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Have I ever told how I got interested in Finnish folk tradition and roots?

I think in some of my earlier posts I've already told how I got interested in zen-buddhism, and that around ages of 12 to 15 I read every book on zen I could find at our local library. Well, many of the ideas in zen-buddhism seemed rather good to me - most of all, the idea that regular practice of meditation could help one to see more clearly, to maintain ones inner tranquility and not to get offended by turmoil and hardships of daily practical life. Since I had already adopted the basic principles of critical thinking, I was also asking myself 'well, but isn't this zen-buddhism just another version of endless self-control? Is there any joy in zen way of life? Is it all about being still, quiet and controlled, or can we have some of the wild spontaneous energy too?'. So, to broaden my perspective, I started to read about Daoism, too. Especially the book of Zhuang Zhou contained many inspiring stories, which often came with a healthy sense of humour, joy and playfulness.

I kept on seeking for philosophical, religious or spiritual views which could combine the spotaneous inner joy and the deep inner tranquility and harmony. Somehow, probably guided by popular culture imagery, I got interested in the traditions of Native Americans, especially of Norhern America. To me it seemed that in their traditional culture they might have had some wisdom about how to get along with your fellow tribe members, and how to maintain balance with nature. I think I was 17, and we had an English teacher who was from USA. (I have no idea why she moved to live in our little countryside village in Eastern Finland.) Herself she was of Bahá'í Faith, and she was widely interested in different spiritual traditions. She lent me some books by Native Americans, most notably Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm. The book contained a lot of metaphors and ideas about inner spiritual growth contributing towards living in deep connection and harmony with others, nature and your inner self.

And then it dawned on me that we also have our local indigenous people, namely the Sámi. I started to read more about their traditions, and found the brilliant and inspiring poetry of Nils-Aslak Valkeapää. And from that it was only a small step to realize that we Finnish peoples have also been indigenous people, with our local pagan spiritual traditions and cultures, living in loose tribal communities close to nature. So, in a way, in my spiritual search, I had travelled eastwards aroung the globe, until finally arriving back at where I started, looking more deeply to our own local roots. Although there has been nearly thousand years of dominant influency of Christianity in Finland, a lot of pagan traditions and views survived all the way to post-war years, and as small traces to this day and on.

Now, don't get me wrong - I respect Christianity as a faith, there is nothing wrong in it itself. And I've also been reading The Bible, I especially like many parts in the Gospel of John. It was just that I never liked the arrogance of some believers - the view that this one particular faith is superior and deserves to be spread everywhere, that it is only good for primitive people to get converted to a superior religion. I know, many other traditions have that view, too. And I equally dislike arrogance everywhere I see it =)

Well, but the main point of writing this was some of those similar aspects in traditional Finnish and Native American cultures. Living close to nature, fishing hunting and foraging. Crafting most of the clothes, tools and furniture out of local natural materials. Having a spiritual tradition which includes ancestral spirits living in unseen otherwold which was thought to be located nearby - kind of a parallel to our own reality. And having rituals and shamans to negotiate with the spiritworld. Today our national broadcasting company, YLE, had a feature article about so called Findians. Although the text is in Finnish, I think the pictures speak on their own behalf. So, between years 1860–1924 about 370 000 Finns migrated to North America, most of them settling at The Great Lakes area. And it is documented that often the Finnish migrants got along well with Native Americans, mostly the local Ojibwa-tribe. That, for the aforementioned similarities in their way of life. There were many Finn-Ojibwa intermarriages. The descendants of those families are Findians, the current population being maybe one or two thousand. So, not a large group, but it this kind of little details which I find so very inspiring in the history of mankind. They have their saunas built of logs, and their Ojibwa-style clothes. Hehe, because I was emotionally touched by the article, I just wanted to post a link to it, with a background story =)

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Nice post as always Erkka! I too have a deep appreciation for indigenous peoples world-wide. I live in southwest Wisconsin, USA in former Ho-Chunk Indian areas. The Ojibwa Nation is in the north and I have good friends in both tribes. I never realized the connection to Finland! Thanks for pointing it out. I feel that the old ways hold a great deal of wisdom for practical and low-impact, healthy living. Many in my circle of local friends and family would argue not, but we all have our opinions. As for me, I'm Christian and believe the Bible to be true cover to cover. Which means I believe in one God, the one in the Bible. I agree with you about the arrogance of many Christians. In fact many are quite judgmental. I suppose we all are at some natural level or another. It can be more discouraging that most realize. I find some of that in my local Baptist Church as well. I guess the way I see it all cannot be summarized in a few paragraphs, but I can acknowledge that the indigenous peoples had thousands of years to learn things, among them things about how the spirit world works. I believe that some of the things they recognized as true are in fact true. Others, maybe not so much? I probably don't make much sense... For instance, the Spanish Conquistadores ravaged South America. In doing so, they destroyed tens of thousands of years (or more?) of our planet's written history which cannot be replaced. There are ruins there which predate the Maya and Inca, unknown to contemporary archaeology which they label the "Olmecs". Surely the Maya and Inca had records about those remotely ancient tribes and peoples, their ways and technologies (which I believe their technology may have been much more advanced than today's IE: The Great Pyramid). There are only bits and pieces of records left, indicating the latter point. I get that they believed that the Gods they worshiped were false, but in my opinion that gave them NO RIGHT to kill an entire civilization and burn all their records, post Calvary mind you. Take the recent discovery of Gobekli Tepe. This site laughs in the face of anyone who thinks man has only been smart for a few thousand years. I could go on for hours, but will spare you that. :D

