ELEKTROLORISTI 1/1997, 4. vuosikerta
Julkaisija: Suomen Kansantietouden Tutkijain Seura ry., Joensuu
ISSN 1237-8593, URL: http://www.joensuu.fi/~loristi/1_97/sta197.html
E-mail: loristi@cc.joensuu.fi

Lempi, fire and female väki

An exploration into dynamistic relationships in Finnish-Karelian magic and folk belief

Laura Stark-Arola

This essay is a preliminary exploration into the relationships among tulen väki, naisten väki and lempi in the traditional Finnish-Karelian belief system concerning the supranormal and magic. My goal is to point out some interesting and hopefully fruitful avenues for future research as well as to ponder, using examples from archival materials, several issues which have come up in the course of my own research concerning women's magic. I attempt to locate a pattern to the occurence of tulen väki in women's magic, and discuss the ways in which tulen väki was seen to affect both female väki and lempi. I also address the question of whether lempi and female väki might in fact represent the same dynamistic power, and what their different roles and distribution in Finnish-Karelian magic and folk belief might signify. The present essay relies in large part on Satu Apo's article "Ex Cunno väki tulee" (1995), so I refer the reader to that work and to the one preceeding it (Apo 1993) rather than repeat here the discussions found in them.

Of all the types of Finnish-Karelian women's magic for which information was collected during the 19th and 20th centuries, those dealing with lemmennosto and naisten väki have been of the most interest to folklore scholars in recent years (e.g. Sallamaa 1983; Piela 1989, 1990; Timonen 1989; Apo 1993, 1995; Stark 1993, 1995). Indeed, references to lempi and naisten väki, both supranormal qualities related to female sexuality, can be found in nearly 1000 texts from the Finnish Literature Society Folklore Archives, and include lempi-raising (approx. 525 texts), certain types of love-magic (12 texts), incantation rituals to cure 'the vagina's wrath' (vitun vihat) (31 texts), a rite performed after birth in which the mother's vagina is ritually 'closed' (9 texts), references to harakoiminen, which comprise both descriptions of protective magic as well as taboos (390 texts), and reactive magic against the envious or admiring glances of strangers or neighbors (paha silmä, silmäys), or against spoken admiration known as suutelus (26 texts).

Female väki

I refer to the power seen to derive directly from the female genitalia or vagina as 'female väki', following Apo's term "naisten väki" (1993, 1995). If this dynamistic power had a general name among the folk, we do not now have record of it -- only in its most dangerous form is it directly referred to, as vitun vihat, naisten viha, hävyn viha, or ihmisen viha. Female väki does not appear as an explicit category of väki either in emic folk belief classification nor among early folklore collectors and researchers, but it can be readily deduced, as Satu Apo has shown, from an examination of the magic rite descriptions in which an animate being or object was protected or damaged, or a harmful force was warded off, when a woman's genitalia were deliberately exposed near it. Apo (forthcoming) also argues persuasively on the basis of Finnish-Karelian magic incantations and folk beliefs that the vagina could represent a passageway between this world and the other, and explains female väki by arguing that the vagina was in fact a conduit for power emanating from the tuonpuoleinen.

Female väki was powerful: it was strong enough to ward off the evil eye (see Vuorela 1960: 37, 84-88; Stark 1995), but women themselves apparently could not be harmed by the evil eye while protecting others from it. This is corroborated by one 75-year-old male informant who maintained that "women could not be eyed (naiset eivät silmääntyvät)(1) even when their lower bodies were exposed to a neighbor's envious 'eyeing' of their cattle or cow's milk. Female väki was not always a benevolent force: it could, for example, cause complications in wounds otherwise expected to heal normally (vitun vihat)(2), it could 'ruin' objects, harm horses or endanger children through the act of harakoiminen, which involved stepping over the object in question and thereby putting it in direct proximity to the female genitalia (see Vuorela 1960:86-88; Stark 1995). That the powers encountered in vitun vihat and released through harakoiminen were seen to be one and the same is supported by at least one folk belief text: "Naisten vihat tarttuvat, kun on naiset yhdellä aikaa [miehen kanssa] kylpemässä tai muuten vaan harakoivat" (Tohmajärvi. 1893. J.H. Hakulinen 257). The dangerous potential of female väki also appears to have been particularly acute during menstruation, when women's own väki apparently came into conflict with other types of väki such as veden väki, kalman väki, the väki of religious icons, as well as the väki of other menstruating women (Paulaharju 1995/1924: 15-18; Apo 1995:34-37; Stark 1995). Harakoiminen was also seen to be particularly dangerous during menstruation (Heikkinen 1990:39; Apo 1995:36).


