torstai 24. joulukuuta 2015

Finnish Mythology: Elves


Hello blogging world!

It's December and elves are all around us. 
I am working on children book about elves so I've been doing lot's elf research.
There is lot's of folklore and elf fairy tales in Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
Unfortunately in Finland there isn't that much written knowledge about elves. Most of the elf folklore are from pre-Christian times and Finnish written language was born in 16th Century and country was going trough religious reformation by the Lutheran church and church fathers did not approve local folklore and peoples beliefs for multiple nature spirits.

Finnish word for elf is tonttu and the word's etymology comes from the word tontti that means the living area or place of a building. Finnish mythology is filled with different kinds of nature spirits. They are called haltija. Haltija is another name for an elf. Haltija can be any kind of spirit. Tonttu is a character that is always connected to a certain area.

In Sweden and Denmark tonttu's are known as tomte and nisse.

"Jape"
(c) Niina Niskanen

There is many kinds of elves. Guarding of the home is house-elf, kotitonttu. Guardian of the sauna is saunatonttu. Guardian spirit of the stable is tallitonttu. You might even find church elf from the church, kirkkotonttu. In Turku's castle there lives famous linnatonttu, castle-elf. Boat-elf, laivatonttu lives in a boat. There is also forest elves, metsätonttu's living in the forests. Most well-known elves are joulutonttu's, Christmas elves.

Nordic elves remind old men and women by their appearance. Usually elves are about the same size as five year old children. Male elves have white or gray long beards. Female elves have friendly faces and gray-ish hair.
Tonttu's are strongly connected to our ancestors. According to belief person who build the house also became the house-elf  and the protector of the area and building. Just like first person who ever entered to the sauna became saunatonttu.

"Aurigonlasku saunan ikkunasta"
(c) Niina Niskanen

One of the main tasks of saunatonttu was to watch that people behaved well in the sauna. There is expressions in Finland that tell people to behave very respectfully in a sauna since it is just as holy place as the church. Tonttu's were respected as ancestor and guardian spirit. Going to sauna is still big part of Finnish celebrations through the year and in the old times during every big festivals they also warmed and prepared sauna for the elves and spirits.

Guardian spirit of the house and home was respected as bringer of good luck. Tonttu might also get mad for the family and even set house on fire or make cows milk sour if people weren't behaving well. If this happened family tried apologize the elf by leaving good food for them or clean clothes (clothes have different' meanings for Nordic elves than elves in the world of Harry Potter).

Finnish elves usually have similar ears than humans and not pointy ears like celtic elves.
In Denmark and Sweden there are two kinds of elf tribes. There is Nisse and Tomte elves that usually more masculine and then there is Pixie-like elf tribe (Älven). That are more feminine and look more like elves from the Lord of the Rings. Nisse and Tomte are more closely connected to human world and älven are more connected to wild nature.

Stable elf, tallitonttu got along very well with animals. Tallitonttu was also thanked and praised when animals were feeling well. People rarely saw tonttu, because tonttu could turn itself invincible.
Because of their long age and magical powers tonttu's can easily be irritated by modern day people and many tonttu prefers to live in an old building and doesn't enjoy modern cities.

In Finland and other Nordic countries you can find many people with strong elf-beliefs
pretty much same way there is strong belief to fairies in the UK, America, Australia and New Zealand.


"Elf lantern"
(c) Niina Niskanen

Most common elf belief these days is the idea of elves living in the arctic circle and working for Father Christmas making toys and Christmas gifts for children.

I've never really liked the idea of Father Christmas / Santa Claus. Character launched by Coca-cola and represents this culture of consumption that modern day Christmas seems to be most of the time.
I'm more found of stories about elves in folklore and also folklore stories and legends about all the characters that modern day idea of Santa is based (God Odin in Nordic mythology, myths about St.Nicholas from Asia Minor, Finnish Kekri Santa and Krampus from Germany).
On the other had modern day consumption culture and franchising Santa and the elves have partially helped old stories to survive 'till today.

