Tietäjä

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Depiction of the mythical tietaja Vainamoinen by R. W. Ekman from 1866. Ekman Vainamoinen.jpg
Depiction of the mythical tietäjä Väinämöinen by R. W. Ekman from 1866.

Tietäjä (pl. tietäjät, 'seer', 'wise man', literally 'knower') is a magically powerful figure in traditional Finno-Karelian culture, whose supernatural powers arise from his great knowledge. [1] Tietäjät have been most extensively studied in recent years by Anna-Leena Siikala [2] and Laura Stark. [3]

Finnish paganism polytheistic religion in Finland, Estonia, and Karelia prior to Christianisation.

Finnish paganism was the indigenous pagan religion in Finland, Estonia, and Karelia prior to Christianisation. It was a polytheistic religion, worshipping a number of different deities. The principal god was the god of thunder and the sky, Ukko; other important gods included Jumi (Jumala), Ahti, and Tapio. Jumala was a sky god; today, the word "Jumala" refers to the Christian God. Ahti was a god of the sea, waters and fish. Tapio was the god of forests and hunting.

Arja Anna-Leena Siikala was a professor emeritus at the University of Helsinki, specialising in folk-belief, mythology, and shamanism, along with oral storytelling and traditionality.

Contents

Roles

The activities of a tietäjä were primarily healing and preventing illness, but also included helping with farming, fishing and hunting; dealing with witchcraft; supporting approved marriages and disrupting disapproved liaisons; identifying thieves; and bringing success to ventures such as journeys or building. [4] Their incantations might call on helpers such as the dead, väki , Ukko, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, or animal spirits. [5]

Ukko god of the sky, weather, harvest and thunder in Finnish mythology

Ukko, or Äijä or Äijö, parallel to Uku in Estonian mythology, is the god of the sky, weather, harvest and thunder in Finnish mythology. Ukkonen, the Finnish word for thunder is the diminutive form of the name Ukko. Some researchers believe that Ilmarinen, another Finnic sky god, is the origin of Ukko, while some others believe that Ukko's original name was Baltic Perkele. Ukko is held the most significant god of Finnish mythology, although it is disputed by scholars whether this is accountable to later Christian influence. In the folk poems and prayers he is also given the epithet Ylijumala, probably in reference to his status as the most highly regarded god and on the other hand his traditional domain in the heavens. Other names for Ukko include Pitkänen, Isäinen, Isoinen. Although portrayed active in myth, Ukko makes all his appearances in legend solely by natural phenomena when appealed to. According to Martti Haavio, the name Ukko was sometimes used as a common noun or generalised epithet for multiple deities instead of denoting a specific god.

Many tietäjät knew Kalevala -metre poems, as well as mythical stories, spells, and healing charms. One of the key branches of the tietäjä's knowledge concerned aetiologies ( synnyt , s. synty) of natural phenomena. It was believed that beings and phenomena could be controlled if their origin was known. For example, disease could be overcome if one recited or sang its synty. This knowledge was closely guarded. Tietäjät, sorcerers and healers were seen as protectors of a kind of cosmic equilibrium. Different kinds of beings had their own place in the universe, and if beings found themselves out of place, problems arose. The healer's role was often to return the beings to the right place. A sage generally knew the different requirements for different spells, in which often one needed to do rituals and recite spells, often also use magical substances or magic items. Their practices have often been compared with shamanism.

<i>Kalevala</i> 19th-century work of epic poetry

The Kalevala is a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology.

<i>Synty</i>

Synty is an important concept in Finnish mythology. Syntysanat ('origin-words') or syntyloitsut ('origin-charms') provide an explanatory, mythical account of the origin of a phenomenon, material, or species, and was an important part of traditional Finno-Karelian culture, particularly in healing rituals. Although much in the Finnish traditional charms is paralleled elsewhere, 'the role of aetiological and cosmogonic myths' in Finnic tradition 'appears exceptional in Eurasia'. The major study remains that by Kaarle Krohn, published in 1917.

Shamanism A practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with what they believe to be a spirit world

Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with what they believe to be a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.

History

The tietäjä is first recorded in Gabriel Maxenius's 1733 De effectibus fascino naturalibus. [6] People known as tietäjät existed in real life, though the institution is now 'nearly extinct'. [7] Traditions of Kalevalaic poetry, and the associated institution of the tietäjä, were aggressively opposed in Lutheran early modern Sweden (which included modern Finland), but became integrated into Russian Orthodox culture in Karelia and Ingria, partly assimilating to and partly thriving alongside Christian culture. [8] Remnants of the tietäjä tradition also persisted among the Forest Finns as late as the twentieth century. [9]

Gabriel Maxenius was born about 1710 in Lohja, probably to freeholders in the village of Maksjoki. He became a student at Turku Cathedral School on 21 February 1723, graduating on 19 June 1729, and matriculated as an undergraduate in Turku in 1729. He was tutor to the family of the priest Henrik Argillander in Kuopio in 1730. While there, he wrote the short text De effectibus fascino naturalibus, about traditional magical customs and rituals in the Kuopio region, providing some of the first evidence for these phenomena in Finland. He developed this material as a doctoral thesis, and was examined in 12 August 1733 by Johan Thorwöste. He was consecrated as a priest in the Diocese of Porvoo on 25 April 1734, and was assistant to the vicar in Helsinki in the same year. He was choirmaster of the grammar school there. He was elected vicar of Mäntasälä in 1741. Still unmarried, at least as of 1743, he held a sinecure in the diocese of Turku in 1749.

