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Jumala: That’s Finnish for God

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects including education and creative writing.

Ukko aka Jumala

Ukko aka Jumala

One word popped up as a translation for Jumala. Wordhippo.com, an Internet dictionary site, kept it succinct by stating the term means “God”. The word’s origin comes from the Northern Baltic regions of Finland, Estonia and Western Russia.In particular, it came from the Finno-Ugric people, and their unique language.

There are variations of words within the Finnish language. According to Wordhippo.com , they are:

  • Jumaluus, jumalolento (Deity)
  • Jumaluus, jumalallisuus, jumalolento, jumaluusoppi, teologia (Divinity)

Either way, the word is the holiest within that language. Moreover, it has come to represent the name of the Christian god, Jehovah, in the Baltic region.

Jumala works in mysterious ways.

However, Jumala isn't just the name of the current lord and savior. The name is much older than the arrival of the Christian god to the region. According to Finnish mythology, Jumala was the name of their most important deity.

The name, these days, has managed to go beyond representing current religion and ancient mythology. The modern myth, Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) used the term to name a team of supernatural beings (that happen to have Finnish origins).

How has the name of an ancient deity become so revered in modern times? Jumala works in mysterious ways.

Heaven and Sky

Jumala is one of the few surviving reminders of Finland’s polytheistic past. He represented the god of sky and heaven to many in the region including Lapland tribes -- such as the Sami people -- and the ancient Estonians (who referred to him as Jamal). According to accounts, Jumala was the god of all gods who created the heaven, the universe and Finland.

In later years, the god once known as Jumala donned the new name of Ukko (derived from the Finnish word, “ukkonen” meaning thunderstorm). In all likelihood, this happened when the Sami and other Finnish language tribes merged or intermingled. Whatever the case may be, Jumala went from naming one god to referring to all gods within their religions.

Jumala as Ukko

While the god who donned the name of Jumala became Ukko, this didn’t change his importance in Finnish and Estonian mythology. Ukko took on the role of divine sky god as well as god of thunder. In addition to his previous duties, Ukko did the following:

  • Controlled the weather
  • Brought rain to the crops
  • Helped fertilize the world

Interestingly, Ukko shared important traits with gods and deities from other myths. One example, Ukko, a thunder god, carried a magic hammer called Ukonvasara. This is a direct comparison to the Norse Thunder God and Marvel superhero, Thor (who also carried a mighty hammer called Mjolnir).

Unfortunately, Jumala/Ukko shared another trait with other deities from Lapland and Baltic regions; the narratives that explained who these gods were barely survived the test of time. Many of their origin stories were fragmented or lost. In part, much of the information has been handed down through generations, orally. It wouldn’t be until the 19th century that these gods were recorded in a book. In that time, however, another force swept through the area that would do away with the old gods and, once again, alter the meaning of Jumala.

Thor and Jumala (Ukko) are often depicted as the same way. This image has been used by various publications to represent the two deities.

Thor and Jumala (Ukko) are often depicted as the same way. This image has been used by various publications to represent the two deities.

Christianity Converts Jumala

Eventually Christianity reached the shores of Finland. By 1026, many converted (voluntarily or by force). Fortunately, much of the Finno-Ugric language survived. This included the term Jumala. By that time, Jumala was a general term for god; however, the newly converted Christians restored the name to signify a specific god.

Still, many things were lost in the conversion. Old Finnish religious relics that represented their deities were banned. Their stories were labeled as a form of paganism. The new monotheistic religion replaced the polytheistic one. The term Jamala may have survived, but the name and entity that was Ukko didn’t. The old ways and customs, it appeared were gone for good.

The Kalevala

The old stories of the gods may have lost its importance to the people after Christianity arrived. But, it didn’t mean they vanished entirely. Some tribes within the Lapland held on to the ancient stories in the form of folktales and epic poems passed down from one generation to the next through oral traditions.

In the 1800s, a Finnish nationalist saved the original Jumala and his mythological realm from obscurity. Elias Lönnrot, a philosopher and collector of traditional Finnish oral poetry amassed and recorded several poems and folktales between 1835 and 1836. The two-volume collection came to be known as The Kalevala.

