Recently there has been considerable activity in Finland to recover/ reestablish/reinvent the practices of the Finnish shaman or “noita” tradition on the part of several organizations, many shamanic practitioners, and what is currently a small number of recognized shamans/noitas. I take considerable interest in their progress and hope that Spirit Boat is seen as supportive of it.
The name of the blog, Spirit Boat, refers to what are commonly interpreted as boats appearing in rock paintings
and rock carvings in the Nordic countries and Brittany. They are thought by many to represent a means used by shamans and others to travel to the other world.
I grew up in the U.S. and am now a Canadian. However, all my ancestors are Finnish. My father, and my mother’s parents, left Finland for the U.S. in the great wave of immigration from Europe to North America of the period from the 1860’s to the 1920’s.
I long had a sense that there was no place for me on this earth, that I do not have a ticket to ride like everyone else. Several years ago I sought out what is called a “soul retrieval” to help me with my quest. It was performed by a shaman who lives and works in northern Ontario. With no knowledge of Finland or its prehistory, she and her spirit guides located my missing soul part—in this case my guardian or “haltia” in Finnish—in what she identified as a cave with ancient red markings on the walls in what was clearly the country of Finland.
Since then I have visited sites in Finland like those the shaman saw in her healing journey, and amazingly the wall markings appeared much as she described them. They are red ochre rock art paintings on cliffs and in semi-caves along waterways in Finland. They are considered by a majority of archeologists to be largely the work of shamans of the neolithic Comb Ceramic culture, from around 4200 BC to around 2000 BC.
There is a strong current of opinion among archeologists that the Baltic Finnic and Saami peoples diverged as distinct ethnic groups from this original Comb Ceramic population, eventually making up the two indigenous peoples of the land area that was to became the independent country of Finland in 1917.
The shamanic tradition of the Comb Ceramic people has survived through the millennia among Finns as a deep cultural current and there are today many echoes of it. For example, many modern Finns regard the shamanistic epic, the Kalevala, as describing their mythic past as a people, and view nature in all its forms as sacred and alive. (However, these examples of cultural continuity are limited in comparison with the situation of the Saami. They still have many practicing shamans across their homeland, stretching across the northern areas of Norway, Sweden, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and Finland.)
As a result of my reading and experience I have come to share a view that is held by many other observers in Finland, Canada and elsewhere. That is, the ancient shamanic and animistic world views--such as the proto-Finnic and other ones currently in the process of being recovered or reinvented--offer important new dimensions and correctives to accounts of “the way things are” arising from scientific materialist perspectives. In doing so, they provide promising guides for personal fulfillment and action to secure the future of the planet.
In this blog I attempt to respond to the challenge to help recover and explore insights from this often fragmentary body of wisdom and consider its relevance for today. I begin from the Finnish example but at times will go far afield to consider the foundations of the world views of other ancient shamanisms.
I recognize as an urbanized Canadian my credibility to discuss Finland and aspects of its history may be questioned. It is true that I spent my early life in a Finnish-American community with Finnish speaking parents and relatives and to some extent experienced "lived" Finnish culture and world views. For example, I heard the experiences of my father's mother, who had been a traditional healer in the Savo area of Finland and later in America. However, I don't live in Finland and don't speak the language. For this reason, a topic for consideration in Spirit Boat is necessarily the potential role of second and later generation Finns living abroad, like myself, in helping to recover the ancient the shamanic world views and practices of Finland and to reconstruct them for the present.
I don't bring to this task any academic credentials in archeology and comparative religion. However, I have received training from teachers associated with established organizations such as the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and have read widely in the academic literature on shamanisms and animisms. I bring skills in research and analysis through graduate studies in sociology and education and experience in policy work. I will support my views as much as possible with critical references to the relevant academic literature while remaining alert to the positivistic biases of the sources.