The bear and the year : On the origin of the Finnish late Iron Age folk calendar and its connection to the bear cult

Part of : Mediterranean archaeology & archaeometry : international journal ; Vol.16, No.4, 2016, pages 335-341

The role of the bear as a calendric deity among the Finnic and Finno-Ugric peoples echoes it general importance in all aspects of the northern cultures. The Finnic peoples divided their year into four parts by two Bear Days in January and July, and the Summer and Winter Nights between those. In the earliest wooden folk calendars in Finland that can be traced to the 13th century, those calendric marker days had already been fixed into the Julian year, but in earlier times, they would have been determined by a lunisolar or lunar calendar. The calendric system of the late Iron Age Finns and other Finnic peoples was lunisolar with intercalation, and its structure and main marker days indicate that it had several layers of different age: the “Bear Year” seasonal division, the idea of the eight-divided solar year -probably of Indo-European origin-, and a basic lunisolar intercalation calendar with twelve or thirteen months. The Finnish celestial lore related to the bear can also be connected to the seasonal positions of the Big Dipper asterism. While the seasonal calendric significance of the bear in Eurasian cultures is probably very ancient, possibly even Paleolithic, the connection of the Finnic Bear Year seasonal division and lunisolar calendars can be traced at least to the late Neolithic period.
Subject (LC):
Calendars, Bear Year, Ursa Major, bear cult, Finnic religion
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References (1):
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