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seeing, but which have to be seriously reckoned
with by the tiller of the soil. There are still living
persons who claim to have seen mermaids and the
Lady of the Forest, and little old men sometimes
help the labourer at his work. Sand eddies conceal
witches who travel along in them. Spirits have
been known to unharness horses that an instant
before were ready to start. Cows are still ridden by
the nightmare. To protect them one must put a
knife in the wall above the stall. Another way of
shielding cows from harm of any kind is to make a
hole in the threshold of the cow-house and put quick-
silver in it. Many ordinary occurrences forebode
important events. If squirrels build near a house
it is believed that one of the inmates will die shortly.
The loss of a tooth is also supposed to indicate a
death. If a cat runs across the road you will have
bad luck, and as a preventive should spit three times.
Visitors will come if the cat licks its paws or if your
nose tickles. Breaking things indicates a wedding,
and so on. Eecourse is still had to charms for the
curing of sickness, the healing of wounds, for luck
in fishing, hunting, weaving, churning, agriculture
and love and the evil eye is still feared and guarded
against. ^

Dr. Gunnar Landtman, who is well known for his
explorations among the tribes of the South Pacific,



MANNERS, CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS 111

was given a most circumstantial account of how a
shepherd boy in South Finland saw the Lady of the
Forest. "She stood leaning against a high pine-
tree and looked very beautiful. She was wearing a
fine large hat. The shepherd boy was on a hill when
he became aware of her and she looked at him flaunt-
ingly. When he opened the gate and called out the
cows she turned and fled. There was a fine aspen
grove in the place and the tree-tops swayed when she
ran, so that she was followed by a kind of hissing
sound. She was very ugly behind. For this rea-
son wood-nymphs do not like being seen from be-
hind." The same author was told about two coun-
try-girls who "came to a stream and saw some one
sitting on a plank that was stretched across it. At
first they thought that it was a human being. 'Do
you see that?' said one of the girls. At the same
moment the creature plunged into the water and dis-
appeared. Then the girls knew that it was the
water-spirit. They were so near that they could
have hit her with a stick. The creature looked like
a woman; she was washing herself when they saw
her, and her breasts were so long that she threw
them over her shoulder. She had no clothes on
and was quite naked. Her hair was black and long. ' '
Dr. Landtman records the following mysterious
adventure that happened to a fisherman who went
out in his boat one Sunday morning. While fishing
he caught half a perch on his hook. He was sur-
prised, but thought that the perch had in some way
lost its tail. Presently there was another bite, but
no fish came, and immediately afterwards a voice



112 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

said, " Stump, come back." The man, however, was
not frightened and continued to fish. Then a great
hand arose above the surface of the water, and sud-
denly the fisherman was cast ashore, boat and all.
When he came to, the perch was gone without his
knowing how it had happened. He didn't dare to
put out again and after that never fished on a Sun-
day morning.

A whole book might be written on the curious
habits and customs and beliefs that still survive in
the Finnish country-side and help to enrich its life.
Finland is indeed unusually interesting from this
point of view, because its folk-lore is derived not
only from the primitive Finns but also from the
primitive Scandinavians. Dr. Landtman's stories
are all taken from a Swedish-speaking tract quite
close to Helsingfors. Swedish Osterbotten is an
even richer field.

Social life plays a greater part in the country
than the great distances separating villages would
lead one to imagine. The peasants meet mostly on
. Sundays, when it is the custom in the lake districts
and in the lagoons to row to church in the enor-
mous church-boats, which hold young men and
maidens, old men and children, and are as spacious
as Noah's Ark. They belong to the village or com-
mune that builds them, and often have room for
more than a hundred people. There are a dozen or
more pairs of oars and each oar is so big that it is
pulled by two persons. Near the church several
such boats may be seen moored, and after the serv-



MANNERS, CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS 113

ice they race each other home as far as their routes
converge, enjoying the wildest excitement.

The churches are mostly built of timber and have
a certain picturesque quality in the landscape. The
bell-tower usually stands separate from the church.
The pastor, who is appointed and supported by the
congregation, has a large house near by, and in
old days travellers went as a matter of course to
the parsonage for food and lodging. In every
church is hung a copy of the Act of Assurance by
which Alexander I guaranteed Finland her consti-
tutional liberties. As churches are quite out of the
reach of some of the people, especially of those
dwelling on remote islands, open-air services are
often held in the summer by the seashore.

