Finnish Mythology



What we know about Finnish mythology is mainly based on our national epic Kalevala and some other collections of oral tradition. Kalevala is a collage of poems collected some 150 years ago by Elias Lönnrot. It contains several mythical worldviews: stoneage myths, ideas adopted from Viking-age adventurers, Christian legends, rustic poems of the countryfolk, ideas expressed by female lyric poets and tradition passed on by witches.

Kalevala did not exist as such before Lönnrot; it is more like scientific-artistic fiction. For that reason we have to be critical when using it as a source for historical facts. But the poems themselves are authentic even if the context may have been changed.

Rustic mythology

The Finnish countryfolk used to consider the flow of time to be a continuum without a beginning or an ending. The work and rest, weekdays and festivities were in rythm with the movement of nature, the rising and setting of the sun, the phases of the moon and the changes of the seasons.

It was important to know the main happenings at the beginning of time in order to be able to act appropriately here and now. For instance, if someone had cut himself with an axe, the healing was done by reading the 'Birth of Iron' - a mythical holy story reciting the beginning of iron.


According to the ancient beliefs of the Finnish people, the world was divided into the world of the living and the world of the dead. The living and dead members of the family formed a unity where the deceased took part in the life of their offspring in a number of ways.

It was possible for the living to ask their deceased family-members for advice by using the medium of a shaman. The shaman used to be the tribe's doctor, fortuneteller and guarantee for livelihood.

The shaman's main "tool" was his drum. It had mystical pictures on it, and the shaman put an object (usually a ring) on it and started to vibrate the drum with a stick made of reindeer's bone. He could find answers to questions or see the future by looking how the ring moved along these pictures.

An other important means of getting in touch with the other world was the use of poisonous mushrooms in order to achieve a trans-like state.

It is interesting to notice the similarities between these and native American beliefs, despite the great geografical and cultural distance.