finnish mythology

O is for Otso/Orpheus

Hey everyone! A couple bits of news first. Don’t forget that I have the Hunky Hero giveaway going on. Also, Captive Moonlight is now on sale at All Romance eBooks (and at a discounted price!).

Anyways, today I’m doing a Finnish mythology being, but I have a tribute to an extra one based in Greek/Roman mythology that I couldn’t let slip by.

Name: Otso (also known as Ohto, Kontio, metsän kuningas (the king of the forest), and mesikämmen (honeypaws) my favorite, lol)

Type: bear/nature spirit

Origin: Finnish mythology

Description: The Otso is basically a bear spirit. He’s typically called friend, brother, uncle, or forest cousin (read below on its name). In some of the traditions, bears were thought to be relatives who had ran away from the community and were transformed by the forest’s power.

Interesting Facts: Despite the long list of terms for it, this spirit wasn’t properly named since the Finns did everything they could to avoid directly referring to it due to it being that sacred to them. They even have a ritual called Peijainen for if a bear was killed. There would be mourners and wailers for it. The bear’s skull, which is where the bear’s spirit resided, would be placed in a sacred clearing and taken care of and given gifts.

Now to the extra credit: Orpheus. He was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in Greek mythology. His ability to play music and sing was seen as almost divine, and it charmed or entranced. His music even overrode that of the Sirens who were known for their bewitching voices.

There’s some controversy over whether he was a coward or not (ahem, because he had caused the gods to allow him to go to the Underworld to try to bring Eurydice, his wife who died by snake bite after being chased by a satyr, back instead of… dying so he could be in Hades with her *rolls eyes*). They think he wasn’t truly in love with her for that, and therefore that the gods had punished him and only gave him an apparition of his wife in the Underworld.

Regardless of all that, I enjoy picturing Orpheus as this guy someone caring and… err… attractive. 😉 Maybe it’s the romantic in me. Here’s Eurydice by Sleepthief. I’ve listened to this song so many times, and it’s absolutely beautiful and romantic, even if it’s also sad.

Tell me what you think! Also, can you name any other O beings or creatures?

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.

H is for Hiisi

I hope everyone had a Happy Easter! Today’s trip takes us back to Finland we go for the letter H.

Name: Hiisi (originally meant “holy place” or “sacred grove”)

Type: Goblin-like guardian spirit

Origin: Finnish mythology

Description: As seen by it’s original name meaning, hiisi was originally seen as the awesomeness of nature. After Christian influence, they were seen as mean or at least horrifying evil spirits of small stature. They live near “salient promontories, ominous crevasses, large boulders, potholes, woods, hills, and other awesome geographical features or rough terrain.” Hiisis (Finnish plural is hiidet) travel noisily, and if people don’t get out of their way, they attack. Also, if a person left their door open, hiisis would go inside and steal something of his or her possessions.

In Finland’s national epic, The Kalevala, Hiisi was one of the twelve sons of Kaleva. He is in Poems 13-14, when Lemminkäinen is after his elk.

Interesting Facts:  They were originally thought to be tall like giants, so their diminished size is kind of interesting. In Finnish, a giant’s kettle is hiidenkimu, which means hiisi’s churn. Also, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, hiisi is used for the word goblin whereas orc is örkki.

An old folk saying is that one must put (and keep) their knives (puukkos) in their sheaths when entering someone’s home. Otherwise a spirit of hiisi would enter the home in the empty sheath and create chaos.

Have you heard of hiisis before?

D is for Doppelgänger

Today’s belated trip sponsored by the letter D takes us throughout Europe with a brief dip into Egypt, since while the word is German, there are several mythologies which have their own versions of it.

Name: Doppelgänger (means “double walker”)

Type: Paranormal, usually ghostly double.

Origin: European mythology/folklore

Description: They are typically described as the feeling of glimpsing at oneself in your peripheral vision, somewhere you couldn’t possibly be catching your reflection. They can be either shadowy, vague figures or life-like.

Interesting Facts: The mythologies I found that include doppelgängers are Norse mythology, in which it’s a spirit predecessor who goes before the living person and can be seen performing their actions before they do. It is called a vardøger. Finnish mythology has an etiäinen (which means “a firstcomer”) that is a spirit summoned by a shaman or person in great need so they can receive information. It looks and acts like the person who summoned it in order to obtain the message.

Finally, there’s the ka (meaning “spirit double”) in Ancient Egyptian mythology, which is a copy of the original person’s feelings and memories. It’s used in the Egyptian’s take on the Trojan War in “The Greek Princess” where Helen’s ka misled Paris of Troy to help stop the war.

Something else of interest is the fact that according to Nature, a scientific magazine, while being treated for epilepsy by using electromagnetic stimulation of the patient’s brain, the woman experienced the awareness of a doppelgänger near her, even though she was psychologically healthy. Also, several famous people such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Abraham Lincoln reportedly experienced their ghostly doubles as well.

Source: Wikipedia

Have you heard of the doppelgänger before? If so, where did you learn about it?

A is for Akka

Hello everyone! Today marks the start of the A to Z Challenge. This month, I’ll have a theme going on, which is creatures from folklore, mythology, or the paranormal. I’m quite excited about it, and since I’m learning Finnish, I’ve decided to start out with a Finnish spirit.