Karelia area in Northern Europe

Karelia, the land of the Karelian people, is an area in Northern Europe of historical significance for Finland, Russia, and Sweden. It is currently divided among the northwestern Russian Federation and Finland.

Ingria historical region in northern Russia

Historical Ingria is the geographical area located along the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, bordered by Lake Ladoga on the Karelian Isthmus in the north and by the River Narva on the border with Estonia in the west.

The history of the institution before the eighteenth century is obscure. The current scholarly consensus, based on comparative anthropological and linguistic evidence, is that Finnic-speaking cultures once shared in a wider central and northern Eurasian tradition of shamanism, most distinctively characterised by ritual specialists being believed to leave their bodies in spirit form. Such people were, in the Proto-Uralic language, probably denoted with the word *nojta (cf. Finnish noita 'witch' and Sámi noaidi ). However, while tietäjä traditions clearly have important characteristics in common with shamanism, tietäjät were not believed to leave their bodies; their supernatural power arose rather from their command of memorised incantations and rituals. It is thought that these aspects of the tradition, and so the institution of the tietäjä as we know it, arose from contact with Germanic-speaking cultures, which exerted huge linguistic influence on Proto-Finnic language, and on other aspects of Finnic culture, in the first millennia BCE and CE. This is not to say that the tietäjä-institution was identical to its Germanic models, nor that it did not then change over time. Further influences, for example, came from later contact with Christianity. [10]

Ethnology social science that deals with ethnicities

Ethnology is the branch of anthropology that compares and analyzes the characteristics of different peoples and the relationships between them.

Comparative linguistics is a branch of historical linguistics that is concerned with comparing languages to establish their historical relatedness.

Proto-Uralic is the reconstructed language ancestral to the Uralic language family. The language was originally spoken in a small area in about 7000–2000 BCE, and expanded to give differentiated protolanguages. The exact location of the area or Urheimat is not known, and various strongly differing proposals have been advocated, but likewise the vicinity of the Ural Mountains is generally assumed.

Appearances in myth and literature

Tietäjät also appear in Finnish mythology, the most famous mythological tietäjä being Väinämöinen, 'the mythic founder of the institution', who 'provided an identity model for its practitioners'. [11] In Kalevalaic poetry, he is routinely referred to using the formulaic epithets vaka vanha Väinämöinen, | tietäjä ijän ikuinen ('trusty old Väinämöinen, | the soothsayer old as time').

Finnish mythology is a commonly applied description of the folklore of Finnish paganism, of which a modern revival is practiced by a small percentage of the Finnish people. It has many features shared with fellow Finnic Estonian mythology and other Uralic mythologies, but also shares some similarities with neighbouring Baltic, Slavic and, to a lesser extent, Norse mythologies.

Väinämöinen main character in the Finnish national epic Kalevala

Väinämöinen is a demigod, hero and the central character in Finnish folklore and the main character in the national epic Kalevala. His name comes from the Finnish word väinä, meaning stream pool. Väinämöinen was described as an old and wise man, and he possessed a potent, magical voice.

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. "Tietäjä". Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved 2013-07-12.
  2. Anna-Leena Siikala, Mythic Images and Shamanism: A Perspective on Kalevala Poetry, FF Communications, 280 (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 2002).
  3. Laura Stark, The Magical Self: Body, Society and the Supernatural in Early Modern Rural Finland, FF Communications, 290 (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 2006).
  4. Clive Tolley, Shamanism in Norse Myth and Magic, FF Communications, 296-297, 2 vols (Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2009), I 82.
  5. Anna-Leena Siikala, Mythic Images and Shamanism: A Perspective on Kalevala Poetry, FF Communications, 280 (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 2002), p. 195.
  6. Clive Tolley, Shamanism in Norse Myth and Magic, FF Communications, 296-297, 2 vols (Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2009), I 81.
  7. Frog, 'Do You See What I See? The Mythic Landscape in the Immediate World', Folklore, 43 (2009), 7-26 (p. 10), http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol43/frog.pdf; https://www.academia.edu/3687106/Do_You_See_What_I_See_The_Mythic_Landscape_in_the_Immediate_World.
  8. Frog, 'Shamans, Christians, and Things in Between: From Finnic-Germanic Contacts to the Conversion of Karelia', in Conversions: Looking for Ideological Change in the Early Middle Ages, ed. by Leszek Słupecki and Rudolf Simek, Studia Mediaevalia Septentrionalia, 23 (Vienna: Fassbaender, 2013), pp. 53–97, https://www.academia.edu/4049431 (at 57).
  9. "The Forest Finns as Transmitters of Finnish Culture From Savo Via Central Scandinavia to Delaware" (PDF). Associated University Presses, Inc. Retrieved 2013-07-12.
  10. Frog, 'Shamans, Christians, and Things in Between: From Finnic-Germanic Contacts to the Conversion of Karelia', in Conversions: Looking for Ideological Change in the Early Middle Ages, ed. by Leszek Słupecki and Rudolf Simek, Studia Mediaevalia Septentrionalia, 23 (Vienna: Fassbaender, 2013), pp. 53–97, https://www.academia.edu/4049431 (esp. 61-67).
  11. Frog, 'Shamans, Christians, and Things in Between: From Finnic-Germanic Contacts to the Conversion of Karelia', in Conversions: Looking for Ideological Change in the Early Middle Ages, ed. by Leszek Słupecki and Rudolf Simek, Studia Mediaevalia Septentrionalia, 23 (Vienna: Fassbaender, 2013), pp. 53–97, https://www.academia.edu/4049431 (at 75).