Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.
First came the body, and then the soul; for Madder-Acha and his family of deities, the process of creating human life was like a factory assembly line churning out humanity. According to most Sami traditions, the process started with the goddesses known as the "akka", and finished with the male god, Madder-Acha. In other traditions, it was the other way around with the male god creating the soul and handing it off to his wife, Madder-Akka and his three daughters.
Madder-Acha had only one power. However, to the people of the Lapland, much of the Baltic and Scandinavian regions of Northern Europe, his power was the most important. And for that reason, he was praised with high honor.
While he was held in high esteem, however, Madder-Acha was elusive. Even his name and duties vary, depending upon the regions he was worshiped in. Little exist in terms of the mythos that surround him. Much of it had been passed down through oral tradition associated with shamanism. Unfortunately, the plethora of fragmented information available doesn't paint a clear and concise picture of this significant deity.
Still, his existence says a lot about the Sami people. It indicates what they considered important at the time, and how they saw the world before Christianity came to the region.
A God to Many Cultures
The Sami people -- as well as other groups such as the ancient Finnish, Estonian, and other tribes at or near the Baltic Sea -- once believed that several gods were responsible for humanity. While three female spirits known as the akka (female spirits) were tasked with creating the physical bodies of humans, a single male god with only one task supplied the soul. And, despite this one, lone power, Madder Acha was considered the creator of humanity.
Still, in the conglomeration of Northern European mythology, Madder-Acha’s roles were not clear. Additionally, he went under other names within the region (even within the Lapland/Sami region, his name was pronounced or spelled differently). The connection can be complex and span over a large range of mythology, which includes Greek, Saxon, and other Germanic language tribes.
Here are some examples of names or associations with other gods. To the Sami (outside the Finnish region of the Lapland), he was known as:
In addition, according to speculations by scholars, Madder-Acha was associated (and possibly more names for him) with:
- Veralden-Radien, who was known as “Ruler of the World” in the Sami tradition;
- Ukko the sky god in Finnish mythology;
- Jumala, the top god in Finnish mythology and the Kalevala region in Russia.
To make matters interesting, if not confusing, Veralden-Radien (also known as Veralden-Olmi) may have come from other myths from the lower parts of Sweden and Nordic tradition. According to Britannica.com, many scholars believe that the Veralden’s origin may have come from the Germanic people. In addition, he was connected with:
- The Swedish deity, Frey (a fertility god);
- The Saxon world-supporting pillar, Irminsul.
It’s uncertain if Madder-Acha and Veralden-Radien are the same deities. If so, this means he had another task. The most common task between the two was that they created the soul of humanity. Veralden-Radien, on the other hand, was tasked with taking souls to the Underworld when after a person died.
Deities Working Together
Much of what is known about Madder-Acha is that he was part of process. He worked together with other deities such as his wife Madder-Akka and their three daughters, Sarakka, Juksakka, and Uksakka. The goddesses in this family created and protected newborn children.
Madder Akka created the baby’s body; Sarakka supported the women during childbirth; Juksakka helped with gender roles of the child; and Uksakka protected the new-born child (the roles slightly vary in the Norwegian version).
Depending upon the geographical location that the Sami myth is coming from, Madder-Acha created the soul and Madder-Akka placed it in the baby's body. In another version He inserted the soul into the body after Madder-Akka made the baby body.
Afterward, he helped his wife place the child in the womb. From there, his task was complete. The rest of the process of the creation of human fell upon Madder-Akka and the three daughters.
Madder-Acha was credited by the Sami as being the creator of humanity.
Why One Task Was So Important
From observation, it seemed that Madder-Acha had little to do with the creation of humans. However, his contribution was the very thing that made humans a thinking, functional and moral being. In other words, he made humans more human.
The Sami people believed that the physical body was merely a vessel that held the soul – the real essence of a person. Thus, Madder-Acha was credited by the Sami as being the creator of humanity.
The Kalevala Helps Madder-Acha Emerge from Obscurity
Christianity arrived, and everything changed. The Sami, Finns, Estonians and other Nordic people rejected their old gods for the new monotheistic religion. As a result, Madder-Acha and his cohorts diminished in importance and nearly vanished in the annals of mythology.
But, they weren’t forgotten. To this day, several relics with their images exist. In addition, accounts and rituals were passed down for centuries through oral tradition. Then, in the mid-1830s, something happened that would revive these gods and help create a nation..
Folklorist and Finnish nationalist Elias Lönnrot spent years collecting epic poems and oral tales pertaining to myths from the past. He released The Kalevala, a collection of ancient Baltic myths (mostly Finnish). He collected and recorded these tales to shed light on Finland’s mythic past. Most importantly, his intent inspired a nationalist movement and push for independence from Russia. Eventually, this happened in 1917.
Still, as powerful as Kalevala was in telling the story of the Finnish version of Madder-Acha, the Sami version remains largely unwritten. It’s hard to say if this version would have the same impact as the Kalevala had.
Madder-Acha, as Ukko, found new life in modern mythology.
Madder-Acha as Ukko in the Marvel Universe
Madder-Acha, as Ukko, found new life in modern mythology. Every so often, Ukko -- a god mirroring Thor, graces the pages of Marvel Comic titles such as The Mighty Thor. Ukko is a minor character and his appearance was relegated to a few issues. Still, according to a Marvel fan site, Ukko's family contain familiar names including Akka (which was the name given to the Finnish version of Madder-Akka), Sarakka, Juksakka, and Uksakka.
Madder-Acha doesn't have the name recognition as his other Baltic myth counterpart (or alter-egos). Still, his presence in Northern European mythology cannot be denied.
Other Nordic Gods
- Bor, the Father of Odin and Comic Book Superhero
Bor was a minor god of Norse Mythology, despite holding a noble position. His offspring seemingly had all the attention. Nowadays, he emerges with his own story line in modern Comic Book Mythology.
- Farbauti God or Goddess?
In terms of Nordic mythology, Farbauti is a God. In a certain comic book universe she's a goddess. Here is the tale of how a minor male god had a gender bender for a modern audience.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 Dean Traylor