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Finnish Paganism

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Aphrodite
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« on: March 30, 2007, 10:13:45 pm »



The elk is a common image in many Finnish petroglyphs

Finnish paganism was the indigenous pagan religion in present-day Finland and Karelia prior to Christianization. Finnish paganism shows many similarities with the neighboring cultures which practiced Germanic, Norse and Baltic paganism. However, it has some distinct differences due to the Finno-Ugric and Balto-Finnic culture of the region. Finnish paganism is the product of a syncretism between contrasting periods in time. It incorporates aspects of stone-age Europe, as well as the later Indo-European beliefs.

Religion and tradition have long been a combination of Christianity and older paganism: both the Christian Trinity and Finnish deities as well as tutelaries were subject to worship. The pagan religion did not merely address the supernatural, but was directed at ordinary and daily matters as well. It was not a clearly demarcated area of life like the Christian religion that replaced it. Often it is difficult to draw a line between pagan and otherwise mythical beliefs. A small local house tutelary, an ancient mythical hero, an ancestral spirit, and an essential god could be appealed to or worshipped alike.
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2007, 10:16:24 pm »



Parts of Karelia, as they are traditionally divided.
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2007, 10:17:56 pm »



Ruskeala Park near Sortavala, Karelia

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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2007, 10:20:09 pm »



Ruskeala Park near Sortavala, Karelia
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« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2007, 10:26:16 pm »



Marble Lake in Ruskeala, Karelia.
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« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2007, 10:28:04 pm »



Ruskeale waterfalls near Sortavala
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« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2007, 10:41:14 pm »

Hi Aphrodite

These pictures look a lot michigan where I am from.
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« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2007, 10:53:17 pm »

Upper Michigan certainly looks like that, they remind me a lot of Minnesota as well.
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« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2007, 10:59:04 pm »



View of the old town of Kem' in 1911.
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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2007, 11:03:16 pm »



Kem' harbour of the White Sea.
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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2007, 11:04:43 pm »

Gods and spirits

Several deities, tutelaries, and spirits were part of Finnish paganism. Each deity was worshipped differently, based on chronological and spatial context. For example, Ukko, the Greater God — who later transcended into the Overgod — was known probably everywhere in Finland. A corresponding figure is known amongst other Scandinavian, Sami and Baltic religions. An apparently significant, but nowadays only poorly known spirit is Jumi, whose name is related to Jumala, the Finnish word for God.

Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen, who are better known as mythical heroes, have also been objects of worship. Ilmarinen is probably related to the deity Inmar. Other important deities included nature spirits who controlled various environments and elements. The greatest of these were also called "kings". The king of water was often called Ahti, and the king of the wood was Tapio. Additionally there were plenty of other water and forest tutelaries. Successful hunt of game, bouts of good weather, and luck in fishing were often asked of the spirits through prayer and sacrifice. Emuus, the ancestral mothers of various animal species, helped in hunting.
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« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2007, 11:06:22 pm »



Illustration from the Kalevala, by Akseli Gallen-Kallela 1896. Showing Väinämöinen with a sword, defending the Sampo from Louhi
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« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2007, 11:07:33 pm »

Väinämöinen is the central character in the Finnish folklore and the main character in the national epic Kalevala. He was described as an old and wise man, and he possessed a potent, magical voice. This he demonstrated by sinking the impetuous Joukahainen into a bog by singing. In the Kalevala, Väinämöinen slays a great pike and makes a magical kantele from its jawbones.

In the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg a similar hero is called Vanemuine.

In many stories Väinämöinen was the central figure at the birth of the world. Väinämöinen was floating at sea, while a bird came and laid eggs on his knee. The eggs were destroyed by a wave, but their pieces became the world; the upper cover became the sky dome, and the yolk became the sun.

In the original translation into English (by John Martin Crawford (1888)) this character's name was anglicised as Wainamoinen.