In Nordic countries habit to leave food (often plate of porridge) for elves is still alive and well especially among children. This custom is thousands years old in Finland and other Nordic countries.

I have once seen an elf. Some years ago I lived in the country side (literally behind god(des)(s) back).
There wasn't lot's of people and it' was long way to the nearest city. It was early autumn night and I was walking home and I passed this old wooden bridge. I saw a small man there. He had beard that was same color as the grass, red hat and blue suit. I stared at him for few minutes and he stared back at me with big curious eyes then he disappeared.

I know many people who have experiences with elves. My Danish friend often speaks about the elf who makes noise in her house. Another friend of mine lives in the heart of Helsinki. Tonttu there  enjoys city life and has decided to stay to the old apartment building where my friend's family lives. 

Happy Holidays to all my readers
There might be an elf in your house as well!

sunnuntai 13. joulukuuta 2015

Fairy tale origins: Little Mermaid


Hello blogging world

Last month I took part on fascinating on-line course about Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales.
I was very inspired by the course and started fairy tale origin series to my YouTube channel and now will do separate blog posts about them as well.

First fairy tale origin I'm going to write about is little Mermaid.

Some years ago I was visiting Copenhagen. I only spent two days there and didn't have much time to get familiar with city sights but Little Mermaid Statue was a must.
Indeed it is a beautiful statue and very well represents mermaid in the Andersen's story.


Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen. Sculpted by Edvard Eriksen.

First touch I had with little Mermaid was probably with the Disney animation and I believe majority of people now days are more familiar with Disney's Ariel than the original fairy tale.

(c) Disney

I think I was 15 when I read the Andersen's fairy tale.
Here is link to the English version if someone wishes to read it:

If you've been planning to read it better to read it before you continue reading my blog post. Spoilers ahead!  You can also find it pretty much every library.

Quote from the fairy tale
"She was a strange child. Quiet and thoughtful"

Character of little Mermaid is very different in the original fairy tale than Ariel in the Disney version. Ariel is bubbly and cheerful. Andersen's mermaid is quiet, thoughtful and also bit melancholic character. Story is sad one.

Little Mermaid is 12 or 13 in the beginning of the fairy tale. She lives in the underwater Kingdom with her father the king,  her grandmother (queen mother) and her mermaid sisters. Every year on their birthdays each mermaid sister gets permission to go to the surface and take a look at the human world. Every time when they come back they tell the wonderful things they saw and little mermaid is mesmerized by their stories. She starts dreaming about living among humans in the human world.

Her grandmother also tells her stories about humans and also that humans unlike mermaids have an immortal soul. Mermaids can live up to 300 years but when they die they can only become sea foam and there fore can't live forever like humans with their immortal souls.

Finally her 15th birthday arrives. First thing little mermaid sees is a massive ships, fireworks, sailors dancing on the deck of the ship and the most handsome prince. Little Mermaids finds herself caught in a storm. She sees that ship is about to drown and saves the handsome prince.

Prince gets to see glimpse of her face and hear her beautiful singing voice before the little  mermaid disappears back to the depths of the ocean.

This event makes little Mermaid even more obsessive about living among humans. She has collection of human items, little garden where red flowers grow and they are shaped like the sun. She also has real-like looking statue of the prince.

At some point little Mermaid realizes that to fulfill her dream to live among humans she must go to meet the sea witch. Sea witch makes a bargain with her. Mermaid gives her her voice and she gets pair of legs but walking with those legs is painful. Every step is like walking on needles.

Mermaid finds her way to kingdom and to the court. Prince becomes very found of her but only as a friend. Soon prince is getting married with princess from another kingdom. This makes little Mermaid extremely sad but she silently accepts that prince doesn't love her enough to marry her. Little Mermaid comes to the tragic decision to end her life. Neither she is part of the sea world anymore but not part of  the human world either.

She drowns herself and becomes daughter of the air and after 300 years as a blowing wind she finally gains her immortal soul.

