Finnish Mythology: Forest Blanket

Niina Pekantytär

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There are certain universal themes that you can find in myths across the globe. One of them is the forest enchantment. In Finnish folklore, there is a similar concept called metsänpeitto, the forest blanket. In Finnish mythology, the forest is often in the heart of mysterious events. Myths and legends are nature-centric and spirits and deities are manifestations of nature. 70 % of Finland is covered by the forest. According to the old Finnish expression entering the forest was like entering into a church. We even have created words for all kinds of forest-based activities.

Metsästää — to hunt (metsä-forest)
marjastaa — to pick berries (marja-berry)
sienestää — to pick mushrooms (sieni-mushroom)​

The oldest story about metsänpeitto is a warning story. Be careful not to get lost in the forest because fairies and elves will put an enchantment upon you and you can never find your way back home. These similar trickster stories are well-known around the world. In Ireland and Wales, you can get trapped under similar enchantment when you step into a fairy ring. Stories in Finland are no different. A person gets distracted by something. Perhaps they see a willow wisp and decide to follow it. They enter into the fairy realm where everything is upside down. When they finally find their way out back to the human world 50 years might have passed.

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There were different ways one could protect themselves not to get sucked into the fairy realm. Red clothes particularly were disliked by the forest spirits. Red is a protective colour and it is also the colour of blood and life. One way to get out of the metsänpeitto was to turn clothes upside down and the world would return back to normal or people could pour water into their footprints. In the fairy realm person should find a twisted tree and through a hole, they could see the human world and ask for help (I just got the first season Stranger things flashback!).

It was a tradition that when the person entered into the forest they said/sang the greeting words of the forest.

Terve metsä
Terve metsän haltiat

Greetings forest
Greetings forest spirits

When the person greeted the forest they made sure that they would be safe in the forest and assured the spirits that they were respectful towards them and only have good intentions.

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Folklorist and historian. Alcott essayist. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

Finland, MN
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