An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.





Satellite Map of Finland
[Click on the link to access larger versions of this map;
for great collections of other maps, see;;;;
and Finland from the Air -- a combination of small maps and photos.]

Friday, 19 May 2000,
Author's note:

Everytime I begin a new geographical page, I fall in love with the country.  Finland is no exception.  I was there with my mother for a few hours one November in the early 1960's when I worked for an airline.  We had a pass with SAS that allowed unlimited travel, so we left a charming Copenhagen one noontime and arrived in Helsinki shortly thereafter.  The city showed the drab, stolid aftereffectsof a long period of Soviet oppression.  We walked a few blocks, felt the bone-chilling cold, the bleakness and sadness, and we couldn't bear it.  We went back to SAS and returned that same afternoon to Copenhagen.  Yet, strangely, Helsinki's heaviness deeply touched my heart and I often wondered about the country and her people over the following decades.  (I learned recently from one of my students that today Helsinki sparkles as magically as Copenhagen or Stockholm -- I hope to return one day.)

The inspiration for my Finnish page dates back many months when I was intrigued by a pagan site done by a cyberfriend, Yasmine Galenorn, a devotee of two Finnish woodland deities [see below].  More recently, in Yasmine's book, Dancing with the Sun, I found a wonderful Finnish spell for knotting up the winds for future use (Finns are famous for their wind-magic).  At the same time, another popularized book on Finnish magic, Finnish Magic : A Nation of Wizards, a World of Spirits, by Robert Nelson, Ph.D.,  briefly introduced me to Finland's great epic, the Kalevala.  I had heard of the Kalevala for years but knew almost nothing of its content or history.  I finally bought a magnificent translation from Harvard University Press by Francis P. Magoun and decided to skim through enough of it to offer some brief comments to my folklore students this spring.  I planned to speak no more than 20-30 minutes.  Instead, I found myself so captivated that I wound up reading the entire volume and preparing a two hour lecture; I could have gone on for several more hours.

Were it not for the Kalevala, it might have been many more months before I found time for a page on Finland's myths and lore.  But as it turns out, I now have no choice -- that ancient world calls to me and I wish to share some of its strangeness and magic with you.

There are stunning opening descriptions, for example, of where songs come from.  Here's a brief excerpt (but the full sweep of this material comes only when you read the longer passage):

...The cold recited me a lay, the rain kept bringing me songs.
The winds brought another song, the waves of the sea drove some to me.
The birds added songs, the treetops magic sayings....  [Magoun:4]
There are great "origin songs" for iron (from the breast-milk of three air-virgins); bears [see below for Yasmine Galenorn's retelling]; snakes; the Water Dragon; fire; diseases; and beer (from two lonely plants, hops and barley, and their desire for close companionship -- a marvelous touch is the trial-and-error search for a fermenting agent: even frothy bear spittle is tried before success is finally achieved with honey -- the songs celebrate the failures along with the successes, for all are part of the same process).  There are also charms against all manner of misfortune in which animistic powers are invoked in rising hierarchies (just to ensure that all the bases are covered).  Then there are chillingly grim, eerie wedding lays about the fate of new brides leaving the shelter of their familiar homes for lives of endless toil -- this may be one reason why all of the major male characters in the Kalevala had such dreadful luck with women, for, despite these males' amazing wizardry, they were blind to the fact that women too had their songs and sorcery (equal if not superior to the men's), and were far more than drudges to clean, mend, bake, milk, work the farm, and keep a bed warm.  Male attitudes are perhaps best summed up in these two lines of lament from an old woman:
...No one believed I got tired nor worried about my collapsing
even though the men got tired, the horses collapsed.... [Magoun:162]

Old Väinämöinen watching the doomed maiden, Aino
(Part of an 1891 triptych by Akseli Gallen-Kallela)

Among many memorable characters in the epic is the tragic maiden Aino, who cannot bear the idea of being the bride of an old man, Väinämöinen, even though her family desires the marriage because it will be an honor to have the old sage as a son-in-law:
...My state of mind is no better than wood tar, my heart no brighter than charcoal.
It would have been better for me, would have been better
not to have been born, not to have grown up, not to have got big
in these evil days, in this joyless world.
Had I died when six days old, vanishd when eight days old,
I would not have needed much: a span's length of linen,
a tiny bit of unplowed field, a little weeping by the mother,
still less indeed by the father, not even a little by the brother.... [Magoun:25]
Aino ends by removing all her fine blue garments, golden belts, bright hair ribbons, and slipping into the ocean at dawn where she drowns.