The term lempi traditionally referred to a cluster of concepts related to 'marriage-luck' as well as physical attractiveness and 'sex appeal', and was possessed only by women. While with female väki we have no clear emic classification, but we do have a clear-cut modus operandi, in lempi we encounter the opposite dilemma: a well-defined folk or emic category and consistent labelling (the power evoked in bathing rituals to enhance a girl's marriage-luck was always referred to as lempi), but only the vaguest indication of how lempi actually operated, how it attracted suitors, 'turned men's minds', or increased their lust. In most cases we do not even know where lempi was seen to originate, that is, within the girl herself or from some outside agent or force?

With regard to the first question, the actual means by which lempi makes contact with and affects young men in distant places remains unclear: it is perhaps this feature more than any other which explains why lempi has never been identified as another type of väki: the 'physical' or 'proximal' connection between cause and effect is missing in nearly all cases. There exists, however, one text which provides detailed information concerning the nature of the lempi 'force' and how it was expected to affect its target. This text is interesting because it provides two explanatory models for lempi-bathing. In the second of these, lempi clearly shares similarities with female väki: it originates from within the girl herself but needs only to be 'raised', and its effect is dependent upon proximity:

1) Kun uskottiin olevan pahan suovan teko kysymyksessä poikien vieroksuvaan käytökseen tyttöön nähden, uskottiin kylvetyksellä päästettävän tyttö noista pahan pauloista ja vaikutteista puhtaaksi. Toisaalta uskottiin kylvetyksellä voitavan nostaa tytöissä olevat hyvät voimat vaikuttamaan poikiin miellyttävästi. Parhaimmat tulokset saavuttaakseen ja määrätyyn henkilöön kohdistettuna, olivat loitsun lisäksi alussa mainitut aineet saatava tytöstä tuohon henkilöön vaikuttamaan.

Tytön oli kylvetyksen jälkeen tietysti antauduttava seurustelemaan läheisesti poikien kanssa saadakseen kylvyllä saadun vetovoimansa heihin vaikuttamaan. Mitä pikemmin, sitä paremmin. Siksi tuokin yritys saada poika jo samana iltana tytön luo.
(Räisälä. 1961-66. M. Räsänen (s. 1884) 322. Emphasis mine).

The existence of these two types of female sexual/supernatural power in women's magic raises a number of questions, such as, what precisely is the nature of these two types from the emic or folk perspective, and what is their place in the folk-magical worldview? What other sorts of dynamistic forces or väki interact with these female sexual/supernatural powers and in what way? Why and when are these powers dangerous and beneficial, and how can their ambivalent nature be explained? And finally, how are these two types related to each other? Is it possible that lempi and female väki are in fact, two manifestations of the same dynamistic force?

Lempi-bathing and the tietäjä institution

Despite the fact that magic and folk belief texts dealing with lempi and female väki are so abundant, only scant information is available to shed light on the concepts of lempi and female väki themselves, as well as how they were related to the folk belief system as a whole. Only in some areas have scattered ritual specialists provided information which suggests that we should not view these types of women's magic as merely mechanical, performed by rote in order to achieve some immediate goal, but as the instrumental dimension of a particular worldview dominated by a complex, rational belief system concerning the supranormal. Based on descriptions of the magic rituals and the contents of the magic themselves, it appears that in some places women's magic concerning lempi and female väki fell within the domain of the tietäjä institution: it seems clear, for example, that incantations to cure vitun vihat were performed by men with a tietäjä's knowledge (Apo 1993, 1995). We also know that tietäjäs both male and female often performed lempi-bathing(3), and that lempi-bathing rituals were a normal part of the repertoire of many tietäjäs (Siikala 1994:72). The qualities typically attributed to tietäjäs were often seen to be important for the effectiveness of the lempi-bathing ritual: it was seen as desirable that the performer's luonto should rise or that he/she should be haltioissaan during the ritual.(4)

With at least part of the lempi-bathing tradition situated within the sphere of the tietäjä's worldview, it should come as no surprise that magic rituals related to lempi-bathing were conceived of, at least by some individuals, as the manipulation of certain forces or väkis which could be expected to function according to a system of 'magical laws'. Performers who had a tietäjä's knowledge of these supranormal connections, associations and causal relationships were able to tell not only what they were doing and how they did it, but why. For example, the ritual preparations carried out by some lempi-bathing performers were executed specifically in order to utilize the dynamistic forces of natural elements:

2) Sauna lämmitettiin ja lämmitys puuna oli ukkosen pirstomaa puuta sekä saharan aisasta palanen ja tytön sänky lautaa. Näin saatiin mukaan maan väki, ja veden väen sai avuksi kun haki kylvetys veden sellaisesta lähteestä joka ei jäätynyt talvella.
(Rantsila. 1966. Eino Linna. Emphasis mine).

In order to better understand the nature of female väki and lempi as supranormal forces, it might be useful to ask whether there is any other category of väki which might have been closely connected to female väki or to lempi, and how the relationship between all these forces was expressed in folk descriptions. Although women's magic dealing with lempi and female väki make use of an enormous number and variety of folk beliefs, magical relationships and metaphorical models, I have thus far located only one type of väki which seems to have a broad, multifaceted association with both lempi and female väki: tulen väki.