Some scholars credit the collection with awakening national fervor among the Finns in the early 1900s.

The Kalevala got its name from Kalian, a Finnish language group spoken in the Russian Republic of Karelia. It is considered by some to be similar to the dialect spoken in eastern Finland.

It became a significant collection. It preserved 22,795 verses of ancient Baltic folklore poems about the various ancient gods from the region. Its importance was political, too. Some scholars credit the collection with awakening national fervor among the Finns in the early 1900s. This led to its independence from Russia in 1917.

Jumala, Comic Book Heroes

Enter a new mythos: Marvel Comics has had a knack for bringing back ancient deities from world mythologies. Thor was the first to open the doors and Jumala – this time the name of a team – made a comeback. In fact, Jumala -- also known as the Kalevalans -- owed its resurgence to the Norse God-turned superhero when they first appeared in Thor#300 in 1980.

In many respects, Marvel Comics kept the Jumala origin faithful to its original source; they emerged in Finland and were revered and worshiped by the Sami and ancient Finnish people of Northern Europe in 500 BC.

The Jumala. Ukko is in the center.

The Jumala. Ukko is in the center.

Still, as part of its MCU, Marvel Comics added a lot more to it their origin. These additions included:

  • They were not gods
  • They were a “humanoid race of extradimensional beings.”
  • They came from a place called Taivas, which according to marvel.fandom’s Marvel Database is a “small pocket-dimension adjacent to Earth.”
  • They entered Earth’s realm through “An interdimensional nexus between Taivas and Earth known as Linnunrata or the “Path of Birds” that once existed near Finland.”

They’re even given credit for creating Finland. In the MCU “history” the first Jumala, Ilmarinen (a Finnish term for divine), “freed ancient Finland by shattering a Cosmic Egg with is hammer.” Later, he shaped Finland from the remnants of the Cosmic Egg. After that, he turned over the world to Ukko and his wife Akka (an important goddess in Finnish mythology).

The origin in the database is exhaustive. It integrated much of the original myth with MCU’s. In addition, it weaved other mythologies such as Nordic and Greek into its backstory. Interestingly, it included the Hyborian Age, which was the realm of both the literary and comic book version of Conan the Barbarian (in fact, there’s reference to Jumala in The Savage Sword of Conan #39).

A Strong Legacy

Today, there are a few popular sayings in the Finnish language, especially when it pertains to religion. They are (from Wordhippo.com):

  • Jumala siunatkoon sinua (god bless you)
  • Jumala on armollinen (god is gracious)
  • Jumala rakkauden (god is love) and
  • Mahtava Jumala (a mighty god)

These words of divinity keep the word Jumala alive. In addition, they harken back to the time when Jumala named one god who ruled the sky, as well as a time the word came to represent all Finnish gods and every other “god” to follow.

The legacy for the god and the word are vast. And with Marvel Comics incorporating Ukko and other Finnish gods in its vast MCU, Jumala will be term that will enter a larger mythos that includes an entire world outside the Northern most region of Europe.

jumala-thats-finnish-for-god

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Dean Traylor

Comments

ThePyat on November 04, 2019:

"JUMALA Ugric—Ural Mountains The supreme being, mother of all things. The oak tree was her sacred symbol. Jumala bears a similarity to Mother Earth, but she is greater, for she alone created the universe. She is also one with the universe, for all that exists is contained within her body. In some regions Jumala is considered a male deity; but in fact Jumala is androgynous, at once both male and female. Jumala possibly developed from an ancient sky deity, as the name is cognate with the word for dusk. See also: Mother Earth" --Encyclopedia of Russian & Slavic Myth and Legend, by Mike Dixon-Kennedy

JC Scull from Gainesville, Florida on October 09, 2019:

Very interesting!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on October 08, 2019:

Very interesting...I did not know any of this information that you have provided and now will need to find more to read even more. thank you for sharing Angels are headed your way this morning ps

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