The Kalevala contains much more than grief, however.  There is humor and also much wonder and beauty.  One of my favorite passages, for example, offers delicious descriptions of the music Väinämöinen plays on his harp (a harp carved from a birch tree who longed for a joy she couldn't find as a continually abused tree):

Väinämöinen played with his fingers, the harp resouded with its strings.
Mountains echoed, boulders crashed, all the crags shook,
rocks splashed into the billows, gravel boiled in the water;
pine trees rejoiced, tree stumps jumped about on the heath....
...When he played at home in his cabin of evergreen logs,
then the roof echoed, the floors thudded,
the ceilings sang, the doors roared, all the windows rejoiced,
the stove stones stirred, the birchwood scantling broke into song....  [Magoun:298-299]
I hope you will be as moved as I am by this haunting Finnish material.....


Ilmatar, the Air-Spirit
(By Alainen, 1920)
(Here she is lying pregnant and trapped in the waves at the dawn of creation; a bird would soon  lay seven eggs on her knee and begin brooding.  According to the Kalevala, when her knee began burning with the heat, it twitched, the eggs fell off and broke, and from the scattered pieces the heavens and the earth were formed.  After 700 years, her son, the old sage, wizard, musician named Väinämöinen, would finally emerge from her womb.)
This is SKS, a Finnish site with a series of linked, illustrated essays, brief but excellent, on the background, history, content, origins, culture in the 1800's (which is when these 50 songs, or runes, were collected), people and art associated with the Kalevala, and much more Here is a passage from the opening essay, "Kalevala - the Finnish national epic":
The first edition of the Kalevala appeared in 1835, compiled and edited by Elias Lönnrot on the basis of the epic folk poems he had collected in Finland and Karelia [on the Finno-Russian border]...

...The Kalevala marked an important turning-point for Finnish-language culture and caused a stir abroad as well. It brought a small, unknown people to the attention of other Europeans, and bolstered the Finns' self-confidence and faith in the possibilities of a Finnish language and culture. The Kalevala began to be called the Finnish national epic....
This is a good overview of the Kalevala -- its themes, characters, and influence on contemporary music (Sibelius) and literature (including Tolkien's work).

Lake Saimaa in eastern Finland
[From a photographic "Year in Finland"]
This is "Kalevala: from Myth to Symbol."  The engrossing paper was written for Virtual Finland by Professor Michael Branch at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London.  Here are several excerpts:
...The compilation of Kalevala was a unique embodiment of a set of late eighteenth century ideas most closely associated with the German thinker, J.G. Herder (1744 - 1803). Herder argued that a 'nation' could exist only if it possessed a distinctive cultural identity founded on the language and oral literature of the ordinary people. In Finland, where Swedish was the principal language of government and education at the end of the eighteenth century (and was to remain so until the second half of the nineteenth century), such thinking fell on fertile ground....

...It is around Väinämöinen, the 'eternal sage', who exerts order over chaos and establishes the land of Kaleva, that so many of the events in Kalevala revolve. His search for a wife brings the land of Kaleva into friendly but later hostile contact with its dark and threatening neighbour in the north, Pohjola. Ilmarinen, the primeval smith, and Lemminkäinen, a stone age Don Juan, also seek wives from Pohjola, though with varying success, and large sections of Kalevala are devoted to the tasks they have to perform to acquire their wives....

...Evidence of ancient belief systems and world views may perhaps be deduced from the varying roles in which Väinämöinen and other heroes are cast. Sometimes they are depicted as gods at the beginning of time; in other poems they are cultural heroes bringing to their people the essentials of life; their exploits in the Otherworld would seem to indicate an age when shamanism of a northern Eurasian type was practised in the Finnish Karelian area, the belief that in special circumstances the soul could leave the body and travel to the Otherworld in order to seek help and advice from the spirits of the dead.

The practice of magic pervades Kalevala. One event after another illustrates its central role in ancient societies. The events in Kalevala's opening canto, the creation of the world, are central to the successful practice of magic: the association of spells with the acts which occurred at the beginning of time was the surest way for a worker of magic in the Finnish Karelian area to ensure that his magic would be effective....

