Skip to main content

Väki, the Force in Finnish Mythology

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


The Elements Of Väki

In the Finnish context, working with väki was essentially what a person was doing when they practiced witchcraft. Nature, trees, animals, and all the elements have their own väkis. In Finnish mythology, the concept of the elements is particularly prevalent, and each element has its own väki. There are four types of väki: ilmanväki (for the air), tulenväki (for the fire), maanväki (for the soil), and vedenväki (for the water). Because of the healing properties of water as well as the fact that water was regarded as something eternal, väki of the water was thought to be the most potent of the elements.

The animals Väki was usually associated with their element. For instance, the bear's väki was associated with the power of the earth and the forest. Birds owned the air's väki. Frogs and fish were among the aquatic väki. In spellcraft, one would take animal parts from an animal that belonged to a particular väki if they wished to perform a ritual that required materials from that väki.

Väki of People and Animals

Some animals had väki that was incredibly powerful. Among those creatures was a wild deer. A person who consumed the brains of a wild deer would experience nightmares involving shadowy forest entities and have highly disturbed sleep.​

Even the tiniest creatures, such as ants and spiders, have their own väki. Väki has always been associated with myths and tales about animals.

Everyone had a väki of their own. Women are the ones who created life, hence their väki was thought to be the strongest. Ancient Finno-Baltic communities valued the contributions of women. When the household's father passed away, the widow, not the oldest son, received the housestead; a man had to obtain permission from the bride's mother in order to marry a woman. The men occasionally feared the Väki of the ladies.

The woman may have use her väki to retaliate against the man, if he had cheated her. Marriage and later becoming a mother or grandmother were associated with a woman's status. This concept is founded on ancestral worship and the mother earth cult, in which the deceased grandmother was a deified figure.

Scroll to Continue

Three Souls

In all cultures where Uralic languages were spoken there was an ancient religious system that included the idea of three spirits. The theory holds that each person possessed two additional souls in addition to their physical body.

The bodily soul ruumissielu/löyly was the first soul for the prehistoric Finns. All of the bodily functions were Löyly. like breathing and heartbeat. It was believed that a person was born into their physical body and soul from the time they first took a breath until the day they passed away. Different Finno-Ugric languages contain words that are similar to löyly. Löyly is pronounced lelek in Hungarian, which also means spirit and soul. Leil, the Estonian word for löyly, denotes life and vitality. The word liewl signifies spirit, steam, soul, and breathing in Northern Saami. The term lol implies spirit and vitality in the Komi language.

The individual's body and soul were intertwined, and when the bodily soul went, the person would pass away. (The steam that rises when you pour water into the sauna stove is referred to as löyly in the modern Finnish language.)


Itse, The Self

second soul was Itse, known as vapaasielu the free soul, was more similar to the idea of the psyche. It was the individual's persona and identity. There were numerous methods in which it could affix to the body. When the child was accepted into the family, it was thought that itse would become a part of the individual. This frequently took place at the naming ceremony. The idea of itse was closely linked to the family. For instance, a Saami child with a name was also entitled to possess reindeer.

Reincarnation is another idea related to the idea of the three souls. People frequently gave their children their ancestors' and deceased family members' names. The difference between itse and löyly is that itse might leave the body and return. For instance, itse might leave the body while the person was sleeping and come back later in the night. This is the reason it was not allowed to abruptly wake someone who was asleep. It was possible that their soul hadn't arrived yet.The person who lost their itse became gravely ill.

The shaman was the only one capable of reviving their soul. Shamans were the only people who could enter a trance state and visit the underworld.


The Guardian

Haltija was the third soul (also known as luontohaltija). Every individual was said to have a haltija, an unseen guardian spirit that would watch over them. It was thought that some people had exceptionally powerful haltija, especially if they had achieved success in their lives. People who weren't as successful were thought to have very weak haltija. If Haltija felt that, the person was unworthy of them, they might abandon them. In Finnish, the word "luonto" refers to both the natural world and a person's character.

© 2022 Niina Pekantytar

Related Articles