Tag Archives: Kalevala

Kalevala Part 4

First off, I want to say thank you to all my readers.

This blog has passed over the 800 email followers mark. Now, I don’t know if that means over 800 people get an email when I post, or if that counter is somehow consecutive, or even faulty. However, it is one of the few measures I have with which to judge my readership. And, to me at least, 800 is a big deal.

So, thank you all so very much!

For this post I will be telling my experience of Rune 9, or the 9th poem in the Kalevala. As I mentioned in my last post, I will be skipping certain poems, partially based on interests, but also partially based on what the spirits feel I should study.

To recap, Vainamoinen has left Pojhola and set off back home. On the way, he meets a woman from Pojhola and tries to win her hand. She finally promises to wed him, if he can build her a boat and get it into the water without touching it in any way. While he tries to do so, his ax slips and hits his knee, which then begins to bleed profusely, and so Vainamoinen has to seek healing.

That is where Rune 9, picks up, and here is my experience of it.

So Vainamoinen took to his sled, and traveled to the cabin of a healer. His knee was gushing blood, as he entered the old man’s house. The old man cried out, and jugs were brought forth, to catch the blood that Vainamoinen has bled.

“Oh! So much blood have you left on my floor!” The old healer cried.
“Alas, that such a wound was made with iron, and I know not the charms to heal such a wound as this.” The healer said.
“I know some charms, and I can tell you of the origins of iron, or the beginning of steel.” Vainamoinen said.

So, Vainamoinen told of the beginnings of iron, since it was iron that caused his wound.

“ Air is the first of its mothers, Water the Oldest Brother.
Iron is the younger brother, and Fire the Middle

Ukko, great god, separated the air from the water, and the land from both.
Three Maidens were brought forth, three spirits of nature.
They traveled the land, and their breasts were full of milk.

So, to find relief from the ache, they milked out their breasts onto the land.
The oldest of them let out black milk, and where it hit the land bar iron came into being.
The middle one milked out white milk, from which steel is made.
The youngest let out red milk, and from this came iron ore.

After some time, Iron wanted to meet its older brother, and so it sought out fire.
But their meeting was not kind, and Iron was badly burned.
Iron ran, went into hiding, deep in the fen, deep below the ground.
It hide from its brother, went into hiding from fire.

For many long ages, iron was not found.
Until a wolf came running through the fen, and a bear too.
The wolf’s tracks uncovered iron, and the bear’s tracks did too.
In the wolf’s claws, and the bear’s paws, was iron revealed.

One day came Ilmarinen, the great smith, and he looked for a place to set his forge.
He walked through the fens, and found the tracks of wolf and bear.
Ilmarinen saw Iron, and saw it was in hiding, and miserable.

“Why iron, are you in such a terrible state? Lowly is your situation, for one so grand as you.” Ilmarinen said.
“I am in hiding, for fire, my brother, has burned me!” Iron said.
“That is because Fire does not know you, does not realize you are his kin. Come, and I will put you into the forge, and you can make a proper aquitance with Fire.” Ilmarinen said.

Yet, iron was afraid of the fire, and cried out before being put in the forge. Ilmarinen soothed it.
“When Fire has met you proper, it will lift you up and make you beautiful. Your form will be of fine tools, swords and fine jewelry.” Ilmarinen said.

So, Ilmarinen put Iron into the forge, and it became hot.
Iron cried out; “Take me away from this agony!”
“If I do, you will grow terrible. You will rise up against your kin, and be cruel to your brothers and mothers.” Ilmarinen said.

Then Iron swore a solemn oath, by the forge, the anvil, the tongs and the hammer.
“There is wood for me to bite, the heart of stone for me to cut, so that I will not have to harm my kin. It is far nicer for me to exist as an ally, as a tool, then to harm my own kin.”

The Ilmarinen pulled Iron from the Fire, and Iron was shaped into swords, shovels, and many fine tools.”

Vainamoinen had finished his story, and so the Old Healer understood the nature of Iron. Thus, he set about stopping the blood, and mending the wound caused by the abuses of Iron, so that Vainamoinen could go on his way.
I really enjoyed this story, and it is chock full of lore, knowledge, and charms. In this story alone, not all of which was covered here, is the origin of iron, charms for staunching blood, charms against the abuses of iron, bandage charms, healing charms, and even a protective charm at the end.

In truth, there is so much to this story that would need another post to unpack. I will hopefully be writing such a post in the near future, but for now I leave this here.

Thanks for reading!

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Kalevala Part 3

Let’s start out with updates. Another 80,000 word manuscript has come to an end, so now I may be able to focus a little more time on the blogs. With summer upon me here in Michigan, there will be plenty of outdoor work to do as well. Either way, my time is looking a little less full.

I am also starting out on a new endeavor, one that I find very exciting! Watch this space for updates as I move forward! Heck, there may even be a new blog in the near future.

For this post, I will recount my own experiences from the Kalevala, from Rune 7. You will notice that I have skipped a few poems as far as the blog is concerned. There are fifty poems in the Kalevala, and to recount them all here would be a monumentous task. It would be like retelling and rewriting the Kalevala from my own experience of it.

At the current time such a project is beyond me. As such, my retelling will be limited to the stories of greatest interest to me. I will try to go in order the best I can, but inevitably some parts will be left out.

My experience of these stories is something like one part shamanic journeying, and one part guided meditation. They all follow the story pretty closely, but at the same time it as if I am accompanying Vainimoinen in his journeys. Sometime he is my guide, sometime I am just a bystander, and sometimes I am just like a “third person” camera.

As such, my experience of Rune 7 is as follows.

