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Ancient Finnish Superstitions and Animal Symbolism

Niina is a folklorist and a storyteller who loves to research and explore myths from all around the world.


Wild Deer

​Deers were connected to the power of the forest. A person who had eaten deer´s brains would see constant nightmares of dark creatures of the forest.

A majestic deer. Based on an original watercolour painting. Amazing design for people who love animals and wildlife. Grab this design as a birthday gift for you

The Elements

About 7000 years ago, agriculture was introduced to what is now Finland, but even then, fishing and hunting continued to play a significant role in the culture. The connection to the elements—earth, fire, air, and water—was one of the most prevalent aspects of traditional Finnish belief. Because they were nearest to people, earth and water elements in particular were crucial. Different elements were classified into invisible spirits, creatures, and plants. Animals played a significant role in Finnish folklore and are frequently depicted in songs and folk magic.

Väki is a widely used notion in the ancient pagan worldview of Finland. Every living thing has a power and energy source called väki. Each component had a unique väki. Each gender had a separate väki. A väki was unique to the forest. Väki was possessed by the dead, iron, and fire. The animals' väki was particularly potent since it was constantly linked to their surroundings of existence.



In ancient Finland and the Baltic states, snake worship was widespread. The 16th century has the earliest direct references to owning pet snakes. Snakes were fed with cow or sheep milk, and people believed that they would guard their homes and other structures. It was a major felony to harm snakes. Snakes were sacred creatures to the goddess of the soil Akka. In ancient Finland, the Spring Equinox was referred to as Matopäivä, or "day of the snakes." Akka awoke from her winter slumber at the time of the Spring Equinox, and snakes awoke from their hibernation. They sprang from the ground and danced for her. People were not allowed to perform any household tasks that might expose them to snakes on this day.



The most revered animals in prehistoric Finland were bears. Bears were revered as gods in various cultures. Eating bear flesh was prohibited in Eastern Finland because of the widespread belief that bears were the clan's sacred ancestors. Bear hunting was frequent in western Finland, and bear meat was prized as a delicacy. Numerous archaeological relics from Finland that show bear worship and bear cult have been discovered. The bear was revered as the forest's incarnation and a mythical ancestor. Both the forest god Tapio and the huntress goddess Mielikki were capable of changing into bears.



First teeth were sacrificed to the spider by being placed in an oven after a youngster lost them. It was thought that the spider would bring the child fresh "iron teeth" Relatives who have passed away could manifest as a spider.

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Frogs were considered to be ancient water spirits in the earliest layers of Finnish folklore. Frogs and fish were frequently utilized in spells because väki of water was thought to be very strong. Frogs (and lizards) were demonized by the Catholic church during the Middle Ages, and there were many myths and rumours associated with them. Frogs are described in historical folk poems as the ghosts of children who were born in secret and abandoned by their mothers to die on the march.



Cats were widely kept as pets because they exterminated rats in Finnish folklore, where they were thought to be the guardian spirits of structures. Compared to the rest of Europe, witch hunts began relatively late in Finland and Sweden, and as cats were never thought to be witches' pets in Finland, there were never the widespread cat burnings that occurred in many other European countries. In Finnish folklore, Tonttu created the cat in the sauna (elf). Tonttu were thought to have the ability to transform into animals, including white cats. White cats have occasionally been thought to be the ghosts of departed family members.



In the agrarian civilization, horses played a significant role. The trolls created the first horse, known as Iku-Tihku, within a mountain. Iku-Tihku was a shamanic traveller formed of fire and ice. The ancient tribes of Finland believed that the world was divided into various levels. The highest spirits dwell in Ylinen, the upper world. Animals, people, and elemental deities all dwelt in Keskinen, the Middle World, while the dead were buried in Alinen, the Underworld. The Middle world would melt away in the summer, thus Iku-Tihku could only get there in the winter. Iku-Tihku served as the model for subsequent horses that the trolls created, although they were all made of iron.


Little Birds

Little birds were frequently considered to be lucky signs. There would be a good crop the next summer if there were many small birds in the yard throughout the winter. Little birds were thought to be the souls of children who had died.



In Finland, forest rabbits are a highly frequent kind of animal. Their fur turns white in the winter so that it blends in with the snow. The rabbit represents insight, knowledge, and cunning in mythology. They were typical familiars for magicians.



It was thought that a person's spirit would leave their body as a butterfly once they died.

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.

© 2022 Niina Pekantytar

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