The Great Oak : an annual calendric and agricultural fertility myth of the Baltic Finns

Part of : Mediterranean archaeology & archaeometry : international journal ; Vol.14, No.3, 2014, pages 319-330

‘The Great Oak’ is one of the most important myths presented in the poetry of the Baltic Finns. The contents of the myth have been formed and reformed in various cultural environments during many different historical periods. In this paper, the myth is analysed and its historical development is reconstructed by investigating its details and by comparing it to other similar myths and the known history of the Finnic peoples. It is shown that ‘The Great Oak’ is mainly a calendric and agricultural fertility myth related to the annual solar and vegetation cycle. Certain mythemes encountered in many variants of the poem reveal that it was related to slash-and-burn cultivation and the success of the annual agricultural yield, the measure of which was the production of beer for festival and ritual use. It turns out that the poem was sung on the fields of Ritvala in Tavastia in the rites held between the start of the sowing season in May and the midsummer. It is thus shown that the concrete use of the poem was connected to the annual rituals performed to ensure agricultural fertility.
Subject (LC):
myth of the Great Oak, Finnic mythology, calendric myths, cycle of the year, solar mythology
Περιέχει 2 πίνακες.
References (1):
  1. Dineley, M. (2004) Barley, Malt and Ale in the Neolithic, British Archaeological Reports S1231.Enäjärvi-Haavio, E. (1953) Ritvalan Helkajuhla, WSOY, Helsinki.Frog (2012) Confluence, Continuity and Change in the Evolution of Myth: Cultural Activity and the Finno-Karelian Sampo-Cycle. In Mythic Discourses: Studies in Finno-Ugrian Traditions, Frog, A.-L. Siikala, and E. Stepanova (eds.), pp. 205-254, Studia Fennica Folkloristica, Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki.Ganander, C. (1789) Mythologia Fennica.Haavio, M. (1967) Suomalainen mytologia, WSOY, Porvoo.Harva, U. (1943) Sammon ryöstö, WSOY, Porvoo.Harva, U. (1948) Suomalaisten muinaisusko, WSOY, Helsinki.Häkkinen, J. P. (2010a) Jatkuvuusperustelut ja saamelaisen kielen leviäminen 1, Muinaistutkija 2010(1), 19-36.Häkkinen, J. P. (2010b) Jatkuvuusperustelut ja saamelaisen kielen leviäminen 2, Muinaistutkija 2010(2), 51-64.Kivikoski, E. (1951) Suomen rautakauden kuvasto 2, WSOY, Porvoo.Koivulehto, J. (2000) Fest und Zyklus des Jahres: Jul und Kekri, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 101, 235–252.Krohn, K. (1915) Suomalaisten runojen uskonto, The Finnish Literature Society, Porvoo.Kuusi, M. (1963) Suomen kirjallisuus I, Kirjoittamaton kirjallisuus, The Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki.Lintrop, A. (1999) The great oak, the weaving maidens and the red boat, not to mention a lost brush, Electronic Journal of Folklore 11, 7-30.Nilsson, M. P. (1920) Primitive Time-Reckoning, Acta Societatis Humaniorum Litterarum Lundensis, Lund.Parpola, A. (2005) The Nâsatyas, the chariot and Proto-Aryan religion, Journal of Indological Studies 16-17, 1-63.Purhonen, P. (1998) Kristinuskon saapumisesta Suomeen, Suomen Muinaismuistoyhdistyksen Aikakauskirja 106, The Finnish Antiquarian Society, Helsinki.Ridderstad, M. (2014a) Astronomy, religion and the structure of society in prehistoric Finland. In Astronomy and power – How worlds are structured, Proceedings of SEAC 2010, Rappenglück, M. A., Rappenglück, B. and Campion, N. (eds.), British Archaeological Reports, in press.Ridderstad, M. (2014b) Solar and calendrical symbolism in the Early Medieval Finnish church murals. In Stars and Stones: Voyages in Archaeoastronomy and Cultural Astronomy, Proceedings of SEAC 2011, Pimenta, F., Ribeiro, N., Silva, F., Campion, N., Joaquinito, A. and Tirapicos, L. (eds.), British Archaeological Reports, in press.Salo, U. (2006) The God of Thunder of the Ancient Finns and His Indo-European Family, Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph 51, Institute for the Study of Man, Washington D.C.Setälä, E. N. (1932) Sammon arvoitus, Otava, Helsinki.Siikala, A.-L. (1992) Suomalainen šamanismi, The Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki.Siikala, A.-L. (2012) Itämerensuomalaisten mytologia, The Finnish Literature Society, Helsinki.SKVR (2013) Suomen kansan vanhat runot I–XV, The Finnish Literature Society,, accessed 30.11.2013.Taavitsainen J.-P., Simola, H. and Grönlund, E. (1998) Cultivation history beyond the periphery: early agriculture in the north European boreal forest, Journal of World Prehistory 12(2), 199-253.Toivonen, Y. H. (1947) Ison tammen ongelma, Suomalais-ugrilaisen Seuran Aikakauskirja 53.Vilkuna, K. (1950) Vuotuinen ajantieto, 3rd edition, Otava, Helsinki.