The entire paper is worth reading -- it is literate, thoughtful, and well-balanced.
This is another fine, carefully footnoted paper, "The Kalevala: The Finnish National Epic," by Professor Kai Laitinen of the Department of Finnish Literature, University of Helsinki.  The author looks at Lönnrot's pivotal role in assembling materials in the Kalevala; he also considers some of the symbolic aspects of the epic.  (Note: the paper comes from The Kalevala: Essays in Celebration of the 150 Year Jubilee of the Publication of the Finnish National Epic; this book was published by the UCLA Center for the Study of Folklore & Mythology in 1987.  For a direct link, go to:
This page offers good general background notes on the Kalevala by Aaron Shepard, author of the children's picture book, The Maiden of Northland: A Hero Tale of Finland.  These notes were originally written to go with his book, but lack of space prevented this.  (Note: at the bottom of his page is a link to a sample and reviews of his book.  His version is a fine retelling for young people, although for adults, no one surpasses the translation of Francis P. Magoun.)

Old Väinämöinen singing and playing his harp
P. Halonen, 1897
...Väinämöinen, a central figure in the poems, was seen to be the symbol of national rebirth. A singer and player of the folk instrument, the kantele, Väinämöinen was compared to Orfeus of Ancient Greek mythology, who, like Väinämöinen, was able to enchant his listeners with his playing.... [Text from SKS]
From Ritva in Finland comes a wide range of unannotated links to sites related to the Kalevala.  The sites are of mixed quality but all offer something of interest and some are really great.
This site offers a dozen paintings directly inspired by the Kalevala.  Several are on my page but you can see them full sized at this link.  (Note: you'll need to disengage the pop-up ad on each page but this is easily done by clicking on the "x" in the upper right corner.)
This is another site of Kalevala-related art done by Akseli Gallen-Kallela in the late 19th century (smaller versions of some of these paintings are also on my site).  The work is strong and powerfully done.
This is Projekt Runeberg's Kalevala (in Finnish only).
This is an link to recordings made many decades ago of Finland's Kalevala singers -- I'm including the link because there are 5 selections you can listen to for free.  (FYI: here are two other Finnish music sites, if you wish to explore further:
This is the Kanteletar, Finland's treasury of folk lyrics and ballads, written for Virtual Finland by its English translator, Keith Bosley.   The Kanteletar, published by Elias Lönnrot in Helsinki in 1840-41, is a collection of more than 660 lyrics and ballads -- it is the companion work to Lönnrot's national epic, the Kalevala. This website includes several excerpts from the collection, including a lovely nativity song in which the stars of the Great Bear join in rejoicing.

Old Väinämöinen at his farm
(Artist unnamed;
from the Kostomuksha Juminkeko site -- see directly below)

This is Juminkeko, a new information center in Finland for the cultures of the Kalevala and Karelian (i.e., the area where the epic narrative songs for the Kalevala were collected).  The site offers richly illustrated pages on the text, Elias Lönnrot, the Karelian "bard-villages" (including their dismal fate during WWII and under the Soviets), the reconstruction of many of the villages, and much more.  I found navigation a little awkward because one series of pages offers new menus along the top as well as on the lefthand side of the pages, which I initially thought were meta-categories applicable to the entire site.  They are not -- they are unique to each page.   Once you get the hang of it, however, navigation goes very smoothly.  Here are direct links to two of the major categories.....
This is Juminkeko's series on the "bard-villages" -- here you'll need to follow the lefthand links to advance into a given subtopic; then to move to the next related topic, click on the top menu; the resulting new page will give you another grouping of subsections on the left.  Panoramas are offered of the villages, video clips, many photos, and much more.
Here navigation is more straightforward.  This is Juminkeko's extremely interesting body of knowledge about Elias Lönnrot, who collected many of the Kalevala's 50 songs and put them into their current order.  The man himself is explored as well as his many field trips, all well illustrated with old photos, maps, and texts.
This is "The Many Karelias," written for Virtual Finland by Pekka Nevalainen, PhD, of the University of Joensuu.  Karelia, with its bard-villages, is important in Finnish literary history as the cradle of the Kalevala.  But the region's history is as fascinating, troubling, and tragic as much of the lore in the epic itself.  As the author begins:

    European history provides several examples of border areas which have
    been a constant bone of contention between neighbours on opposite
    sides of the border, and whose ownership has fluctuated back and forth
    from one side to the other. One such area is Karelia, a territory which
    straddles the present-day border between Finland and Russia....

The paper looks at the long history of the region, from many centuries ago to the last few decades.

Lemminkäinen's Mother
Akseli Gallen-Kallela

This is the Kalevala's powerful resurrection sequence in which Lemminkäinen's sorceress mother locates her son's dead body and puts him back together with the help of deities, spells and the natural world.  The translation is by Keith Bosley.

