Finnic mythologies are any of the various mythologies of the Finnic peoples [nb 1], such as the Volga Finns, Baltic Finns, Permians, and Sami.[5]

The mythologies of the Finno-Lappic speakers have some common aspects; the Sami people are deeply shamanistic and these traits are present also in Finnish-Karelian mythology. Baltic Finnic mythologies are also related to shamanism in Siberia on one hand, and to Indo-European Baltic and Germanic mythologies on the other. Especially the mythologies of the Baltic Finns were directly influenced by their Indo-European neighbors, the Scandinavians, the Slavs and the Baltic peoples.[6]
The Baltic Finns share some common religious and historical traditions were transmitted orally: the art of ancient rune singing, estimated to be 2500–3000 years old.[7]

Shamanism has been an important influence on the mythologies of most (but not all) of the Finnic peoples, especially those that lived by hunting. One aspect in common to many of the Finnic peoples is the myth that the world is created from an egg. Another central aspect of these mythologies has been astronomy, that includes several Milky Way myths and ideas about the existence of the World tree or pillar while the star formations were thought to represent animal spirits.[8] Similar myths are also found from many neighbouring non-Finnic peoples; for example the Scandinavians believed in the world tree. The myth of world egg is almost universal.

The Sami people, who were primarily hunters, were animistic; they worshipped spirits called the haldi who watched over nature and existed in many places. In the Sami animal cult Bear was considered to be the animal lord. This is considered as a kind of totemism. The forest god Laib olmai ruled over all forest animals.[9] Some Sami had a thunder god called Tiermes, or Horagalles and a sky-ruling god Radien or Vearalden. The Sami symbol of the world tree or pillar was marked by a stytto.[6]

Volga-Finnic, Baltic-Finnic and Permic peoples became agricultural long before historic times and developed farming-based mythologies. The Udmurt Permians had a sky god, a farmer and weather deity Inmar, the Erzya and Moksha Mordvins worshiped the earth mother responsible for harvest, Mastor-Ava.[6]

Amongst the Finno-Permic speakers there was a notable similarity between the sky gods; including Ukko of Finnish mythology, "Jumal" or "Taevataat" (Sky Grandfather) in Estonian mythology and "Jumo" in Mari mythology. The Mari language word "Jumo" and Baltic-Finnic words "Jumal" and "Jumala" are also etymologically related.[10] Another possible similarity between the sky gods is that Finnish Ilmarinen, a mythical smith-hero, possibly originally a sky god, distantly related to Udmurtian Inmar. There is also a notable relation between the sky gods of the speakers of Finno-Permic, Scandinavian, Slavic and Baltic languages.


The most comprehensive collection of Baltic-Finnic myths and legends are preserved in the oral epic poetry of Karelia and Ingermanland, parts of which were compiled in the first half of the 19th century by Elias Lönnrot into the national epic of Finland, Kalevala, on the basis of material collected by himself or other scholars.[11] Originally, the Finnish-Karelian epic poetry did not constitute an epic whole but was divided into several unconnected poems or "mini-eposes".

The Kalevala begins with a creation myth where a duck lays eggs by landing on the raised knee of the virgin Mother of the Waters. The earth is formed and Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen are born. Other central figures of the epic include Lemminkäinen, compiled by Lönnrot from several heroes of oral poetry, and the female antagonist Louhi. Lönnrot has built the story around the forging and the conquest of the Sampo, variantly interpreted as a world pillar or tree, a magic mill, a compass or astrolabe, or a chest containing a treasure.

J. R. R. Tolkien has highlighted the importance of Kalevala as a source for his legendarium including The Lord of the Rings.[12]

Although the gradual influence of surrounding cultures raised the significance of the sky-god Jumala in a monolatristic manner, the father god "Ukko" (Old Man) was originally just a nature spirit like all the others. The most sacred animal, whose real name was never uttered out loud, was the bear. The bear was seen as the embodiment of the forefathers, and for this reason it was called by many euphemisms: "mesikämmen" ("mead-paw"), "otso" ("wide brow"), "kontio" ("dweller of the land").


Estonian mythology survives as a complexity of myths from the folk heritage and literary mythology.

