Did Lonnrot have symbolism skills? Folks of my culture, especially the educated ones, have a little trouble understanding symbolic, alchemical type instruction like that we'll get to in The Kalevala. They imagine there's a difference between the "hero" archetype (Kalevala is often called a hero epic, as "Land of Heroes" in the subtitle above implies) and that of gods and other deities, for instance. We have split ourselves, and our human experience in general, from that of deities, those who have powers like shapeshifting and magical manifestation. We are no longer the kings and queens, dragon slayers, cinder-biters. That's just fantasy.
Kalevala, as is the case for any mythic poetry, does not make such a separation, of course. In its stories, the inner godlike aspects of human magical powers are played out in an edifying fashion. Like the fairy tales I interpret, they speak of personal transformation, maturing towards wisdom, of enlightenment and reclamation. This is of course the basis of Jungian style archetypal symbolism. Gods R Us.
Here's a singing of a weebit of our Finnish epic:
The previous chapter in the Kalevala text is the windup of a very famous section, where Vainamoinen and his brother Lemminkainen go to steal the Sampo from Louhi. The painting on front of the Oxford paperback depicts the final sea-battle between powerful dark-sorceress-like Louhi (arrayed in an eagle-like battle get-up), and the two gods. It all ends with the Sampo in pieces in the ocean; as Louhi, the powerful Mistress of Northland, says,
'Now the power has drained from me
my authority has failed:
my property has foundered
the Sampo smashed in the waves!'
Vainamoinen finds bits of the Sampo on the beach and gathers them. He takes them to a special place (a foggy version of the tip of a headland, as in the painting above) and prays over them. They grow,thicken, increase, like fermenting beer, while he asks God for what he wants and needs; shelter, food, protection, abundance, the aid of the elements. Thus we arrive at The Birch Kantele.
From the symbolic standpoint the Sampo is described in so many ways because it is not a physical object at all, right? It can appear in many forms. The cosmic world pillar or world tree is, like the Christian cross, describing the core of physical reality, the underlying structure of experience, though there are countless ways to language such a concept. Compass, treasure chest, and coin are all common symbols for the soul, and a coin die would be that which created the soul in the sense of molding. Again, I could go after it from different perspectives, but this die/molding closely mimics the Biblical dealyo about humans being made in the image of God.
From this perspective, Vainamoinen will give us a lesson in rediscovering this golden cache. Another proof of my interpretation that we are the cocreators of our lives is the fact that the Finn blacksmith deity Ilmarinen fashions the Sampo.
If you doubt my alchemical interpretation, and you know the basics of alchemical symbolism, this passage, Vainamoinen's words about the Sampo's forging, should dispel them.
Note we're not talking about just any old "lovely maiden" here; we could be describing any number of female deities, such as Isis, Sophia, or the Virgin Mary, all of whom are of course available as inner figures, inner experience, aspects of human consciousness.
"Ilmarinen, worthy brother,
Thou the only skilful blacksmith,
Go and see her wondrous beauty,
See her gold and silver garments,
See her robed in finest raiment,
See her sitting on the rainbow,
Walking on the clouds of purple.
Forge for her the magic Sampo,
Forge the lid in many colors,
Thy reward shall be the virgin,
Thou shalt win this bride of beauty;
Go and bring the lovely maiden
To thy home in Kalevala."
"Fine raiment" refers to a finer (higher, faster) vibration, where one does experience more beauty. Sitting on a rainbow is certainly another reference to ethereal experience, in this case specifically light (all colors in the spectrum, the rainbow). She is certainly "high" in more ways than one; she's sitting on a rainbow.
"Clouds of purple" refers to the 6th chakra, where unity consciousness is experienced. The "lid of many colors" (note the "lid" thing again, like the Sampo) would be more like the 7th chakra, where white light enters the body and is "stepped down" vibrationally, diffracted, to create the physical experience. "Thy reward shall be a virgin" isn't a castigation of sexual activity; rather, the virgin is ethereal, otherworldly. She is experienced within or in an energetic sense rather than appearing in the physical.
The whole idea of marrying this woman is, of course, the hieros gamos, the alchemical marriage, the sacred inner marriage. That Ilmarinen must do some forging to obtain this inner experience points to "enlightenment" as a human cocreative process; using the forces of the cosmos to create the lives we truly desire.
I think that's enough set up; perhaps now you agree that we're referring to magical manifestation now, and all manifestation is magic. The developmental objective is to take more and more conscious responsibility for the process. Next blog we'll hit the kantele-building section hard!
Here's a song that goes perfectly with both lover-boy Leminkainen's hieros gamos project and Vainamoinen's kantele building: