From the Suomenusko FB page:

“There are several explanations regarding the origin of the Finnish word for March (“maaliskuu”). The most common one is that maaliskuu is derived from the word for ground, “maa”. In March the ground is revealed from under the snow, which is also mentioned in many proverbs, such as “March begins to show the ground”.

The second view is that the name comes from the word for target (“maali”). In March, when the hard supporting snow would allow people to move easily with skis, men would gather to some location to practice shooting with bows and arrows. Practice was essential because people depended on their hunting skills. In Northern Finland, wood for skis was cut down in the first or second quarter of March. Trees cut down around this time were said to stay straight even they dried. In Karelia, March was “mämmikuu”, after the Finnish delicacy, mämmi.

The birth of the new moon in March, or Marja’s moon, was considered as an important moment. Marja’s moon predicted the weather for the next three spring moons. If cold wind was blowing from the north when the moon was born, the next three moons would be cold, and spring would arrive slowly. If warm south wind was blowing, the spring would be early, beautiful and warm. This would mean that the livestock could come out from the winter shelter early and grain growing season would be long.

Greeting the new moon is an old tradition of the Finno-Ugric peoples. In Savo, Marja’s moon was in this way also associated with marriage luck. When a young man or woman first saw the new moon of March, they said: “I greet you March moon, I ask from you, show me my beloved, if I should have peace and happiness”. After that they turned their face away from the moon, went home and got sleep. In the dream they would see their life companion.

The weather in March was used to predict the weather for coming summer. Foggy weather in March means rain in the summer. If the fog lies low near the ground, the year will be frosty. Spring that arrived too early was met with skepticism, as in the folk worldview exceptional signs were usually a bad sign. Consequently, very warm March meant that May would be cold. March was jokingly said to be angry and eager to be cold, but the warmth of the sun melted the month’s icy feelings.

The breezing March wind was called “Tapio’s threshing”. People said that the forest spirit Tapio was treshing his grains when the spring wind cut branches, bark, and other things from the trees in the forest and carried them around. It was also said that “Tapio is sowing”, when the wind spread seeds and cones from the trees on the snow. This phenomenon was also called “pine wind” or “bark wind”. From this “sowing” people counted nine or seven weeks to the melting of all ice on lakes.”

Translation: Anssi A.


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