Wulfstan of Hedeby reported to Alfred the Great (971-899) concerning Baltic burial customs. These included holding the dead unburied in the house of their relatives and friends, who held a wake of drinking until the day of the cremation. The rite of cremation is thought to be related to the belief that it was speeding up the dead's journey to the afterlife and the dead would not become earthbound spirits, which were thought to be dangerous to the living. Henry of Livonia records that even in 1222 the Estonians disinterred Christian dead and burned them.[10]

Henry of Livonia describes in his chronicle a legend from Virumaa that speaks of a mountain and a forest where the god Tharapita was born and from where he flew to Oesel. It has been speculated[13] that the route of Taarapita’s flight may correspond to the fall of the Kaali meteorite. During the battles in the Livonian Crusade, Oeselians, the proto-Estonians from Saaremaa were described by the chronicle to cry out, rejoicing in Tharapita.[14]

The solstice festival of Midsummer celebrating the sun through solar symbols of bonfires, and numerous Estonian nature spirits: the sacred oak and linden were described by Balthasar Russow in 1578.[15]

Some traces of the oldest authentic myths may have survived in runic songs. There is a song about the birth of the world – a bird lays three eggs and starts to lay out the nestlings – one becomes the Sun, one becomes the Moon, and one becomes the Earth. Other Finnic peoples have myths in which the world emerged from a single egg.[16]

Estonian legends about giants (Kalevipoeg, Suur Tõll, Leiger) may be a reflection of Germanic (especially Scandinavian) influences. There are numerous legends interpreting various natural objects and features as traces of Kalevipoeg's deeds. The giant has merged together with Christian Devil, giving birth to a new character – Vanapagan and his farm hand Kaval-Ants (Crafty Hans).

During the era of Estonian national awakening the elements in the literary mythology were quickly and readily incorporated into contemporary popular culture through media and school textbooks. It can be difficult to tell how much of Estonian mythology as we know it today was actually constructed in the 19th and early 20th century. One should also note that some constructed elements are loans from Finnish mythology and may date back to the common Baltic-Finnic heritage. According to Endel Nirk "the so called pseudo-mythology has played a greater role in Estonian national movement and the people’s life than for some other people their proven authentic mythology."[17]


The Sami, who were hunters rather than farmers, worshiped animal spirits like the bear as animal lord. Other animal spirits included the haldi who watched over the nature. Some Sami people had a thunder god called Tiermes, or sometimes called Horagalles. Another sky-ruling god was called Radien or Vearalden. The symbol of the world tree or pillar similar in Finnish mythology that reached up to the North star was marked by a stytto.[6]

The forest-god of the Sami, Laib olmai ruled over all forest animals, which were regarded as his herds, and luck in hunting, or the reverse, depended on his will. His favour was so important that, according to one author, they made prayers and offerings to him every morning and evening.[9]

The clan and family gods of the Sami were known in different parts of the country under the name of Seita or Storjunkare. Each family or clan had its Storjunkare standing in the district where they lived. Every Sami settlement had its seita, which had no regular shape, and might consist of smooth or odd-looking stones picked out of a stream, of a small pile of stones, of a tree- stump, or of a simple post. They were set up on a high, prominent place, or in a rich meadow. Under and round such seitas they strewed green fir twigs in winter, and in summer green leaves. The seitas protected their worshippers against misfortune to the herds of reindeer, gave instructions how to catch wild reindeer, and in return offerings were made to them of the hides and hoofs of reindeer, calves, and sometimes of a dog. A private person might also have his own seita, to whom he prayed for good luck. The Storjunkare are described sometimes as stones, having some likeness to a man or an animal, that were set up on a mountain top, or in a cave, or near rivers and lakes. Honor was done to them by spreading fresh twigs under them in winter, and in summer leaves or grass. The Storjunkare had power over all animals, fish, and birds, and gave luck to those that hunted or fished for them. Reindeer were offered up to them, and every clan and family had its own hill of sacrifice.[18]

Knowledge of the Sami religion is primarily based on archeological remains and written sources from missionary work in northern Scandinavia during the Middle Ages and up to the early 18th century. Some objects date back to 800-1300s, and the sites are usually termed "Samic metal depots", due to the large findings of metal objects. The objects are mostly coins from Germany and England, and parts from weapons (e.g. arrow-heads). Some minor findings consists of horn from reindeer.

The religion was a form of shamanism, practiced by the noaide for the most miscellaneous problems. The instrument used for ceremonies was the rune drum, but even a domestic flute, the so-called "fadno", was used. The traditional Sami chant, joik, was used in ceremonies where the noaide fell in trance and left his or her body to transcend into the divine world of "saivo", where he or she could negotiate with gods, spirits and forefathers to improve the fate of the group he or she represented. As with other circumpolar religions, the Sami religion contains a hunting ceremony especially for bears, known as the bear cult. Elements of Norse mythology, as well as Christian ideas, are found in the later years of Sami religion.