In Kalevala, he is the son of the primal goddess Ilmatar. In this story, it was she who was floating in the sea when a duck laid eggs on her knee. He possessed the wisdom of the ages from birth, for he was in his mother's womb for seven hundred and thirty years, while she was floating in the sea and while the earth was formed. It is after praying to the sun, the moon, and the great bear (the stars, referring to Ursa Major) he is able to escape his mother's womb and dive into the sea.

He was the 'eternal sage', who exerts order over chaos and established the land of Kaleva, that so many of the events in Kalevala revolve around. His search for a wife brings the land of Kaleva into, at first friendly, but later hostile contact with its dark and threatening neighbour in the north, Pohjola. This conflict culminates in the creation and theft of the Sampo, a magical artifact made by Ilmarinen.

Väinämöinen's end is a hubristic one. In the 50th and final poem of the Kalevala tells the story of the maiden Marjatta, who becomes pregnant after eating a berry and gives birth to a baby boy. This child is brought to Väinämöinen to examine and judge. His verdict is that such a strangely-born infant needs to be put to death. In reply, the newborn child, mere two weeks old, chides the old sage for his sins and transgressions, such as allowing the maiden Aino, sister of Joukahainen to drown herself. Following this, the baby is baptized and named king of Kalevala. Defeated, Väinämöinen goes to the shores of the sea, where he sings for himself a boat of copper, with which he sails away from the mortal realms. In his final words, he promises that there shall be a time when he shall return, when his crafts and might shall once again be needed. Thematically, the 50th poem thus echoes the arrival of Christianity to Finland and the subsequent fading into history of the old pagan beliefs.

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« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2007, 11:09:02 pm »

In Gesta Danorum, Saxo Grammaticus says:

However, when Frodi denied his request, Arngrim turned to Erik, the King of Sweden, and asked him for advice. Erik told Arngrim to earn Frodi's respect by killing Egther, the king of Bjarmaland and Thengil, the king of Finnmark.

Bjarmaland is known from the Norse sagas to correspond to modern day Finland, and a Finnish poem says: Syntyi poika Poimarissa, Emo kutsui Ehtaroksi.

Which roughly translates to "A son was born in Poimari, his mother called him Ehtaro" (compare germanic: Egther). In the germanic Beowulf saga, Egther is mentioned as the son of Ecgtheow, who belongs to the clan of Waegmunding, and the head of the Waegmunding clan was called Wægmund (compare pronunciation of Väinämöinen). This would correlate with the Norse sagas Orkneyinga and Hversu Noregr which state family lineages since a Finnish king called "Fornjotr" down to the royal houses of Norway and Sweden, but the reliability and factual accuracy of the sagas is usually disputed as they were written by Snorri Sturlasson hundreds of years after the supposed events took place.

Ecgtheow, the father of Egther (or Ehtaro) is described as separating from the Swedish clan and joining the Geats. Fornjotr translates as "the ancient geat" and is mentioned as the first of the line of rulers in Fundinn Noregr.

The 75th paragraph of the Widsith, dating to the 9th century, also says:

...and shining torcs, Eadwine's son. I was with the Sercings and with the Serings. I was with the Greeks and Finns, and also with Caesar, who had the power over prosperous cities, riches and treasure and the Roman Empire.

The 25th paragraph says: Casere ruled the Greeks and Caelic the Finns, Hagena the Holm-Riggs and Heoden the Gloms. Witta ruled the Swaefe, Wada the Halsings, Meaca the Myrgings, Mearchealf the Hundings. Theodric ruled the Franks, Thyle the Rondings.

While the link between "Kalevala" and "Caelic" and "Väinämöinen" is unclear, it can be assumed that Väinämöinen is not a fully legendary character, but rather a mixture of historical characters of early Bjarmaland and/or Finland and in the modern world, the character of Väinämöinen is heavily influenced by fiction, folklore and legend.


