Birth of the First Diseases

Northland (Pohjola) is a far-away otherworldly realm ruled by great witch, old lady of the north, Loviatar. In spells she is called fairy of nature, nature’s woman, beautiful, old woman who was born before the night. In the Finnish national epic Kalevala she is called Louhi.

Loviatar is impregnated by the north wind. After a long and painful pregnancy she gives birth to nine boys who are called evil foetuses, nasty children, and names them diseases: gout, scab, colic, tooth worm, injection, abscess, pox, fever, rigors.

She gives birth to a tenth child but cannot find a name so she tosses him to the river. From this descendent, witches are born. Sometimes the tenth child is mentioned to be a girl.

Loviatar has also given birth to bears, wolves, dogs and other disease creatures like Seizure.

When the shamans were curing these diseases, they read the spell of origin recounting the story of Loviatar’s pregnancy and childbirth.


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Images by Tero Porthan, texts by Tiina Porthan