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Paivatar: Finnish Goddess
By Cheryl
(Written for Ecclasia)

 

What we know of Finnish mythology comes mostly from the epic work Kalevala, the 22,000 collected verses by Elias Lonnrot. Within it are several cosmologies: stoneage myths, ideas adopted from the Viking adventurers, Christian legeds, poems of the countryfolk and traditions passed along by witches.

The Goddess Paivatar is the virginal sun goddess who lives in the sky and weaves the golden light of day. Her sister is the moon goddess who weaves the silver light of the moon.

Paivatar's symbols are connected to spinning and weaving. For the Finns, their gods were related to their severe living conditions, and were essential for survival. Nature and everyday life were seeped in magic. Spinning and weaving played an enormous role in the lives of the women. They'd spend long hours spinning thread and weaving the cloth required to clothe the village and outfit the sailboats. While spinning and weaving, the women told stories:

One day the sun was stolen away by a witch named Louhi, who used a magical song to freeze the sun inside a metal mountain. For five years, it was night and for ten more years, even the stars lost their twinkle.

Even the Gods could stand it no more. They called Vainomaoien and Ilmarinen to solve the problem and rescue Paivatar. They wanted to forge a new sun of metal, using the heat from the sun's baby, fire. The child had been lost by Paivatar -- was in a cradle with Paivatar rocking him when he grew so hot, he burned right through the cradle and fell from the sky.

Ilmarinen, a highly skilled smith, forged a new sun and moon. With great difficulty he lifted the metal discs into the sky, but the sun still did not shine and the moon did not glow. They hung in the sky, but the world remained dark.

At that point, Vainomaoien, the poet, lost his temper and stormed Louhi's house, demanding the crafty witch tell him where the Goddess was hidden. Louhi taunted him: "The sun got into the crag, the moon vanished into the rock, and they will never be free! Never, never, never!"

Vainomaoien grew angry at her taunting and lopped the heads off her men. He then went to find Paivatar.

On the way, he found nine doors, each with three locks. So Ilmarinen set out to forge a three-tined hoe, ice picks and a set of keys. While he worked, Louhi grew nervous and flew to the window of the smithy disguised as a bird. Ilmarinen recognized Louhi and told her he was fashioning a neck ring for that crafty old Louhi.

Terrified, Louhi flew off and freed the sun. She returned to the smithy as a pigeon and said "Look! The sun is rising!" And so it was. The sky maiden warmed the earth and she will remain with us evermore.

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This page last updated November 23, 2004