Ending of the fairy tale is very dramatic at least compared to the Disney animation. Then again I don't think Disney animations would accept leading character committing suicide.

Little Mermaid is said  to depict Andersen's own life. He became famous through his fairy tales and he lived 'till old age. Women who he felt connections with didn't respond to his feelings and Andersen was very lonely man. He was also very devoted Christian and in many of his fairy tales one can find Christian moral teachings and some stories have similarities with biblical tales.

In Andersen's fairy tale the underwater world represents wild, free, pagan world. Mermaids live happy and balanced life, singing and dancing. Little Mermaid wishes to be part of the human world. Human world in the fairy tale is opposite to the underwater world. It is Christian / patriarchal world. Little Mermaid lives in a constant conflict between pagan and Christian beliefs.

Language is very vivid and Andersen depicts his characters with depth. Story is beautifully written. There is melancholic beauty and sensitivity in the fairy tale that reader in all age groups can relate to. 

As a character little Mermaid is very pure, bit naive, she is kind and forgiving. If she would be a human I think she would make a great nun. She is leaded by some higher powers.

As a creature mermaid is literally only part human. She has human torso and human conscience. She is also part fish, part animal, that makes her also wild and unattainable.
So fairy tale is not just about inner spiritual conflict but also the physical differences.
It's not easy to learn how to walk if you haven't ever walked before. Part where mermaid walks painfully on land is very realistic when you think about it.

If I would be in a similar situation I would try to make my way of living in the both worlds and enjoy my life best way I could but little Mermaid only wants to live in the human world. In away maybe she is ashamed of her mermaid heritage just like in the Victorian Europe of 19th century people had to hide their backgrounds if it was even slightly different from the social acceptable norms of those  patriarchal times. 

Andersen was very interested from European folklore. In the 19th century when story was written mermaids were seen as erotic creatures and characters that represented female powers, chaos and evil. Victorian Europe and Denmark of the 19th century were extremely patriarchal societies and women were seen as lower level citizens towards to men. 

When Little Mermaid was published it became very famous book and it also made a big cultural difference the way people started to see mermaids. They weren't anymore just evil erotic sirens. Mermaid could be lovable creature and very human-like. That is one of the reasons I like the story of Andersen's Little Mermaid. Not just the beauty and the philosophy there is but also the cultural impact it has made to the history of mermaids.

lauantai 12. joulukuuta 2015

Whale Art

Hello Blogging world!

It's an artistic update for a change!
I've been painting a lot lately but mostly school projects.
Studying illustrating in the UK is bit like studying to be prime Ballerina in Russia
...well maybe not that strict but teachers thrive you to be more ambitious with your art.
Finns can be quite wussy what it comes to ambition.

This autumn theme was animals and doors.
I've been painting lot's of tigers, parrots and whales.

There is something really fascinating about whales.
They are extremely important animals for eco-system.
I wish they would ban the whale hunting in Japan. It's just sick to use mashed whale teeth as potential drugs. This is one twisted world where we are living.. no only the people are twisted.

Anyways.. here is amazing orca

"Orca"
Watercolor and ink
(c) Niina Niskanen

Detail

Original is available in my Etsy-shop

"Moby's forest"
(c) Niina Niskanen
Acrylic on canvas

You might guessed title for this one came from Moby Dick. I actually borrowed Melville's book from library and plan to read it on Winter Break. I've heard some good reviews on it. Will see if I like it. 
At least I like whale symbolism

Submitted to Paint Party Friday
I'm off to on-line art tour now

Thanks for stopping by
Niina

tiistai 8. joulukuuta 2015

Bear worship in ancient Finland and Siberia


"Bear Shaman"
(c) Niina Niskanen

Bears had extremely important role in daily lives of ancient Finns in pre-christian world.
Bear was one of the first animal gods worshiped.

There is different types of myths how bear came to the earth.
Some of these myths are heavily influenced by Christianity and the older ones are with more pagan origins.

