Finnish Folklore

Niina Pekantytär

Finnish mythology and folk tales include the countless amount of elementals, nature spirits and deities. The world view of the ancient Finno-Ugric tribes was animistic and they believed that every single tree, stream, river, stone, person, animal, lake and flower had a spirit inside them. Then there was supreme gods and goddesses who ruled certain elements such as waters and the forest. These deities were manifestations of nature itself. This list includes names of the deities, nature spirits and the ancient pagan festivals in alphabetical order.

Ahti — Ruler god of the seas, lakes and rivers. Protector God of fishermen.

Ahtola — Mythical home of Ahti and Vellamo and the water spirits. According to folklore, Ahtola was an underwater palace or a farm. Vellamo and Ahti kept water horses, cows and other farm animals there with them.

Akka — Goddess of the earth, also known as Rauni, Maanuntar, Mannutar, Maanakka.

Annikki — Forest spirit and spinner goddess of faith. Daughter of Tapio and Mielikki.

Auteretar — Spirit of dawn.

Emuu — Primal mother/creator spirit of a particular animal or a plant species. Comes from proto Finno-Ugric words emä/emo meaning mother. Isn´t always a female (or strictly connected to any gender). For example, emuu of cats was a male elf tonttu, who created the first cat in the sauna.

Etelätär — Goddess of the southern wind.

Haltia — Spirits who lived in every stream, river, lake, forest, tree, flower, stone, heath and swamp as well as in every living being.

Hattara (also known as Murotar) — Spirits of dark clouds.

Hela May 1st spring equinox.

Hillervo — Emuu of otters. The female spirit that lives in rivers and streams.

Hiisi — In its original form hiisi was a sacred pagan worshipping place in nature. Later on, they were seen as the personifications of the mountains or as evil giants or trolls.

Hongatar — Emuu of bears. Protector of pine trees.

People left sacrificial gifts to her into hollow trees, so that she would give them birds to pray. She is also known as Höyheneukko — The protector and the emuu of wild birds. She looked after the flocks of birds. Holohonka (hollow pine tree) and Koppa (hollow object). Her name literally means a “woman who wears feathers”.

Iku-Tihku — First horse that was made of fire and ice.

Iku-Turso — Mythical sea monster in Finnish folklore. Possibly a giant octopus. Sometimes connected to Christian story about Leviathan.

Ilma — Primal god of the air. Later turned into Ukko.

Ilmarinen — Heavenly smith.

Ismo — Daughter of air. Bringer of rain.
Sonny Mauricio/Unsplash

Juoletar — Male emuu of otters. Juolua = river fork.

Juoni/Juonetar — Mistress of the forest. Emuu of deer.

Kati- Emuu of trees.

Karhu — Bear shaped god of the bears and forest. The mythical ancestor of many Finno-Ugric tribes. “Karhu” means bear in the modern Finnish language.

Katajatar — Tree spirit. Goddess of Junipers. Daughter of Mielikki and Tapio.

Kapo — Spirit of the rainbow. Appeared in the form of a young girl.

Kave — Spirits of the sky (plural kapeet). According to some myths, Kave creates moon eclipses.

Keijungainen — Small winged creature that had either black or white body covered with fur. Keijungainen´s were connected to death and could often be found dancing on cemeteries. The Finnish word for fairy “keiju” is derived from keijungainen.

Kekri — Three-day celebration that took place on the first or the second week of November. Finnish festival of the dead and old pagan new year. Kekri was the time when passed away relatives had the ability to visit their friends and family in the land of the living. It is also possible that Kekri was an old pagan god of fertility.

Kekrittäret — Female spirits of the dead that were connected to Kekri celebration.

Kirous — Spell which purpose is to harm someone.

Kuutar — Finno-Baltic goddess of the moon and night. Her name is derived from the word kuu meaning the moon. Sister of Päivätär.

Kuurikki — When someone was unkind and disrespectful towards goddess Mielikki she would transform herself into Kuurikki, the terrible punisher goddess.
— Emuu of stones.

Kytöläinen (also known as Mammotar) — Emuu of worms and according to some sources, emuu of willow trees.

Käreitär — Emuu of foxes.

Käres -Emuu of snakes.

Käärämöinen — Emuu of lizards.

Laus — Emuu of moose and reindeer.

Lemmes (also known as Lemmas) — Emuu of alder trees.

Lempo — Malignant forest spirit.

Lintukoto — Mythical place in Finnish folklore, far in the skies where only birds could access. It does not exist on this earth but birds flew there through the Milky way.
Casey Horner/Unsplash

Loitsu — Spell or a magical incantation.

Louhi — Powerful goddess of witchcraft and shamanism. Old Finnish goddess of the moon. When culture became more patriarchal she became the goddess of the underworld, the receiver of death and the mother of all diseases. Protector goddess of wolves. Also known as Louhetar and Loviatar. Louhi´s name comes from the expression langeta loveen which is a state where shaman falls into trance.

Lumikki — Emuu of snow white animals. Daughter of Tapio and Mielikki.

Luonnotar — Nature spirit. (plural luonnottaret) Daughters of Luonto.