Tulen väki and female väki

The tulen väki appearing in association with lempi and female väki took three forms: 1) that which was conveyed through proximity with fire itself, 2) that which functioned primarily in the form of smoke resulting from such a fire, and 3) that which was conveyed through contact the stove or oven.

The stove or oven of the cottage or sauna occupied a central place in much of Finnish-Karelian magic: the cottage oven was considered the symbolic center of the farm household, and the flame within it was considered sacred. For example, the fire in the oven had to be blessed when lit (e.g. Suistamo. 1937. Martta Kähmi 342), and there exist approximately ten belief legend texts from various parts of Finland describing supranormal punishment for those who showed the oven fire disrespect (type number G1111 in The Type and Motif Index of Finnish Belief Legends and Memorates (Jauhiainen, forthcoming)). The flame in the oven was also believed to possess its own väki: Marina Takalo, for example, told how she had received an eczema on her lips from being 'infected' by the tulen väki when she blew on hot coals in the oven: "tuulesta nakkautuu" (Pentikäinen 1971:239). The sauna stove also had its own related väki, löylyn väki, which also had the power to 'infect' persons bathing in the sauna (löylyn vihat, for folk description see for example: Kitee. 1921. Pekka Vauhkonen VK 107 1): 71-74).

Here and there we also see glimpses which suggest that the tulen väki from the stove or oven was associated specifically with the female genitalia or natural processes connected to them, such as menstruation (see Apo 1995). One example is Anni Lehtonen's description of a ritual performed in Viena Karelia to avoid kalman väki while walking through the cemetery:

3) [Pesemisten aikana] kalmistosta myös silloin hinkautuvat pokoiniekat, kuolleet, kun niiden päällitse kävelee, ja voi silloin kamala kalma tarttua. Mutta jos välttämättä on mentävä kalmismaalle, omaista saattamaan taikka muuten kovin vaatii mieli--, pitää otta palosavea pirtinkuikaan pohjasta ja pistää poveensa. Kalmistossa sitten pitää löyhdyttää vyötä ja vaatteita, niin että savipalanen salaa solahtaa maahan. Siitä eivät pokoiniekat saa selvää, "jotta minkäläini imehnini siintä kulki".
(Paulaharju 1995/1924:15. --Anni Lehtonen. Emphasis mine)

Tulen väki from the stove or oven is also found in a particular class of magic rituals performed immediately after birth in which the vagina was reset to its former shape and size:

4a) Kun lapsi oli syntynyt, otettiin saunan kiukalta kivi, taottiin sillä äidin synnyttimiä ja sanottiin: "Kutistu ja supistu nii pieneks, jottei jeä ku mulkun mäntävä reikä!
(SKVR XIII3: 9470. Rautu. 1935. Anni Jääskeläinen, 50 years. Emphasis mine.)

4b) ...Kun lapsi oli saatu ulos, otti apuvaimo kiukaasta kiven jolla hän veti pitkin äsken synnyttäneen sukupuolin aukkoa lukien loitsun, jonka mukaan, aukon piti pian parantua pyyn silmän kokoiseksi. Sen jälkeen hän heitti kiven ylälauteille.
(Nokia. 1957. Artturi Railonsala 4315. --Arvo Nieminen. Emphasis mine).

4c) Pinnalan Risto karkasikin Luotsan vankilasta. Oli heinä aika. Ei ollu hyvä olla heinä ladoissakaan yötä. Risto menikin karku matkallaan saunaan yöksi. Oli täysikuun aika vaikka kuuta ei näkynny. Ulkoa kuuli puhetta ja Risto piiloutui kiukaan ja seinään väliin. Talossa oli äskettäin tapahtunut synnytys ja saunaan tulikin tämä synnyttäjä joka paljasti takapuolensa ja popamuari joka otti kiukaasta kiven, ruti sillä kolme kertaa synnyttäjän jalkojen väliin ja sanoi:
"Kuu kutistakoon sinunkin pillusi mutta jättäköön sinne sentä kullin tilan"
heitti kiven siten kiukaan taakse. Kivi osui Ristoa päähän ja Ristolta pääsi kirous. Silloin tuli akoille äkkilähtö "Mutta äkkilähtö tuli minullekin" sanoi Risto.
(Koski. 1961. Niilo Nikkari TK 66:27. Emphasis mine).

4d) ...Kun se lapsi syntyi, otti se paaterska kiukaalta kiven, painoi sillä naisen jalkojen väliin ja luki loitsuja ja heitti kova lavon alle...
(Kalvola. 1961. Leena Upero TK 110: 49. --Iivari Rasila, b. 1884. Emphasis mine).