Siberian ostjak tribe's  bear myth is also known in Finland. According to myth bear lived in the sky
in the constellation of the big bear and small bear. He lived with his father sky god Num Torum. His son the bear wanted to move to earth and live among people. His father agreed and so bear was landed to the earth from the skies. Bear lived sinful life in the earth. Father god got in rage and let people to kill his son.

Myth where bear's home is originally in the skies and he was landed to earth is common in all Eurasian area. Especially among those people who's ancestor's originally wondered from Siberia (such as Finns). Siberian Vogul tribe has a similar myth but their bear is a female not male.

Second myth tells that bear was born in Tapiola (old Finnish word for forest). Bears parents were sky god Ilmarinen and tree goddess Hongatar. Forest goddess Mielikki who took care of the bear once he was born. She also gave bear it's name and it's purpose. Creature that is both loved, feared and respected. Mielikki named bear KARHU (Finnish word for bear).

Karhu comes from the word karhea meaning rough fur. 
Bear was respected god so when people entered to the forest they weren't allowed to say the word bear/ speak god's name loud. It was believed to jinx bear to appear.
In Finnish language there is over 1000 nicknames for bear.

Omena, Omenainen, Metsän omena, hunajatassu, Tapion poika, Tapiolan poika, Metsän kuningas
(Apple, forest Apple, honeypaw, son of Tapio, son of Tapiola, king of the forest ect.)

Bear was a god figure and it was believed that as god in flesh bear could read your mind, bear was a witch, wise one, shaman and a holy creature.

Human shamans could meet bear spirits during their shamanistic journeys and get answers to their questions. 
"Moose head"
Museum of Huittinen
app. 5170 bce

"Bear figure"
Kierikki archeological research
app. 5100 bce

There is archeological researchses made in Finland and findings support interesting theory
that some time in ancient Finland there has been two clans living together, clan of the bear and clan of the moose. This theory is supported by statue findings made in Finland representing moose's heads and bear heads.

Idea of clans comes from mythology that some tribes have animal ancestors and people were
related to animals. 

When bear is standing it is about same size as human being and their paws are similar to human hand.
Bear is a strong animal, powerful and extremely fast.
People who were part of the bear clan without no doubt identified them selves to the bear 
and bear became their holy animal because of it's great qualities.
Same goes with moose and the moose clan.


Bear hunting was important ritual. There was two bear hunts in a year. 
Bear hunting was a spiritual process. Men had to live in celibacy for a while before hunting, 
wash themselves and wear white clothes. First hunt took place in the spring time. Hunters went to the bear's cave while it was still a sleep they sang to the bear to wake it up and killed it.

Bear funeral was big festival as well. It included drinking, dancing, prays for the bear spirit
 and bear plays
.Dead bear was burred in a ceremony that was very similar to human burial.  
People believed that spirit of the bear returns back to the skies to it's original home when it was buried properly.

Bear skulls were used to decorate altars or they were put to the top of pine tree to keep the
 bear spirit near. 

This position as a god in Finland's history has been very beneficial for bears in Finland.
They are not that much hunted in Finland what they are in many other countries in Europe and other parts of the world. Back in 2013 I was in volunteer work in Bear refuge in Croatia.
We had lot's of talk there about the bear situation in Europe. It was quite shocking. I think there was 5 bears in France, 2 in Switzerland, about 200 in Croatia and there is app. 1450 - 1590 bears in Finland (in 2015) it is difficult to give exact number since bears move between borders of Russia and Sweden. Still number is way larger compared to many other countries.

Roles between Finnish forest god Tapio, forest goddess Mielikki and bear god were often mixed because both Tapio and Mielikki could shape-sift themselves to bears. Tapio is also one name for a bear. (Tapio/ Tapiola old Finnish word for a forest). 

If you wish to know more about Tapio and Mielikki check out my

Photo (c) Ilkka Jaakola

Bears are still today essential part of Finland's forests and I hope they will always be that way.

perjantai 27. marraskuuta 2015

Finnish Mythology: Water Spirits


Finland

Country of thousands lakes

In the old times ancient Finns believed that there was guardian spirit living in every singe water area existing; lakes, ponds, rivers sea and streams.

