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Louhi by nikolai kochergin

Louhi illustrated by Nicolai Kochergin.

Louhi (other names Loviatar, Loveatar, Lovetar, Lovehetar, Louhetar, Louhiatar) is a sorceress (noita) and the ruler of Pohjola. She is described as mean, gap-toothed and strong nosed.

Louhi has strong magical powers, and she is able to shapeshift, change the wheather and the movements of the sun and the moon, heal and give birth to weird creatures and monsters. She was feared and respected for her skills. Also known as the Mistress of Pohjola, Louhi is also seen as a resolute and intelligent leader of her community.

Louhi has a husband, referred to as the Lord of Pohjola, but there are few descriptions of him as he tends to get sidelined in stories. Their daughters, the Maidens of Pohjola, are known for their stunning beauty. In some stories, Louhi gives birth to three sons: Ruho/Rujo (carcass), Rampa (crippled) and Perisokea (blind from birth).

Pohjola has its origins in the concept of an underworld, a world of the dead, and since Louhi is the ruler of Pohjola, it is possible that her original role was as a queen of the underworld.[1]

In Kalevala Edit

Gallen-Kallela The defence of the Sampo

Sammon puolustus (The Defence of the Sampo) by Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1896) portrays Louhi shapeshifted into a giant eagle.

Louhi is the main antagonist in the Kalevala epic.

Relation to Loviatar Edit

When Elias Lönnrot compiled Kalevala, he made Loviatar and Louhi two different characters. However, in the old folk poems the names are often used interchangeably. Some poems specify Louhi as the mother of the Nine diseases and others give Loviatar the title "Whore Mistress of Pohjola".

There is one difference between Louhi and the various forms of Loviatar in the poems. The Loviatar name family occurs only in spells where diseases are banished to go back to her while Louhi occurs also in epic poems. She gives quests to heroes, and opposes Lemminkäinen in a spell contest.

One hypothesis is that Louhi and Loviatar were regional variant names for the same goddess and that the epic poems were composed in an area where Louhi was the primary name. A large portion of the epic poems speak only about the Mistress of Pohjola and don't call her by name at all.

Etymology Edit

The name "Louhi" and it's alternative versions are related to the word "lovi". Lovi refers to a gap between the different layers of the world through which a shaman's soul could travel. This is most likely a reference to Loviatar or Louhi's shamanistic abilities.[1]

In modern Finnish, "lovi" means a cleft or a notch. It originates from the Proto-Germanic *klubô.

Origins Edit

The idea of a wealthy and powerful witch-woman who can shapeshift into a bird and who lives in the farthest north is a part of a common and ancient Nordic tradition. It has been speculated that the stories of Louhi and Pohjola have a connection to the Norwegian tales of the northern Trollbotn, a realm of giants (jötnar) and trolls.[1]

Sources Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Risto Pulkkinen & Stina Lindfors. Suomalaisen kansanuskon sanakirja. Gaudeamus (2016). Pages: 185-187.
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