Another curious association between the stove or oven and female väki appears in incantations against vitun vihat. Of the 26 actual incantation texts that I am aware of, twelve texts, including most of the longer ones, contain references to an old man (ukko) who lives in or originates from the stove or oven, and is called upon to heal the 'vagina's wrath', and sometimes to even enter the vagina itself (5d,5e) (see also Apo 1995:30-33):(5)

Ukko uunilla asuu,
Kierosilmä kiukuulla,
Ulos, ukko, uunim peältä,
Kierosilmä kiukuulta
Lukemaav vituv vihoja,
Puom pahoja parantamaan!...
(SKVR VII4: Tohmajärvi. 1891. --Seppä Juh. Riikonen, 85 v.)

Ukko uunin piällimäinen,
Reppasuu, repaleparta,
Tule syö vitun vihat,
Kyrvän lientä lakkimaan...
(Ilomantsi. 1935-36. Pekka Mononen KRK 166: 386.--Ksenja Tiittanen, emäntä, s. 1861).

5c) "Naisten vihain poistaminen"
Ukko uunilta putos
Pätsiltä pätövä herra
Vitun vihat tuntemaan,
Puon pahat parantamaan.
(SKVR VII4: 1963. Tohmajärvi. 1889.--Pekka Hirvonen, 65 v.)

5d) "Vitun vihat"
Ulos ukko uunilta,
pätsiltä pätevä herra
kiero silmä kiukuulta
viemään nyt vitun vihoja
kyrvään reikään syvään
johon kyrvät päin putos
mulkun latvat lankiil...
(Kitee. 1896-1905. J. Lonkainen b)59).

Ukko uunilta putosi
Pätsiltä pätevä herra
Keskelle vitun kitoo,
Witussa viis kitoo
Kuus kullin kammarii.
(Kitee. 1922. Pekka Vauhkonen VK 107:f) 1:n jälk. kirje).

A number of interpretations are possible as to whom the old man on the stove actually refers to, but I suggest that this 'ukko' may be a personalization of the väki residing in the oven's flame. Analogous is the use of the term löylyn ukko to refer to the active agent in the sauna steam (Jaala.1966. Hilja Hyytiäinen KT 365:19)

The tulen väki from the oven or stove was not only associated with female väki: it also had potentially harmful effects on a girl's marriage luck (and therefore lempi?) if exposure took place over a period of time:

6) Vanhaksi piijaksi jäännin merkkejä oli tytöillä joita seurattiin jo pienestä ja kiellettiin: hyväilemästä kissoja, nukkumasta kissan kanssa, istumasta uunin, hellan, kiukaan nurkalla, istumasta jos oli jalat levällään silloin jäi vanhaksi piijaksi.
(Kontiolahti. 1966. Onni Kettunen KT 367:33. Emphasis mine).

This belief may also be related to the idea that a woman who sat near the sauna stove under the smoke hole would not be able to bear children:

7) Naiset, jotka eivät halua lapsia, menevät saunaan ja nousevat takaperin lauteille uunin puolelta ja kylpevät lakeisen alla. Ken istuu tällä paikalla, se ei tule tiineeksi millään opilla.
(collected from Ilomantsi in the year 1935. Paasio 1985:82).

What sort of interpretation can we give to these associations between female väki and tulen väki from the oven/stove? In all of the above cases, tulen väki may be said to have the effect of normalizing a situation in which the vagina was abnormally 'open' or otherwise dangerous, and restricting the supranormal power emanating from it: during menstruation, when female väki antagonized other types of väki; after birth, during which the vagina had served as a conduit for the newborn coming from the tuonpuoleinen (see Tarkka 1990: 249-250); and when harmful supranormal power was flowing through it, resulting in vitun vihat. Apo refers to the effect of tulen väki here as the 'closing' of the vagina's 'open' state (1995:35-36). With repeated applications, however, as in the final two examples, tulen väki from the oven or stove may have had the effect of 'closing' the vagina completely and restricting the flow of female väki (and of lempi?) so much that it ceased altogether. I will save a discussion of whether we can equate female väki with lempi for the final section of this essay.

Tulen väki and lempi

If we turn our attention now to the tulen väki emanating from another source, that of smoke or an open fire, we see in this case a close association with lempi. The beneficial effects of tulen väki for increasing lempi are specifically mentioned by one informant:

8) Jos ei sulhaisia kuulunut, oli tyttö pilattu pahan hajuiseksi. Se autettiin tulella. Tehtiin rovio kahden kallion väliin, siihen "mesiheinä ja kallionmakesia" heitettiin. Tytön piti hypätä kolmasti yli, ja loihtija luki: "Hyppää yli, Hakkaa tuli, Hyvä haju sulhasen nenään!"
(SKVR VI2:6098. Pielavesi. 1931. Emphasis mine).