After being shot from his horse by Joukahainen, Vainimoinen falls into the sea and floats for many days. He laments his fate, and is cold and in pain.
“Why, oh, why has such a horrid fate befallen me? I should have never left my homelands! How am I to survive in this place, I cannot make a shelter of find, nor a cabin on the waves?” So the old man floats on, and is miserable, cold, and in a great amount of pain.
Then from the North, from the Sami lands, flies a great bird, that spots Vainimoinen in the water.
“Why are you in the water, old fellow? Don’t you know you will not survive long in there?” The bird asks.
Vainimoinen sees the bird, and knows it to be an eagle.
“I was shot from my horse my a wicked man, and I fell into the sea. Now I have been carried far from my home, far from my farm at Kaleva.” Vainimoinen said.
“Ah, I thought when I saw you that I knew you. You left a great birch in a clearing, a deed of which I am most grateful. If you would, climb up on my back, and I will carry you to dry land.” The eagle said. Then did Vainimoinen see the eagle as an old friend, and so climbed up on his back.

The eagle soared over the waves, and took Vainimoinen to some nearby land, and there is left by the eagle.

Vainimoinen walked over the strange land for many days, and wailed and wept. For he was in a strange land, and bruised with many cuts and lashes, and his beard was all disheveled.

So it was that a fine maid from Pohjola heard the cries and laments as she was doing her chores, and so she ran to find Louhi, the mistress of Pohjola. She went with the girl to hear the lamenting, and knew that such wailing did not belong to a woman or a child.
“Thus is the wailing of an old man.” Louhi said.

So Louhi went in a boat to the old man, and asked of him why he was lamenting?

He told her of his story, and of his trials, and how he desired only to get back home. So Louhi took Vainimoinen into her home, and feed him, dried him and gave him a bed to rest. When he was better, he desired even more to go back to his farm in Kalevala.

Louhi asked the old man what he would give in exchange if she helped in get home. Vainimoinen offered her a tall hat filled with gold and silver.

“I have no desire for coins of gold, nor of silver. What I desire is a Sampo, a lid of many colors. If you were to forge one for me, I would send you home, and would send my daughter with you as a wife.” Louhi said.

“I have not the skill to forge a Sampo, but such a craftsman I know. His name is Ilmarinen, and he could make you a forge of many colors. Such is his skill that he could shape the sky, and hammer out the ground, and you would never see a mark of hammer or tong.” Vainimoinen said.

So Louhi agreed to help Vainimoinen find his way home, but her daughter was pledged to one who could make a Sampo.

“She will go with the one who forges a lid of many colors, from the tip of the shaft of a swan’s feather, from the milk of a farrow cow, from a single barleycorn, from the fleece of one sheep.” Louhi said.

Then she helped Vainimoinen hook up a sleigh, and told him how to find his way back to Kalevala. He sped on to tell Ilmarinen of Louhi’s daughter.


Initiations, Bears and Rituals Part 3

Interesting things are afoot, but there is little to say about that at the moment. There is a lot going on, but I am not sure I am ready to talk about it all just yet. So, I move on to the third part of this series.

In his discussion of Finno-Karelian sources, and the Bear Cult; Haggerty has this to say;

“The Bear Cult is scholarly shorthand for a belief system which, at it’s height in the stone age, and into the bronze age, was prevalent not only in Scandinavia and northern Europe but likely extended around the northern zones of the entire northern hemisphere. It is possible that it is the oldest know religion across the Eurasian continent.” (Haggerty, pg 40)

Several sources are presented for evidence of the Bear Cult, of which I will discuss two here. The first is The Kalevala, which was compiled by Lönnrot in the nineteenth century as a national epic, which he created from collected oral poetry as he journeyed across Finland. Here is a stripped down version of one story of Väinämöinen, the old man that is a hero in the Kalevala. I need to dive into the Kalevala a little deeper, but this is one of my favorite stories so far.

” Louhi is a witch and she conjurers a bear to attack Väinämöinen’s village. The old man knows this is going to happen and has the craftsman Ilmarinen make a spear with which he could kill the bear. Väinämöinen enters the forest outside the village looking for the bear. He then recites the charms of a bear hunter before killing the bear, while declaiming responsibility for his actions.

The dead bear is then brought back to the village in such a fashion where the spirit of the bear is still considered to be alive. The bear is accepted ceremoniously into the village as a benign spirit and guest of the villagers. Continuing to praise the bear, Väinämöinen brings its body into a house in the village and treats it with the utmost respect. The bear is then skinned and its meat cooked and a fine meal is prepared which is to form part of a wedding ceremony for the bear’s spirit.

While the preparations are being made, Väinämöinen informs those present of the origin of the bear among the heavens, how it came to the human world and especially of the bear’s relationship to the personified female spirit of the forest. He tells of how the bear got it’s attributes such as teeth and claws.

Once this is done Väinämöinen ritually takes these attributes from the skull of the bear and takes the numinous power associated with these attributes to enhance his own. After the attributes of the bear are transferred to Väinämöinen, he leads the bear spirit away from the village and tells of how he ceremoniously attached the skull of the bear to a pine tree, in a particular position, which was pleasing to the bear’s spirit.” (Haggerty Pgs 42 – 43)

In some way, this story helps to outline a lot of my own practices. I have prayers, rites, and charms for before I go out to hunt. Also, once the kill is taken, I do my best to treat the spirit of the animal with honor and reverence. Respect for the remains as well as the spirit are important, just like the bear in the story. Also, and this is something I will likely develop more later, I am finding that some of these attributes can be adopted for spiritual work.

I think the last part is the most interesting, the skull being attached to the tree. It makes me think about some of the archaeological sites I have read about, especially one in Denmark where a reindeer (I think?) was found attached to a post, near a bog that contained more than a few reindeer remains. Certainly plenty to chew on…

Happy Holidays!