Finnish folk faith

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Re: Finnish folk faith

Postby Luigi » Fri Nov 30, 2018 6:31 am

An update on my study:

So I got my hands on the in-depth study of the world view of Marina Takalo(a Karelian tietaja and rune singer who lived until 1970) by Juha Pentikainen(featured in the Ukkonvaaja film posted above). She had a strong religious believe in Jumala(God), nature spirits(including "The Lord of the Forest" and "The Lord of Water," and of course folk magic. When making magic invokations she unfortunately did not invoke Vainamoinen and friends, however, her standard being to call on was "The golden king of ___" with the blank being filled in depending on the matter at hand. E.g. the golden king of the water to call for a safe voyage. She believes this was a seperate spirit from the lord of the water, but other tietajas have expressed that they believed them the same. I also learned through this book that in Karelia and indeed Finland ancestor veneration was kept alive including a system of graveyard offerings to the dead. This could be to a specific ancestor or just generally to "the ancestors." I was rather disapointed to read a line that went something like "regarding the primordial figures, she viewed then in the same light as being like troll, saying "How could I know, I wasnt around to see them."" Its nice to know she was at least open to it though, especially considering she prided herself as a rationalist and expressed true disbelief for other things, such as the ethnic Karelian creation myth of the world coming from a primordial egg(she had replaced it with Genesis in her worldview. However she later said that god caused the egg to fall in the water so maybe she still believed in it as a more minor event in gods creation?). This seems to contradict a later section of the book where she expresses her firm belief in some primordial legends. e.g. in one it tells how a pike liked to jump out of water and through people but when it crashed into a cliff had its upper jaw crushed in(explaining the pikes long lower jaw). She tells other stories like this explaining natural phenomenon and one even incorperates Jesus, although this is one of very few references Jesus gets in her corpus, as she was illiterate and thus barely influenced by the bible at all. Her system does synthesis God to a much greater extent but of course the idea of the sky god was already present in pre-christian era. For example she tells of a myth of how god makes grain, but then an evil female troll like creature whose name Iis long and Finnish convinces him to remove the heads of the grains so that there is only one at the top instead of at every node. She also firmly expresses belief in Ukko, the thunder god, and said she knew because when you go fishing in a thunderstorm but dont cover up the fish you caught they begin to smell bad, which according to local beliefs were from the farting of Ukko. No, that isnt a joke. Another interesting thing I found in the book was that Karelians viewed the Sami as the best magic workers, and Marina says something like "Today people can no longer transform themselves into animals, but when I was young there was still one Lappish sorcerer who could turn himself into a bear."

In other news I met a Finnish guy who confirmed to me that some Karelians still call God "Ukko" but he says its mostly posers trying to flaunt Karelian-ness and its much more common that he is called "creator." He stressed that Jumala/the sky god was not originally the creator. I also found this good acticle on Ukko and how he was likely originally the same as Ilmarinen, but as the Finns were influenced by Indo-Europeans he became known as Ukko ylijumalan "The old man supreme god" or ukkosenjumala, and this was likely a translation/calque of the Indo-European Dyeus Phater which we know in the forms of Zeus, Jupiter, and Tyr. Jumala itself is likely a loanword displacing the older word which means sky/god and is the root of Ilmarinen's name. ... kse/74446/ Marina Takalo talks very superstitiously about thunderstorms and associates them with the activities of God, who she often calls the creator.

Additionally, I have been looking for a link from the old ethnic faith tradition bearers to the modern era revivalists and I think I finally found one. During WW2 the soviet union attacked Finland and annexed some Karelian territory. After Germany invaded the soviets and it looked like they were going to win the Finns declared war on the soviets and vowed to liberate all of Karelia. The never got it all, but they did take a lot of it and occupied it with a military government for 3 years while the soviets had their hands full with the Germans and couldnt devote enough forces to defeat the Finns. During this time the Finns returned all Slavic place names to the original Karelian/Finnish, or replaced them with new ones, set up a radio broadcast that promoted nationalism and Pan-Finnicism, and anti-communism. They also set up schools for children that taught them all these same things. In "Songs of the Border People" by Lotte Tarka the teaching are described as including teaching about Vainamoinen, Ilmarinen and Leminkainen being their national gods. Looks like the soviets were not the only ideology who tried this tactic.

If you consider this environment would have been lead by adults who would have lived in the late 19th and early 20th century when we know for sure there were tietajas invoking old gods(besides Ukko) and would have taught children who are still alive today(probably) this is a pretty interesting little petri dish for what I have been researching - the interaction of the old tradition bearer and the new revivalist.

