Merry Christmas! It is the last day of Mythmas and today´s story is all about the history of Finnish Santa Claus aka the Christmas goat )O( Enjoy!
Happy Mythmas! Did you know that in the past time of Christmas / Winter Solstice was very common time to tell ghost stories )O(
Väki is a deeply rooted concept within Finnish mythology.
The Life Force
Väki is the life force that flows in every single living creature and being in Finnish folklore. It is similar to the concept of mana in Hinduism, life force chi in Chinese culture or the force in Star Wars. Väki literally means a group. It describes the power / group or spirits that reside in a certain idea/concept/element or being.
Väki of the elements
When a person was a practitioner of witchcraft (in Finnish context) what they essentially were doing was to work with väki. Everything has their own väki; nature, trees, animals and all the elements. Idea of elements is very common in Finnish myths and all the elements possessed their own väki. Ilmanväki (väki of the air), tulenväki (väki of the fire), maanväki (väki of the earth) and vedenväki (väki of the water). From the elemental väki, väki of the water was considered to be the most powerful because of the healing powers of water but also because water was seen as something eternal. Woman grew children in the waters of their womb, earth was born from waters and water always returned in some form, was it then rain or snow.
Väki of the animals
Väki of the animals was always connected to their element. For example väki of the bear was connected to the earth and the power of the forest, birds possessed väki of the air, fish and frogs were part of the väki of the water. In spell craft if a person wanted to perform a ritual that needed elements from certain väki they used animal parts from an animal that belonged to that väki.
Some animals possess extremely strong väki. One of those animals was a wild deer. If a person ate brains of a wild deer they would sleep very restlessly and see nightmares of dark figures, which were shadow beings of the forest.
Even the smallest animals like antz and spiders posses their own väki. Väki was always connected to the myths and stories told about the animals.
Väki of women
People also had their own väki. Woman´s väki was considered the most strongest because women were the creators of life. Women had important role in the ancient Finno-Baltic societies. If a man wanted to marry a woman they had to ask permission from the mother of the bride and when the father of the household died the oldest sun did not inherit the house-stead but the widow did. Väki of the women was also feared by the men occasionally. If the man cheated the woman the woman could raise their väki and hurt the man as a revenge. Woman´s status was connected to her marriage and later on her becoming a mother and a grandmother. This idea is directly based to the mother earth cult and ancestral worship where the passed away grandmother became a worshiped figure.
Story time! This time I'm sharing myths and legends about will o wisp's in Finnish folk tales. Enjoy )O(
In this video I share myths and legends about bears in Finnish mythology and folklore. If you prefer to read you can find my article on the same topic here. Enjoy )O(
Throughout times there has been millions gods and goddesses that people have worshiped around the world. In Finland there was several pagan deities who were all manifestations of nature. Beliefs of the first inhabitants of what is now known as Finland were most likely shamanic- animistic beliefs for the totem animals and nature spirits. Pantheon of Finnish deities slowly evolved from these beliefs.
One of the most beloved deities in Finnish pantheon was Mielikki. Goddess of the forest, bears, luck, abundance, hunting and healing. Mielikki´s name comes from old Finnish word mielu meaning luck. Mielikki was the wife of Finnish forest god Tapio. She was also known by the name metsänemä mother of the forest.
In pre-historic times when hunters entered to the forest they asked Mielikki´s permission to enter her kingdom. If hunter wanted to have a good pray it was recommended that they flattered Mielikki and complimented her good looks. Mielikki was goddess of hunting. She is often portrayed as an archer with bow and arrow.
Mielikki was also connected to beauty and elegance. Her job was to make the forest beautiful. She made the flowers grow in the fields. She colored the leaves in autumn. It was Mielikki who created the beautiful shapes of the trees. Sacred trees and plants to her were juniper and heather. Duality aspects of Mielikki makes her both the wild woman/the hunter and also the maternal/healer goddess.
Mielikki and Tapio had several children. Some of the most famous of them were Tuulikki wind spirit (her name means small wind), Nyyrikki god of the hunt and cattle, forest spirits Tuutikki, Annikki and Tellervo.
