Hiisi, the Finnish devil, bearing also the epithets, Juntas, Piru, and Lempo, is the chief of the forest-demons, and is inconceivably wicked. He was brought into the world consentaneously with Suoyatar, from whose spittle, as sung in The Kalevala, he formed the serpent. This demon is described as cruel, horrible, hideous, and bloodthirsty, and all the most painful diseases and misfortunes that ever afflict mortals are supposed to emanate from him. This demon, too, is thought by the Finlanders to have a hand in all the evil done in the world.
Turning from the outer world to man, we find deities whose energies are used only in the domain of human existence. "These deities," says Castrén, "have no dealings with the higher, spiritual nature of man. All that they do concerns man solely as an, object in nature. Wisdom and law, virtue and justice, find in Finnish mythology no protector among the gods, who trouble themselves only about the temporal wants of humanity." The Love-goddess was Sukkamieli (stocking-lover). "Stockings," says Castrén gravely, " are soft and tender things, and the goddess of love was so called because she interests herself in the softest and tenderest feelings of the heart." This conception, however, is as farfetched as it is modern. The Love-deity of the ancient Finns was Lempo, the evil-demon. It is more reasonable therefore to suppose that the Finns chose the son of Evil to look after the feelings of the human heart, because they regarded love as an insufferable passion, or frenzy, that bordered on insanity, and incited in some mysterious manner by an evil enchanter.
Uni is the god of sleep, and is described as a kind-hearted and welcome deity. Untamo is the god of dreams, and is always spoken of as the Personification of indolence. Munu tenderly looks after the welfare of the human eye. This deity, to say the least is an oculist of long and varied experience, in all probability often consulted in Finland because of the blinding snows and piercing winds of the north. Lemmas is a goddess in the mythology of the Finns who dresses the wounds of her faithful sufferers, and subdues their pains. Suonetar is another goddess of the human frame, and plays a curious and important part in the restoration to life of the reckless Lemminkainen, as described in the following runes. She busies herself in spinning veins, and in sewing up the wounded tissues of such deserving worshipers as need her surgical skill.
Other deities associated with the welfare of mankind are the Sinettaret and Kankahattaret, the goddesses respectively of dyeing and weaving. Matka-Teppo is their road-god, and busies himself in caring for horses that are over-worked, and in looking after the interests of weary travellers. Aarni is the guardian of hidden treasures. This important office is also filled by a hideous old deity named Mammelainen, whom Renwall, the Finnish lexicographer, describes as "femina maligna, matrix serpentis, divitiarum subterranearum custos," a malignant woman, the mother of the snake, and the guardian of subterranean treasures. From this conception it is evident that the idea of a kinship between serpents and hidden treasures frequently met with in the myths of the Hungarians, Germans, and Slavs, is not foreign to the Finns.
Nowhere are the inconsistencies of human theory and practice more curiously and forcibly shown than in the custom in vogue among the clans of Finland who are not believers in a future life, but, notwithstanding, perform such funereal ceremonies as the burying in the graves of the dead, knives, hatchets, spears, bows, and arrows, kettles, food, clothing, sledges and snow-shoes, thus bearing witness to their practical recognition of some form of life beyond the grave.
The ancient Finns occasionally craved advice and assistance from the dead. Thus, as described in The Kalevala, when the hero of Wainola needed three words of master-magic wherewith to finish the boat in which he was to sail to win the mystic maiden of Sariola, he first looked in the brain of the white squirrel, then in the mouth of the white-swan when dying, but all in vain; then he journeyed to the kingdom of Tuoni, and failing there, he "struggled over the points of needles, over the blades of swords, over the edges of hatchets" to the grave of the ancient wisdom-bard, Antero Wipunen, where he "found the lost-words of the Master." In this legend of The Kalevala, exceedingly interesting, instructive, and curious, axe found, apparently, the remote vestiges of ancient Masonry.
It would seem that the earliest beliefs of the Finns regarding the dead centred in this: that their spirits remained in their graves until after the complete disintegration of their bodies, over which Kalma, the god of the tombs, with his black and evil daughter, presided. After their spirits had been fully purified, they were then admitted to the Kingdom of Manala in the under world. Those journeying to Tuonela were required to voyage over nine seas, and over one river, the Finnish Styx, black, deep, and violent, and filled with hungry whirlpools, and angry waterfalls.
Like Helheim of Scandinavian mythology, Manala, or Tuonela, was considered as corresponding to the upper world. The Sun and the Moon visited there; fen and forest gave a home to the wolf, the bear, the elk, the serpent, and the songbird; the salmon, the whiting, the perch, and the pike were sheltered in the "coal-black waters of Manala." From the seed-grains of the death-land fields and forests, the Tuoni-worm (the serpent) had taken its teeth. Tuoui, or Mana, the god of the under world, is represented as a hard-hearted, and frightful, old personage with three iron-pointed fingers on each hand, and wearing a hat drawn down to his shoulders. As in the original conception of Hades, Tuoni was thought to be the leader of the dead to their subterranean home, as well as their counsellor, guardian, and ruler. In the capacity of ruler he was assisted by his wife, a hideous, horrible, old witch with "crooked, copper-fingers iron-pointed," with deformed head and distorted features, and uniformly spoken of in irony in the Kalevala as "hyva emanta," the good hostess; she feasted her guests on lizards, worms, toads, and writhing serpents. Tuouen Poika, "The God of the Red Cheeks," so called because of his bloodthirstiness and constant cruelties, is the son and accomplice of this merciless and hideous pair.
