In Finnish folklore, an element of mystery is associated with Lapland, the country’s northernmost province. Many a myth stems from the ancient animistic beliefs of the Sami, the Arctic tribe and Europe’s only indigenous people.
In Sami mythology, everything has a soul. Thus, every living and non-living being has a story of their own. Rocks and trees, foxes and reindeer, the Northern Lights in the sky and the knife in the reindeer herder’s hand all carry knowledge and wisdom within. Spirits are present in everything, wherever one wanders.
In Lapland, swapping the hustle and bustle of ski resorts and cities to the peace and quiet of the wilderness takes mere minutes.
Autumn leaf colour, “ruska”, paints Lapland in colourful splendour, evoking feelings of harmonious melancholy. It is a final display of nature’s power and beauty, before it, once again, prepares to succumb to the looming winter.
The “kota”, a Lappish version of the tepee, is a temporary dwelling, inside of which Sami medicine men used to perform their rituals. Contact with the spirit world was reached through a hole in the top.
In Lapland, ancient legends survive to this day through word of mouth. Old myths were inspired by the omnipresent entity that was here before man and will be here after man is gone – nature. Life in Lapland follows the cycle of Mother Nature, and the stark contrasts between the four seasons dictate the pace.
The Saana fell overlooking the village of Kilpisjärvi is holy to the Sámi, and sacrificial fires to the supreme god Ukkonen were burned at the top of it. Saana plays a central role in many Lappish tales.
Rays of Hope
The return of sunlight in the spring awakens trees, plants, animals and people from their wintry slumber, and refills all souls and snowy landscapes with a fresh joie de vivre.
Here I Stand
Dead trees, “kelo” in Finnish, are characteristic of Lapland’s nature and remind one of the passing of time and the harsh conditions nature puts the area and its inhabitants through.
In the winter, ‘kaamos’ or the polar night, wraps Lapland in a veil of darkness and an eerie, yet comfortably peaceful stillness prevails. The Northern Lights illuminate the sky with their dance, bringing messages from a world beyond ours.
The Great Outdoors
The reindeer is an icon of Lapland, and they outnumber people in the province. In the summer, reindeer head to the fells and graze in the wilderness.
In the summer, the Arctic taiga basks in the rays of the Midnight Sun for as long as two months. Plants and berries strive towards bloom and as the sun smiles whole-heartedly at the rugged wilderness it completely ignores in the winter.
During kaamos, shades of red on the horizon create a gloomy, yet soothing atmosphere, inspiring hope of a new dawn when the sun returns in springtime.
The vastness of Lapland makes a person feel small. Getting to roam large wilderness areas on your own is ideal for soul searching and finding your place in life. Nature works wonders for the weary and confused mind.
Being able to wander in the wildernesses with nothing but your thoughts is a key part of Lapland’s attraction. A feeling of being one with nature is still among one of the most empowering feelings humans can experience. Like all spiritual experiences, Lapland needs to be seen and felt; describing states of mind never quite gets up there with the actual experience. Words fail to capture the feeling of actually standing on top of a fell gazing at the vast wilderness all around you… now that can send a tingle down the spine.
We all have problem pigs in our lives, nasty little things that make us angry, tired or stressed out. But no problem, here’s a perfect retreat. The Finnish winter calms down even the world’s angriest birds, so it will surely work for you too.
Take a look at the geographical shape of Finland and you’ll see why people call her “The Finnish Maiden”. At the tip of her thumb is the only part of the country where peaks rise 1,000 metres above sea level. Nestled in those peaks you will find a tiny village called Kilpisjärvi, home to roughly a hundred year-round residents.
One of them is 25-year-old snowmobile guide Jussi Rauhala.