Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mead Paw and Cloudberry boy

If you are following the world hockey championships in Germany you might think that the lion is the symbol of Finland. Anyone drinking Karhu beer knows that it's the bear and not the lion that represents Finland.

The bear is very important in Finnish culture. Before the Christian conquest of Finland, the bear was revered and his life cycle followed in seasonal rituals. The bear's name was sacred and terms such as mead paw and cloudberry boy were used to refer to the bear. I learned about the Year of the Bear at the wonderful exhibit in Tampere. Agricola, the Bishop of Turku, recognized the importance of bear symbolism and called for the hunting of bears as a way of strengthening Christianity in Finland.

The famous bear hunter, Martti Kitunen, lived north of Tampere in Virrat. Virrat hosts a special bear feast every July, the Virtain Karhunpeijaiset. Bears move through Finland following the rhythm of their lives from hibernation to "reincarnation". You can read about one bear's journey here. Bears are also found on the Turku archipelago.

This entire post is merely an excuse to post this video that I found through the Books from Finland web site. The top picture of the bear cub is also from the Books from Finland web site.


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