The act of jumping over a bonfire (or smouldering bonfire) in order to raise one's lempi was also apparently performed on Midsummer's Eve in North Karelia, Ladoga Karelia and Aunus:

9a) Juhannus yönä pojat tekööt (romsutulen) kokon...kun nämä ovat lähes loppuun palaneet silloin tytöt hyppii yli tulen ja kepillä sonkiit tulta että lempi nousis.
(Korpiselkä. 1897. Vasilei Potschtareff 3a.--Wassi Saukkonen, 16 years)

9b) Juhannuskokon poltettuaan hyppäävät tytöt lempeään nostaakseen kokon savun yli.
(Suistamo. 1906. Lukk.II:514).

9c) Kokkoa poltettiin joko juhannusta tai pedruna vasten yöllä..."Peälits hypimme, lembie nostoa pidäy".
(Porajärvi. 1942. Helmi Helminen 1369).

9d) Sanottiih, että tytöt polttivat pientä kokkoa tienristillä iivananyönä ja lukivat tulen yli hyppiessään:
"nouze lempi liehumah
kattilois kiehumah
kirikon kodilois kuulumah!"
(Porajärvi. 1942. Helmi Helminen 1373. --Masa Kottarainen, 52 v.)(6)

In Viena and Ladoga Karelia, it appears that tulen väki could be applied to girls in other ways as well, in order to raise their lempi:

10a) Uunihavulla kun on kallehena proasniekkana uunia loastu, niin tyttöä tulisella havulla hosutah ja sanotah...
Tuloo meijän neitosella
Lempi liejumah...
(SKVR I4:1821. Vuonninen. 1915)

10b) Kerran ennen kun eräs talon tyttö rupesi vanhenemaan ja sulhasia ei kuulunut, pani tytön äiti tytön porstuan lattialle polvilleen, seuloi tulisia hiiliä tytön pään päällä ja luki tunnetun lemmennostoloitsun:
Nouse lempi liehumaan
Seuraus oli siitä että sulhaset ilmestyi tytölle kohta.
(Sortavala mlk. 1938. Matti Moilanen 4919.--Antti Soininen).

In Aunus, on the other hand, it seems that tulen väki could also be applied in the form of smoke. In the following example, as in the descriptions of lempi-bonfires, it is namely the female genitals which are exposed to tulen väki as if they were thought to be the source of a girl's lempi, which suggests yet another connection between lempi and female väki.

11) "Oli mustii pätsilöi talolois", savupirtin pätsejä. Kun oli "rastavu, vassilju, vieristy", ja pätsiä aamulla lämmitettiin, tytöt nostivat lempeä pätsin savussa. Nousivat uunin suuhun hiilustalla hajasäärin seisomaan, nostivat helmat ja antoivat savun kulkea jalkain alta. "Savu läbi helmois" kulki. Siinä savussa luettiin:
"Nouse lembi liehumah,
kunnivoi kuulumah,
kui savu leviöy
muga lembi leviggäh
Annil ristikanzal".
(Tulomajärvi. 1944. Helmi Helminen 3120.--Marfa Jegorov, 70 v. Emphasis mine).(7)

Fire in associated folk models and metaphors

An understanding of the relationship between tulen väki and lempi requires us to acknowledge the complexity of this relationship, and the possibility of more than one type of folk model underlying it. The first connection suggested by the folklore material is a metaphorical one: lempi is seen to share qualities in common with 'fire' and 'flame' (see Venho 1967: 157-158), like fire, it is hot (lemmenkylvetys magic to separate a couple, conversely, makes abundant use of images of 'coldness' and 'ice'). Lempi 'rises up' like smoke and 'flutters' like ash, as in the typical lemmennosto incantation formula: 'Rise, lempi, flutter'. The most commonly-occuring reference to fire in the lempi-bathing and lempi-raising ritual incantations follow the same general pattern given below (see also examples in Venho, ibid):

...Pala tuli, pala pakkula,
Pala, räätälin räpäle,
Pala miehen nuoren mieli,
Rakkaus, tulena tuika!
(SKVR VII5:4722. Pälkjärvi. 1865)

Pala tuli, pala taula,
pala, mieli nuorten miesten,
pala, räätälin räpäle,
niinkuin turkonen tuli palavi,
valkehinen valvattavi,
tämän tyttären tyköhön...
Ota hiili hiiloksesta,
kivi kuuma kiukoasta.
Kuusi kuumoa kiveä
syäntä sytyttämähän,
vatsoa varistamahan,
miesten mieltä kääntämähän...
(SKVR VII5:4751. Ilomantsi. 1846).(8)

But fire is associated with lempi-bathing in a somewhat more 'concrete' sense as well. Despite the fact, mentioned earlier, that the means by which lempi acts upon its surroundings remains unclear in most cases, there are in fact a few descriptions which offer an explanation of how lempi might reach potential suitors: it is spread through steam or smoke, both of which are produced from fire. In one description of a lempi-bathing ritual which the informant herself had experienced as a young girl in the role of the 'patient', she reports the lempi-bather as having announced to her that "nyt löylyn ukko terveiset perille vie" (Jaala. 1966. Hilja Hyytiäinen KT 365:19). The capacity of steam to serve as a conductor or conduit for supranormal forces is also suggested in a text concerning female väki, specifically vitun vihat:

13) Naisten vihat tarttuvat, kun on naiset yhdellä aikaa [miehen kanssa] kylpemässä tai muuten vaan harakoivat. Paljaasta löylystäkin voipi vihat toisinaan tarttua, vaikka ei ole naisiakaan kylpemässä.
(Tohmajärvi. 1893. J.H. Hakulinen 257-258. Emphasis mine).

