Posted On March 11, 2010

Filed under cosmology, deities, shamanism

Comments Dropped 4 responses

I just added a glossary for the benefit of new people stumbling across this blog. That way you won’t have to dig through all of the past posts to figure out what I’m talking about. If there’s anything you feel should be added or corrected, let me know!

Recently I learned a bit about the cosmology in this tradition through a shamanic drum circle I went to, as well as through research on my own. I have to say that it’s a lot more simple than the Norse cosmology that I’m used to. There are three worlds: Upper, middle, and lower. The middle world, Keskinen, is where we live, so there is not much to say on that. The upper level is called Päivölä, which is where the deities live. In the center of this world, you will find Päivätär, the goddess of the sun. This place is different from many mythologies of the world, in that humans do not go there permanently after they die. The way that leads up to the sky from the middle world is through the Milky Way, which is a common view in other Finno-Ugric cultures such as the Sami and Permian. There are two names in the Finnish tradition for the Milky Way: Linnunrata, which means “The Way of Birds”, and Kalevanporras, the “Stairs of Kaleva”. The birds make their way through to Lintukoto(also called Ylinen) the land of birds, which is in the southern end of the Milky Way. In Ylinen is where starts the world tree, which is a birch, and the large warm lake of life. The ruler of this area is Iro, a goddess of life(a form of Päivätär), who mothered all of the gods and is the sender of souls. Human souls are said to turn into water birds after they die, where they travel to Ylinen through a cosmic river, and then down to Tuonela. The birds that travel to and from Ylinen and our world through Linnunrata are thought to be messengers of the gods(A friend helped translate some of the information in this paragraph from the Hiitola forum).

The bottom world is known as Tuonela or Manala, which is the land of the dead. Here it is believed to be a world turned upside down with a very thin layer between the world of the living. Thus, the reason why ancestors are able to easily be contacted here. Humans are able to experience this realm through dreams or an encounter with the supernatural. The shaman, however, is able to visit it through free-will and have interaction with the dead. The dead are considered to be the most valuable to gather information from, as they keep all of their secrets there. Tuonela is considered a good place, where humans simply continue life as they did back on Earth. This explains why in the past(possibly the present too?) the dead were buried with the tools they used in life. Tuoni and Louhi rule over the entire kingdom. Their child, Kiputyttö resides on Pain Hill(Kipumäki), or also called Pain Mountain(Kipuvuori), where she gathers all the pain in a bright basket. This child, however, is thought to be another aspect of Louhi. A river encircles all of Tuonela, and the first person that the dead meet is Tuoni’s daughter(Likely another daughter of his), who according to the Kalevala, appears tiny. She takes her rowboat and ferries the dead across the river to their resting place (Pentikäinen 205-207). One thing that’s good about there being only one land of the dead, is that humans don’t have to worry where they’re going to end up at when they die. I always hear people worrying about that in traditions that have more than one. I have heard a little of perhaps other layers of Tuonela, but so far I have not found much on the subject.

Holding all of the worlds together is the world pillar, or tree, whichever you wish to view it as because I have come across both terms regularly. I will use tree for the sake of simplicity. It is fastened at the top by the North Star, or Northern Nail(Taivaantappi), and all of this is to prevent the upper world from crashing down. Even though the Kalevala has no end of the world story, obviously the destruction of the world tree would cause all of the worlds to be destroyed(Pentikäinen 166). Other than Linnunrata, the tree connects the worlds as well, but particularly the land of the dead. At this tree is where humans can give sacrifices and give messagers to the gods and ancestors. A common way that a shaman had access to the worlds was by traveling up and down the tree through a hole, cave, or crack known as lovi. The Sami term for this is boasso, which was an area in the back north corner of a house where the shaman’s drum was kept. As I mentioned, I had the opportunity to participate in a shamanic drum circle here not long ago, and the tietäjä opened up the hole in the middle of the area for all of us to enter and travel up and down the three worlds. So I was able to get a little firsthand experience of the worlds.

For the next entry I think I will talk about burial rituals, as I have come across a great deal of information about that.

Works Cited:

Pentikäinen, Juha. Kalevala Mythology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.


4 Responses to “Cosmology”

  1. Nik

    I’m so jealous! I wish I could get back to Finland sooner.

    I had no idea there was any kind of living Finnish shamanic tradition (or a reconstructed one, for that matter). Or was this a Sámi shaman? You did call the leader ‘tietäjä’, though and not ‘noaidi’…. Where was the circle held? Was it done in English or is your Finnish already good enough to follow along?

    • Christine

      Yep she’s a tietäjä who learned from an older one, and the circle was held here in Turku. She said there’s a few very skilled tietäjät in Finland right now. It was done in Finnish, but she helped me along. I’ve done so much journeying on my own though, so it was easy to follow, though it’s funny that the main Finnish that I understood were the incantations that she did during the ritual. It was pretty amazing to finally witness all of what I had studied on Finnish shamanism. We were both a bit surprised at how many people showed up to this drum circle, about 25. I think it’s going to become a regular bi-weekly meeting, though I haven’t heard anything about next week.

      • Nik

        Sounds very cool! I hope to hear more about it. In the meantime I’ll keep at my Finnish and try to get on the hiitola forums for real.

  2. Christine

    Speaking of Hiitola, I updated this entry a bit from information from there. A lot of the book sources I found were conflicting, so I figured I should go to actual pagans! (Of course a friend of mine had to help translate).

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