Horses in Finnish Mythology

Niina Pekantytär

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Birth Of The Horse

In Finnish folklore first horse was called Iku-Tihku. Trolls created Iku-Tihku in their underground forge. Like many other Eurasian people, Finno-Ugric tribes believed that there were three levels in the world and all those levels were connected to each other through the world tree. These levels were called: Ylinen, Keskinen and Alinen. Ylinen the upper world was the place where the highest of the spirits and most respected gods lived (in some cases it was also believed to be the state where the re-birth process started). Keskinen the middle world was the natural world (our physical world) where humans and animals lived together with all deities that ruled the elements. Alinen the underworld was a place, where the spirits of the dead lived. Alinen was a place where spirits waited their turn to be reborn again.

Iku-Tihku was a creature of Alinen. It was completely made of fire and ice. Iku-Tihku was also a shaman and it could travel between these three worlds (which also represent the three levels of consciousness) but it only could visit Keskinen, the middle world during the winter because it would melt in any other season. Trolls used Iku-Tihku as their model when they created all other horses but they were made of stone, steel and iron so that they could live in Keskinen all year round if they wished to.

From Hiisi is the horse´s origin, from the mountain- the splendid foal´s in a room with a door of fire, in a smithy with an iron ridge, its head was made of stone, it´s hoofs of rock, its legs were formed from iron, it´s back was made of steel (Source: magic songs of the Finns).

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Tahvatar The Horse Goddess

In Finnish mythology, each animal and plant species have their own emuu. Emuu is old Finnish and means mother. Emuu was the first specimen of the particular species. Emuu´s exists in myths of Finns, Saami´s and Latvians. In Finland, many of the Emuu´s were believed to be half-human half-animals and often they were represented as female goddesses. Emuu of horses was a goddess called Tahvatar. There aren´t many myths left about Tahvatar. It is believed that she was very similar to Gallo-Roman goddess Epona. Tahvatar was a shapeshifter and could transform herself into a horse. In Finland, there was a custom to say Tahvatar´s blessings for horses before they were let to the fields during the spring.

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

Finland, MN
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