The Church has played an important part in the
life of Finland, especially in the sphere of educa-
tion. 1 But of recent decades it has lost much of its
hold upon the people. The Socialists have been re-
sponsible -for a good deal of anti-religious propa-
ganda and the Church itself has got rather out of
touch with the needs of modern life. But what has
done most of all to discredit religion in Finland has
been the attitude taken up by the clergy towards
the russianizing of their country. A few, indeed,
boldly took their stand on the constitution and
spoke out nobly, but the majority gave way from
motives of expediency, thereby losing the confidence
not only of the intellectuals but of large numbers
of the working classes. Barely has a finer chance
been thrown away.

1 Of. Chapter X.



114 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

Harvest-time is the signal for great social gather-
ings. The peasants of the neighbourhood assemble
at the farm where haymaking or harvesting is going
on, and work together during the day and feast
and dance at night. All who work are entitled to
share in the feasting. These dances are unforget-
table. Many of the peasants dance astonishingly
well, and there is a naturalness and enthusiasm
about the whole thing which compares very favour-
ably with the more ceremonious and blase dancing
in fashionable ball-rooms. In parts of the country
the midsummer dance survives. On Midsummer
Eve you get into a farm cart trimmed with birch-
branches and filled with hay, amid which you lie, and
are driven through the light Northern night to the
accompaniment of an old fiddler who sits on a chair
in a corner of the cart. Singing and talking, you
bump along the not very good road until towards
midnight you come to a village green, in the centre
of which a gaily decorated maypole has been erected.
Here, in the delicious cool, you dance around the
maypole and revel in the joy of a night that never
grows dark. In the early hours of the morning you
drive back, perhaps dozing in your bed of hay, and
after getting your oars from the tree under which
you have hidden them, row across the silent fjord
and creep along the path through a pinewood to
your home.

In many parts of Finland the old pagan custom
of dancing and singing around a fire on Midsummer
Eve continues, and still in the twentieth century the
young people may be seen leaping over the flames.



MANNERS, CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS 115

At Whitsuntide, also, such fires are made, to cele-
brate the return of sunlight and warmth to the earth,
and the peasants sing ancient runes so ancient that
in some places, like Eistala, near Tavastehus, the
very meaning of the words sung has been forgotten
beyond recovery.

Apart from the harvest and midsummer, it is the
Church festivals that are celebrated most enthusi-
astically. Easter has its painted eggs, as in other
countries, and a special dish called "memma,"
which is made of malt, sweetened and boiled till it
becomes quite thick, and served in birch-bark bas-
kets. It is eaten with lots of cream and sugar.
Easter, for some reason, is a great time for chil-
dren to swing. All Saints' Day is remarkable as
the day on which servants' contracts take effect or
expire in the country districts for servants are
engaged there by the year. Shrove Tuesday is cele-
brated by eating large buns, which are placed in a
soup-plate filled with milk and swell to a most em-
barrassing size.

Christmas is, of course, the greatest feast of all,
and preparations are made for it long beforehand.
Bread is baked, ale is brewed, and the eleborate
treatment of the stockfish is taken in hand. As the
festival approaches, the whole house in washed and
cleaned and the floor is covered with clean straw.
On Christmas Eve the whole family retires to the
bath-hut and undergoes the tremendous purgation
of the Finnish bath, afterwards perhaps taking a
roll in the snow. Then follows a meal from the
Christmas fare of rice porridge and stockfish. Nor