Ahti

Ahti is primary water god in Finnish mythology. Ahti's appearance is very close to Greek sea god Poseidon.

Ahti is tall muscular man, with long seaweed beard. Sometimes he is described with a tail.
Sometimes with feet. Ahti also has a trident as a symbol.

Fishermen prayed Ahti for good fishing luck.
During reformation in Finland in middle-ages Ahti was turned into St. Andreas 
Protector saint of the fishermen. 


Vellamo

Finnish water goddess is Vellamo. 
Her name comes from the Finnish word Velloa meaning the movement of the water.
Vellamo was described to be a beautiful and tall lady.
She and Ahti they had an underwater court.
Everything in the watery world was part of their kingdom.

It was believed they lived in an underwater manor. They had servants their.
Also underwater kettle.

Cow is Vellamo's sacred animal.

It was believed that sometimes in misty mornings Vellamo would bring her kettle
to the surface and cows could eat water plants.
If some of the cows went missing and joined the earthy kettle. 
Owner of Vellamo's cow was believed to become a very wealthy person
because her cows were magical and good milkers.

Also in the old times the more kettle you had the more wealthier person you were.


"Vellamo and her underwater kettle"
(c) Nina Niskanen 2014


Holy Water

Water was extremely important for early humans. 
Water is the giver of life. That is why people have across the world believed
protector spirits of different water areas.

There is multiple layers in every mythology.

Oldest mythological layers are from the time of the collective culture.
Gods in the collective culture were seen both in human and animal forms.

One of the earliest stories is the idea of the Fish ancestor or the first fish.

Common belief was that first fish that ever lived on a lake also became 
the guardian spirit of the lake. 
When fishermen saw a huge and old fishes in the lake it is not difficult to imagine
how this idea of first primal ancestor fish was born.

Fishermen had tremendous respect for the guardian spirits.
If they managed to get lot's of fish they gave sacrifices.

If they got tons of fish some of the fisher were send back to the lake.
Sometime a fishes head.

Or head of the first fish captured was cooked and then they ate rest of the fishes.

Moomins and water myths

I love moomins and when I last time watched the Gold Fish episode it
really made me think about this legend of the ancestral fish.

Moomins travel to the lake to see if they could capture the legendary Gold Fish.
They see the Gold Fish and something inside them changes forever.

I believe that great Gold Fish is the guardian spirit of the lake
Perhaps water god of all Moomin Valley since he has been there for a long long time
and is way much bigger than any other fish in the lake.



Gold Fish Episode

                                     

Vedenemä and Vetehinen

Vedenemä was a character in western Finland's folklore.
She goes with many names
Merenneito - Mermaid
Vedenneito - Watermaiden 

Vedenemä literally means mother of all water.

Vedenemä was very erotic character. Often described sitting on a rock brushing her hair in a typical mermaid style. Mermaids in Finland didn't always had a tail often they wore dress made from sea foam or fisher's net.

There aren't much mermaid stories in Finland.
There are some mermaid legends in the harbor cities and those stories
were more likely arrived from Europe with sailors.

Vetehinen was character in folklore of Eastern Finland.
Not a very handsome creature. Vetehinen was described to be an older man
with beard filled with water grass wearing clothes made from sea foam or water plants. 
His skin was believed to be black, green or blue and that made him part of the watery world.

Vetehinen has similarities with Russian folklore character Vodjanov. 
Vodjanov is an evil character.
Vetehinen was mischievous creature as well but sometimes he was in good mood and even
might help fishermen to get lot's of fishes to their nets.



Fear of water

There was common belief in the old days that people who drowned themselves would
turn into water spirits.
In Russia there is stories about Rusalkas. Rusalka is a young maiden who have been drowned and turned into a luring water spirits.
Drowned children could turn into rusalkas as well. 
This belief was also very strong in Eastern Finland.

