Practitioners Outside of Finland

Posted On March 3, 2010

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Over the years since I became pagan(8 years ago), my practice has gone through a variety of transformations. First I started off in Asatru, and was a strict reconstructionist in that realm for many of those years, then I became loosely reconstructionist, and now while I still occasionally honor Norse beings, my main focus has been placed in the Finnish tradition. Since I started traveling to other continents almost two years ago, my practice has started to change a great deal. As mentioned awhile ago in the ancestor post, I have noticed that it’s much easier to reach those in the particular area in which they died. This not only goes for ancestors though, the haltija are going to be of different varieties too. That brings me to a point that I want to talk about: Can I follow the Finnish tradition if I’m not in Finland or do not have Finnish ancestry?

Ancestry is a topic that is brought up in many reconstructionist pagan circles in which I have seen plenty of heated arguments about. Before I delve into this, know that this is only my opinion and others have the right to feel what they want. I used to feel very strongly that one had to either be Finnish or have Finnish ancestry to practice Suomenusko. It simply makes more sense. Contrary to the Germanic peoples that traveled all over, the Finns for the most part stayed here, and thus, their ways only leaked out slightly to neighboring countries. As I came to feel later with Asatru, I think that it does not matter though, because if you feel strongly pulled toward a particular tradition without explanation, then who are we to say “no” to them? I only question it if someone has all of a sudden taken interest in it because of being a fanboy/girl of Finnish metal bands and the like.

Other than the topic of ancestry, I will say that it is much more difficult to reach the Finnish gods outside of this country. They are a bit aloof as it is(how Finnish), so trying to connect overseas is even more of a struggle. However, as I have given many ritual examples on this blog so far, the best you can do is try and see what happens. A large focus of suomenusko is about honoring ancestors and haltija though, and while ancestors in your own country can be easy to connect with, the land spirits are going to be much different than they are in Finland. Much of the magic becomes lost when you leave here. The reason why I mentioned above that my religious practice has changed ever since I started traveling to different continents is because energies can be vastly different. In Japan I got into more of a Shinto/Buddhist practice, since the spirits in those traditions are so powerful there. It is not because I’m a Japanophile and want to become even more Japanese by being Shinto, it’s simply that it’s difficult to try to honor beings that have no basis there. I have heard from others, such as those who practice Asatru that visited/lived in places like China and Japan, that it was incredibly difficult to connect with the Norse gods there. I had some success while I was in Japan, but it was greatly muted. Oddly enough though, in Japan was when I started practicing Suomenusko. I read and finished the last half of the Kalevala there, which led to experiences with the Finnish gods after years of trying to connect with them. Who knew? Another odd fact is that I was able to feel the Norse gods so easily while living in America; perhaps from the number of descendants from the Germanic countries there. Hey, maybe Neil Gaiman was onto something in his “American Gods” book!

In any case, the main point that I’m trying to make here is to do what you can to try to make the connection, and you can do so regardless of your heritage if you feel a strong call to honor the Finnish gods. It is possible outside of Finland, as with my example of first experiencing them in Japan, but you will have to work a little bit more to try to gain their attention. As for the haltija, well, since I don’t believe it would be possible to honor those in Finland, focus on honoring those in your area and you can do so in the way Finns would have done so in the past.

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13 Responses to “Practitioners Outside of Finland”

  1. Nik

    I was going to say maybe in Minnesota or Upper Michigan it would be easier, but you’d probably be more likely to contact Heikki Lunta than Tapio. 😛

    • Christine

      Ah yes I didn’t think about that. I’ve never been there before, but perhaps(I had to look up who Heikki Lunta is, sounds about right).

  2. Lis Hearthcrafter

    I just wanted to let you know I added you to my blog roll! Thank you for visiting my journal and I look forward to reading yours!

    • Christine

      I think that’s the first time I’ve been added to a blogroll! I’ll of course add you to mine as well.

  3. Koivu

    I just wanted to say Kiitos for starting up this blog. I’m a Finnish-American who spent a few months in Finland on study abroad as an undergraduate. Although I already identified somewhat as Pagan at the time, my visit was a life changing experience and definitely sealed the deal! I am keen to keep learning about Suomenusko, and look forward to reading more from you. 🙂

    • Christine

      I’m glad you’re enjoying it so far, I’ll try not to disappoint. What university did you study at?

  4. Miika Vanhapiha

    I also added you to my blogroll. It´ll be nice to forward my non-Finnish friends interested in suomenusko to you blog. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  5. SLK

    Nice to see there are others Americans who are learning about the ancient Finnish gods and giving them the respect and recognition they deserve, there are so few people who consider themselves to be Suomenuskolainen. In fact, I think I’m the only one in southern Wisconsin. My Great Great-Grandparents were from southern Karelia, near Viipuri, I was reading about the history and mythology of all my ancestors homelands and Finland’s just clicked. Been trying to teach myself Finnish so I can someday go there and look for cousins and maybe a Tivaannaula meeting, but it isn’t going well (it’s not a language, it’s more like a secret code :P)

    • Christine

      I think it’s due to the fact that there are so few people with Finnish heritage in America, and not much information on old Finnish religion in general. You really don’t need to know Finnish in order to go there; pretty much everyone speaks English except for maybe some older people. I made my first trip there two years ago, and stayed with my cousins. If you ever make it at the same time as a Taivaannaula gathering(Kekri and Hela), you will likely meet me.

  6. Riteandritual

    Thanks for this blog! I’ll definitely add it to my regular reading.
    While not exactly a suomenuskolainen, since I moved from Finland to the US I’ve been trying to find ways to honor my ancestors and make a connection with my heritage. At first I was quite at a loss and didn’t think any old Finnish paganism existed to modern times, so I’ve just started to learn the Kalevala and the kantele, as well as download old Finnish anthropological books from the early 1900 from Google books. However, since then I’ve found Taivaannaula and now your blog – its good to see there’s a Finnish pagan movement going on!

  7. Luna Haefele

    I have recently been getting into the traditions of the old Finnish religion. This blog has been such an eye-opener! I am understanding so much more than ever before.

    I am half-Finnish myself, from my mother’s side. My ancestors were immigrants from Finland who came in the late 1890’s. I’ve been trying to connect with them the best I can.

    I’m originally from Northern Michigan, and I’ve found that the large population of Finnish-Americans and the abundance of forests, lakes and nature in general have really impacted me and pushed me to reach out to this wonderful old religion.

    Thank you so much for your wonderful blog. I hope to visit Finland and perhaps even study abroad for a year… And maybe even take part in a celebration/ritual!

    ~Luna

    • Christine

      Hi Luna, thanks for your reply! I’ve never been to Northern Michigan before, but I have heard about the Finnish community there. My grandfather grew up in one in Northeastern Ohio, but I’m not sure if there are many Finns still there. They have a museum though.

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