116 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

have the animals, in the midst of whom Our Lord
was born, been forgotten. They are given extra
food, and a sheaf of corn has been put out for the
birds. The family retires early to rest, the chil-
dren often sleeping on the straw in memory of the
Christ-child who was born in a manger. Sometimes
what is called a "heaven" is suspended from the
ceiling. It is a framework of threads covered with
straws and decorated with pieces of paper cut in
the shape of stars and other appropriate emblems.
Lit up from below by candle and firelight it has a
beautiful transparent effect, and must seem very
lovely to a child. On Christmas morning all rise
very early, while it is still dark. They may have
to drive very many miles before reaching the church
in time for the six o'clock service. All do honour to
the great festival, according to their means. The
best horses are put into the sledges, which are cov-
ered with bright rugs, and as many bells as possible
are attached to the harness to make a merry sound.
Nor is this early morning drive entirely through
pitch darkness. For all, both high and low, have
placed lighted candles in their windows to celebrate
the Saviour's birthday, and every house or cottage
you pass flashes to you the good news. In the old
days there used to be a man holding a torch, who
stood at the back of the seldge and lit up the road
for you, but this custom has died out. When you
reach the church you find that this, like the cottages,
is brilliantly lighted with candles. They stand
everywhere not merely in the conventional places,
but here, there and everywhere, and especially in



MANNERS, CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS 117

the windows. From the outside the church shines
through the darkness like a vast and brilliant lan-
tern. Tied along a fence near by is a long row of
horses and sledges ; the breath of the horses issues
in clouds of white steam. At the end of the service
there is a rush for the sledges, for it is the custom
to race home from church. If the way lies in part
across a frozen lake, a tremendous pace may be
attained and there is the keenest excitement as half
a dozen sledges strain abreast. The remainder of
the day begun thus strenuously is usually spent in
eating the Christmas ham and other seasonable fare,
and in quietly resting. On St. Stephen's Day it is
customary for the young people to go out driving
and wish each other a good year for the flax, and on
New Year's Eve you melt tin and throw it in water
to harden, after which you hold it up against the
wall and see your future in the shadow it casts or in
the shape the hardened tin assumes.

The marriage customs are interesting and vary
greatly in different parts of Finland. In some
places the proposal is still made, not by the lover,
but by a friend acting on his behalf. The wedding
is a great event among the richer peasants and
recalls echoes of the wedding described in the "Kale-
vala," the feasting in some cases lasting no less
than three days. The bride is dressed by a woman
who is the official village bride-dresser. If the bride
had misbehaved in her earlier life her wreath used
to be made in a different way from that worn by
other brides.

Perhaps the most interesting of all the old mar-



118 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

riage customs in Finland is one that has not yet
disappeared among the Swedish population of Oster-
botten.

Between nine and ten of a Saturday evening the
youths of the village meet, dressed in their best
clothes, and stand and talk for some time, waiting
for the girls to go to bed. Presently they disperse,
moving off unobtrusively each to visit his own girl.
If he is engaged, a boy may go openly to the place
where his sweetheart is living, but otherwise it is
de rigueur not to let the others know which girl he
visits. The girls are free to admit or refuse admis-
sion to any boy, but when once they are engaged the
girl is expected to admit her betrothed only.

In the old days the girls of a farm usually slept
all together, but nowadays they sleep, as a rule, in
a hut outside the main building or have a room to
themselves, thus enjoying privacy for these noc-
turnal visits. In the summer, moreover, these meet-
ings very often take place in the remote-lying huts
or cottages where the girls live in order to be near
the pasturing cattle and to be able to make butter
and cheese on the spot, without having to transport
the milk many miles to the farm. The girls take a
great pride in these saeters and make them look
as gay and attractive as possible, hanging up their
prettiest handkerchiefs and petticoats as ornaments.
When a boy who is not engaged comes to the place
where the girl he desires to visit sleeps, a curious
ritual takes place. The boy taps on the window,
and the proper thing is to use a cigarette-holder, or
something else that makes a sharp noise. It ought



MANNERS, CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS 119

to sound as much as possible like the click of a tele-
graph apparatus. After tapping, the boy waits a
little and then calls out, "Do you hear anything 1"
If he fails to get an answer he taps again, louder and
longer, and says:

"Kick the fur to the feet,
Kick between the wall-beams your sleep;
Put your foot on the floor,
Your hand on the door
And let us meet.

Why in the name of all the devils are the girls so
mighty and proud that they don't care to get up and
answer an honest village boy? Don't you hear?"

Usually a voice is heard from within saying,
"Hullo, there!"

Then the boy exclaims: "Of course you must
have heard. Aren't you getting up? It is such a
small trouble to get up and see what a boy wants
this evening."

"Well, it isn't such a trouble," says the girl.