Cheers! Yes I think arrogance and ideology are always a dangerous combination. And of course religions aren't the only ideologies - I have equal reservations towards arrogant militant atheism =) I guess we find these attitudes everywhere; some who strictly believe in science-based medicine see all of 'alternative medicine' as dangerous commercial hoax and superstition, and want to see all of alternative medicine banned. I think that is an arrogant attitude. And similarly, there are those who believe in alternative medicine only, and loathe the 'conventional medicine' thinking that holistic alternative approach is superior...

So, if you ask me, we'd always better just stay away from arrogance and have some tolerance to listening to others, even when they have different set of beliefs. So, it is always nice to meet a person who is a honest believer in a religious tradition, combining that with non-arrogant attitude. Just like you say - it doesn't mean that one should adopt foreign gods nor think that their gods were true; but one can still respect a lot of their art, culture, handcraft skills, and moreover their right to existence =)

About a thousand years ago, when the king of Sweden converted to Catholic Christian faith, pagan Finland was in between western Catholic realm, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity realm. Both realms raced to conquer pagan lands of Finland, The Sweden even launched crusades approved by The Pope. If you ask me, two sects of the Christian faith fighting each other over conquering territory - that has only that little to do with the spiritual gospel of the faith. But those who have the power, they are always good at using faith and ideology to justify their conquering of new territory...

Oh well. But the Sweden grew to be a regional superpower. By the mid 1600's they had not only conquered the most of Finland, but also a large region of what now are the Baltic States. Sweden even had a small colony in the North America, Delaware region. The King of Sweden appreciated the pioneering skills of Eastern Finnish people who practiced slash-and-burn agriculture, so there was a minor Finnish influence already around 1650 AD. Hehe, and I have sometimes joked that when it comes to the history of USA, the Finnish influence wasn't minor, but proved to be decisive. The very independence of USA is thanks to a second-generation Finnish settler.

Oh wow, I knew of Morton, but not the Finnish connection! And I agree 100% with your reply. I believe there is a vast difference between judging and discerning. Good discernment is an accurate objective assessment of the state of things/people/etc. If a person is white, they are clearly in fact white. If a person is black, they are clearly in fact black. Judging is to declare that someone is guilty (or innocent) of an offense or lack thereof. I believe judgement is ultimately reserved only for God to execute and is not our place as we do not know what He knows to be able to make an accurate judgement. Carrying out the wishes of God relies on the person in question to accurately discern what it is that God actually wants done, etc. I believe God is Holy and perfect, omnicient and omnipotent, and just; quite qualified to judge. Then we have the question of law and social order and how to manage things amongst ourselves. Thus we have courts with "judges" (elders) to try to discern what God's wishes are based on the evidence of what a person is accused of. Laws are necessary to keep peace...This could be a HUGE discussion which I didn't intend. Here I go again, :D

Hei, I am a Finn born in Australia. My Grandmother mentioned that my G-G-G-Grandfather? went to America and suggested I was a Finndian ;) This is after the fact, that I was reading enormous amounts of information on American Indian sharman practices from around the age of 13yo onwards until I ended up in Nevada desert camping on a blanket under the stars on a reservation unannounced facing Black Rock https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/nevada/black-ro...
I had been searching for the voice within' that had taken me on a spiritual quest. I had spent a long time searching and didn't believe my Grandmother and never researched the American-Indian, Suomi connection. After many, I guess, visions over the years it seemed I was being called back to the search. After my Grandmother passed away, I felt the strong urge to leave Australia and find out about who my ancestors were. My family in Finland confirmed, American-Indian after I saw some women in traditional Indian clothing wearing their hair long in plaits sparked me to ask more questions and research the connection. I am glad I did, I do feel I have found my answer. To most people, I never resembled a Finn, and was asked where I was from as so too was my Suomi Father. I believe in spirit. I followed many traditions: buddhist, hindu, christian, catholic as well as pagan beliefs and Jung philosophy... I am content with nature as a teacher, silence opens the door for more connection. Thanks for sharing, I found the post informative and enjoyable.

Terve, Saara!

Thank you for your comment, it is a gem for me! And now, when you mention it, I think there is something characterisically Finnish in the idea that "silence opens the door for more connection". Of course this idea is to be found everywhere in all the spiritual traditions, but somehow even the mainstream Finnish culture comes with a healthy dose of appreciation of the deep value of silence.

I wish you all the best on your spiritual and earthly journeys! Feel free to stay in touch if you have further thoughts, feelings, ideas or impressions to share.


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