Finnish Birch Grove
[From a photographic "Year in Finland"]
This is Yasmine Galenorn's general introduction page to the world of Suomiland [Finland] magic, lore, and history.  She doesn't currently link her Finnish pages together -- one has to keep shuttling back to a home page.  Thus, I am providing direct links below.....
This is Yasmine's page on "The Gods of Suomiland."  She begins with a good overview, and then offers lengthy and quite useful charts on the gods, heroes, spirits and elementals, and their various realms; the charts include the names as well as the known attributes of each being or place.
This is Yasmine's "The Magick of Suomiland," wherein she discusses Finnish magick (contrasting it briefly with some elements of wicca), magical tools, instruments, and terms.  Here is one of her lovely passage on winds:
...Finnish shamans are perhaps most famous for their power over the winds.  They used to knot up the winds in ropes and sell them to sailors.  Untie one knot and you have a gentle breeze; two and you have a steady wind...three...and you have gale force storms.  The Norse wouldn't allow Finnish shamans on their ships.  It was feared that the shamans would call up the winds and sink the Viking warriors, for the Finns were known for their cunning and their willingness to risk themselves in adventure....
This is Yasmine's "Mielikki: Lady of the Hunt," a page about Yasmine's personal deity, the Finnish goddess of the forests.  Yasmine's lens here is intuitive, not academic, but no less valuable for all of that (especially since she carefully checks her intuitions against data in the Kalevala as well as in old Finnish songs).
This is "Tapio: Lord of the Forest," a companion page to the above, for Tapio is the consort of Mielikki.  Again, Yasmine works from intuition but checks this against known sources.  Both of these pages end with her appealing little paintings of each deity.
This is my favorite of Yasmine's Finnish pages: it is her re-telling of the Kalevala's creation of the bear by the forest-goddess, Mielikki.  It is beautifully done, written with humor, wisdom, and a lyrical sense of wonder.  Don't miss reading this one.


Elk's head stone-carved sculpture.
        Huittinen, Western Finland, ca. 5500 - 5000 BCE
(From "Animal Head Sculptures,"
© The National Board of Antiquities, National Museum of Finland --
see directly below for the home page)
This fabulous site from The National Board of Antiquities at the National Museum of Finland looks at the "Prehistory of Finland."  Beginning ca. 8000-6500 BCE with the Early Mesolithic, the site is beautifully written and illustrated (see directly above for one of countless photos).  I followed many of the Board's internal links (interspersed within the opening page's text) and every one of them turned out to be exceptional.  Allow yourself a good deal of extra time when you start exploring this one -- it'll be well worth it.  Also don't miss one of the Viking-period pages on Ancient Magic and Christianity.
Although the pages and text are briefer than at the link directly above, this is a well photographed site on prehistoric Finland written for Virtual Finland by Dr. Pirjo Uino, Docent, Curator, Department of Archaeology, National Board of Antiquities (see above).  After a brief introduction, there are links to his connecting pages, beginning with "The enigma of Susiluola (Wolf Cave)," a cavern still being excavated that places humans (non-homo sapiens) in Finland even before the last Ice Age, or about 100,000 years ago; prior to Susiluola, it was thought that humans didn't start reaching Finland until some 90,000 years later -- i.e., around 10,000 BCE; further linked pages offer fine photos and descriptions on this cavern.

Other topics covered are: The ice recedes — man arrives; The early potters; Traces of life and death (this one has an exquisite photo of another elk head sculpture); The age of the great cairns; Who were the Fenni?; The country's many burial grounds; Foreign and home-produced artefacts (this one has a photo of a lovely reconstructed woman's costume from the 11th century); Life in the villages and houses; and The archaeologist's work is never done.

