THE FINNISH EGG: FINNISH MYTH I
In previous editions of the WEB, we have examined the mythical theme of being ‘Born of the Egg.’ It is a simple vision, that all Creation was Born of an Egg, deriving from a time when the Great Bird flew over the Cosmic Sea and laid the Universal Egg. The upper half of the Egg represented the sky and all it contains, while the lower half of the Egg contained the Earth and its entourage. The Dogon tribe of Africa, the Hindus of India, the Pelasgian Creation myth of the Greeks, and even Pan-Ku of China were all said to be ‘Born of the Egg.’ Odin split the egg with his sword, Vishnu slept within the Cosmic Egg, the first of the Dogon twins returned ‘to the sky,’ having come from the Egg, the Dioscuri wore caps, remains of the shell of the Egg from which they were born, while Eurynome of the Pelasgian myth gave birth to the Egg, out of which tumbled ‘all things that exist.’
In this edition we turn to another culture we have not explored before, that of the Finns of northern Europe. They left an epic work known as the Kalevala, the Land of Heroes. Although geographically neighbored by the Scandinavians, these folk are not of Scandinavians stock. The Finns are an ancient people more linguistically related to the Hungarians of central Europe. The Magyar dialect of the Hungarian language has similar characteristics to the Finnish tongue. Tacitus wrote of them as the Fenni, wherein he states:
“The Finns are extremely wild, and live in abject poverty. They have no arms, no horses, no dwellings; they live on herbs, they clothe themselves in skins, and they sleep on the ground. Their only resources are their arrows, which for the lack of iron are tipped with bone.”
Their chief sky god was known at Ukko. All the elements of heaven above are said to derive from Ukko, whether as frost, snow, hail and ice, but also wind, clouds, sunshine and shadow. He was the “Father of the Heavens,” the “Leader of the Clouds,” the Golden King. His fiery arrows were forged of copper, the rainbow his bow, lightning his sword.
During the time when the Vernal Equinox (Spring) was passing through the constellation of the Twins (6300 – 4800 BC), certain mythological themes bobbed to the surface in tradition after tradition. Chief among these are images of duality. In the Babylonia Creation myth, the entire hymn that was chanted on New Year’s Day was crafted in rhyming couplets. A couplet was then coupled with another, to make a quatrain.
The couplets go marching two by two.
In the Kalevala of Finnish lore, this theme is modified in a slightly different manner, in which the same thought is reflected twice, but viewed from a slightly different perspective.
“Then I heard a song being sung, knew a lay to be composed:
In loneliness do the nights come upon us,
in loneliness do the days shine bright upon us;
in loneliness Vainamoinen was born, the eternal singer emerged
from the maiden who bore him, from his Air Spirit mother.”
The epic work is founded on this kind of dualistic structure.
Our oldest astronomical writers tell us that the constellation Gemini is related to the element AIR. If, by this, they mean the wind, breath, breezes and the creatures that ride upon them, then we are talking about birds and their offspring, eggs. Notice, in the lines above that Vainamoinen was born of his ‘Air Spirit mother’.
Not surprisingly, AIR was held as the element of highest regard. Mystic maidens known as Luonnotars held charge over different elements of the AIR. They walked the crimson borders of the clouds. Untar presided over the mists and fogs. Suvetar was a goddess of the south wind and ruled over summer time.
There are many reflective images here, but let us simply return to the notion of all Creation being Born of the Egg, and better understand how the Finns crafted their version of Creation.
“There was a virgin, maiden of the air, lovely woman, a spirit of nature.
Long she kept her purity, even her virginity
In the spacious farmyards, on the smooth fields of the air.
in time she got bored, her life seemed strange
In always being alone, living as a virgin
in the spacious farmyards, in the vast wastes of the air.
Now indeed she comes lower down, settled down on the billows,
on the broad expanse of the sea, on the wide open sea.
There came a great blast of wind severe weather from the east.;
it raised the sea up into foam, splashed it into billows.
The wind kept rocking the girl, a wave kept driving the virgin
around about on the blue sea, on the whitecapped billows.
The wind blew her pregnant, the sea made her thick through.
She carried a hard womb, a stiff bellyful
for seven hundred years, for mine ages of man.
Nothing is born, the self-begotten fetus does not come free.
As mother of the water the virgin went hither and yon.
She swims east swims west,
swims northwest, south, swims along the whole horizon
In the agonies of her burning gestation, with severe labor pains.
Nothing is born, the self-begotten fetus does not come free.
As she keeps weeping softly and unceasingly, uttered a word, spoke thus:
“Woe are my days, poor me, woe is my wandering, wretched child!
