Finno-Ugric Faith Comparative Analysis

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Finno-Ugric Faith Comparative Analysis

Postby Luigi » Thu Jul 19, 2018 12:44 am

I found an excellent and fairly thorough article on Encyclopedia Britannica about the faiths of Finnic folks and their more distant Ugric relatives. Its authored by a very well established Finnish scholar who specializes in this field.

If you want to read the whole article here is the link: ... troduction

A unique trait among the various folks is that some are nomadic, some are fully sedentary, and some are hunter-farmers in a middle ground of sorts. This gives us the unique opportunity to see how these social differences affect the root faith. They also exist in different geographical conditions which has an effect as well. Different creation myths are mentioned, most of which seem to involve a waterfowl and a sky god. Most common is the earth-diver myth also found in Slavic faith and North American faith. It mentions the world tree cosmology, which is also found in Germanic faith. There is also the idea of the world pillar crafted by the sky god to hold up the sky/cosmos.

The god that seems to be universal to all of them is the sky god, usually with names cognate to Finnish Jumala. The god is more important among agrarian folks who see him as the sky father who with the earth mother begets the world. “The god of the sky is our father, and the Earth Mother is our mother,” say the Mordvins. They also believed in nature spirits and sacred ancestors. They believed in two hells, one, an underworld village in a holy forest near the place they died, and a second distant hell in the far north beyond a burning stream. Interestingly the eastern tribes worshipped the dead in a festival in the spring, but the western tribes did so in the fall, as did most west Europeans(halloween).

A section on sacred animals I found very interesting:

In the “hunters’ religion” preserved among the northern Finno-Ugric peoples, bear ceremonies are central. The Khanty, Mansi, Nenets, Sami, Finns, and Karelians have all been acquainted with myths and rites connected with the bear. The myths recount that the bear is of heavenly origin and is the son of the god of the sky; it descends from heaven and, when it dies, returns there. There is also a story about a marriage between a bear and a woman from which a tribe of the Skolt Sami (in Finland) is said to be descended. The bear-killing ceremony is divided into two acts—the killing itself and the feast afterward. Killing a bear that was protected by a forest guardian spirit involved a complicated ritual, which ended with bringing the bear home. Women believed that they had to keep at a distance so that the bear would not make them pregnant. The feast to celebrate the killing of the bear lasted two days and was full of marriage symbolism. The bear was addressed euphemistically, and a young man or woman was chosen to be its mate. A large meal made of the meat of the bear was consumed. Finally, the skull of the bear was carried in procession to the branch of a pine tree on the top of a mountain. This was the custom in Karelia. A number of miniature dramas were connected with Ob Ugrian bear rites. Masked participants tell the bear that members of a strange tribe have killed it. There seems to be a historical connection among the bear ceremonies of Ob Ugrians, Karelians, Finns, and Sami. Nowhere else in the wide Arctic sphere have the bear songs and dramas taken such a prominent place as in this hunting ritual.

This is interesting because the archaeological and archaeo-linguistic evidence point to a bear cult being central to stone age Europeans. They get depicted a lot in rock carvings from the time, survive in aspects of the cults of Artemis and Diana, and many European languages including English abstained from saying the actual word for bear(the ancestor word of Latin ursus, I think its reconstructed as something like arktos) and instead use euphemisms such as "brown" whence we get "bear." Note the part of the excerpt I bolded.

The places of worship was also interesting. Specifically that they had fenced in sacred groves with sacrificial tables. It also notes that the Finns also sacrificed on "cup stones" large stones with cup-like depressions in them. It also mentioned small cabins/sheds which housed wooden idols.

The cult practice section is already pretty summarized:

All the main categories of rites are found among the Finno-Ugric peoples: cyclic or calendric rites (concerning the means of livelihood), rites of passage (the transition of the individual from one status to another), and crisis rites (concerning threats of disaster). The character of these rites varies considerably, depending on ecological factors and cultural contacts. Generally, an agrarian culture produces a cult system that is more stable and formal than that produced by a mobile hunting culture or a nomadic way of life. In the latter, sacrifice rites tend to be more improvised and the cult group smaller. An example of a formal system is the distinction “upward” and “downward” in worship found among the Udmurts and the Cheremis: sacrifices of white animals are made in deciduous groves to the god of the sky and to certain nature gods, the direction of prayer being to the south; sacrifices of black animals are made to the departed and to the guardian spirits of the earth near conifers, the direction of prayer being to the north.

And finally here is a part from the conclusion I found very interesting:

Old and new elements of different origins are molded into an active system, and choice and adaptation take place according to practical religious need. Christianity and Islam have in many places provided a religious superstructure, but they have not been accepted as such; certain elements from them have been adapted to the depth structure of a primitive religion. The best example of this is the preservation of folk religion in Hungary, Finland, and Estonia, where Christianity, supported by a literate culture, is ancient. Popular belief has become intertwined with the religious tradition because it has always had a function that no Christian practice has replaced. Only mass media and urbanization have jeopardized the ancient belief tradition.

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