Posted On May 21, 2010

Filed under holidays

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Helajuhla has come and gone, and I had such a great time there! Taivaannaula rented a campsite in Eura which was quiet, scenic, and right near a historically accurate Viking village, where some of the events happened. There will likely be some photos on that site’s gallery in the near future.

Now without further ado, my account of the weekend:

The group I was with arrived around two; the last ones arriving close to 7:30. I believe the final headcount was nineteen people. We gave self-introductions, heard about the schedule for the weekend, and then sang the ensimmainen runo. I thought that singing that was a great way to start off an event. Our first ritual was that evening, and the purpose was to get into the right mindset for the weekend, and invite in good energies. A fire was going to be made in the middle using flint and steel. While two of the men started to get it going, the rest of us held hands and went in a circle around the pit, singing the birth words for fire. After that was done, we did various songs and dance. The dancing was quite simple, and the songs are repetitive so was easy to catch on even if you had never heard it. There was A LOT of singing going on that weekend, in particular on Friday. It seemed like half the night was all song. The night was very lively, with sauna, song, and sausage. I didn’t partake in the latter though, being a vegetarian.

The next morning, we made our way into the woods and performed a ritual to Ukko. We shared food and drink, sang a song for him, and then gave our own offerings and thanks. We had a large feast in the afternoon with all traditional Finnish food. One of the women that is a chef made a good chunk of the food, but others brought their own dishes too. A few hours later, after a drum circle in the Viking village, a sauna for unmarried women went on. The purpose was to increase luck in finding a romantic partner or sex in general, depending on what one desired. We smeared a mixture of honey and sea salt over our bodies and had a foot bath with water from the lake. In the water we put honey, lavendar, salt, and some other plant I don’t know what it was. From there, we were supposed to go up one-by-one, putting water on the kiuas while saying something that we wished for either romantically or sexually in the coming times. The sauna became unbelievably warm. I assume that most people on here know that when you put water on the sauna stove, that it creates a warm steam called löyly. So imagine twelve or so women all going up and creating this steam over and over. A couple people had to leave, and I ended up with a few other people on the bottom bench. Needless to say, no more sauna for me that night…or at least no more sauna of that kind.

Late that night, we were informed that a sweat bath was going to happen in the Viking village. I assumed that this was going to be held in a large lodge with everyone. I was very wrong. It was in a tiny tent which I was even taller than. Only four people could go in at one time. When I got to the camp there was a large bonfire going on, which was supposed to become mostly coals after awhile. Those who were waiting to go in remained around the fire talking and drumming. I was in the second group of people. The one who was taking care of the coals went in first, followed by everyone else. We had to crawl in around the edge of the tent, because there was a hole in the ground where hot coals were placed. Someone outside started bringing coals and sliding them in. Then water was brought, and the tent flap closed. Water began to be poured on the stones, and it got quite steamy. I thought that it would be difficult to breathe or that it would be smokey, but it was just steam. Unfortunately I sat bare-assed down on something not so good. I’m not sure if it was nettle, but I know that fire ants were one of the culprits. It stung so bad, but I took it as a trial to get through. I was able to breathe fine in the tent, so I didn’t have any trouble outside even thought I was told I may have some dizziness.

I stayed at the campsite for awhile after that, getting into bed at 3. In the next morning, we performed our final ritual. We went into the woods, and one person at a time went into the ritual space. The goal was to set us back into the mundane world. I was instructed to lay down on the ground, while the ritual leader said some words(which I didn’t understand, heh). I walked back to the camp alone and in silence. I would say that it was the most peaceful ritual I have ever taken part in. I had this real sense of peace afterward. I was told by another that she often feels that way after it too. It was interesting that right after we all cleaned up the campsite and were getting ready to go, it started pouring down rain for five minutes with some thunder. We had a little bit of thunder right before the ritual on the first day, but it didn’t rain after that. It was almost as if Ukko had held out on us so that we could enjoy our time.

I’m very glad that I went to this event, and I’m looking forward to it next year. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend going to one of Taivaannaula’s nationwide events. I think they will only celebrate Kekri and Hela from now on, since planning for all four holidays in the year was draining for the organizers. It was a perfect way to spend my last weekend in Finland for this year. Now I have arrived back in America safely and will be here for the rest of the summer.


2 Responses to “Helajuhla”

  1. Nik Gervae

    Hm, you got fire ants at Helajuhla, I got a sprained ankle at Karhunjuhla. I sense a potential theme!

    • Christine

      Oh yeah Anssi told me about that. Perhaps some trial that the spirits are giving to foreigners to see if we can handle it there : P

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