- Goddess of nature. Luonto

Luotola — Mythical place in Finnish folklore often connected to Åland. Umbrella term to refer any archipelago.

Löylynhenki — Spirit of the sauna. Can also appear in female form as löylynhengetär.

Maahinen — Earth-elf. Spirit who lives underground. Derived from the word maa — earth. Similar to gnome. Also known as Menninkäinen.

Mantu — Earth spirits. Sons of Akka the earth goddess.

Manua — Goddess of dry land. Daughter of Akka the earth goddess.

Matopäivä — (Spring Equinox) Day of the snakes/worms It was believed that during Matopäivä earth goddess Akka woke from her long sleep and snakes and worms rose from the ground to dance in her honour.

Merenneito — Mermaid. Female sea spirit. In Finnish folklore, there are mermaids with and without tails.

Mielikki — Goddess of the hunt, forest, bears, luck, healing and abundance. Derived from the old Finnish word mielu meaning luck. Wife of Tapio. Connected to summer and autumn time.

Miiritär — Emuu of mice and other very small animals.

Noita — Old Finnish word for a shaman, cunning man or a woman. In the modern Finnish language, noita means a witch.

Nokeinen — Emuu of sables.

Nunnus — Daughter of air. Bringer of the cold breeze.

Nyypetti — Herding boy who looks after the cattle in the summer pastorage. Son of Mielikki and Tapio.

Nyyrikki — God of hunt. Son of Mielikki and Tapio.

Pellervoinen/Pellermoinen — a diminutive of pelto a ploughed field. God of grass, growth and vegetation. Also known as Sämpsä Pellervoinen.

Pellon Pekko — Spirit of ale and barley from Karelia. Protector spirit of fields.

Pihlajatar — Tree spirit. Goddess of the rowan tree. Daughter of Mielikki and Tapio.

Pohjola — Mysterious north. Often north was seen as the underworld and the place of death. For ordinary men, it was a place of fear but for a hero with magical powers, it offered great opportunities.

Päivätär — Goddess of the sun and the day. Derived from the Finnish word päivä meaning day. Sister of Kuutar.
Marek Szturc/Unsplash

Raunikko — Emuu of small, furry animals.

Ristikko — Emuu of animals who has a small cross on their chests ( risti — cross). Daughter of Tapio and Mielikki.

Siilikki — Siilikki takes charge of the wasps that haunts the woods. Also known as Huijutar. Sometimes considered as the emuu of hedgehogs (siili = hedgehog). This however is unlikely since first hedgehogs were brought to Finland in the 19th century from Estonia.

Simatar — Goddess of honey and mead.

Sumu — god/goddess of mist.

Sumutar — Mist spirit. Daughter of mist.

Suvetar — Goddess of summer.

Tahvatar — Emuu of horses.

Talvetar/Talvikki — Goddess of winter.

Talvipäivä — Winter Solstice.

Tapio — God of the forest, hunt and bears. Tapiola is the old Finnish word for the forest. Husband of Mielikki. Connected to spring and wintertime.

Tapiola — Mythical home of Tapio and Mielikki. According to folklore, it was a wooden palace or a mansion. In the past Tapiola, was used to describe any place in the woods or in wild nature. Tapio´s kingdom.

Tapiotar — Forest goddess. Daughter of Tapio and Mielikki. Emuu of birds.

Tellervo — Goddess of the forest animals. Daughter of Tapio and Mielikki.

Tonttu — Protector spirit of a building. Connected to ancestral worship. Similar to elves and gnomes. Usually appears in the form of an old man or a woman. Often connected to particular buildings saunatonttu (sauna elf) talli tonttu (stable elf) kotitonttu (house elf).
Christopher Campbell/Unsplash

Tuheroinen — Emuu of european minks (the old Finnish name of european mink was Tuhkuri).

Tuometar — Tree spirit. Goddess of Bird cherry. Daughter of Mielikki and Tapio.

Tursas — A giant.

Tuulikki — Goddess of the small wind and gentle breeze. Daughter of Tapio and Mielikki.

Tuutikki — Forest spirit. Daughter of Tapio and Mielikki.

Tyytikki — Emuu of squirrels. Daughter of Tapio and Mielikki.

Vedenneito — Female water spirit.

Vellamo — Goddess of seas, lakes and rivers. Vellamo is the protector goddess of fishermen. She has the ability to rule the storms and create waves. Wife of the sea god Ahti.

Vetehinen — A male water spirit. Stories about mermaids are common in south-western Finland whereas stories about male water spirits are more common in east Finland.

Väinämöinen — Mythical shaman and a wizard. Elemental of water. His name is derived from the word väinä which means a slow stream.

Väki — The hidden power that lives within every living being and within all the elements.

Ukko — God of thunder, rain, human relations and fertility.

Ukon Vakat — Summer Solstice celebration to honour the god Ukko

Untamo — Mythical, hot-tempered giant in Finnish folklore.

Utuneito — Female personification of the mist.

Äimätär — Emuu of wolves. ​

Comments / 3

Published by

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

Finland, MN

More from Niina Pekantytär

Comments / 0