Mielikki was the goddess of healing and protector goddess of the wounded animals. She was also known from her herbal skills and she was worshiped by many shamans and witches who practiced herbal magic.
Mielikki rarely appeared to humans but when she did she took a form of an old woman dressed up in a mossy hat and gray fur. In the Middle Ages Catholic church turned Mielikki into Virgin Mary in their attempts to convert people into Christianity. Mielikki got a new role as metsämaaria the forest virgin. As metsämaaria Mielikki appeared to people wearing a blue cloak.
Tapio was Finnish god of forest, hunt and gain. It is believed that before Tapio adopted the human form Tapio was the manifestation of the forest. In fact old name for Finland is Tapiola.
Finland is known to be very forestry country. Throughout the times forest has offered shelter, building materials and gain to hunt but one could also get lost in the forest and get attacked by predators. This is why ancient people felt both fear and respect for the forest.
Tapio rarely appeared to humans but when he did he usually adopted form of an old man. Tapio is considered to be a shamanic god. He helps those who wish to learn more about secrets of the forest and nature. He is god of wisdom and ancient knowledge. Tapio also represents humans love for nature. For he is the forest itself.
When Tapio´s wife Mielikki was prayed while hunting small wild game, Tapio was called to assist when it was time to hunt big wild game such as bears, deer´s and moose´s.
It was believed that Tapio and Mielikki lived in a wooden manor in the heart of the forest. Minor nature spirits, forest elves and dryads were their servants. Both Tapio and Mielikki were shape sifters and could turn themselves into trees and bears.
In Finnish mythology Vellamo is goddess of water, seas and fishing. She was the protector goddess of fishermen who prayed her to protect them from the storms and dangerous waters. When fishermen were kind to her and respectful she gave them fishes. Vellamo could magically turn the course of the wind and create massive waves.
Vellamo´s name comes from old Finnish word velloa which means the movement of water. She is wife of the sea god Ahti. It was believed that Vellamo and Ahti lived in an underwater manor called Ahtola. Water spirits were their servants and they also had underwater livestock.
Cows were sacred animals to Vellamo. Legend tells that sometimes during the morning mist she brought her cows to the surface and lead them to the land. There one of her cows might got lost and end up to the cows cattle owned by humans. It was believed that Vellamo´s cows were very valuable.
Unlike many other sea and ocean goddesses Vellamo was not depicted with a tail or as a mermaid. She was told to be beautiful, curvy woman who wore a dress completely made of sea foam.
Photo (c) Benjamin Von Wong
Ahti (also known as Ahto) is the god of the water and seas in Finnish mythology. There isn´t much information about Ahti. He was the protector god of fishes, islands, sea birds and all marine life. Fishermen prayed him for good fishing luck.
Ahti is described to be a man who has mustache and beard completely made of moss. He also does not have a tail but he wears trousers completely made from sea foam. His symbol is the trident.
Ahti was the ruler of all waters. From the biggest lakes to the smallest streams. They were all part of Ahti´s kingdom.
Louhi (also known as Louhitar, Louhetar, Loviatar) was goddess of witchcraft and shamanism. It is possible that Louhi was original goddess of the moon in Finnish mythology.
Louhi most likely originates from Saami goddesses that were connected to shamanism and to the powers of the moon. Her name comes from Finnish expression langeta loveen which is a state where shaman falls into a trance. Among Finno-Ugric tribes first ruler deity of the underworld was a male spirit that we don´t have much information left. When culture became more patriarchal there was more suspicious qualities connected to the moon and towards women. Louhi became the goddess of the underworld.
This also meant 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 place of all misery and torture. Louhi was demonized and became a presentation of 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 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.
In Finnish mythology Akka was the personification of the earth. She was also known as Rauni coming from the Swedish word rönn meaning rowan tree. Rowan trees were Akka´s sacred trees. Akka in modern Finnish means an old woman but in pre-written times Akka was old Finnish expression for a grandmother. It was also a honorary title given to a woman who had lived to old age.
