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Magic Songs of the West Finns, Volume 1

John Abercromby


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Description

This is the first volume of John Abercromby's extensive study of Finnish magic songs and their background. First he details the history, ethnography and linguistics of the Finns, indeed, constructs a century-long history of the entire Finno-ugric group from the evolution of vocabulary. Finally in the last (long) chapter he gets to the first part of the exposition of the 'magic songs.' This is a summary of the various characters in the songs including a whole range of Finnish gods, goddesses, heroes, wizards, nature-spirits, and so on. He also goes into detail about Finnish Shamanistic practices, including drumming, trance ceremonies, and guide spirits.

This book has 233 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1898.

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Excerpt from 'Magic Songs of the West Finns, Volume 1'

In this country the term Finn is generally restricted to the natives of Finland, with perhaps those of Esthonia thrown in. But besides these Western Finns there are other small nationalities in Central and Northern Russia, such as the Erza and Mokša Mordvins, the Čeremis, Votiaks, Permians, and Zịrians, to whom the term is very properly applied, though with the qualifying adjective—Eastern. Except by Folklorists, little attention is paid in Great Britain to these peoples, and much that is written of them abroad finds no response here, the 'silver streak' acting, it would seem, as a non-conductor to such unsensational and feeble vibrations.

Although the languages of the Eastern and Western Finns differ as much perhaps among themselves as the various members of the Aryan group, the craniological and physical differences between any two Finnish groups is very much less than between the Latin and the Teutonic groups, for instance. All the Finns live nearly under the same latitudes, and in pre- and proto-historic times, which are not so very remote, the differences in customs, religious and other beliefs, could not have been very great. This is important; it allows us to supplement what is missing or defective in one Finnish group by what is more complete in another, with far greater certainty than when dealing under similar circumstances with the Aryan-speaking groups. In the first five chapters of the first volume I have tried, with the combined aid of craniology, archæology, ethnography, and philology, brought up to date, to sketch as succinctly as possible the pre- and proto-historic history of the Eastern and Western Finns, showing the various stages of civilisation to which they successively advanced after contact with higher civilisations, at different periods of their evolution from neolithic times to the middle ages. Chapters six and seven contain an analysis of the beliefs of the Western Finns, so far as they can be gathered from the text of the Magic Songs in the second volume; and a perusal of them will facilitate the comprehension of the Magic Songs themselves. The second volume, containing 639 magic songs, some of considerable length, classed under 233 headings, is a translation of a very large portion of the Suomen kansan muinaisia Loitsurunoja, edited and published by the late Dr. Lönnrot in 1880. As the translation was made for Folklorists it is as literal as possible, without additions, without subtractions, and the vocabulary employed is in conformity with the subject, with the humble social status and homely surroundings of the original composers. The metre of the original is the same as in the Kalevala, which cannot be reproduced in a language like English, where the ictus of the metre has to coincide with the natural stress-accent of the words. But where it could be done without loss of exactness a certain rhythm, generally three beats to a line, is given in the translation, though to save space the lines are printed in prose form.

In the work of translating the Magic Songs I owe a debt of gratitude to Lektor Raitio, with whom I first began to study them a good many years ago, for much friendly assistance. Finally, I acknowledge with thanks the reproduction of four illustrations borrowed from Mr. J. R. Aspelin's Antiquités du Nord Finno-ougrien, four from Mr. Kudriavtsev, three from Mr. Inostrantsev, one from Mr. Spitsịn, and twelve from photographs given me by Mr. Novokreščennịkh. The six illustrations from sketches made by myself were made hurriedly, and are not absolutely correct, though adequate, I hope, for the purpose.

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