About Suomenusko-The Basics

Posted On December 24, 2009

Filed under history, Kalevala

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For the non Finnish-speaking people, and for those not living in Finland, finding sources on Finnish paganism can be quite difficult. The name commonly used for Finnish paganism, is suomenusko, which means “Finnish faith”. It is based on practices that have been around for centuries, much like other reconstructionist pagan religions. For many years, I sought out information on this path with little success. I also noticed others doing the same, and lamented the fact that there were so few sources in English on suomenusko. I did what research I could, but it was only after I came to Finland, that I started to develop a greater understanding of these practices, which is why I have created this blog. I do not claim to be the great messiah when it comes to this path; I’m simply writing to help other English-speakers gain some understanding on how to go about practicing this faith. Some of what I write will be historical information, which I will try to back up with citations. Other instances will be my own personal experiences and what I have found that worked for me. I personally am not of the opinion that one should spend all of their time researching, trying to figure out how to copy the ancient rituals in every manner possible. This is very much a living religion; something that should be explored and tested out on your own. We have general information out there to use as guidelines, but it is up to you to find out what works best.

Now without further ado, I will start with talking about Finland. Finland is situated in the north-eastern corner of Europe surrounded by Norway, Sweden, and Russia. There are approximately six million speakers of Finnish, which is part of the Finno-Ugric language group. Contrary to popular belief, Finland is not actually a Scandinavian country. According to Wikipedia’s article on Nordic countries, some English-language sources refer to Finland as such, but in reality, it is only Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Finland is, however, a Nordic country, which includes not only the Scandinavian countries, but also Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. If you would like to know more about this, see the Wikipedia article onNordic countries.

Now let’s get into something of more depth. The first step to learning about suomenusko is to read the Kalevala. It is quite difficult to get through, with the poetic language, size, and content. However, it is essential to learning about the gods and heroes of Finland. There are various translations of the Kalevala out there from the two versions by Elias Lönnrot: one from 1835 and the final version in 1849. The majority of the translations you will find will be based on the 1849 version, which is Lönnrot’s completed findings. I would personally recommend reading one that keeps the original metre. While one would think that prose would be easier to read, I think that the poetic versions move along smoother. The style of the Kalevala’s poems, otherwise known as runo, are in trochaic tetrameter. Each line has eight syllables often sung in 5/4, in the pattern of six eighth notes, and ending in two quarter notes. This was not always the case though, as the original runo singers often added variations to avoid monotony. William Forsell Kirby’s version which came out in 1907 keeps the meter throughout the book, however, the language can get a bit dry because of the sometimes limited choice in vocabulary in order to fit. Another good option is Eino Friberg’s translation, which originally came out in 1988. This author imitates the meter but in some areas strays slightly, since as mentioned, the original singers of the runo often varied up their style (Friberg 33). Another great way to learn the stories is to read “The Kalevala Graphic Novel”, adapted and illustrated by Kristian Huitula. As the author points out in his introduction, the book uses in its text the exact Friberg translation with only some lines taken out to avoid repetition. The idea is to make the reading of the Kalevala easier, particularly the lesser-known stories. I am currently in the process of reading this, and I highly recommend it.

I’m going to stop here, so that way the entry doesn’t get too long. I have a lot of information stored up to use in this blog, but I am going to write them in segments, so there will be new entries to look at hopefully regularly. Until then, Hyvää Joulua!

Works Cited

Friberg, Eino. The Kalevala: Epic of the Finnish People. 5th ed. Keuruu, Finland: Otava Book Printing Co, 2004.

Huitula, Kristian. The Kalevala Graphic Novel. Tampere: Fantacore Media, 2005.

“Nordic Countries.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Dec. 2009. Web. 24 Dec. 2009.


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