The protector of forest birds and Finnish forest reindeers was called Laaus (Nikolaus), whose name day is celebrated tomorrow. Hunters asked Laaus to give them big birds to bring home from the forest. Would such catch appear, they would bow down as an honour to Laaus.
Forest Birds were an important source of food for hunters. Birds were hunted with different kinds of traps and snares. Autumn was the best time for wildfowling, but snares were also set during the winter. It was said that the snares with the best luck were crafted on “fresh days”, meaning the eighth or ninth day of new moon. Major bird species hunted were capercaillie, black grouse, hazel grouse and grouse. The Finnish names of all these birds are at least 2000 years old.
Before placing the snares hunters warmed and cleansed them in the fire. They also purified themselves with conifer and alder twigs. When the hunter entered the forest trail he was not supposed to look back, at least not as long as his home could be still seen in the distance. Some silver could be carved under a trap or into an anthill while the hunter recited “forest words”, an effort to persuade the forest spirit to give the hunter good hunting luck.
As mentioned, Laaus also protected the Finnish forest reindeers. These animals have been hunted in the current territory of Finland at least since the Stone Age. One of the most ancient methods of hunting was to dig deep pits to deer trails. This method was still used in the Kainuu region in the 1800s. Forest reindeers, called ‘peura’ or ‘petra’, could be guided towards the pits with wooden fences called ‘hangas’. There are still many place names in Finland beginning with the word hangas, referring to the ancient deer hunting history of these places.
Forest reindeer trails are also the basis for the name of the forest reindeer’s emuu (spiritual mother). She was called Juonetar. ‘Juone’ means the trail of forest reindeers or their traces that could be seen in the snow. Another name for the emuu was Uramatar, which is a derivative from the word ‘ura’, meaning path.
Translation: Anssi A.
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This is a repost of a post put up by the Suomenusko Facebook group, placed here as information and to keep it from being lost on Facebook.