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.

2 kommenttia:

  1. Mielikki on mullekin läheisin suomalaisista jumaluuksista. Kunnianosoituksena Hänelle annoimme tyttäremme toiseksi nimeksi Mielikki. :)

    1. Onpa ihana kuulla. Isäni toinen nimi oli Tapio. Hyvin elävät nämä vanhat nimet yhä suomalaisten mielissä <3