Now I have got into trouble: even to be under the sky,
to be rocked by the wind, to be driven by the waves
on these extensive waters, boundless billows! It would have been better to live as a virgin of the air
than it is nowadays to keep floating about as the mother of the water.
It is cold for me to be here, painful for me to be adrift,
to dwell in the waves to be going hither and yon in the water.
O Ukko, god on high, supporter of the whole sky!
Come here, since there is need, come here, since you are summoned.
Deliver the maiden from her predicament, the woman from her labor pains!
Come soon, get here without delay; you are needed without any delay at all.”
A long time passed, a little bit passed quickly.
A goldeneye (eagle) came, a straight-flying bird; it fluttered about
seeking a place for its nest, considering a place to live.
It flew east, it flew west, flew northwest, south
It does not find such a place, not even the poorest kind of place.
in which it might build its nest, as an agreeable dwelling place.
That goldeneye, graceful bird, flits about, soars about.
She discovered the knee of the mother of the water on the bluish open sea;
She thought it a grass-grown tussack, fresh turf.
She soars about, flits about, settles down on the knee.
On it she builds her nest, hid her golden eggs,
six golden eggs,, the seventh an iron egg.
She began to brood the eggs, to warm the top of the knee.
She brooded one day, brooded a second then brooded a third, too.
Now because of that the mother of the water, mother of the water, virgin of the air,
feels burning hot, her skin scorched;
she thought her knee was burning, all her sinews melting.
Suddenly she twitched her knee, made her limbs tremble;
the eggs tumbled into the water are sent to the waves of the sea;
the eggs cracked into pieces, broke to bits.
The eggs do not get into the ooze, the bits not get mixed up with the water.
The bits were turned into fine things, the pieces into beautiful things:
the lower half of one egg into the earth beneath,
the top half of another egg into the heavens above.
The top half of one yolk gets to glow like the sun,
the top half of one white gets to gleam palely as the moon;
any mottled things on an egg, those become stars in heaven,
anything black on an egg, those indeed become clouds in the sky.
The ages go on, the years go by still longer
while the new sun is slowing, the new moon gleaming palely.
The mother of the water, the mother of the water, virgin of the air, keeps on swimming
on those gentle waters, on the misty billows,
before her the flowing water, behind her the clear heavens.
Now in the ninth year, in the tenth summer
she raised her head from the sea, lifts up the crown of her head.
She began to perform her acts of creation, to accomplish her works
on the wide expanse of the sea, on the wide open sea.
Where she swung her hand, there she arranged headlands;
where she touched bottom with her foot, she hollowed out deep spots for fish;
where, moreover, bubbles came up, there she deepened deep places.
She turned her side against the land, there she made the coasts smooth;
she turned her feet against the land; there she formed places to seine for salmon
she came with her head against the land; there she fashioned bays.
Then she swam farther out from land, lingered in the open sea.
She forms little islands in the sea, produced hidden reefs
for a ship to run aground on, to destroy seamen.
Now the islands were arranged, little island rested in the sea,
the pillars of the sky erected, lands and continents sung into being,
patterns marbled in rocks, designs drawn on crags.
Vainamoinen is not yet born, the eternals singer has not appeared.
Steadfast old Vainamoinen went about in his mother’s womb
for thirty summers, the same number of winters, too,
on those gentle waters on the misty billows.
He ponders, he reflects how to exist, how to live
in the dark hiding place, in the cramped dwelling
where he never saw the moon nor spied the sun’
He speaks these words, made this utterance:
“Moon, free me; sun, release me; Great Bear, ever guide
the man out of the strange doors, the alien gates,
from this little nest, the cramped dwellings.
Escort the traveler to land, the child of man to the outer air,
to look at the moon in the sky, to admire the sun,
to inspect the Great Bear, to scan the stars.”
When the moon did not free him nor the sun release him,
he thought his time strange, became impatient with his life;
he moved the gate of the fort with his ring finger,
suddenly turned the bony lock with his left toe;
with his nails he got outside the threshold his knees out from the door of the entrance.
Then he plunged straight into the sea, rolled right into the billows;
the man remains on the sea, the person among the waves.
There he lay outstretched for five years, both five years and six,
seven years, eight. At last he came to a stop on the surface,
by a nameless headland, a treeless land.
With his knees he struggled up from the ground, with his arms he turned himself over.
He got up to look at the moon , to admire the sun
to observe the Great Bear, to scan the stars.
That was the birth of Vainamomen, the ancestry of the stouthearted singer,
out of the maiden who bore him, from his Air Spirit mother.”
(to be continued…)