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K is for Kalma

Today, you guys get a two for one. We’re dealing with both the goddess and spirits of the recently passed. 🙂 We also have a special Interesting Facts from my husband. Enjoy!

Name: Kalma (means “The Stench of Corpses”)

Type: Finnish goddess of death and decay

Origin: Finnish mythology

Description: As noted in the meaning of her name, she smells of death and decay. She lives in the Finnish Underworld called Tuonela. Surma, a beast often described as a large dog with a snake’s tail, accompanies her and guards the gates of Tuonela. He makes sure the dead stay in and the living stays out.

Interesting Facts (brought to you by my Finnish husband): In Finnish culture, the dead and recently passed have always held respect of those who were left behind afterwards. The old sayings of not to speak ill of the dead is directly related to the kalmas.

Kalmas, the spirits of the recently passed, typically lived in the world as passing spirits until they entered the afterlife (Tuonela) or were forced to vacate the area they were possessing. Sometimes the mortal bounds held the spirits in the physical world so strong that the Death was not able to relieve them.

Should the body not be completely decomposed, the spirit could re-inhabit the body with a mere effort, vitalizing it enough to walk around the living and typically to seek resolution or revenge

The early Christianity that came to Finland gave Kalmas another feature. It was said that some spirits were so religious and so tied to their home church that every Christmas eve the dead, the Kalmas and ghosts rose up from their resting places to worship on Christmas eve’s night. Along with a priest kalma.

Should one stay long near the dying and the deceased, they could contact the spiritual essence of the dead to themselves, and thus pass disease or death among the living without knowing it. One had to perform a set of rites of passage to prevent any dead spirits from passing with them as they were dealing with the dead and the diseased to prevent this. Tietäjäs (the shamans of the Finns) could typically see the dead and to command them, requesting the Kalma to hold her people (the kalmas) from taking the diseased from their homes into an early grave.

The Finnish necromancy was not wide-spread, but the dead and the Kalma was worshipped, and the dead were sometimes used as messengers, as mentors and even allies toward a specific goal. One had to pay respects to the dead, and pay them typically with blood of an animal, or by jewelry or gold to prevent them from attacking those who had requested their aid.


  1. I forgot to add… The Kalmas were not really ghoulish or typical brainless/mindless undead, but typically had the exact same personality as before dying, but their knowledge was typically increased (since the dead tended to know quite a few things…). In addition, should a very recent kalma be found, one could, with strong magic, bring the person back to full life, provided they did it before Tuoni, Kalma or other main deities of death (we got plenty…) had a change to touch the body.

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