Creatures of the Underworld (In Finnish Mythology)

Kiputyttö

Kiputyttö (pain girl) (also known as Vammatar and Kivutar) was one of the creators who lived in Alinen the underworld. People prayed for Kiputyttö to heal them and ease their pain. In the stories, she sat in a special stone called kipukivi. She took the pains of the person and drove them inside the stone. It was a large stone that had holes in it, and through those holes, the pains would travel inside the stone. From around Finland, one can find large stones called kuppikivi with holes in them. Some of them were used for healing purposes. In the folk poems, kiputyttö was asked to boil the pains in a cauldron so that the sick person would get a moment of rest or she was asked to take the pains and throw them into a river.

Yön Tytti

Yön tytti (daughter of the night) was also specialized in healing. She healed burning skin. Yöntytti rode with a horse made of ice and she was made of snow and ice. With her cool touch, she would stop the burning sensations. Yöntytti was also called to lower down a fever.

Tuonen Tytti

​Tuonen tytti (girl of the death) was the ferryman of Alinen the underworld. She was a young girl who rowed a wooden boat in the river of Tuonela. She was a similar character to Charon in Greek mythology.

Pohjola

Pohjola (also known as Vainajala and Tuonela) is one more name for Alinen the underworld. Derived from the word pohjoinen (north) and pohja (bottom) Pohjola was the world of the dead. The location of Pohjola varied. Most often Pohjola was far away in the north or sometimes deep underground or both. Pohjola was described to be a snow desert, a place similar to Lapland in the heart of winter. That is where coldness, evil spirits and spirits of the dead lived, waiting. For mortals, Pohjola was a dangerous place but for a hero, it could offer all kinds of possibilities.

​Pohjola in Finnish mythology was similar to a place called Rotaimo in the stories of the Saami. In Lapland, there are several deep lakes with fake bottoms. Rotaimo was believed to be located at the bottom of a bottomless lake. In Finnish mythology, the underworld is deep in the underground. It is described to be a long, dark cave system and there is a river (Tuonelan joki / the river of Tuonela) that runs straight into the world tree.

Nine nuisance and diseases

​In the poems that come from the late Iron, Age Louhi has a blind daughter called Loviatar. She gets impregnated by the wind and Louhi acts as her midwife. She gave birth to nine boys who became the nine diseases. Boys were Pistos (sting/sharp chest pain), Ähky (horse cholic), Luuvalo (recurring pain in limbs), Paise (abscess), Rupi (eschar), Rutto (plague), Riisi (rickets), Syöjä (syöpä) (cancer). The ninth child was a blind nameless embryo. It usually meant the harmful witchcraft that was practised to harm others. In ancient Finland, all these diseases were well-known and some spells and chants were used to heal them. According to the folktales Louhi planted her daughter´s pregnancy to take revenge on the people of Kaleva.


From the same time period comes poems that depict Louhi as the mother of wolves and snakes. Wolves were feared animals in the agricultural society. In the 19th century, the Lutheran church started systematically pay hunters to kill wolves, for the church wolf was a living presentation of Christian Satan. Wolf hunts were justified with the Christian idea of people ruling wild nature. The same happened in Norway and Sweden. Other animals that were demonized by the church were frogs and lizards which were previously connected to vedeväki the väki/power of water, they now became spirits of children that mothers had abandoned to die. Occasionally they were described to be children of Louhi.

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Illustrator, writer and a folklorist. Likes cats, tea and period dramas. Currently writing a book about Finnish mythology. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

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Niina's Fairychamber

Niina's Fairychamber

Illustrator, writer and a folklorist. Likes cats, tea and period dramas. Currently writing a book about Finnish mythology. A host of the Little Women Podcast.

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