In the old days when science wasn't very advanced and people didn't know the effects of drowning.
When they found the person who had been drowned and saw the black marks in the body (from suffocation) they believed that those marks were fingerprints of evil water spirits.

Näkki

Näkki is character know throughout Finland and it also appears in mythologies of Scandinavian countries. Näcken in Sweden. Nokken in Norway and I think it is Nicker in English.

In Scandinavian countries Nicker is described to be a handsome young man who seduces women 
and the drowns them. Nicker was a very good musician and often played violin. In away
women might drown just because they got hypnotized by the beautiful music.
Horses are associated with Nicker. Especially in Sweden it was believed that Nicker appeared in a form of a white horse especially when he wanted to lure children to him. Idea of horse-Nicker is very similar to the Kelpie legends of Scotland.

Idea of Näkki being a handsome seducer character is know in some parts of Finland.
Another common belief is that Näkki is more closer to Vetehinen on it's appearance.
Creature covered in water hey and drowning people.

I remember from my childhood my grandmother always warning not to go to swim too deep 
so that Näkki won't drown me. 

I believe these stories from waterspirits have survived all this time because of peoples subconscious need to understand water. Story of Näkki has survived as a warning from the ancient times 'till this day. These stories have also got life of their own in languages.

For example water lily is Näckros (Nicker's rose) in Swedish.

Näkinkenkä (Näkki's shoe) is Seashell in Finnish



keskiviikko 18. marraskuuta 2015

Finnish Mythology: Mother Earth & Father Sky




Ukko

Finnish mythology is rich and vivid with multiple deities. Most worshiped of all deities is Ukko.
God of the sky, harvest, thunder, rain, snow and clouds.

It is believed that Ukko was one of the first and primary god worshiped by ancient Finns. 

In agricultural world god who provided thunder and rain was the most important. 
From the word Ukko also comes Finnish word Ukkonen which means thunder

People also preyed Ukko for prosperity, peace and love...you name it.

Ukko was celebrated during midsummer in the festival called Ukon vakat.
This party included dancing, drinking, singing and eating.
It was also great time for doing spells, especially love spells.
Ukon Vakat was celebrated all over Finland. 
Most often festival place was in an island, on a hill or by the lake.

From these habits drinking and eating have remained to this day in modern Finnish Midsummer celebration but now days it's mostly Finnish neo-pagans who raise their glass to honor gods.

Especially children 'till this day do love spells during the Midsummer solstice.

Burning Bonfires during midsummer solstice is also common habit from pre-christian eras.
It was believed that Bonfires kept evil spirits away.

Ukko was respected and loved god but also feared because his powerful elements.
Both Finnish people and Sami people who worshiped Ukko were careful not to speak about him unrespectfully. For Ukko might get angry and revenge.

Taken around midsummer 
Earth and sky together

Ukko's holy animal is the eagle. If you are familiar with native american myths they have lot's of stories about thunder birds (eagles). Ukko's eagle is based on the same idea and it's popular also in Siberian and Baltic myths.

If person saw eagle flying just before thunder started that was considered as a very good omen.

Idea of thunder god as the ruler god is extremely popular in European cultures.
In Greek mythology Zeus is ruler of the gods, skies and thunder.
In Norse mythology Thor is blacksmith god of thunder.
In Lithuania Thunder god is known as Perkunas and Perkos in Latvia.
Finnish word Perkele was originally one name for Ukko as well. Since the reformation sadly word Perkele is now a curse word and has been associated with the devil because of the early church fathers who didn't approve old pagan gods.

All these gods have similar descriptions. 
Muscular men with long beards.

Ilmarinen

Ukko has two aspects.

Sometimes around Finland's Iron Age around 500 bc. Ukko got two roles. He wasn't anymore just one god, he became two gods. Ilmarinen is Ukko's other aspect.

Ilmarinen is a blacksmith god who created Iron and also the first Fire.
Ukko still remained as god of agriculture and thunder.

