Sampsa Pellervoinen

Posted On April 19, 2010

Filed under deities, Kalevala, poetry

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The recent shamanic drum circle that I went to had a theme of Sampsa Pellervoinen. Sampsa is mentioned in the Kalevala in Rune II as the tiny man that Väinämöinen tells to plant…well, pretty much the entire world. I think the actual lines from the Kalevala describe it better than I can:

Thought at last of Pellervoinen,
First-born of the plains and prairies,
When a slender boy, called Sampsa,
Who should sow the vacant island,
Who the forest seeds should scatter.
Pellervoinen, thus consenting,
Sows with diligence the island,
Seeds upon the lands he scatters,
Seeds in every swamp and lowland,
Forest seeds upon the loose earth,
On the firm soil sows the acorns,
Fir-trees sows he on the mountains,
Pine-trees also on the hill-tops,
Many shrubs in every valley,
Birches sows he in the marshes,
In the loose soil sows the alders,
In the lowlands sows the lindens,
In the moist earth sows the willow,
Mountain-ash in virgin places,
On the banks of streams the hawthorn,
Junipers in hilly regions;
This the work of Pellervoinen,
Slender Sampsa, in his childhood.

Even though not mentioned as a god in the Kalevala, he is viewed as the one who, dun dun duuun! Sows the seeds for the new season’s crops. While Pellonpekko watches over the fields, Sampsa is the one who actually plants them. Thus, he is the fertility god in the Finnish pantheon. According to Kati Koppana, in Ingria at Ukon juhla(Ukko’s Feast, done around midsummer), a poem was sung to Sampsa to make sure that good crops would grow during that season. It was said in the poem that Sampsa made love to his sister to bring fertility to the land. There is no written record of the name of his sister, but she likely was an old fertility goddess. In another poem on mainland Finland, he lies with the Earth Mother instead (Koppana 28). Something to think about doing for this coming midsummer would be to write your own poem to Sampsa and sing it to him and either his sister or mother. For this midsummer we will probably need all the help we can get, because this volcano that has been erupting could really do a number on the crops this season.

By the way, I recommend the book that I’ve referenced here. I found it on Google Books this morning(though I’ve heard the name before), and so far I’m liking what I see.

Works Cited

Koppana, Kati. Snake Fat and Knotted Threads: An Introduction to Finnish Healing Magic. Loughborough: Heart of Albion Press, 2003.


Ahti Meditation

Posted On April 7, 2010

Filed under deities, prayer

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I have developed a newfound appreciation in these past few months for the forces of nature, mainly due to living in a climate where half of the year is cold and dark. Much of the land which I was used to seeing throughout the year was now gone for months. The sun was barely out, I could not see the ground since it was covered in snow, and water was frozen. Granted the area where I lived in the United States was rather similar to what it is like here, but it was not as extreme. Generally the snow melted after two weeks, only to pile up once more two weeks after that, but still, I was able to glimpse the grass and fields occasionally. Now I was told that Western and Southern Finland normally does not get the kind of winter that we have had this year anymore, so I suppose I got lucky by coming this year. I really enjoyed experiencing the long, dark winter here. When it was over, it almost felt like a great accomplishment that I got through it.

I’ve been honoring a few of the deities lately that I did not see much in the past three or four months, so I created a prayer to them that I thought I might share on here. I haven’t talked about the gods much on the blog, simply because it’s difficult to find information on them, and they’re not as easy to connect with as ancestors and spirits of the land. Still, I managed to find a lot of inspiration from them recently. As I have mentioned before, saying what you feel from the bottom of your heart I think is more important than getting poetic meter and such in the correct possible manner.

Hail Päivätär!
May your beautiful rays shine upon us
Giving us hope and light to come
Melt away the snow
To reveal Pellonpekko’s vast fields
Hail Pellonpekko!
God of barley, fields, and grain
We wait once more for crops to grow
Nourishing us to the end of the year
Hail Ahti!
Let us see your waters flow
Frozen they were for months on end
Enjoying its feel on summer days
Päivätär, Pellonpekko, and Ahti:
I give you greatest honor today!

I used to be very close with Ahti actually; probably the most out of any god besides Tellervo. I thought I would share a little meditation that I did a couple summers back. I was sitting with a friend on a large rock beside a lake. My friend played a song for a water god that she felt close to, while I went into a meditative state. In that state, I imagined diving from that rock into the waters. Down I swam until I saw a being whom I knew to be Ahti. His form was tall and not very human-like, and his skin matched the greenish color of the water. He swam around me while I took in his essence, while telling me what he thought of the lake he had appeared in. Okay so it was Lake Erie, which I assume most people know how polluted it used to be(and some would argue that it still is gross), so he had some amusing things to say about it. In general, I got a surprised feeling from him that someone from the area was actually honoring him. After a short while, up I went back to the surface and there I was back on the rock. I looked out to see him in the water, looking back at me. As I came out of the meditation, I felt a great sense of peace, sitting there listening to the lapping water with my friend.


