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Finland
Luistari



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The Source:

Marika Mägi:
"From stone graves to churchyards - Burial traditions in the late prehistoric and early medieval Island of Saaremaa"

Deborah J. Shepherd:
"The Convergence of Paganism and Christianity in Northern Europe - the conversion and archaeology"
Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1996

The Case:

From Deborah J. Shepherd's "The Convergence of Paganism and Christianity in Northern Europe - the conversion and archaeology", we learn that:

"In Finnish medieval folklore, it was a practice to place a large number of grains in the grave: the dead could not walk until they had counted all the grains. Sharp objects such as scissors, when placed within the grave, could also pin down the deceased's soul."

Well, of course we had already heard about the strategy to keep the vampire busy by giving it some task. Just like we knew about the custom of using sharp metal objects to keep the dead from leaving their graves. But I was surprised to learn that these same methods were being used in Finland.

On then to Marika Mägi's "From stone graves to churchyards - Burial traditions in the late prehistoric and early medieval Island of Saaremaa". Although the article is about the Estonian island of Saaremaa, there is the mention of something rather interesting found in a grave in Finland. I quote:

"It is also possible that the knives, spearheads, axes and other sharp objects were placed under grave stones to avoid the return of the deceased. Evidently, in an inhumation grave at Luistari cemetery in Finland a knife had been placed on the throat of a female corpse for this very purpose."

The Date:

We have found this case in a chapter about "10th-12th Century Burials and Burial Practices". So - just to play it safe - let us file this as "before 1200".

The Place:

Luistari Cemetery can be found in Eura, about halfway between Rauma and Huittinen, and North of Turku.

Personal comments:

Obviously it is a great pleasure to see confirmation of our long-time suspicion that Finland does have an old tradition of "Fear for the Undead". Somewhere I read that the coffins that have been found were sometimes secured with spearheads. And according to Nils Cleve, those spearheads were meant as protection "against the Deceased".

Possible Follow-Up:

Go find and read Marika Mägi's interesting "From stone graves to churchyards". Deborah J. Shepherd's "The Convergence of Paganism and Christianity in Northern Europe" is also worthy of your attention. And for those of you who read Finnish, I also found a typed and handwritten report with many photos about the Luistari excavations, written by Pirkko-Liisa Lehtosalo-Hilander, who appears to be the archaeologist who was in charge of the Luistari project. And - of course - see what else you can dig up about the cemetery and the Finnish belief in the Undead.

© 2014 by Rob Brautigam - NL - Last changed November 2014

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