Name: Akka (means “old woman”)

Type: Deity, Spirit

Origin: Sámi, Finnish, and Estonian mythology

Description: Akka is the goddess of harvest and female fertility. She is the Finnish Earth Mother goddess, and she is closely tied to birth, farming, and death. She would be called on for earth magic and channelling. She was one of the most worshiped deities in Finland and Estonia (where she is called Maan-Eno).

In Sámi mythology in the Finnish Lapland, there’s a deity named Madderakka who is closely related to Akka. Madderakka is the goddess of childbirth. Three of her daughters, Sarakka, Juksakka, and Uksakka, take care of the child from conception to infancy.

Interesting Facts: Her husband is Ukko, the Finnish sky god, who is pretty much the equivalent of Thor with some resemblance to Odin in Norse mythology, and in Greek mythology, his equivalent would be Zeus. It’s said when they make love that thunder rolls. *grins*

She was also known as Rauni, which is from the Finnish word for mountain ash, or Rowan tree, which is sacred to her.

P is for Piru

Piru, from Finnish mythology, is considered to be a variety of things. Traditionally, the word has meant anything from a lesser devil or evil to Satan. The word has its base in the word perkele, which is tied to the old Slavic thunder god, Peru. While usually meaning the Devil himself, the word is also used for trolls, ogres, hiisi‘s (Finnish form of demon), and a variety of elves and gnomes that are evil or have characteristics of lesser evils.

In Finnish mythology and shamanism, pirus (both demons and devils) are roaming spirits that actively pursue their prey and the potential victims, unlike bound spirits, such as ghosts. Striking with little or no warning, they can cause illness, insanity, change the victim’s personality, or even possess the victim. (Interesting side note: the state of the person being possessed is known as riivattu. The base word is riivio, which means gremlin, so the connotation is that the person being possessed has a gremlin controlling their actions.) The piru can also possess, haunt and live in buildings themselves, as opposed to normal ghosts.

Shamans and priests may exorcise the piru out of the person, which sometimes cures the illness, but it usually takes years for the victim’s psyche to recover. Folklore mentions a multitude of different spells and methods used to expel such unwanted presences, ranging from using salt to a full-scale exorcism, and sometimes burning down the building.

Due to their roving personalities, pirus have been said to crash occasions, such as weddings or baptisms. Sometimes, the piru kidnapped children that were not being watched, taking them as their own. In these occasions, the child also became an invisible roaming spirit, only able to eat and drink accursed food. For instance, the piru might have knocked a jar of milk over, after which, if the maid cursed, the piru’s child would have a few moments to drink what milk had spilled. If the maid said a blessing, the child would have been punished and left without sustenance.

During the early Christian era, the piru was seen as a corrective spirit that replaced the wrongs. If a household master cheated the workers out of pay, he would eventually end up in the piru’s clutches and driven to insanity. But it didn’t end there, the piru would also tell the workers where the master’s money and goods were hidden.

Interesting tidbit: Don’t fall asleep in a sauna overnight. The piru would become upset enough to kill you.

Interesting Link:

Sorry, I couldn’t get hold of a picture today! Have you read or watched something with a Piru in it? If so, what was it? Also, is there a mythological creature you’re itching to read about? Let me know!

N is for Nix/O is for Ogre

Hey everyone! Sorry for not posting N on Saturday. I had a busy weekend. To make up for it, today I’m going to have two posts in one, N and O.

Theodor Kittelsen’s Nøkken (Norwegian form of Nix) from 1904.

Nix, or Näkki in Finnish mythology, is a water spirit in Scandinavia responsible for luring in and drowning young children and pregnant women with the occasional man every once in a while. The nix is usually a man who plays enchanting violin music in streams, waterfalls, or in the middle of the lake. He will initially have fun and play with the victims before suddenly pulling them down to the water’s depths.

There are female nix, but those are rare. Usually, they have a fishtail and lure men into the water to drown. Sometimes, the nix shapeshifts into the form of a river horse. The latter of which will take the rider to the freezing depths of the lake as soon as it is mounted.

With multitude of streams and rivers, ranging from the fjords in Norway to the swampy lakes of eastern Finland, the nix has plenty of hunting ground. It’s said to be most active during festivities such as Midsummer’s Night and Christmas Eve, and also on Thursdays.

Interesting Tidbit: It resembles the Banshee in the characteristic that it sometimes screams in a particular area of a lake or river where someone later drowns.

Giovanni Lanfranco’s Norandino and Lucina Discovered
by the Ogre

Ogres are from European folklore and described as having bulging big heads, strong muscles and unending appetite for human flesh. Nearly all mythologies have ogres as being huge, hairy, and having a large stomach. They are malevolent and dimwitted. It’s said they can shapeshift, and they typically live underground.

There is also a female ogress. She is connected with water and less vicious than male ogres.

Ogres are generally viewed as a fear of cannibalism and the degeneration of humans. They show what humans are without their humanity.

Interesting Tidbit: The word ogre is French in origin. Also, it’s thought that these creatures are based on the two mythical giants Gog and Magog, which are found in the Bible (in the Book of Genesis, Ezekiel, and 1 Chronicles) and the Quran.

Have you read or watched something with a Nix or Ogre in it? If so, what was it? Also, is there a mythological creature you’re itching to read about? Let me know!