The Finnish people possess a rich cultural heritage, embodied in the national epic, the Kalevala. Compiled by Elias Lönnrot in the 19th century, the Kalevala brings together Finnish and Karelian folklore, mythological stories, and oral tradition. Through the study of the Kalevala, one can gain an understanding of the beliefs, mythology, and rituals of the Finnish people. This article explores the deities, heroes, and mythological creatures that populate the Kalevala, and examines the unique aspects of Finnish mythology.


Finnish mythology is characterized by a pantheon of deities, each with distinctive personalities and attributes. The primary deity is Ukko, the sky god and the ruler of weather. Ukko is married to Akka, the earth goddess, and together they represent the creative forces of nature.

Ilmarinen, the divine blacksmith and inventor, is another prominent deity. He is responsible for the creation of the Sampo, a magical artifact that provides prosperity and good fortune. Ilmarinen's brother, Väinämöinen, is a powerful shaman and the central hero of the Kalevala. Väinämöinen possesses wisdom, knowledge, and magical powers, which he uses to overcome various obstacles and adversaries.

Lemminkäinen, a heroic figure known for his beauty and reckless courage, is also an important character. His stories are filled with daring adventures and tragic consequences, often involving his pursuits of love and the quest for the Sampo.

Mythological Creatures

Finnish mythology contains a diverse array of mythological creatures, often associated with the forces of nature. Among these are the haltija, a type of spirit or guardian that inhabits various natural features such as forests, lakes, and rivers. The haltija often takes the form of animals or humanoid creatures and can either be benevolent or malevolent.

Another mythical creature is the ajatar, a malevolent spirit associated with disease and misfortune. Depicted as a female serpent or dragon, the ajatar is feared for its ability to spread plague and sickness.

The Iku-Turso, a sea monster resembling an octopus or giant squid, is an antagonist in Finnish mythology, particularly in stories related to the sea and maritime adventures. The creature is known for its ability to generate powerful whirlpools and storms.

Unique Beliefs

Finnish mythology is notable for its reverence of nature, as evidenced by the numerous nature-related deities and spirits. This emphasis on nature can be seen in the belief in väki, an animating force that permeates all living beings and natural phenomena. According to Finnish tradition, every element of nature, whether a tree, rock, or animal, possesses its own väki, which can be harnessed or manipulated by those with the knowledge to do so, such as shamans or skilled sorcerers.

Another unique aspect of Finnish mythology is the concept of the Sampo. This magical artifact, which has no clear equivalent in other mythologies, symbolizes prosperity, fertility, and good fortune. The Sampo plays a central role in the Kalevala, with many of the epic's stories revolving around the quest to obtain or protect the artifact.


Rituals in Finnish mythology often involve the use of songs, spells, and incantations, reflecting the importance of oral tradition and the power of language. Väinämöinen, as the archetypal shaman figure, frequently employs these techniques in his endeavors, using his magical songs and incantations to overcome obstacles and enemies.

Bear worship, or karhun peijaiset, is another noteworthy ritual in Finnish culture. The bear, or karhu, is considered a sacred animal and a symbol of strength and wisdom. Bear worship includes rituals surrounding the hunting, killing, and consumption of bears. The practice acknowledges the spiritual connection between humans and bears, and demonstrates respect for the life taken in the process.

Another common ritual involves the practice of sauna. The sauna holds cultural and spiritual significance for the Finnish people, and has traditionally been used for various purposes, including healing, purification, and relaxation. In mythology, the sauna is believed to be inhabited by a sauna elf, or saunatonttu, who serves as a guardian of the sauna and must be treated with respect to ensure a positive experience.