My personal guess is that this another aspect of Ukko; Ilmarinen was born around the same time when Finnish tribes started to trade with vikings and got influenced by Nordic/Germanic Folklore. There was also first travelers from Rome which was the leading culture in Europe at the time. Ilmarinen as a god is similar to Nordic blacksmith thunder god Thor.

Iron Age was a big cultural transformation in Finland with new technical inventions. That has also made Ilmarinen Finnish cultural-hero figure. First poems and stories from Finnish anthology Kalevala are from the early iron age. That is why Ilmarinen is also one hero-character in Kalevala as well. 

Ilmarinen is also part of world birth myth. He build the cover of the sky and nailed stars to the heaven. As ruler of winds fishermen also prayed Ilmarinen for good fishing luck.

For ancient Finns Ukko was also a honorable name given for a man who had reached high age.
In modern Finnish language Ukko means an old man.

Ukko/Ilmarinen is usually described holding an ax. 
Occasionally also a lightning in his hand.

Ukon Vaaja / Ukko's Axe

Akka

Akka is goddess of the earth, fertility and storms.

Unfortunately there is way less info about Akka than there is about Ukko. 
I guess the reformation done in Finland around Middle-Ages was really unfair for the Finnish female deities. We do now that Akka is Ukko's spouse.

Akka also has another name, Rauni. 
Name Rauni is believed to come from Swedish word Rönn, that means Rowan tree in English.
Rowan tree is considered to be very powerful magical tree. Great name for an earth goddess
 (Rauni is also Finnish woman's name).
Akka was also a honorable name given for a woman who had reached an old age.

Akka/Rauni

Both gods have big part on one of the first fertility myths.

When thunder is approaching Akka takes a form of a seamaiden.
She rises from the water and Ukko takes a form of lightning and strikes her. Sky and earth literally combine.



tiistai 17. marraskuuta 2015

Finnish Mythology: Forest gods

Hello blogging world

Last month I started to post mythological videos to my YouTube channel.

On this blog post I'm focused on forest gods and goddesses in Finnish Mythology.

Finnish people have always had very strong forest connection.
We have expression like "going to forest is like going to church" and so on.

Do we still have this connection?
In my opinion some of us still have it some of us don't.

At the moment I live in the UK and I find it a bit silly that there is millions and millions of Christmas trees transported from Finland to UK every year. Forestry is strong power (despite the fact that so many have lost their jobs because forestry has become more and more mechanical process). It's also sad reality that majority of forests that used to belong to people is now owned by the state and it's more difficult for individuals to buy their own piece of forest. And what does the government makes with all the forests. Well... they make money with forestry. 

On the other hand cities and towns get empty in the summer time when majority of the Finns travel to their summer cabins. Often cabins are in the middle of nowhere in the heart of the forest and nearest neighbors are on the other side of the lake (or the next lake).

It's not just Finnish people who do this. Russians are very found of their summer cabins as well.

This photo is from my family's summer cabin in northern Finland

Tapio

Tapio is one of the beginner gods just like forest has been a beginner home for men.
Tapiola is old Finnish name for forest. Occasionally Finland itself has been called as Tapiola.

Forest has offered food and shelter.
Fire, building material, sometimes place to start a whole village.
First human habitats were build often next to water areas and right next to the forest.

Tapio is both forest god and forest itself. He can take shape of a man, tree or a bear (or any other animal). Bear has been worshiped as a god in Finland and among all finno-ugrian tribes in the ancient times. Tapio has also been a nickname for a bear. Sometimes bear was also called as son of Tapio.¨

Tapio has many different tasks. During the spring time Tapio makes nature bloom and during the winter time he creates winter storms and cleans the forests.

Tapio is god of forest, nature, growth and hunt.

What does Tapio look like?
Tapio can appear in many different forms and shapes.
I personally think he looks little bit like Treebeard from Lord of the rings.
Tapio is often described to look like an old man with beard made of leaves and moss.
Tolkien himself was very found of Finnish mythology and elven language quenia was inspired by Finnish language.