"It isn't so great that you haven't done something
greater before. You are coming after all, aren't
you?" says the boy.

Then the girl comes to the window and draws the
curtain, so that she can see the boy. They say
"good evening," and then the boy asks:

"What is going on in there, now,"

"I am only sleeping," she replies.

"Perhaps you have a sleepy boy with you," he
continues.

"No, I've no naughty sweetheart," she answers.

"Aren't you going to let me in." he says.



120 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

"I don't know if I will," she replies.

"Oh, you will surely let me in," he pleads.

And then she either agrees, saying, "All right,
then, I will," or refuses, saying, "I won't let you
in this evening. Good night" in which case he has
to go off without further ado.

* ' If the girl is willing to receive him, however, she
goes to the door in her underskirt and admits him,
lights the lamp if it is dark (in the height of sum-
mer it is light all night), and then gets into bed
again. Presently the bo,y asks if he may stay with
her overnight, and if she^ays yes, he is allowed to
take off his boots, coat, waistcoat and collar, put out
the light and lie down at her side. If a boy to whom
she is not engaged attempts to undress more the
girl leaves him. The night is spent in talking, and
in the morning the girl gets up and makes coffee,
after which the young man departs, thanking her
for a good lodging.

If a boy from another village turns up, his friends
consider it only hospitable to secure him night
quarters also. But one of them must go with him
to explain to the girl who he is and guarantee his
respectability. Any boy who misbehaves very soon
forfeits his right to night quarters, for the report
travels rapidly round the village and none of the
girls will have anything to do with him.

The origin of this custom, which seems to have
been common at one time all over the north of Scan-
dinavia, was that, owing to the great distances sepa-
rating them and to the hardness of the life, young
people had very few chances of meeting openly and



MANNERS, CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS 121

getting to know each other. In these days the con-
ditions are changed and the custom is no doubt
doomed to disappear. 1

1 For my description of this custom I have followed closely
the account of it given in Brage's "Arskrift," 1908.




B



CHAPTER VII

THE WORLD OF THE ANCIENT FINNS

EFOEE proceeding further it is desirable to
glance at the racial mind of the people we are
studying, as it is expressed in their ancient poetry.
This poetry was probably composed by a variety of
runo-singers or minstrels during the centuries im-
mediately preceding the introduction of Christianity
into Finland. But as it was handed down orally
from father to son for generations, in the course
of time it naturally received many influences from
Christianity, and opinions differ greatly as to the
pre- or post-Christian composition of many of the
runos. The songs were sung by two singers who sat
opposite each other, clasped hands, and swayed
forwards and backwards to the accompaniment of a
harp. One sang a line, which the other repeated,
thus giving the first one time to think out the next
line. It is described in the opening lines of the
poem :

Let us clasp our hands together,
Let us interlock our fingers;
Let us sing a cheerful measure,
Let us use our best endeavours,
While our dear ones hearken to us,
And our loved ones are instructed,
122



THE WOBLD OF THE ANCIENT FINNS 123

While the young are standing round us,
Of the rising generation,
Let them learn the words of magic,
And recall our songs and legends.

These my father sang aforetime,
As he carved his hatchet's; handle,
And my mother taught me likewise,
As she turned around her spindle,
When upon the floor, an infant,
At her knees she saw me tumbling,
As a helpless child, milk-bearded,
As a babe with mouth all milky.

We have already seen how the fragments of this
ancient poetry were collected and fashioned into a
whole by Elias Lonnrot, and shall now regard it
mainly as it throws light on the world of the ancient
Finns. The word "primitive" strikes its key-note.
The earth itself is a primitive, pre-human place,
which, together with the sun, the moon and the
clouds, has been formed out of the broken fragments
of a teal's egg, which the teal had laid on the knee
of the Water Mother, who, before she had descended
from the sky and been fertilized by wind and wave,
had been the Virgin of the Air. When the earth
has been formed, Man, in the person of the aged
bard Wainamoinen, issues from the Water Mother's
womb. The world as it presents itself to him (or
to the primitive people who created him) is on a
vast scale. He himself lay thirty years in his
mother's womb, and when he forced his way out and
fell into the surrounding water he was tossed about
on the sea for eight years before reaching land.
The land, too, was primitive and vast, as it must



