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

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