Posted On March 11, 2010

Filed under cosmology, deities, shamanism

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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.

Guardians of the Forest

Posted On January 4, 2010

Filed under deities, Kalevala, ritual

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Today I would like to write a little bit about some of the gods and goddesses. While I’m still not a huge expert in this field, there are certain deities that I have had experience with. For this entry, I’m just going to focus on one particular group: the gods and goddesses of the forest. As anyone that has read about Finnish mythology will know, Tapio is the god of the forest; the ruler of Tapiola, which consists of any forest or wooded area. He was called upon in the past for protection while traveling in the forest, particularly while hunting. Hunters would ask that Tapio help lead the way to where an animal may be killed. Nyyrikki, his son, was said to then show a path for the hunter to take to get to these animals by cutting notches on the trees. Another option was to call upon Mielikki, Tapio’s mistress and Nyyrikki’s mother, who would take her golden keys to open “Tapio’s shed”. By doing this, animals would be released to the hunter. Tuulikki, Tapio’s daughter, could also drive the animals close to the hunter (Davidson 24-25). A plea of this sort was sung by Lemminkäinen in Runo 14 while trying to catch the elk of Hiisi. The gods were so pleased with his song that they helped drive the elk out from his lair. Lemminkäinen then gave gold and silver to Mielikki for helping him, which she caught in her linen.

While this is all describing elaborate ways when hunting, these deities can still be called upon for protection in the forest, particularly when lost. For example, Nyyrikki showed hunters the way to the animals, the same way that a path could be shown to you out of the forest. I have been lost in large forests on a couple of occasions, and it seemed that right after I would ask a god to help me out, I would come across a road. Tellervo, Tapio’s maiden, is particularly helpful to lost women, and not just literally. If you are lost about where to go in life or what to do, then she is a good deity to look to. Traditionally though, she was said to be the watcher of cattle. A notable instance in the Kalevala was in Runo 32 when Ilmarinen’s mistress sang a lengthy charm to protect her cattle, calling upon the deities of the forest to help, with particular nods to Tellervo. Reading this runo along with the one mentioned above can give a very good glimpse into what these deities were called upon for. As for offerings, traditionally, prayers were either sung or spoken in order to please the forest gods, as well as giving food, drink, or coins. I already gave an example in a previous entry on one song that I sing while in the forest. For me, the gods and goddesses of the forest have always been easy to connect with, and not only in Finland. This is why I have brought up this topic for this entry, because I think that they are good deities to start out trying to get to know. All it takes is a walk to the forest’s center to reach them.

Departure to the Forest–traditional Finnish

I ski gracefully
early one frosty morning
that the crones may not notice
nor the crooked-jawed take stock:
I ski to the forest’s edge
into the bluish backwoods
to a golden hillock-top.

When I ski gaily
my golden skis are worn down
and my silver ones wear thin:
fire sparks from under the ski
smoke from the tip of the stick.

There the spruce-tree shines
the blue backwoods shimmer blue:
that is where I want to go
for that my deeps throb.
No other man has
bluer eyelashes
or clearer eyebrows
than the man I am.

Soften, forest, moisten, woods
yield, dear Tapio
be kind, world of gods
as a man goes to the hunt
be gracious, forest mistress
careful maid of Tapiola
open the wide shed
break your lock of bone
let the quarry run
along golden paths
along silver roads!

Ukko, it will only be
you if you give me a sign:
drive your game, O God
round it up yourself!

If it is not nearer here
bring it from further away
out of Lapland’s wide backwoods
from the north’s long hinterland
all claws and all hair
from between five Viipuris
out of earshot of six towns.

May the fence collapse
between seven stakes
which delays them on the road
makes them rest on their journey
that the stock may teem
the red-clad stretch forth
as the man I am walks by (Honko 149-150).

Works Cited

Davidson, Hilda Ellis. Roles of the Northern Goddess. London: Routledge, 1998.

Honko, Lauri, Senni Timonen, Michael Branch, and Keith Bosley. The Great Bear: A Thematic Anthology of Oral Poetry in the Finno-Ugrian Languages. New York: Oxford University Press for the Finnish Literature Society, 1994.