So, I have started to work my way through the Kalevala. I have the Magoun prose translation, but am also using the Crawford translation from Project Gutenberg in tandem as a comparison. Both have their respective flaws and strengths.
With this project, I am doing something a little different from the FFA. As part of my ongoing spiritual education, I have started working with Väinämöinen. I was introduced to him by Skadi, as there are things I can learn from him that I cannot learn from her. Whereas she has taught me of the hunt, he will teach me about magic, generally speaking.
In the past, as with the FFA, my habit has been to review the scholarly work, and comment on the scholar’s work. In this case, I have been asked to travel with Väinämöinen. As such, the Kalevala will serve as the inspiration for trance/journey work. As such, instead of simple examination, the stories from the Kalevala will be told as I experience them. They may not be the “official” story, but more of my experience of them. As such, I will be journeying with Väinämöinen for this series.
Curiously, each of the poems of the Kalevala are referred to as runes. Normally, when I think of runes, I think of the Futhark, and the old Norse characters. By comparison, in the case of the Kalevala, a rune is an entire poem/song. The topic of this post is Rune 1, which I will tell of shortly. I just wanted to note this to consider at a later time.
Once again, this is my experience of the story.
In ages past, a Spirit of Air, a maiden, floated down from the sky. She found herself amongst the ocean. In loneliness and solitude she drifted, over the waves and through the waters. But there was no comfort for her, for none were around in which to comfort her.
For seven hundred years she wandered, as storms blew and waves whipped into white anger. The tossed her and threw her about. Sometimes, she wondered if she might drown.
The world is black, and there is the sound of waves. For seven hundred years, he waited and listened, in the womb of his mother. He listened to the storms rage, and the waves in white anger. He listened to the struggles of his mother, spirit of the air, now mother of the water.
So heavy with child, she struggles through the waves in the sea, and cries to the Sky-God, “Oh Ukko! I implore you! Help me in my time of trouble! Aid me in my trials! I have been alone for so long, amongst the waves and in the mercy of the storms. I am lonely, and miserable, and seek your aid, oh Ukko!”
Once she was a spirit of the air, now tossed about as water-mother. She is lost, and cold, and miserable in her endless ages at sea.
Then, on the horizon flies a duck. She looks for a place to nest, but all she finds is storms and angry waves. She flies to the north, east, south and west, but where will she nest?
The water-mother floats in sadness and in pain, for her trials have been long and hard. Longer her labor. So it was in exhaustion she raises her shoulders above the waves, and her knees above the waters.
Upon her knee the duck does find a place to nest. Away from the winds, the storms, and the angry white waves. Here the duck finds a place to call home. So she lays her eggs. First one, then another, and on.
With a violent wind and shaking wave, one egg falls into the ocean and is shattered. From the fragments of shell, the world came into being.
From the upper half, the sky. From the lower, the ground. The yolk became the sky. The white became the moon. The mottled bits became the stars. The dark parts became the clouds. So was it that the world came into being, from the fragments of a broken egg.
Yet, Väinämöinen had not yet seen any of these thing. He had hear much, in the womb of the water mother. Yet, he had not seen the sky, nor the stars, nor the sun at morning’s rise. Desired he to see all these things he had heard about, in his mother’s womb. It held him like a dark prison, and he wished to wander all of the world.
So he came forth, and fell into that dark, cold ocean. Here he drifted for years, among the waters and the angry waves, too among the blowing storms and biting winds. Seven long years, into eight, until he came onto the land.
So ends the first tale of Väinämöinen, and begins his journey in the wider world.
The Crawford translation is beautiful, in my opinion. It also names his mother.
“On a coast bereft of verdure;
On his knees he leaves the ocean,
On the land he plants his right foot,
On the solid ground his left foot,
Quickly turns his hands about him,
Stands erect to see the sunshine,
Stands to see the golden moonlight,
That he may behold the Great Bear,
That he may the stars consider.
Thus our hero, Väinämöinen,
Thus the wonderful enchanter
Was delivered from his mother,
Ilmatar, the Ether’s (Air’s) daughter.”
Plenty more to come!
The Kalevala: Or Poems of the Kaleva District, translation by Francis Peabody Magoun