Langeta Loveen (Falling Underground)
by Ulla Anobile
Paper Mache & Acrylics
Size: 9.5 x 13.5 inches
In the Finnish language, the words ‘langeta loveen’ literally translate as ‘falling into a hole’. In pre-Christian folk belief, that concept meant a wise man or woman (‘tietäjä’, a ‘Knower’) falling into a trance in order to travel to the otherworld to consult the ancestors about some important issue. The Knower was often accompanied by a spirit guide: a special ancestor Elder (left), a raven (right) or even a snake (on the arm).
There were many spells (‘loitsu’) that could be used to ease the Knower’s entrance into the underworld, or to keep him untouched by its dangers, or to ensure a safe return to the land of the living. Words, in general, were greatly revered, believed to contain enormous power. If a Knower could recite the origins of an illness or a phenomenon, power could be gained over it, and its path or progress transformed. Spells to stop bleeding were seen as particularly potent; some healers not that long ago were said to possess this skill.
Folk beliefs about the ‘otherworld’ varied quite a bit from time to time and region to region. Some simply stated that the deceased lived underground, perhaps even inside their graves, or in an upside down world otherwise much like the above one.
Other myths, told in numerous folk poems, describe the dead ending up in an underwater world: one beyond a dark river, the river of Tuonela. In many ways, the river resembles the river Styx of Greek mythology, except that the person ferrying the dead souls is a woman, and the guardian of the river is a black swan.