Although sharing some similarities, no common Mordvin mythology has emerged and therefore the Erzya and Moksha mythologies are defined separately.[19]

In Erzya mythology the superior deities were hatched from an egg. The mother of gods is called Ange Patiai, followed by the sun god Chipaz who gave birth to Nishkepaz, to the earth god Mastoron kirdi and the wind god Varmanpaz. From the union of Chipaz and the Harvest Mother Norovava was born the god of the underworld Mastorpaz. The thunder god Pur’ginepaz was born from Niskende Teitert, the daughter of the mother of gods Ange Patiai.

The creation of the Earth is followed by the creation of the Sun, the Moon, the humankind and the Erzya. The man was created by god Chipaz who molded the humankind from clay while in another version of the legend the man is made from soil.

In Moksha mythology the Supreme God is called Viarde Skai. According to the legends the creation of the world went through several stages: first the Devil moistened the building material in his mouth and spit it out. The spat piece grew into a plain, which was modeled uneven by creating chasms and the mountains. The first humans created by Viarde Skai could live for 700–800 years and were giants of 99 archinnes. The underworld in Mokshan mythology was ruled by Mastoratia.

The Erzya and Moksha Mordvins worshiped the Earth goddess, the earth mother Mastor-Ava responsible for harvest.[6] An epic poem based on Mordvin folktales, Mastorava, appeared in 1994.

See also

References and notes

  1. the term Finnic has traditionally been a synonym for speakers of Finno-Permic languages (including the Baltic-Finnic languages, Volga-Finnic languages, Permic languages and the Sami languages) of the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family.[1][2] At the same time, Finnic languages was the term used for Baltic-Finnic languages only by Finnish scholars.[3] In 2009, the 16th edition of Ethnologue: Languages of the World abandoned the traditional perspective and adopted the nomenclature of Finnish scholars, concluding that only Baltic Finnic had been established as a branch of the Uralic language family.[4]
  1. "The languages of Europe". Encyclopedia of European peoples, Volume 1. Infobase Publishing. 2006. pp. 888. 
  2. Ruhlen, Merritt (1991). "Uralic-Yukaghir". A Guide to the World's Languages: Classification. Stanford University Press. p. 69. ISBN 0804718946. 
  3. The Finnic languages by Johanna Laakso in The Circum-Baltic languages: typology and contact, p. 180
  4. "Language Family Trees, Uralic, Finnic". Ethnologue. Retrieved 28 May 2011. 
  5. Leeming, David Adams (2003). European Mythology. Oxford University Press. pp. 133–141 Finnic and Other Non-Indo-European Mythologies. ISBN 9780195143614. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Leeming, pp. 135
  7. Pentikäinen, uha; Ritva Poom (1999). Kalevala Mythology. Indiana University Press. pp. 86 The origins of Balto-Finnic Rune Singing. ISBN 9780253213525. 
  8. Leeming, pp. 136
  9. 9.0 9.1 Pre- and Proto-historic Finns by Abercromby, pp. 161
  10. 10.0 10.1 A History of Pagan Europe, P. 181 ISBN 0415091365
  11. Leeming, pp. 137
  12. Chance, Jane (2004). Tolkien and the Invention of Myth. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813123011. 
  13. see Sutrop: (Lõugas 1996, Viires 1990)
  14. Sutrop, Urmas. "TAARAPITA – THE GREAT GOD OF THE OESELIANS". Electronic Journal of Folklore. Retrieved 2008-10-26. 
  15. Leach, Maria; Jerome Fried (1972). Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. Funk & Wagnalls. ISBN 9780308400900. 
  16. Haas, Ain; Andres Peekna, Robert E. Walker. "ECHOES OF ANCIENT CATACLYSMS IN THE BALTIC SEA". Electronic Journal of Folklore. Retrieved 2008-10-26. 
  17. Nirk, Endel "Kreutwaldi rahvalaulutöötlustest 1840-ndail aastail". Keel ja Kirjandus 1958, pp 589–599, 650–664.
  18. Pre- and Proto-historic Finns by Abercromby, pp. 163-164
  19. Deviatkina, Tatiana (2001). "Some Aspects of Mordvin Mythology". Folk Belief and Media Group of ELM. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  • Abercromby, John (1898). Pre- and Proto-historic Finns. D. Nutt. 
  • Herman Hofberg, "Lapparnas Hednatro"
  • Uno Holmberg, "Lapparnas religion"
  • Rafael Karsten, " Samefolkets religion"
  • Edgar Reuteskiöld, " De nordiska samernas religion"
  • Tatiana Deviatkina, Some Aspects of Mordvin Mythology, Folklore 17 (2001).[1]
  • Paasonen (ed.), Mordwinische Volksdichtung (1941).

External links

  • Beivve, including many other related topics (e.g. soul dualism of Sami)
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Finnic mythologies. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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