124 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

have appeared to those who first attempted to sub-
due it, and it was full of powers hostile to man,
which had to be propitiated. We read of an oak-
tree that grew so vast that it overshadowed the en-
tire country, hiding the sun and the moon. Even
inanimate things, such as iron and wood, have the
power of speech, while birds and beasts talk freely.
Indeed, the animal world is of very great impor-
tance to the inhabitants of these huge wastes. Thus
an eagle saves Wainamoinen by conveying him on
its back from the sea, when, after swimming for
many days, he begins to feel faint; and when the
northern maiden Aino is drowned, it is the hare that
takes the news to her family. Aino herself is turned
into a fish, and as such is caught by her old lover
Wainamoinen, only to escape into the water again
and mock him.

The population of Kalevala (the Land of Heroes,)
seems to live in small groups, separated by great
stretches of water, forest and moorland. It is a pre-
civilized life they lead, and the finer shades of feel-
and expression, such as a lyrical sense of the beauty
of the earth and of motherhood, coexist with the
thoughts and customs of a barbarous age. One is
reminded of early art, where the conception is hu-
man but the lines are stiff and unyielding. These
heroes and heroines still have much unassimilated
metal in their composition they are often metallic
to the touch. But they by no means resemble the
stark and mighty figures of Icelandic saga or of the
Nibelungenlied, their metal being of quite a different
quality.



THE WORLD OF THE ANCIENT FINNS 125

The story and characters are not exclusively Fin-
nish in origin, but their relation to other sagas can-
not be discussed here. It is enough that they are
profoundly informed and moulded by Finnish feel-
ing and thought.

The principal men in the story are Wainamoinen,
the aged bard, whose origin we have already seen,
and who is renowned for his wisdom, his singing and
his magic ; Ilmarinen, the mighty smith, who rejoices
in his forge; Lemminkainen, a jolly, hot-headed,
reckless rascal, who is a favourite with the girls
and is always getting into trouble; and Kullervo,
a tragic figure whose hand is against every man's.
Of the heroines must be mentioned especially Louhi,
the mistress of Pohjola (the North), who is an ex-
tremely formidable personage, and her daughter,
the Maiden of Pohjola. These two women it is dif-
ficult to characterize, as they appear in many con-
tradictory parts and are obviously the creations of
several different minds.

The motive that unites these and the minor char-
acters of the poem is the forging of Sampo, the
magic mill, and its transference from Pohjola to
Kalevala. Closely associated with this are the at-
tempts made by the heroes to win the beautiful
Madien of Pohjola as bride.

The great power in this ancient world-order is
magic, and almost anything can be achieved by its
means. By it Wainamoinen sings his enemy Jouka-
hainen into a swamp, and Ilmarinen actually forges
himself a new wife, though it is true he fails to give
her life and warmth. In every emergency recourse



126 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

is had to it, and the magical spells in the "Kale-
vala" are innumerable and often wearisome. In
order to control anything you must know and relate
to its origin. You can then do what you like with
it. Almost any risk is worth taking in order to
master a powerful spell, and Wainamoinen actually
goes down to Tuonela, the kingdom of death and
hell, in order to secure three magic words necessary
for the construction of a boat he is building. Their
ancient reputation as magicians clings to the Finns
even to-day, and it is commonly believed among
sailors of other nations that the Finn has the power
of calling up storms. In Kalevala the magical
world and the natural world have not yet been dif-
ferentiated; magic mingles at every turn with daily
life and there seems to be no sense of inconsistency.
At one and the same moment we are face to face
ness of every-day home life, as when Joukahainen,
with the most powerful sorcery and with the cosi-
sunk chin-deep in the filthy swamp by magic spells,
beseeches Wainamoinen

Speak thy word of magic backwards,
Break the spell that overwhelms me!
You shall have my sister Aino,
I will give my mother's daughter.
She shall dust your chamber for you,
Sweep the flooring with, her besom,
Keep the milkpots all in order:
And shall wash your garments for you.
Golden fabrics she shall weave you,
And shall bake your cakes! of honey.

Upon which Wainamoinen, who desires a wife for
his old age, dissolves the spell.



THE WORLD OF THE ANCIENT FINNS 127


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