perjantai 27. marraskuuta 2015

Finnish Mythology: Water Spirits


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 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. 


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 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


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 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.


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 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.


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 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 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

(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

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.


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





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


Lupin's wardrobe


Hogwarts express



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