Suomenusko in translation: the importance of names

Petri Damstén @ Flickr / Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0.



In English:

First names which were passed from generation to generation have been traditionally very important. Names inherited from grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles made the child part of the family community. Inherited name reflected the child’s connection with the previous generations.

In particular, names of renowned and much-loved ancestors were often widely used again in order to keep the name in the family. Naming was, thus, a way to show respected to the ancestors and to preserve their memory in future generations.

These naming practices have probably evolved from the ancient idea that name and soul are connected. Souls of the ancestors were born again into the family, and people need to be sure that a name of the right ancestors was given to the child. If the soul of the new-born was not called by his or her original (“vakava”) name, the child would become sick and cry a lot.

Naming was usually done soon after birth so that the child would get his or her guardian spirit. There are some indications, however, that in pre-Christian times children were named only after the outbreak of their first tooth. The child could be whisked and washed in the sauna to prepare for the life’s journey. Relatives and neighbours brought “whisk money” or some domesticated animals as a gift to the child.

Naming has traditionally been the father’s right and obligation. On the other hand, names from the mother’s family were also sometimes used. For example, the practice of naming a daughter after the maternal grandmother continued in many families for long time. In addition, midwives have traditionally had the opportunity to suggest names in case of emergency births.

Customs related to naming began to change in the modern period. The significance of old customs was reduced as expressing individuality became the name’s most important feature. In addition, the rise of romantic nationalism made names derived from, say, Kalevala fashionable at the end of 1800s and early 1900s.

Translation: Anssi A.

See the original post here. 


This is a repost of a post by the Suomenusko group on Facebook. I am collecting them here to keep them from being lost in the aether of social media. 


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