Three daughters of Tuoni are mentioned in the runes, the first of whom, a tiny, black maiden, but great in wickedness, once at least showed a touch of human kindness when she vainly urged Wainamoinen not to cross the river of Tuoui, assuring the hero that while many visit Manala, few return, because of their inability to brave her father's wrath. Finally, after much entreaty, she ferried him over the Finnish Styx, like Charon, the son of Erebus and Nox, in the mythology of Greece. The second daughter of Tuoni is Lowyatar, black and blind, and is described as still more malignant and loathsome than the first. Through the East-wind's impregnation she brought forth the spirits of the nine diseases most dreaded by mankind, as described in the 45th Rune of the Kalevala:
"Colic, Pleurisy, and
Ulcer, Plague, and dread Consumption,
Gout, Sterility, and Cancer."
The third daughter of Tuoni
combines the malevolent and repugnant attributes of her two sisters, and
is represented as the mother and hostess of the impersonal diseases of
mankind. The Finns regarded all human ailments as evil spirits or indwelling
devils, some formless, others taking the shapes of the most odious forms
of animal life, as worms and mites; the nine, however, described above,
were conceived to have human forms.
Where the three arms of the Tuoni river meet a frightful rock arises, called Kipu-Kivi, or Kipuvuori, in a dungeon beneath which the spirits of all diseases are imprisoned. On this rock the third daughter of Tuoui sits, constantly whirling it round like a millstone, grinding her subjects until they escape and go forth to torture and slay the children of men; as in Hindu mythology, Kali (black) sits in judgment on the dead.
Various other spiritual powers than gods and goddesses are held in high reverence by the Finns. Tontu is represented as a kind-hearted house-spirit, a sort of diminutive Cyclops, and offerings of bread and broth are made to him every morning. Putting a mare's collar on one's neck and walking nine times around a church is thought to be a certain means of attracting one to the place desired. Para is a mystical, three-legged being, constructed in many ways, and which, according to Castrén, attains life and action when its possessor, cutting the little finger of his left hand, lets three drops of blood fall upon it, and at the same time pronouncing the proper magic word. The possessor, by whatever means, of this mystic being, is always supplied with abundance of milk and cheese. The Maahiset are the dwarfs of Finnish mythology. Their abode is under stumps, trees, blocks, thresholds and hearth-stones. Though exceedingly minute and invisible to man they have human forms. They are irritable and resentful, and they punish with ulcers, tetter, ringworms, pimples, and other cutaneous affections, all those who neglect them at brewings, bakings, and feastings. They punish in a similar manner those who enter new houses without making obeisance to the four corners, and paying them other kindly attentions; those who live in untidy houses are also likewise punished. The Kirkonwæki (church-folk) are little deformed beings living under the altars of churches. These misshapen things are supposed to be able to aid their sorrowing and suffering worshipers.
Certain beasts, and birds, and trees, are held sacred in Finland. In the Kalevala are evident traces of arctolatry, bear-worship, once very common among the tribes of the north, Otso, the bear, according to Finnish mythology, was born on the shoulders of Otava, in the regions of the sun and moon, and "nursed by a goddess of the woodlands in a cradle swung by bands of gold between the bending branches of budding fir-trees." His nurse would not give him teeth and claws until he had promised never to engage in bloody strife, or deeds of violence. Otso, however, does not always keep his pledge, and accordingly the hunters of Finland find it comparatively easy to reconcile their consciences to his destruction. Otso is called in the runes by many endearing titles as "The Honey-Eater," "Golden Light-Foot," "The Forest-Apple," "Honey-Paw of the Mountains," "ThePride of the Thicket," "The Fur-robed Forest-Friend." Ahava, the West-wind, and Penitar, a blind old witch of Sariola, are the parents of the swift dogs of Finland, just as the horses of Achilles, Xanthos and Belios, sprang from Zephyros and the harpy Podarge.
As to birds, the duck, according to the Kalevala, the eagle, according to other traditions, lays the mundane egg, thus taking part in the creation of the world. Puhuri, the north-wind, the father of Pakkanen (frost) is sometimes personified as a gigantic eagle. The didapper is reverenced because it foretells the approach of rain. Linnunrata (bird-path) is the name given to the Milky-way, due probably to a myth like those of the Swedes and Slavs, in which liberated songs take the form of snow-white dovelets. The cuckoo to this day is sacred, and is believed to have fertilized the earth with his songs. As to insects, honey-bees, called by the Finns, Mehilainen, are especially sacred, as in the mythologies of many other nations. Ukkon-koiva (Ukko's dog) is the Finnish name for the butterfly, and is looked upon as a messenger of the Supreme Deity. It may be interesting to observe here that the Bretons in reverence called butterflies, "feathers from the wings of God."