My Experience

Posted On April 2, 2011

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It seems that there is some interest in hearing of my own experience being in Finland and about suomenusko, so I will share my thoughts on this. I always felt out of place in America, being quiet and reserved in a society that expects you to be talkative to everyone and cheerful all the time. My grandfather was Finnish, and he told me about the culture and language throughout my life. I never learned to speak it, but he enjoyed telling me the different words for things. We knew quite a bit about our family history, and after my uncle went to Finland and visited our relatives a few years ago, I thought that I would really like to do so as well. I visited in June 2008, and found that so many people reminded me of members of my family, and myself. I loved the nature, the relaxed environment, and my relatives were very kind. After that visit, I knew that I wanted to try to move here. And with some luck, I was able to.

I knew about suomenusko before I came here, but very little. I couldn’t get too into the religion because there weren’t any people around to practice it with and teach me about it. Solitary paganism has never really been my thing. I contacted some people from Taivaannaula a couple weeks or so before I moved here, and they met up with me around the first week after I arrived. I was invited to several small local events after that, and the first actual ritual I went to was Talvennapa the year before this one. It was around then and after I started learning about the cosmology through the local shamanic drum circle, that I grew closer to it. The first nationwide event I went to was last April for Hela, and it was a great feeling spiritually. I grew further away from Asatru, which I used to practice, and have pretty much given it up now in favor of suomenusko. What I like about this religion is that it’s more about ancestors and land spirits, rather than gods; at least that is what I’ve noticed from most people here. I think there’s no other people that would want to invest so much time into your well-being than your ancestors. They’re directly a part of you afterall. I like the concept of the afterlife in old Finnish belief as well; that everyone goes to Tuonela and continues life as it was here, with only a thin line separating you from your living relatives. It’s quite simple and prevents a lot of arguing, which I’ve noticed happens with other religions where there’s more than one place that is believed that you go to in the afterlife. In general, it’s such a peaceful religion, focused on this life and making the best of it.

I’m hoping to stay in Finland after I graduate probably in the late summer. Whenever I have left this place, which happened that time I visited in 2008 and last summer when I went to America, I feel a great sense of sadness; that I’m leaving the place where I belong. I have to go to the place where I can find the best job for me, but hopefully that will be here. It’s quite difficult for foreigners to find jobs here, but we will see what happens in the coming months.

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4 Responses to “My Experience”

  1. Päivi

    Thanks for writing about your personal experience in Finland and about suomenusko. It was new to me that you have roots in Finland – do you know in which area(s)?

    Have you ever visited this place Nautelankoski?
    http://www.nautelankoski.net/kalmisto.php?kieli=en
    My ancestors on my father’s side come from there.

    It is interesting to hear how people come to suomenusko. I came via atheism -> asatru and many others. I also was inspired by paintings of Akseli Gallen-Kallela, for example this:

    • Christine

      Yes, they are from Jalasjärvi. I’ve visited the area once before when I first visited Finland. I’d like to go back again sometime.

      I never heard of that place, but it’s so close to where I live. Perhaps I will check that out someday.

      I did Asatru too for many years. Always felt kind of out of place in it though. I saw that painting at the Kalevala exhibit at the Turku art museum!

      • Kauko

        I’ve been lurking around here and reading your blog for a while and thought I’d finally leave a comment introducing myself: I’m American, of Finnish descent, my great-grandparents were from Alavieska in Finland and came to the US in the early 1900s (I still have distant family living there, but I’ve never met them). I’m Pagan and have set about to focus my Pagan practice on Finnish Paganism/ suomenusko (a difficult task if you live outside of Finland, as I think you know from reading some of your blog posts).

        One question that springs to mind from reading the above comments and how both of you mention coming to suomenusko from asatru (I’d imagine a lot of Finnish-American Pagans end up in Asatru because it probably feels the closest community they’ll find to their Finnish roots). I’ve read up my share of books on Asatru, and I always find it kind of interesting, but I’ve always been extremely put off at the politically and socially conservative attitudes that seem very common among American Asatruar. So, all of that was a lead up to asking, out of curiosity,in your experience in Finland, what kind of attitudes on social issues seem to be most common among people practicing suomenusko there?

  2. Christine

    Hi Kauko, thanks for your comment! I think that the situation here is quite different from the attitudes of many American Asatruar. Those that I have met here are open-minded, accepting of others, and while some people have different views on how to practice the religion, they are respectful of that. Finns are normally very private people, so even if they do have conservative attitudes, they generally aren’t very vocal about it. I think a lot of the reasons for the differences between the two has to do with the fact that Finland isn’t a very religious country. I can’t help but notice in many of the American Asatruar that I have met, that they seem to have not been able to completely shake off Christian concepts after they converted. Just like in the Kalevala, there is really no complete good or evil force in the Eddas. Even Odin, the highest of the gods, has done evil acts, yet he has also done much good for the world. I don’t think that American Asatruar have been able to get past this concept, and so they take the Eddas a bit too literally, as many do with the Bible. Though perhaps in America, suomenusko would not draw in those kinds of people, because Finns were not badass Vikings and the Kalevala is about a magical journey. That tends to steer the macho types away : P

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