Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.
Naming a newborn is not a task taken lightly. It has been that way for ions and will continue to be one of the biggest non-medical tasks parents of newborns must endure. In some cases, it may feel like a deity is needed to help them get through this process.
That’s exactly what many new parents in the Lapland and the northern Baltic region of Europe once did. These hardy people turned to a powerful goddess to “inspire” them to choose a fitting name.
Madder-Akka (also spelled as “Madderakka” or “Maderakka” by several sources), an ancient goddess found in the ancient Baltic region under numerous names, was believed to be the divine protector of children. In addition, her and her husband, the god of humanity known as Madder-Acha (name and spelling varies, too), and her three daughters helped to bring about life in the womb and protect them after birth.
Each played a particular role in the process. Madder-Akka – like many mortal mothers – had the most important tasks in the process. She was the one who received the soul and gave them the body, as well as the power to suggest names that parents can use. In addition, she stayed on as supreme protector of the most vulnerable members of the culture.
In a harsh environment in which a live childbirth was not always expected or assured, the people of Lapland (Also known as the Sami of Norway, Finland, Sweden,and Russia) needed all the help they could get. It must have been comforting to know that Madder-Akka was there to help.
The Ultimate Goddess
Ancient Finnish, Sami, and other Baltic area mythologies can be complex to follow. There are several variations within the tribes and many accounts survived through oral traditions, relics and drawings depicting the gods and goddesses such as Madder-Akka. Although Christianity’s arrival in the region more than 500 years ago wiped out much of the myths and traditions associated with these deities, it did not destroy it.
In the last 200 years, many of these deities finally made it to print; their accounts were recorded in books such as The Kalevala. The written records shed some light on her legacy and the mythos she came from. The Kalevala may have focused on Finnish Mythology, but it revealed the names given to similar gods within Lapland region. In fact, the name of Madder-Akka comes from the Sami people living in the northern region of modern Norway.
She worked with a team of deities who happened to be family members...
The accounts from the pre-Christian realm of Finnish, Estonian (where she was known as Maan-Emo), and Sami mythologies differed in name and particular details, despite referring to the same deities. Still, these gods and goddesses shared many similarities. In addition, Madder-Akka’s role and description went across cultures. They include:
- She worked with a team of deities who happened to be family members;
- Her husband, Madder-Acha created the soul;
- Her daughters, Sarakka, Juksakka, and Uksakka helped in various roles of creating the baby;
- She created the body for the baby and placed the soul in it;
- She helped with naming the baby and protected him/her during the first year of birth.
In addition, Madder-Akka become the most revered goddess throughout the various mythologies. Some sources indicate that Madder-Akka and Madder Acha’s roles were the opposite; Madder-Akka was more involved in creating the baby's body first and Madder-Acha created and placed the soul in the finished product.
Defining “Akka” and their Importance
Numerous sites, such as Godchecker.com, indicate that there’s a lot of speculations about how she fits in the northern European/Baltic myths. According to the site, the editors suspect Madder-Akka, may be related to Akka, the wife of Ukko from Finnish mythology. But, as the site states, “akka simply means female…”
Still, the various names from the various Baltic region myths add to the complexity. Finnish and Lapland Mythology shared gods, and had interchanging the names for their deities .As an example, some sources claimed Akka, indeed, came to represent Madder-Akka. In the Finnish version, she became the wife of Ukko, an important sky god also known as Jamula (the Finnish word for “God” that was also celebrated in the Russian sector of the Kalevala region).
Depending on websites and blogs, akka appears to have different meanings. Aside from meaning female, other definitions have been:
- Female spirit;
- The actual name of a goddess (as mentioned before)
One thing in common is that akka is often the suffix of the goddesses’ names. This is apparent in her daughter’s name: Sarakka, Jukakka, and Uksakka.
Despite, the genders, these female spirits were treated equally, in terms of worship. In ancient Finnish tradition, worship of the Akka was common, and took the form of sacrifices, prayers, and various rituals. One particular ritual for Sarakka affected the expecting mothers, before and after the birth of the child. These mothers ate a special porridge made in dedication to this particular daughter of Madder-Akka
A Family Affair
As mentioned, Madder-Akka worked with her family. Each member had a duty that was meant to bring life and protect the newborn. As a source stated, their jobs started during procreation and continued through childbirth and beyond. The tasks, according to Sami tradition are as follows:
- Madder-Acha created the soul (several sites mentioned it was actually a powerful god named Veralden-Radien);
- Madder-Akka placed the soul in a baby’s body she created;
- Sarakka supported the women during childbirth;
- Juksakka ensured the baby’s gender – even changing it from female to male; and
- Uksakka looked after the interests of the newborn child.
Madder-Akka and her daughters’ tasks continued after birth. With her daughters, the four inspired the earthly mothers and fathers to come up with names for their children. Additionally, Madder-Akka’s converted to a guardian angel, which lasted through the toddler years.
Interestingly, the Sami versions had nicknames for Madder-Akka and her daughter. They are as follows:
- Madder-Akka was goddess of childbirth;
- Sarakka become the cleaving woman;
- Uksakka, the door woman (for determining the gender of the baby); and
- Juksakka, the bow women or “akka with arrow”(as mentioned in Brittannica.com, she got this name because she watched “over the development of the child from conception through early childhood).
In addition, Madder-Acha/Veralden-Radien has the title of “Ruler of the World” in the Sami version. This particular deity has roots in other Germanic myths such as the Saxon and Swedes. However, their names differ in those traditions. In the fragmented and conglomerate nature of Northern European myths, it is unclear if Madder-Acha and Veralden-Radien are references to the same deity. What is known is that they are associated with Madder-Akka in one form or another.
The Norwegian Version
There is a Norwegian version. In most cases, Juksakka and Uksakka served similar roles to that of the Sami version. However, according to Britannica.com, “Uksakka serve functions similar to that or Sarakka,” and “Uksakka was believed to aid in the actual childbirth; Juksakka would then take care of the child after birth."
Sarakka seemed to have more prominence in Norwegian traditions:
- She became known as the separating women to make childbirth easier;
- She served as a deity for women, especially during menstruation.
Madder-Akka lives on as Akka, whether they were the same deities or not. Interestingly, those associated with her seemingly had easier time transitioning into modern lore. Madder-Acha, in the guise of his Finnish identity, Ukko managed to become the name of a minor Marvel Comics Universe character (MCU).
Her three daughters made the leap to comic books as minor characters within the Thor and Conan titles. At best, an unverified source claims that Madder-Akka – under Finnish name of Akka – exists as a character named Gaea, a character that has origins from a Norwegian and a Greek goddess. In addition, in the MCU version (which also includes the Dr. Strange storyline), Gaea was the mother of Ukko, and had the title of “All-Mother of Asgardia.”
One of her daughter, Sarakka – the protector of women-- is revered to this day.
Modern Sami people have also held on to portions of her legacy. The name of “akka” is symbolic and stands for strength and protection for women.
One of her daughters, Sarakka – the protector of women-- is revered to this day. Thus, it comes as no surprise that one significant organization bears her name. Formed in 1988, the Sami women’s organization, The Sarahkka, was named in honor of her.
Madder-Akka was a goddess of considerable importance to the people of Sami, Finnish and other Baltic Region people. While much of her origin and narrative remain elusive, she remains a positive feminist symbol, as well as the inspiration needed by parents to name their child.
© 2019 Dean Traylor
Brigitte Eve Andrea on March 30, 2020:
I noticed there were no comments, and so, mine: Thank you.