Mielikki

Mielikki is goddess of forest, animals, wounded animals, healing and hunting (in modern days she represents ethical hunting). 

Mielikki is one of my personal favorites what it comes to Finnish deities. I resonate to the things what she represents. She is beautiful goddess. Often described to be dressed on green or brown. Occasionally wearing a blue robe. Mielikki wearing a blue robe is from the middle-ages when church was turning her legend to represent stories of Virgin Mary.

Mielikki was very much loved goddess and  respected by hunters and by anyone who stepped into the forest. Hunters prayed her for animals to hunt. If they manage to get prey part of the animal was sacrificed to the gods. Hunters also prayed that spirits of those who they hunted will move forward peacefully in the circle of life and find their way back to their ancestors.

When person entered to the forests gods expected a sacrifice. Sacrifice could have been something very simple. Spitting to the forest, pouring a drink to the ground or  urinating (something I won't recommend these days, not at least on a public forest area).

Here are some of my paintings inspired by goddess Mielikki


"Mielikki"
(c) Niina Niskanen 2009

"Mielikki and the bears"
(c) Niina Niskanen 2013

Bear was an equal god among with Tapio and Mielikki.
Finno-Ugrian myth how bear was landed from the skies as a son of god is
know across finno-ugrian people.

According to one legend Mielikki was the goddess who took care of the bear once he was landed from the skies. (In this myth you can see similarities to Christian stories)


"Winter sleep"
(c) Niina Niskanen
2013

Mielikki has some interesting qualities compared to many other goddesses. Unlike any other goddess she goes to winter sleep with those very animals who she protects. In this painting I gave her a wintercoat. Her hair has become dark while it's winter. It happens to my hair. Sun makes them light in the summer and they get dark in the winter. In the end different aspects of goddess can be found in all of us.

Tapio doesn't go to winter sleep. He prepares the forest for the arrival of new spring.

Tapiola

Tapio and Mielikki have several children. Most known of them are Nyyrikki (god of hunt), Tuulikki (goddess of wind), Tellervo (goddess of wild nature) and Tuutikki and Annikki (they are forest spirits).

"Forest dance"
(c) Niina Niskanen 2015

My painting forest dance represents goddess Tellervo in her human form. As goddess of wild nature
she can communicate with all the animals.

Tapiola is nature connection, animals, trees, plants and the present of divinity in nature.
It is all of these. Tapiola is forest in human subconscious. Our essential earth home.



maanantai 9. marraskuuta 2015

Harry Potter world. Trip to Warner Brother's studio


Hello Blogging world!

It's been a while I hope all my readers are doing great.
Such hectic time I've been living. I spent October back in Finland.
I finally got in to the surgery that I was already supposed to have in August.
Better late than never.

I returned to UK last week.I spent few days in London and made a trip to the Harry Potter world
in the Warner Brothers studio.

It was freaking amazing!! True Harry Potter fan dream.
All authentic pros, costumes and sets of the movies.
I loved every second of it. Highly recommend to all Harry Potter fans who visit London.

I took about 200 photos and share some of them now with you.

Great hall


Hufflepuf


Slytherin


Ravenclaw



Gryffindor


Harry's 1st year robe


Yule ball




Gryffindor commonroom




Boys corridor in Gryffindor tower


Potion class


Door to the Chamber of Secrets


House cup & Golden egg


Dumbledore's office





Hagrid's House



The Burrow



Movie clip I took at the Burrow




Little movie clip I took at the "Dungeons"


Umbridge's office



Freaky pink lady



Death eaters masks


Great clock of Hogwarts


Quidditch!!



Lupin's wardrobe



Proclamations



Hogwarts express



Honeydukes



Quibblers


Gilderoy Lockhart's books


Diagon Alley






Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy


Overall tour was amazing experience. 
I took so many photos and Butter beer was surprisingly good.

It definitely gave me some artistic inspiration as well.

Have a great day everyone and I hope you enjoyed this HP-photo-fan posting

Niina