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Horses and Ravens in Finnish Mythology

Niina is a folklorist and a storyteller who loves to research and explore myths from all around the world.

horses-and-ravens-in-finnish-mythology

Three Levels of the World

The Finno-Ugric tribes shared the widespread Eurasian belief that the world was divided into three levels and related to one another via a world tree. They were referred to as Ylinen, Keskinen, and Alinen levels. The highest spirits and most revered gods lived in the upper realm, known as Ylinen (in some cases, it was also believed to be the state where the re-birth process started).

Keskinen The natural realm—our physical world—was the middle world, where all the gods who controlled the elements coexisted alongside people and animals. The afterlife, also known as Alinen, was a place where the ghosts of the deceased dwelt. However, Alinen was not like the inferno of the Christian. There, souls awaited their chance to be reborn once more.

Iku-Tihku was constructed entirely of ice and fire. Iku-Tihku could move between these three realms, which stand in for the three states of consciousness, but it could only do so in the winter because Keskinen, the intermediate world, would otherwise melt. The trolls manufactured all additional horses after Iku-Tihku, but they were constructed of stone, steel, and iron, so they could spend the entire year in Keskinen if they desired.

horses-and-ravens-in-finnish-mythology

Tahvatar the Horse Goddess

Each type of animal and plant has its own emuu in Finnish mythology. Emuu, which means mother in ancient Finnish, was a legendary being. In the myths of the Finns, Saami, and Latvians, Emuus are present. Many Emuus were thought to be hybrids of humans and animals in Finland, and they were frequently depicted as female deities.

Tahvatar was a deity who ruled over Emuus. Fewer and fewer myths about Tahvatar still exist. She was thought to be extremely similar to the Gallo-Roman deity Epona. Tahvatar had the ability to change into other animals, including horses. In Finland, it was customary to invoke Tahvatar's blessings before releasing horses into the fields in the spring.

horses-and-ravens-in-finnish-mythology

Birth of the Ravens

In many cultures, ravens have been revered and feared as birds. Ravens were strong creatures associated with witchcraft in prehistoric Finland, and shamans frequently kept them as pets. Knowing all of the birth stories was crucial for the shaman, wise man, or wise woman since it was thought that if you knew the magical beginnings of everything, you could then control it.

I know the raven´s origin, from what the blackbird was obtained, how the raven was bred: the scoundrelly raven, Lempo´s bird, the most disgusting bird of air was born on a charcoal hill, was reared on a coal heath, was gathered from burning brands, was bred from charcoal sticks, of potsherds its head was made, it´s breastbone from Lempo´s spinning wheel, it´s tail from Lempo´s sail, it's shanked from crooked sticks, it´s belly from a wretch sack, it´s guts from Lempo´s needle-case, from an air-ring it´s rump, from a worn-out kettle it´s a crop, it´s neck from Hiisi´s weaving-stool, it´s beak from sorcerer´s arrow-tip, it´s tongue from Äijö´s axe, it´s eyes from a mussel pearl.

horses-and-ravens-in-finnish-mythology

Connection With the Deities

The phrase "raven born on a charcoal hill" alludes to the bird's black color, and the fact that several pieces of the raven are built of potsherds, and a kettle clearly associates the bird with witchcraft. We don't know much about the ancient Finnish deity Lempo. It was once thought to be the sinister side of the forest god Tapio (or possibly a completely separate being). If Tapio were in charge, the forest would provide a haven for animals and food and supplies for people. Lempo would control the shadows in the woods and create nightmares. Lempo might have had ties to death and the underworld.

Another contentious figure from Finnish mythology is called Hiisi. Hiisi may have resembled a giant or a troll, but in the earliest mythological eras, it was a sacred site, a grove in the woods where people went to worship ancient pagan gods. The god of thunder and rain, Ukko, is known as Äijö. The raven had a reputation for being one of the most mystical and enigmatic birds, and it was associated with some of the most powerful gods and goddesses in Finland.

Raven Stone

One egg the raven laid that hatched was heavier than the rest and contained a mystical stone. It enabled the shaman to comprehend the mystic knowledge of the ancestors and the underworld and to speak the language of ravens. Stone had the power to make shamans invisible and grant their wishes.

Ravens are not fussy eaters, as evidenced by the fact that their stomachs are made of a miserable sack. In Finnish folklore, ravens were common shamans' spirit guides, and many times when a shaman entered the underworld, they did so as a bird. Alinen, a beast of the underworld, was thought to be Raven. People feared ravens and other black animals in the same way they feared and revered their ancestors because they were frequently associated with the underworld.

Heart of Mielikki

Sources

Lönnrot, Elias. (2011). Magic Songs of the Finns. Jon Hällström.

Taivaannaula (https://www.taivaannaula.org/)

© 2022 Niina Pekantytar