Finnish journalist currently living in Greece. Likes to tell stories and make people think - world is so full of interesting tales, facts and humans. Has been writing her first erotica novel for over two years now due to intense background research.
CW: Some relatively strong language
Despite the conversion of Finland to Christianity following the Crusades (1095-1271), pagan beliefs about nature spirits, forest Gods and magic persisted amongst the stubborn Finns for a long time – some of which survives even into the 21st century. In their joys and sorrows, people trusted the skills of their wise elders, and in most cases it was an older women who held the knowledge of old stories, myths and mysteries.
The customs and myths referred to here were written down in the 19th century, but had existed in oral tradition for centuries.
In the older days magic was called väki, meaning both “folk” and “power”. The väki of a bear or the väki of death were seen as some of the strongest, but one to challenge them was the väki of a woman. This power was both respected and feared. Women were seen to be symbols of fertility, they could give children and make milk, bleed without dying.
Unlike men’s genitals, women's were hidden away where no one to see - this made the bodies of women even more mysterious. This secretive part of women was seen to have more power than anything else – vittu in Finnish, a vagina (also ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’ in more modern Finnish). Only the vagina of a respected older woman, who had given birth, could be called vittu - it was a powerful name you had to earn. (Tolonen, 2017)
The väki of the vittu could be used to cast many different kinds of spells, but most commonly it was used for protection. One example of the power of vittu is the protection it offers from the forest beasts. In order to keep her cattle safe on the fields, the matron of the family would stand on the field with her lower body naked. When she bend over with her vittu facing the forest the beasts would run away from power much stronger than them. This is why it was also safe to go berry picking with older women – even the bear would stay away and bow down to the power of vittu out of respect, although in väki they were equals.
Other forms of protection spells existed as well. Harakointi (haara = crotch in Finnish) was one of the most common ways of using the power – the magic was cast with a naked vittu, to expose the source of power. These spells were usually related to the things women were traditionally considered to be in charge of – the home, children and cattle.
For instance, a woman could step over her child before a trip away from home, with her vittu exposed, to protect him on the upcoming journey. Another form of harakointi was performed after wintertime, once the cattle was released back to the summer fields. The matron of the house would stand astride on top of the door where the cattle would run to freedom. (Räihä, 2008) This way it was safe for them to graze without worries of beasts.
The woman’s väki could also be used for evil – a woman could march with her vittu exposed through her neighbour’s hunting traps to cause their hunting luck to disappear. Mostly, the evil done with woman’s väki was related to chores and things thought to be men’s responsibility – it wasn’t acceptable to ruin these things with female energy.
It was also possible to flash a bare vittu to the lady next door, if a fight between two parties was getting tense. This was sure to rouse eternal hate, though. Since flashing your vagina publicly wasn't thought to be appropriate, it was replaced with related expressions, such as Haista vittu! literally translated ‘smell the vittu’ but used as ‘fuck you’.
It was often discussed how the vittu could be used – for some crops the woman’s väki was seen to be too strong, for some plants using its power increased their growth. During full moon it was prohibited to use the power of vittu because it would then be too strong – horses would go wild and faces would be covered with acne. (Noidankoto, 2010) The väki was meant to be used carefully.
Although older women were respected in their communities, for young women and especially virgins the situation was very different. Women in fertile age were seen as dangerous, especially during their periods, and they were isolated from the community to their families during this time. (Tolonen, 2017)
The Finnish people believed they were living in between of two worlds, and a vagina was seen to be a path to the supernatural world. This belief was deepened by the myth of Jesus’ human birth through Maria’s vagina, since a many old folk beliefs combined elements from Christianity. (Matilainen, 2008)
Women were seen to be connected to the after world because of their body. Especially during menstruation it was thought that this path was directly open even for the dead to use – menstruating made the woman’s väki active, sensitive and it feared it could even be used unintentionally. (Tolonen, 2017)
So the väki of women wasn’t always seen as a good thing. Humans were seen as containers – man was intact, while women were seen as broken because of their periods and childbirth. Woman “was broken from the crotch, the devil himself made a bloody wound with his axe.” (Matilainen, 2008)
Vittu was thought to be so powerful that it could even enchant men if they happened to see one outside of the married bed. They would become desperate for love, and the woman only could release him from this spell. Unfortunately, it happened sometimes that lustful men would start to imagine they had been bewitched and thus try to break the spell by force, against the woman’s will. These acts were seen to be justified, since the men told they had no control over the situation and couldn’t resist the witchcraft. (Noidankoto, 2010) The narrative sounds sadly familiar even after times have changed.
In modern Finnish vittu is primarily used as a strong curse word, with many versatile expressions. Women are not feared or admired based on their body parts anymore, but I still believe that the väki in women is strong and the world should watch out – we are fierce, strong and ready to use our power.
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