Finnish Folklore Wiki
Advertisement

Loviatar (other names Loveatar, Lovetar, Lovehetar, Louhetar, Louhiatar, Louhi) is the blind daughter of Tuoni and Tuonetar. She was said to be the worst one of them all, and a goddess of plagues and diseases. She was impregnated by wind or Iku-Turso and has nine sons, the Nine diseases. In some poems she also gives birth to a daughter. However, before giving a name to the daughter Loviatar threw her into a river, killing her. Ancient Finns believed that a child became a part of the community only after it had been named; before that, even killing it was acceptable.[1] In Mythologia Fennica, Loviatar is called the emuu of wolves.

Loviatar in Kalevala

A short part of her appearance in Kalevala, from the 45th poem.

The blind daughter of Tuoni,
Old and wicked witch, Lowyatar,
Worst of all the Death-land women,
Ugliest of Mana's children,
Source of all the host of evils,
All the ills and plagues of Northland,
Black in heart, and soul, and visage,
Evil genius of Lappala,
Made her couch along the wayside,
On the fields of sin and sorrow;
Turned her back upon the East-wind,
To the source of stormy weather,
To the chilling winds of morning.[2]

Tyttö oli Tuonelan sokea,
Loviatar, vaimo vanha,
pahin Tuonen tyttäriä,
ilke'in manattaria,
alku kaikille pahoille,
tuhansille turmioille.
Sill' oli muoto mustanlainen,
iho inhon-karvallinen.
Tuopa musta Tuonen tyttö, ulappalan umpisilmä,
teki tielle vuotehensa, pahnansa pahalle maalle.
Selin tuulehen makasi,
kaltoin säähän karkeahan,
perin viimahan viluhun,
kohin päivänkoittehesen.

Relation to Louhi

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

The name "Loviatar" 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.[3] "-tar" is a feminine suffix.

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

Sources

  1. Risto Pulkkinen & Stina Lindfors. Suomalaisen kansanuskon sanakirja. Gaudeamus (2016). Page: 410-411.
  2. Lönnrot, Elias. Kalevala. 1849. Translated by John Martin Crawford, 1888.
  3. Risto Pulkkinen & Stina Lindfors. Suomalaisen kansanuskon sanakirja. Gaudeamus (2016). Page: 186.
Advertisement