Karhun Vakat

by Crown of Asteria

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    The bear (karhu in Finnish), King of the Forest, was the most respected animal of the ancient Finnish forests and still is today. The Birth of the Bear is a very old, probably Paleolithic myth having its roots in totemistic relationship between the powerful animal and the primitive man.
    As such the bear was the symbol of the whole tribe and a sacred animal. For this reason in some areas it was never hunted. Shamanism was also closely connected to the bear and sometimes the bear was seen as the spirit of a shaman.
    The most ancient myths of the Northern peoples tell of the marriage of the bear and the primordial Mother of all men. This relationship was later reflected in the rite Karhun vakat or Karhun peijaiset meaning the feast which was held after a successful bear hunt. At this feast the bear was re-united to its family through a symbolic wedding.
    We have a very detailed description of the bear-feast from the 16th century:
    The bear was killed and skinned in the forest after which the meat and the hide were taken to the village. Ale was brewed and the meat of the bear was eaten as a sacred meal. The feast was held in a large building. A girl and a boy were then elected as the symbolic wedding couple. During the feast the skull of the bear was carried on a plate to the room.
    The plate was given a place of honor at head of the long table. The bride and bridegroom sat at the other end.
    After the meal there followed a customary prayer: ( I interchanged the genders for the song)

    I, just a little boy
    Not yet a man
    I made the arrow
    I drew the bow
    to kill this golden king of the wilderness
    Not strong enough was he for me,
    Just a little boy
    You came from Hongikko,
    Your family from Hongotar
    Now I chant the Birth of your Family

    I, just a little boy
    I shall fetch my pot
    I, the youngest of my family
    I shall fetch the meat from the woods
    I shall fetch my pot to make it
    Before you noticed
    Under the spruce
    You lay dead
    Now I shall prepare my holy pot
    Now I shall bless the holy pine
    With silver branches

    The skull of the bear was then carried in a procession to a sacred tall pine and fixed high on a branch among other bear skulls. At this point there followed a chant as a dialogue between the killed bear and the primordial Mother of the Bear who was called Hongotar.
    In the chant the bear regrets its fate. The bones of the bear were then buried under the pine. One important function of this rite was to prevent the skull from decomposing.
    The skull of the bear was a holy object and to destroy it was taboo. It was strictly forbidden to remove the skulls from the tree.
    The idea of this conservation was to make it possible for the spirit of the bear to return to earth to be killed again.

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  • Compact Disc (CD)

    Special edition 30 copies Wooden box sets

    Includes digital pre-order of Karhun Vakat. The moment the album is released you’ll get unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    digital album releases January 13, 2021
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  • Full Digital Discography

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1.
Tietäjä
2.
The Golden Lig
3.
Hongotar
4.
Sky-Nail
5.
Black Antlers Al
6.
Väki
7.
Kallohonka
8.
Merkkipuu

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releases January 13, 2021

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