and drove them inside the stone. It was a large stone that had holes, in it and through those holes the pains would travel inside the stone. From around Finland, one can find large stones called kuppikivi with holes in them. Some of them were used for healing purposes. In the folk poems, kiputyttö was asked to boil the pains in a cauldron so that the sick person would get a moment of rest or she was asked to take the pains and throw them into a river.
Yön tytti (daughter of the night) was also specialized for healing. She healed burning skin. Yöntytti rode with a horse made of ice and she was made of snow and ice. With her cool touch, she would stop the burning sensations. Yöntytti was also called to lower down a fever.
Tuonen tytti (girl of the death) was the ferryman of Alinen the underworld. She was a young girl who rowed a wooden boat in the river of Tuonela. She was similar character to Charon in Greek mythology.
Pohjola (also known as vainajala and tuonela) is one more name for Alinen the underworld. Derived from the word pohjoinen (north) and pohja (bottom) Pohjola was the world of the dead. The location varied. Most often Pohjola was far away in north or sometimes deep underground or both. Pohjola was described to be a snow desert, place similar to Lapland in the heart of winter. That is where coldness, evil spirits and spirits of the dead lived, waiting. For mortals, Pohjola was a dangerous place but for a hero, it could offer all kinds of possibilities. Pohjola in Finnish mythology was similar to a place called Rotaimo in the stories of the Saami. In Lapland, there are several deep lakes with fake bottoms. Rotaimo was believed to be located in the bottom of a bottomless lake. In Finnish mythology, the underworld is deep in the underground. It is described to be a long, dark cave system and there is a river (Tuonelan joki / the river of Tuonela) that runs straight into the world tree.
Nine nuisance and diseases
In the poems that come from the late Iron Age Louhi has a blind daughter called Loviatar. She gets impregnated by the wind and Louhi acts as her midwife. She gave birth to nine boys who became the nine diseases. Boys were Pistos (sting/sharp chest pain), Ähky (horse cholic), Luuvalo (recurring pain in limbs), Paise (abscess), Rupi (eschar), Rutto (plague), Riisi (rickets), Syöjä (syöpä) (cancer). Ninth child was a blind nameless embryo. It usually meant the harmful witchcraft that was practiced to harm others. In ancient Finland, all these diseases were well-known and some spells and chants were used to heal them. According to the folktales Louhi planted her daughter ´s pregnancy to take revenge on the people of Kaleva.
From the same period time come poems which depict Louhi as the mother of wolves and snakes. Wolves were feared animals in the agricultural society. In the 19th century, Lutheran church started systematically pay hunters to kill wolves for the church wolf was a living presentation of Christian Satan. Wolf hunts were justified with the Christian idea of people ruling the wild nature. Same happened in Norway and Sweden and within all these countries wolves are near extinction today. Other animals that were demonized by the church were frogs and lizards which were previously connected to vedeväki the väki/power of water now became spirits of children that mothers had abandoned to die. Occasionally they were described to be children of Louhi.
Another child of Louhi was Pakkanen/pakkaspoika (the freeze / freeze boy). This is a story is very similar to Anglo-Saxon stories of the nature spirit Jack the Frost who freezes the grass and leaves in winter. The story can be dated to Norse and Germanic myths with similar stories about giants. In the Finnish folktales, Pakkaspoika is a young boy who makes peoples fingers and toes feel cold in winter and he freezes the land in the late autumn.
Marras and martaa are old Finnish names for the spirit of the dead. Origins of the Finnish word is in the Indoiranian word marla and the Latin word mors which both mean death. Word marla was used in ancient Finland back in the days especially in the area of Karelia. Marras and martaa can mean death, dead person or an omen of death.
Back in the days a strange event that led to death could have been considered as marras. For example, if a person experiences a very lucky event. They inherited a huge amount of money or the catches tons of fish and they died suddenly after that in an accident or into a disease. The more healthier person was more likely they would die to marras. Marras was not invented to scare people. It was more likely a warning of the things that could happen. A suggestion for people around to enjoy life to the fullest. There wasn´t no escape from marras. We all die sooner or later.
Halla was the first sign of the approaching winter. Word is still used in modern Finnish and it refers to the end of growth in nature and the arrival of the first snow and cold nights. Back in the days Halla was a nature spirit who walked on earth turning everything in frost. Halla was a creator of Alinen the underworld because it existed to harm people. It froze berries, crop and plants. Peoples hands and noses. During the summer Halla stayed in the pleasant coolness of the underworld.
Halla was described to look like a ghost. It had pale skin and it walked during the night creating ice-cold weather. It liked to stay in the wide landscape, in the fields and marshes. Halla was mostly harmless creature and the best way to protect oneself from it was to dress up warmly.
Song of the bear
Wheare was ”broad-forehead” orn, was ”honey-paws” produced? Tehre was broad-forehead” born, was ”honey-paws” produced,