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« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2007, 11:12:04 pm »

Ilmarinen

Seppo Ilmarinen, the Eternal Hammerer, blacksmith and inventor in the Kalevala, is an archetypal artificer from Finnish mythology. ("Seppo" is a popular boy's name and the Finnish word for blacksmith "seppä" is derived from it, or vice versa.) Immortal, he is capable of creating practically anything, but is notoriously 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.

The Forging of the Sampo

When the old sage, Väinämöinen, was traveling wide in the search of a wife, he was captured by the old mistress of Pohjola, the land of the North. In return for giving him safe passage from the land of Pohjola back to his native country, the enchantress Louhi of Pohjola wanted to have made the Sampo, a magic artifact. Väinämöinen replied that he could not make her one, but that Ilmarinen could, and promised to send the great smith to Pohjola to do just that. In return for this wondrous device, Louhi would also give Ilmarinen her daughter's hand in marriage.

On having returned home, Väinämöinen tries to awe Ilmarinen with tales of the maiden's beauty and so lure him to Pohjola. Ilmarinen sees through the ruse, however, and refuses. Not to be outdone, Väinämöinen tricks the smith into climbing a fir tree trying to bring down moonlight that is glimmering on the branches. Conjuring a storm-wind with his magical song, Väinämöinen then blows Ilmarinen away to Pohjola.

Once there, Ilmarinen is approached by the toothless hag, Louhi, and her daughter, the Maiden of Pohjola, and having seen the maiden's beauty, consents to build a Sampo. For three days, he sought a place to build a great forge. In that forge he placed metals and started working, tending the magic fire with help of the slaves of Pohjola.

On the first day, Ilmarinen looked down into the flames and saw that the metal had taken the form of a crossbow with a golden arch, a copper shaft and quarrel-tips of silver. But the bow had an evil spirit, asking for a new victim each day, and so Ilmarinen broke it and cast the pieces back into the fire.

On the second day, there came a metal ship from the fire, with ribs of gold and copper oars. Though beautiful to behold, it too was evil at heart, being too eager to rush towards battle, and so, Ilmarinen broke the magic boat apart and cast back the pieces once more.

On the third day, a metal cow emerged, with golden horns and the sun and the stars on its brow. But alas, it was ill-tempered, and so the magical heifer was broken into pieces and melted down.

On the fourth day, a golden plow is pulled from the forge, with a golden plowshare, a copper beam and silver handles. But it too is flawed, plowing up planted fields and furrowing meadows. In despair, Ilmarinen destroys his creation once more.

Angered at his lack of success, Ilmarinen conjures the four winds to fan the flames. The winds blow for three days, until finally, the Sampo is born, taking the shape of a magic mill that produces grain, salt and gold. Pleased with his creation at last, Ilmarinen presents it to Louhi, who promptly locks it in a vault deep underground.

Returning triumphant to the Maiden of Pohjola, Ilmarinen bids her to become his wife. To his dismay, she refuses to leave her native land, forcing him to return home alone and dejected.


Ilmarinen's Bride of Gold

After the loss of his first wife, the disheartened Ilmarinen attempts to craft a new one from gold and silver, but finds the golden wife hard and cold. Dismayed, he attempts to wed her to his brother Väinämöinen instead, but the old sage rejects her, saying that the golden wife ought to be cast back into the furnace and tells Ilmarinen to "forge from her a thousand trinkets". Speaking to all of his people, he further adds:

"Every child of Northland, listen,
Whether poor, or fortune-favored:
Never bow before an image
Born of molten gold and silver:
Never while the sunlight brightens,
Never while the moonlight glimmers,
Choose a maiden of the metals,
Choose a bride from gold created
Cold the lips of golden maiden,
Silver breathes the breath of sorrow."



The tale of the Golden Wife can be seen as a cautionary tale based on the theme of "money cannot buy happiness". To a contemporary reader, there is also a similarity to the hubristic nature of the Golem legend, or to Frankenstein, in that even the most skilled of mortals cannot rival divine perfection when creating life.


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