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NORTHERN MAGIC: Shamans Witches and Magicians in Primeval Finland

 
RythymRing
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User ID: 73880
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12/05/2006 01:19 AM
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NORTHERN MAGIC: Shamans Witches and Magicians in Primeval Finland
Finland is one of the most northern countries in the Europe and this distant corner of the world has always excited people`s imagination. There are many old stories about the magic skills of the ancient Finns and the Sami people.

Today Finland is known as a land of vast wilderness areas, white snow and beautiful scenery. Especially the Lapland is often associated with beauty, wide-open spaces and unspoilt charming nature. However, the idea of North as a region of beauty and purity is not very old one. In the early times the northern regions were often associated with the magic and supernatural forces. For some Christian missionaries the North was a realm of "bad", a place where powerful witches and shamans lived.

Stories related to magic
The ancient Finnish magicians and shamans were famous for their skills. The magic was usually done by singing special spells, using different kind of charms or some herbal medicines and sometimes also by entering a trance. It was believed that some Finns were able to let their souls to travel to foreign places while the body was in a trance. The neighbouring people also believed that the Finns could control the winds when sailing for example.

In addition to the Finns, the Sami people were also famous for their abilities in practising magic. They had a wide known reputation of being masters of different kind of sorcery and witchcraft. Their abilities included a gift to tell fortunes and predict the future events. Some of them were also able to gain sacred knowledge by entering a trance. But what kind of "magic" the Sami people actually practised? And what was their old religion like?

Old Sami beliefs
The indigenous Sami people have lived in Finland since prehistoric times. The knowledge of their old beliefs is largely based on some archaeological remains and written documents of Christian missionaries. The Sami people practised shamanistic spirituality, which was based on harmonious relationship with the surrounding world. Their old religion included sacrifices, beliefs concerning gods and spirits and animal ceremonialism.

In the Sami culture religious ideas were closely connected to the nature, which was full of spirits and important, hidden information. The whole land itself was sacred, and it was marked with certain holy places like fells or sacred hills, stones and springs. The word seita refers to special places or terrain formations, like natural or human built stone blocks. They were places, where prayers or sacrifices were made.

Many of Sami`s holy places are still visible in Finland`s landscape. Especially the high fells like Finland`s highest peak Halti or "god-faced" Saana still arouse great respect. In the Lake Inari there is also Ukonsaari, an ancient worship place for the god of thunder. Some famous seita sites are for example Taatsi in Kittilä and Äkässaivo in Ylläs. In the area of Pyhä-Luosto National Park there are also a special concentration of Sami`s holy places.

Shamanism -a part of the of the ancient religion
The shamans, noajjde in the Sami language, were persons, who communicated with the spirit world. They had a gift to contact the spirits and ask them for guidance and help. The shaman could gain knowledge by observing the nature, but much more useful method was going into trance. In trance shaman`s soul was able to travel to spirit realm and even visit the kingdom of death.

The shamans used old song style, joiking, in their ceremonies as well as the magic drum, which was often decorated with various symbols. Many of these drums were later destroyed by Christian missionaries and priests, who believed that joiking and drumming was part of the "devil`s work". The Sami people were often converted to Christianity by force and shamanic practices were forbidden.

Shamanism was also a part of the ancient religion of the Finns, but according to Ph.D Marko Nenonen, the Finns lost much of this tradition before their northern neighbours. However, there were many other persons, both male and female, who had special skills related to magic. These witchdoctors and seers were often called for healing and protection purposes. Professor Anna-Leena Siikala has also suggested that some aspects of old shamanic culture survived well into Middle Ages alongside the culture of magical healing.

Magic in old poetry
Old Finnish poetry is filled with spells, incantations and different kind of references to magic. In ancient times the magic had a central role in society. There was nothing "unusual" or "bad" in practising magic, it was a natural part of the everyday life. Oral tradition and old Finnish poems are one kind of "windows" to ancient beliefs, because there are no written sources from the prehistoric times. In Finland prehistoric period ended around the conversion to Christianity and establishment of the Swedish rule, but it took quite a long time, since old poems were published in written form.

The first edition of Finland`s national epic Kalevala came out in 1835, when Elias Lönnrot compiled and joined old poems together. There are many descriptions of the magic in Kalevala, and some characters like Väinämöinen has shamanistic features. Most of the magic was done by singing or chanting special runes. It was very important to know the right words for the songs, and knowing the "origin2 of some thing gave the singer power over it.

Finland`s national epic helped to create a distinct Finnish identity, and today Kalevala is often examined in this context. It has influenced the cultural development of the Finnish society in many ways. Even though Kaleva is quite a "modern construction", the poems themselves have preserved important information about old beliefs. The descriptions of magic have survived from times, when shamanism and different kind of magic were part of every day life.
Sunny shit starter & stirrer, I shit the shit, My shit is stirred not shaken, Winner of the golden shit-stirrer award, Calling someone "a bit of a shit stirrer" in Ireland is usually a term of endearment rather than an insult.
Anonymous Coward
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12/05/2006 01:24 AM
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Re: NORTHERN MAGIC: Shamans Witches and Magicians in Primeval Finland
Fins are very short and petite. The chubby ones remind me of dwarves or nomes and the skinny ones remind me of elves or fairies.
RythymRing (OP)

User ID: 73880
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12/05/2006 01:36 AM
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Re: NORTHERN MAGIC: Shamans Witches and Magicians in Primeval Finland
Honor the ancient Finnish culture. That is where the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy comes from. From the Kalevala, the ancient epics from the peoples of the north.
Sunny shit starter & stirrer, I shit the shit, My shit is stirred not shaken, Winner of the golden shit-stirrer award, Calling someone "a bit of a shit stirrer" in Ireland is usually a term of endearment rather than an insult.

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