As for the extent of their beliefs in the mythology, this education was part of a very long intellectual tradition which recognised these figures as the native mythology of the Finnish people, going back at least to Henrik Gabriel Porthan writing in the 1700s. It was also manifest in popular knowledge especially after the publishing of the Kalevala in the early 1800s by Lonnrot. Finland may still be a province of Russia had it not been for the feelings of cultural pride and legitimacy inspired by the Kalevala, and it can be seen in the literature of the time that people viewed this as the mythology of their people which was to be treasured as preserved. This was discussed in depth in the Laura Stark book where people saw it as their great patriotic duty to record and preserve folklore. Another interesting example is the 1892 book Panu by Juhani Aho which is set in ancient Finland and describes characters who are pressured to convert from native faith to Christianity and the benefits of each are weighed. Unfortunately it seems too obscure to obtain a full translation. Also this wasn't just folklore enthusiasts, the deep importance of the kalevala was taught to essentially every Finnish school kid in the early 20th century in the time before Finnish independence. There were also scholars such as Karle Krohn who euhemerized the gods as warlike seafaring Finnish heroes who lived in the era of 700-1100, roughly the Viking age and taught that they truly existed. He had a strong and active correspondence with the public and his ideas would have had a strong influence. Yet still it leaves the question of just how common it was to believe and with how much conviction. The best answer to this is probably the one give by Stark(or was it Tarka?) who said that they had the a contradictory and mixed view of the contemporary ideals that saw them treasuring and promoting the old folk beliefs, yet if asked specifically if they believed they presented themselves as civilized modern Finns who didn't believe in superstitions. You typically get answers that jam all of this into one, such as "I am a civilized man and don't believe in superstitions, yet it is unexplainable how well the old spells work." At this point my study is basically done: the ethnic faith survived in the semi-christianized form of Marina Takalo's beliefs until modern times, the more heroized gods of Vainamoinen, Ilmarinen and Leminkainen were at least acknowledged as part of the native religion, and there were people who believed in their true legitimacy at least until the 1930s but probably until modern times. Even if this was as culture heroes you have to remember this is a society which still maintains ancestor veneration. The only question that remains in whether or not somewhere deep in Karelia some unknown tietaja was still invoking Vainamoinen, Ilmarinen and Leminkainen in spells in the 60s and later. The closest answer it seems I can get is that in 1965 that girl on the tv program referenced the steam of old Vainamoinen in her demonstration of a sauna ritual, and the guy from 1973 who still knew the spell against iron but I cant tell what invocations he makes(but I recognize none). If I happen to find a clear attestation of such it will be by dumb luck and I cant really expect to find it. Maybe if there is an online database of the late folklore collecting expeditions but I doubt it. At this point I think I will just read the Kalevala, that other one that is like a smaller Kaleva(kanteletar?), and then call it an end to this research project.

Here is the wiki page on the administration: ... rn_Karelia

interesting fact 1. They put ethnic Russians who couldnt speak Karelian in concentration camps. Mannerheim avoided the bad publicity Germany got by sweet talking the allies and sending inspectors to ensure that the camps adheard to the Geneva conventions.

Interesting fact 2. Our buddy Alfred Rosenberg manages to make an appearance: "Professor Gerhard von Mende (RMfdbO) had consulted Finnish far-right activist Erkki Räikkönen on Finland's "natural" eastern borders, and sent to Rosenberg a memorandum suggesting that the northeastern border between Finland and Germany should run along the Northern Dvina River (Finnish: Vienanjoki) near Arkangelsk." Erkki was one of the leaders who lead a popular revolt of Karelians against the Soviets in the aftermath of WW1 and the Russian revolution. It was unfortunately suppressed by the soviets.

Interesting fact 3. The administration was greatly influenced by the Academic Karelia Society, an academic Finnish nationalist organization founded by academics and students from the University of Helsinki in 1922. Erki Raikkonen was one of the founders.

That wiki page on the administration really seems to be a great source of info, considering the news paper, radio, and official correspondences it has references for. I just hope some of its in English.

Just reading about WW2 from a Finnish perspective is very interesting. They were fighting in the artic circle for the autonomy of their people, using reindeer to haul their supplies, and had almost cut off the soviets from their British and American arms suppliers before international pressure on Finland meant they had to stand down or get invaded by America and Britain. Churchill actually briefly declared war on them when Mannerheim told the British they would stop attacking the soviets "in a few days." This might seem like a minor theatre of the war but it was of high importance, because the Russians got many of their heavy tanks for example from the British.


Also not sure if I mentioned it earlier in the thread but the Finns discovered a way to disable soviet remote mines using broadcasts of Finnish polkka music at a specific frequency.


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Postby Edge Guerrero » Fri Nov 30, 2018 6:04 pm

- Can i assume that the slave-named places that where renamed are still refered with finn names today?
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Postby Luigi » Fri Nov 30, 2018 11:18 pm

Apparently Karelian place names were still very common in Soviet times, but the major change the Finns made was Petrozavodsk which they renamed Äänislinna and this change was not kept. As for the current situation, they probably still have the old place names but Im not sure. The main concern is Karelians losing the ability to speak their language. Apparently only 20% of them still can.

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