In another example, the sauna whisk used to bathe the girl is burned at a crossroads and the smoke from the burning whisk carries the girl's lempi with it:

14a)...Tytön vasta [jolla häntä kylvetettiin lemmenkylvetyksessä] poltetaan "ristutiesoaroil". Tulen palaessa sanotaan:
"Kui tuli nouzou,
muga lembi noskah,
kui savu leviöy ilmal,
muga hänel lembi levikkäh ilmal
händ etsittähes."
(Tulomajärvi. 1944. Helmi Helminen 3899.--Solomanida Petrov, s. 1862)(9)

Smoke also appears to act a means of disseminating lempi in the following description, in which the hairs combed from a girl's head while she stands with spread legs on a threshold (connection with female väki here?) are burnt in the oven:

14b) Tytön lempi kohoaa kuin lauantai-iltana kylpyä valmistaessaan kahareisin saunan kynnyksellä kampaa päänsä, ja kampaan tarttuneet hiukset kerää kokoon. Samalla tiellä kylpeekin. Sunnuntai-aamuna ne kynnyksellä kammatut hiukset polttaa uunissa ja sanoo:
Niin minun lempi liehukoon
Niin minun auvo astukoon
Niin kunniani kuulukoon
kuin tämä savu ilmassa.
(Suomussalmi. I. Marttini b)802. 1903.--Muarie Remsujeff).

The above examples suggest that in some cases, lempi-raising may have been conceived of not so much in terms of 'increasing' a girl's lempi, but instead, as 'broadcasting' the lempi she already had to distant places, especially if she was living in an isolated area far from potential suitors. Lemmennosto in these cases may have referred to the concrete 'raising' of lempi into the air where it could disseminate and be 'made public'.

Finally, in looking at the folklore material discussed here, one could draw the conclusion that the common denominator throughout is the effect of tulen väki to heal, normalize or put right situations in which lempi or female väki might be 'out of balance'. Tulen väki and female väki, therefore, appear to be relatively compatible dynamistic forces, at least in the context of brief encounters. They are not, in other words, an example of those dynamistic forces described by Apo "which are not able to confront each other peaceably" but must combat each other until the weaker force 'loses' (1995:35).

The role of tulen väki as a healing väki effective against other types of väki and diseases considered supranormal (such as epidemics) shows up elsewhere in the folk tradition as well: in, for example, a historical legend from Ingria, a folk belief from Central Finland, and a descriptions of a folk healing ritual from South Ostrobothnia:

15) Tautia häädetään
Kerran, noin v. 1850, tuli eräs kulkutauti Loukkulankylän ja tappoi kahtena ensi vuorokautenaan jo pari henkeä kylästä. Taudin häätämiseksi tekivät vanhat miehet keskelle kylää "puuvalkean" (kitkatuli) ja sen yli sai jokainen kyläläinen kaydä...Loukkulasta tauti hävisi.
(Soikkola. 1910. J. Lukkarinen b)666).

16) Valkeanväki on kaikkein voimakkain ja nopein. Sen avulla voi karkoittaa muut väet. Sitä taas ei voi karkoittaa millään. Sen saa nostetuksi tuluksien avulla.
(Kinnula. Otto Harju 3624. 1946.--Toivo Turpeinen, s. 1889).

17) "Joka paikka oli ennen täynnä väkeä. Vedessä oli erikoinen "veen väki", joka saattoi ruveta ahdistamaan jotain ihmistä. Eräs poika [...] säikähti kovasti ja sai päälleen veden väen. Poika parannettiin siten, että lämmitettiin sauna, puoskari otti kiukaasta paljain kasin kuumin kiviä, pani ne veteen ja pesi sillä pojan yltä päältä. Veden väki karkoitettiin tulen väellä. Kun parantajalta kysyttiin, kuinka hän saattoi paljain käsin ottaa kiinni kuumista kivistä, hän vastasi: "Ei tuli tuttuahan polta".
(Lohtaja. 1936. Kerttu Hakunti 74.--Sofia Nissila, vanha emäntä, 83 v. Emphasis mine).