She was also known as Maanutar, Manutar, Maahetar, Akka mantereenalainen (ancient woman who lives inside the earth) all these names are derived from Finnish word maa meaning earth. Akka was celebrated on matopäivä (Spring Equinox). Snakes and worms were her sacred animals. It was believed that after the long winter Akka woke up in Matopäivä and all the worms and snakes rose from the ground and danced in her honor.
Akka was wife of Ukko. Finnish god of thunder and fertility. In Finland there is not great deal written information about her. Worship of the mother earth is ancient and cult of the mother earth dates back 30 000 years.
It is likely that Akka/Rauni and Ukko were brought by the ancient Baltic tribes who arrived to what is now known as Finland approximately 7000 years ago bringing agriculture with them. New belief system mixed together with animistic world view of the Saami´s creating it´s own unique mythology. Balts also brought strong female aspect to Finnish mythology.
Akka has many similarities to Lithuanian goddess of the earth Žemyna. Several myths and chants about Akka were changed in the Middle Ages and she became one of the several variations of Virgin Mary.
Both Akka and Ukko are connected to fertility of the land. According to the myth Akka took a form of woman who rose from a lake and Ukko the thunder god stroked her with a thunder bolt. That is how earth and sky came one.
Ukko was god of thunder, fertility and weather in Finnish mythology and he was one of the most respected gods in Finnish pantheon. His name literally means an old man in modern Finnish but in the pre-Christian times Ukko was an honorary title given to a man who had reached a high age. Finnish word for thunder ukkonen is also derived from the name Ukko.
Ukko was one of the most important gods because he provided rain which was essential in the agricultural society. Several Finnish scholars of folklore have suggested that Ukko evolved from an even older Finnish deity called Ilma god of the air. This suggestion is supported by the fact that many other Finno-Ugric tribes worshiped a god called Inmar.
Ukko´s origins can be also tracked to Baltic myths. Lithuanian thunder god Perkunas, Latvian Perkons and Slavic Perun all share similarities with Ukko. God of the thunder was a very common character in all cultures where people spoke Indo-European languages. It was believed that Ukko created lightnings with a hammer, sword or by shooting arrows.
In Finland Ukko´s role was most often connected to fertility. He was very popular god among young women who performed love spells. Ukko´s assistance was also seeked when couples had difficulties to have children. Sometimes Ukko was also worshiped as a god of battle and god of hunting. Later when church rose to power in Finland and in the rest of Scandinavia Ukko´s reputation as the god of fertility and the sky was used to convert people into Christianity by making Ukko equivalent to Christian god.
When agriculture became more established Ukko was called Ukko Ylijumala (Ukko the highest of the gods). Ukko was celebrated during a festival called Ukon Vakat. Ukon Vakat included good food, drinking, singing and dancing. It was communal festival that gathered several families and communities together. Ukon Vakat took place on Midsummer Solstice.
Ukko in fact has shamanic origins as well. Before he became a humanized character in ancient Finland people believed that sky and thunder was ruled by the thunder bird Ukkoslintu or Kokkolintu. Ukkoslintu was probably a giant eagle who was worshiped by the hunter-gatherers as one of their most important gods. Similar character/spirit can be found from several different Finno-Ugric tribes and from many native American myths.
Päivätär & Kuutar
Päivätär and Kuutar are part of Finno-Baltic folklore. Päivätär is the goddess of the sun and Kuutar is the goddess of the moon. In Finnish mythology Päivätär and Kuutar are sisters and spinner goddesses.
In Finnish myths they are the goddesses of destiny. It is believed that they weave the web of life which connects dreams and wishes of all humans together. We can see this web in the first sun rays and in the evening twilight.
Päivätär is connected to east, day and spring. Her name is derived from Finnish word päivä meaning the day. Kuutar is connected to the west, evenings and autumn. Her name is derived from Finnish word kuu meaning the moon.
It is possible that in pre-Christian times Päivätär especially had a significant role as the giver of life and was widely worshiped among different Finno-Ugric tribes.
Fear of Water
Finland is the country of thousand lakes and there are lots of stories told about water spirits. These stories vary in different areas. Our ancestors in all parts of the world had valid reasons to fear water. Thigs like scuba diving and marine research equipments weren´t developed until the 21st century and even today there are many things we don´t know about the depths of the oceans.