Two Elk
"Comb-Ceramic" period of the Stone Age
(From "Tracing the Cliff God: Rock Paintings in Astuvansalmi"  --
see directly below for home page)
This is "Tracing the Cliff God: Rock Paintings in Astuvansalmi," a handsomely illustrated series of pages on prehistoric rock paintings, amber carvings, and other prehistoric art.  The text could be more detailed, but other links can take you to such sites if you wish to know more.  Having the art is reward enough for visiting this one.
I've long been fascinated by the role of genetics in helping to establish otherwise invisible connections between peoples who do not share a common linguistic background -- or, to reverse this, who do share a common linguistic background (e.g., the Finns and Sami) but lack genetic connections .  Thus, I was delighted to find this excellent page written for Virtual Finland by Marja-Liisa Savontaus, Docent of human genetics at the University of Turku.  Here is her conclusion:
Recent genetic research suggests that Finns, like the other Finno-Ugric peoples, are genetically close to the Indo-European populations....On the other hand, the Sami genotype is distinct from that of the Finns. The Sami are probably descendants from an old population, whose origins have not yet been established.
Building on the link directly above, but expanding on that data to consider the implications in wider contexts, "Where Do the Finns Come From?" is another fine page for Virtual Finland, written by Christian Carpelan, Licentiate in Archaeology and a researcher at the University of Helsinki.  In developing his own theories (after summarizing competing theories), he weaves in the complex fields of genetics, linguistics and archaeology.
"History of settlement and migration of Finland: The Origins of Finns," gives a nice historical overview, beginning with the genetic data (see above).  It is by an unnamed Finnish highschool history teacher in Helsinki who offers concluding questions and projects designed for students.  The site is part of The Migration Project for students in Finland, Sweden and Belgium (scroll down the small lefthand frame to"Infodesk" for more information).
This is "The Ancient Religion of the Finns," written for Finland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs by Professor Juha Pentikäinen of the University of Helsinki.  In addition to brief material on the Kalevala, there is also some fine data on prehistoric Finnish history.  The paper covers the following subjects: History of Finnish settlement; Finland: meeting place for eastern and western cultural influences [this includes problems between eastern and western Christianity]; Rock paintings and animal ceremonies [this is my favorite section]; Oral tradition; First literature references and mythological studies; Cosmology; The ancestor cult; Hunting rites; and Gods and guardian spirits.


Autumn in Kuhmo, Eastern Finland, near the "bard-villages"
[From a photographic "Year in Finland" --
see directly below]
This site offers 31 linked photos to the seasons of Finland (see above for #18, located near the region of the "bard-villages" from which the Kalevala's songs were collected).  The photos are sharp, of high calibre, and offer a wonderful glimpse into the beauties of a little known land's lakes, forests, islands, and cities.
Forests and individual trees play a crucial role in the Kalevala -- even old Väinämöinen's magical harp is carved from a sorrowful birch tree.  With this in mind, I'm including this link, "Forests & Finnish Culture" written for Virtual Finland by Aarne Reunala, Director of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, Helsinki Research Centre.  Here are three brief excerpts:
Finland’s cultural history accommodates barbarism and romance, both a backwoods mentality and a highly evolved culture. Finnish culture has its roots deep in the forests, deeper than any other European culture....

...By processing the green gold of her forests, Finland has caught up, in leaps and bounds, with other civilised countries and has come to occupy a position among the world’s prosperous nations....

...The oldest implication of the forest from the point of view of culture lies in its meaning of wild, untamed nature, the opposite of farming and "culture". Forests have been cleared to make room for "culture". Indeed, having the forests as one’s source of life and livelihood has been considered in Western culture to be more primitive and less civilised than the practice of agriculture....

The site considers the painful paradox of Finland's love for her forests alongside her continuing and profitable use of those forests for paper and pulp products.  The site offers linked pages, also from Virtual Finland, ranging from the ancient history of Finnish forests to current practices.  Topics covered include: History of hunting and swidden cultivation; Cattle in the forests; 300 years of tar distillation; Home, sweet home - of wood; Culture of growing trees - silviculture; Cultural and spiritual traditions (this is the most relevant page for my own site, so I am providing its direct link; the other pages are also first-rate, however); & National identity in the forests.
This simple table-page index from Virtual Finland will take you to a wide range of their individual collections of pages on Finland's history, from ancient times to the present.  Some are enhanced with audio & video recordings of historical significance.  All the pages are written especially for Virtual Finland by Finnish scholars and demonstrate a high level of excellence (some pages will be familiar because I've already annotated them separately on this page).  Their History Links section to non-Virtual Finland pages is also well done (see especially the interesting link to Jews in Finland; "Forest History & Culture," where some of the graphics are terrific; and also a link to witchcraft and sorcery -- despite such comical inaccuracies as the caption for the "Devil in Church Art" and the odd, defensive warning to wiccans to stay away from the site).
After my comments on the role of powerful women in the Kalevala (see near the top of my page), I felt I should include a link to the current status of Finnish women.  This is a good one from one of's guides.
Finally, this is a Finnish "Fact Sheet" covering geography, climate, people, language, religion, history, government, foreign policy, media, education & research, industry & economy.

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This page created with Netscape Gold 3.01
Technical assistance: William Weeks

Text and Design:
Copyright 2000-2001 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

Page designed and begun 19-20 May 2000; published 20 May 2000.
Latest updates: 22, 23 & 24 May 2000; 30 May 2000;
21 August 2001 (altered geographical category to include Central Europe:
since Finland really isn't in Eastern Europe, this seems the best compromise);
6 September 2001 (updated menu).