This last example raises an interesting issue concerning tulen väki: its ambivalent nature. Fire was always potentially dangerous, either through its capacity to physically burn or its ability, according to folk belief, to 'infect' the human body with its dynamistic power, resulting in tulen vihat, the "fire's wrath". But if tamed, controlled, or appeased, it could be of benefit. In this, tulen väki is clearly similar to female väki, which could also be beneficial or dangerous. In Finnish-Karelian women's magic, fire itself appears in two modes: its more controlled, contained mode (flame in the oven or hot coals in the stove) is associated with the effect of 'normalizing' female väki, while its more open, less restrained mode (bonfire) is associated with 'raising' lempi. What does the fact that tulen väki shows similiarites to both lempi and female väki and is used to manipulate both in this way suggest about the relationship between these two types of female sexual/supernatural power?

Female väki and lempi

If we were to assume, for a moment, that lempi is in fact essentially the same dynamistic force as female väki, then why does there exist only one emic term, lempi, which covers only part of the range of ways in which female sexual/supernatural power was manifested? One answer might be that the point in the female life-cycle at which lempi was manifested (in the years prior to marriage and the onset of sexual activity) was the only point at which female sexual/supernatural power was seen in all cases to be desirable and normal. Its purpose was a communally-held and socially-approved one: marriage. After this, female väki became potentially dangerous under some circumstances, and was perhaps taboo, not referred to directly.

If we take this exploratory line of thought a bit further by assuming, following Apo (1995), that female väki can be explained as a force from the tuonpuoleinen which is channeled through the vagina, then an examination of the folklore material would suggest that lempi/female väki is characterized by three modes: These are, first, the 'off' or 'closed' mode. Girls in this mode were not able to attract suitors and needed to undergo special lempi-raising rituals, while older women experiencing this mode were unable to bear children. There was also a 'normal' mode, in which the unmarried girl had the necessary lempi to attract a husband, and the married woman was, at that moment, neither menstruating nor pregnant. The final mode would have been one in which the vagina was 'too open' or the flow of female väki too strong. This mode was perhaps connected only to married women (or those engaging in sexual relations), who would conceivably experience it during and immediately after birth, and during menstruation.

That the female väki of a young, virginal girl was thought to differ from that of a married woman is suggested in one text concerning vitun vihat, where it is suggested that the urine of a young girl who has not yet engaged in sexual intercourse could be used to heal vitun vihat: "Naisten vihat parantuvat, kun vaan tyttö-lapsella, joka ei ole ollut vielä miesten parissa, pissittää puhtaalle vastalle ja sillä kylpöö" (Tohmajärvi. 1893. J.H. Hakulinen 315. --Juhana Riikonen, 85 v.).

There are, in fact, several lempi-bathing texts which suggest that the impetus or catalyst needed in order to increase a younger girl's lempi, in other words, to 'open' or 'turn on' her female väki, was the already 'opened' female väki of another woman who had recently given birth. According to one example, "Kylvettäjän pitää pyyhkiä kylvettävä sillä lakanalla, joka on ollut hänen alla viime lapsi vuoteellaan" (SKVR IX4:1499. Viitasaari. 1890). In a second text, the girl was bathed with a sauna whisk "jolla lapsi akka oli ensi kerran lapsen saatuaan kylpenä" (Nurmes. 1935. Helena Immonen KRK 157:3). The following description of a lempi-bathing ritual suggests a transfer of female väki from the bather's genitals to those of the 'patient':

17) ...Lemmen kylvettäjä ennen tytön kylvettämistä kuljetti vastaa kolme kertaa omien haarukoittensa lävitse takapuoleltansa etupuolellensa, sitten kylvetti tyttöä etupuolelta hävyn kohdalta, lausuen "Pois paha paikasta, pelko perä puolista". Kun lemmen kylpy oli suoritettu silloin tyttö ei saanut peseentyä kolmeen viikkoon ettei lempi katoaisi.
(Kontiolahti. 1966. Onni Kettunen KT 367:32).

To summarize, there exist a small number of folkore texts which suggest that lempi and female väki were in fact seen as the same dynamistic force in the folk belief system underlying Finnish-Karelian magic. Given the fact that information on the folk belief models underlying women's magic is in general extremely rare, it is not unthinkable that among those informants with a deeper understanding of magical and supranormal relationships, that lempi and female väki were seen to be two sides of the same coin.


The purpose of the foregoing essay has been a preliminary consideration of dynamistic relationships in women's magic. Although this tentative analysis raises more questions than answers and travels in the realm of 'unprovables', it is hoped that the reader has found the journey an interesting one, and that this excursion might inspire other scholars to continue the search for key texts with which to open doors into Finnish-Karelian magico-dynamistic folk belief.


1. Sortavala. 1936. Toini Moilanen KRK 149.--Abraham Moilanen, 75 v.

2. Tohmajärvi. 1893. J.H. Hakulinen 255.--Pekka Eronen; Kitee. 1896-1905. J. Lonkainen b)64; Kitee. 1922. Pekka Vauhkonen VK 107:f) 1:n jälk. kirje.