In Finnish language is there is an expression vesi vanhin voitehista, water is the oldest medicine. From very early on the healing properties of water have been acknowledged. Water can also be destructive. Storms and floods can cause lots of damage. Finnish water spirits have this dual aspect. They are not entirely bad or good. They are similar to humans.
Vedenemä The Mermaid
Finland being very forestry country, it is no surprise that mermaid sotries and legends are not very common. Mermaids in Finnish folklore are known as merenneito (maiden of the sea) vedenneito (maiden of water) and vedenemä (mother of water). Stories about the mermaids can be mostly found from the coast of southern and western Finland.
Vedenemä was described to be an erotic character who had big breasts, long green hair and green skin. In Finnish folklore mermaids did not have tails. They wore dresses made of sea foam. Image of a mermaid with a tail arrived to Finland as late as in the end of the 19th century together with first children´s book illustrations (especially Hans Christian Andersen´s Little Mermaid).
All over the world mermaids are believed to seduce sailor. Finnish mermaids were not exception. With their beautiful songs and their good looks they could cause shipwrecks but if they that the sailor was particularly good looking they might spare their life. According to the sailors mermaids like to sit on rocks combing their long green hair.
Photo (c) Svante Cullichsen
Mermaids are more common characters in the folkore of western Finland. Vetehinen belongs to the storytelling tradition of eastern Finland. It was a male waterspirit, who´s skin was either green, gray or blue and it looked like an old man. It had a beard made of moss and seaweed and trousers weaved from seaweed. According to some legends Vetehinen was a man who had drowned themself.
Vetehinen is similar to Russin water demon, Vodjanov. In Slavic stories Vodjanov is always malevolent spirit who is eager to drown innocent swimmers. In Finland Vetehinen is not all bad character. In some stories Vetehinen can favor some fishermen and tell them were all the best fishing places are. They live in the bottoms of lakes and ponds.
In Finnish folklore there was a group of ethereal water spirits. Utuneito means the mist maiden. Mist maidens were fairy-like beings who were completely made from morning mist and water steam. During the morning twilight mist maidens gathered above lakes and ponds to sing and dance. They were graceful creatures and their songs were hauntingly beautiful.
Vedenneito means a water maiden. Vedenneito was a humanized water spirit who lived in lakes and ponds and they were the personifications of the water. If the waters would dry out from the lake or the stream vedenneito would vanish and if all the waters would flow in to a river Vedenneito would flow into the river as well. Sometimes vedenneito was believed to be a spirit of a young woman had drowned herself. Another story from Finnish mythology tells that all water spirits were sons and daughters of Finnish sea goddess Vellamo and the sea god Ahti.
(c) Edvard Kittelsen
Näkki is the most well-known water spirit in Finnish mythology. You can find similar character from Sweden where it is called Näck, Nokken in Norway, The Neck in Britain and Nixen in Germany.
In Finnish folklore Näkki was a terrible evil water demon. It lived in the deepest end of lakes, ponds and whirlpools and sometimes it lurked children under the docks. According to some description Näkki was completely made of seaweed and there for it could not never be killed in the water. In Sweden Näck was most often described to be a handsome man. A talented violinist who seduced young women with his music. There were also stories told in Finland where näkki appeared as a young man or a woman but most often in Finnish folklore Näkki was a shapeless demon.
Back in the old days adults told children not to go to swim too deep otherwise Näkki would catch them. Fear was real because people did not know what dangers waters hold inside them. In the past when a drowned person was pulled from the water their body was filled with black dots. These were believed to be finger prints of näkki and proofs that näkki had killed the person.
In both Finnish and Swedish languages there are words derived from Näkki. Old Finnish word for sea shell is näkinkenkä which literally means näkki´s shoe and Swedish word for waterlily is näckrose näck´s rose. There was a spell that person could say before they went swimming which would keep näkki away. Magical words were Näkki maalle minä veteen, älä tule ottamaan (näkki to the land, me into the water, do not dare to take me) and when person rise up from the water they would say minä maalle, näkki veteen (me to the land, näkki back into the water).
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Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea, and such.
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