Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Finnish Religion

The ancient Finns believed that the dead bodies retained some of their former life and revered their ancestors. Death was simply a transition to Tuonela, the lands of the dead, from where the dead observed the living and might occasionally return. It was believed that the dead were able to influence the life of the living, and therefore sacrifices were made in order to keep the ancestors in a good mood. Ancestors were revered up to the ninth generation. Occasionally malignant, unrestful spirits might begin to haunt the living, and there were certain rites to repel them.

The graveyard, kalmisto (pyhä lehto, hiisi) was a sacred grove where most rituals and offerings were made. Each family had also its own special sacrificial ground, usually a tree. There were also sacrificial stones and wells. The ancient religion persisted long after Christianity had entered Finland with shamans and medicine men keeping to the old faith. There is some evidence that some ancient rites were retained up until the C9th in Carelia in addition to Christianity.


(sing. 'jumala', plur. 'jumalat')

Ukko chief growth, rain and thunder
Sämpsä Pellervoinen growth fertility
Rongoteus [Runkoteivas] rye
Virankannos oats
Ägräs peas, roots and fibre plants
Köndös agriculture
Vedenemä fishermen
Hittavainen hunting
Nyrkäs hunting
Jumala word for Christian god


Ilma air
Kouma goddess of death
Loviatar goddess of evil
Mader Atcha creator

Rural deities

(sing. 'haltija', pl. 'haltijat')

Tuli fire
Tapio forests
Ahti waters and fish
Maanhaltija land, soil

Household spirits

(sing. 'tonttu' pl. 'tontut')

These guarded various parts of the house and if treated with respect could bring good luck.

The Kalevala

This collection of legends and poetry was handed down orally until the nineteenth century. It may contain some folk memory of an iron-using people who lived in Finland in the first millennium B.C. as it records how Ilmarinen the smith taught the Suomalasiet (people of Suomi - then probably south-west Finland, but now the name for the whole country) how to find and work iron. The stories about the virgin Marjatta, who swallows a berry and produces a child which has a stronger magic than the wizard Väinamöinen, may refer to the beginnings of Finnish Christianity.

Ilmarinen perfomed many tasks to gain the hand of the beautiful daughter of Louhi, the evil witch who ruled the lands to the north. One of these was the building of a machine called 'Sampo' which could make grain and money from nothing continuously. Louhi's daughter still refused to marry Ilmarinen so the Kalevala heroes stole Sampo. Louhi pursued them and there was a battle in which Sampo was broken and the pieces fell into the sea.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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