3. Of the 111 references I have found from 505 lempi-bathing texts concerning the identity of the ritual performer, 13% were explicitly identified as male or female tietäjäs, and 44% were identified as a ritual magic specialist of either gender (by the designation tietäjä, poppa, noita, loihtija, puoskari, taikuri, or velho).

4. SKVR VI4:6126. Iisalmi. 1895; Törsimö. 1913. Iivo Marttini 1364. --Sisson-akka, 77 v.; Liperi. 1935-6. Josefiina Salmela KRK 173:23.--Paavo Kettunen, 75 v.; Uhtua. 1957. Jouko Ritoniemi KJ 45:17657.

5. Also: SKVR VII4:1964. Tohmajärvi. 1889.--Pekka Eronen; SKVR VII4:1968. Ilomantsi. 1909.--Akiima Tiittasen vaimo; SKVR VII4:1969. Ilomantsi 1913.--Tatjana Huohvanainen, o.s. Tiittanen; Suistamo. 1846. D.E.D. Europeaus 1(G):463; Kitee. 1896-1905. J. Lonkainen b)64.

6. Also: Vieljärvi. 1943. Maila Saarto 724. --Mari Leontjova, 63 v.

7. Also: Tulomajärvi. 1944. Helmi Helminen 3918.--Varja Lukjanov, 62 v.; Tulomajärvi. 1944. Helmi Helminen 3129.--Solomanida Petrov, s. 1862).

8. Also: SKVR VII5:4725. Tohmajärvi. 1891; SKVR VII5:4623. Suistamo. 1917; SKVR VII5:4616. Suistamo. 1846; SKVR VII5:4619. Suistamo. 1909; SKVR VII5:4609. Impilahti(?). 1847; SKVR VI2:6024. Mäntyharju. 1890; Pielisjärvi. 1936. J.V. Saarelainen 35.--Elna Leinonen, 16 v.

9. Also: Vieljärvi. 1943. Maila Saarto 612.--Aleksandra Ignatiova, 66 v.

Literature cited

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Apo, Satu 1995: "Ex cunno väki tulee", in Naisen Väki: tutkimuksia suomalaisten kansanomaisesta kulttuurista ja ajattelusta. Helsinki: Hanki ja Jää.

Apo Satu forthcoming: "Ex cunno väki tulevi: concepts of women's dynamistic power in Finnish-Karelian tradition", in Apo, Satu and Aili Nenola (eds), Studia Fennica Folkloristica 4.

Heikkinen, Kaija 1990: "Oma ja vieras arki. Naiselämän heijasutminen tieteeseen ja arkiajatteluun", in Nenola, Aili and Senni Timonen (eds): Louhen Sanat. Kirjoituksia kansanperinteen naisista. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.

Jauhiainen, Marjatta (ed) forthcoming: The Type and Motif Index of Finnish Belief Legends and Memorates. Folklore Fellows Communications.

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Piela, Ulla 1990: "Lemmenloitsujen nainen", in Nenola, Aili and Senni Timonen (eds): Louhen Sanat. Kirjoituksia kansanperinteen naisista. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.

Sallamaa, Kari 1983: "Nouse lempi liehumaan", in Piela, Ulla and Pekka Laaksonen (eds) Kansa parantaa. Kalevalaseuran Vuosikirja 63.

Siikala, Anna-Leena 1994: Suomalainen samanismi. Mielikuvien historiaa. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.

Stark, Laura 1993: "Lemmennosto ei ole syntiä mutta rakastuttaminen on": gender, strategy and social attitude in traditional Finnish-Karelian society", in Suomen Antropologi 3, vol. 18.

Stark, Laura 1995: Gender, Magic and Social Order: Ideologies of Pairing, Household and the Female Body in Finnish-Karelian Folklore. Unpublished Licentiate Thesis, Department of Folklore, University of Helsinki.

Tarkka, Lotte 1990: "Tuonpuoleiset, tämänilmanen ja sukupuoli: Raja vienankarjalaisessa kansanrunoudessa", in in Nenola, Aili and Senni Timonen (eds): Louhen Sanat. Kirjoituksia kansanperinteen naisista. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.

Timonen, Senni 1989: "Pohjois-Karjalan lyriikka", in Knuuttila, Seppo and Pekka Laaksonen (eds) Runon ja rajan teillä. Kalevalaseuran Vuosikirja 68.

Venho, Tellervo 1967: "Kansanlyriikan tulisymboliikkaa", in Kalevalaseuran Vuosikirja 47.

Vuorela, Toivo 1960: Paha silmä suomalaisen perinteen valossa. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society.

Laura Stark-Arola, FL
Doctoral student, lecturer
Department of Folklore
University of Helsinki