The mythology of the area comprising modern Karolia dates back at least to the second century BC. Although there are many different versions of individual myths and characters throughout the country, all broadly feature the same stories, gods and human actors.
The Kyori culture has its own myths in addition to the Karolian ones.
The majority of myths extant today originate from the bardic tradition of the third to ninth centuries AD. The tales were written in poetic and prose forms and seem to have been performed as entertainment at gatherings and around shamanistic rituals. It appears that performances of certain tales were thought to facilitate contact with the ancestors and reveal hidden knowledge. The bards were thus highly respected in society and could expect to be given food and shelter in exchange for their performances. Knowledge of the stories and in particular how to accompany oneself on the harp was a closely guarded secret and would only be shared with apprentices.
The most important figure in the modern revival of the legends is Eemi Jukka-Sestre (1704-1768) who traveled to several areas of Karolia and recorded the aural recitations from villagers. Sestre died whilst returning from his last journey.
Suppression and revival
During the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries the Christic religious leaders became increasingly against the pagan beliefs of the traditional culture. Karolian gods and myths were denounced as the worship of the devil and could be punished. Thus the myths that survived were carried in hidden form by changing the names of the characters or simply by telling the stories in secret.
The national mythology was revived as part of the Unification movement of the eighteenth century. The artists and political leaders of the movement seized upon the old stories as a way of both forging a national identity and for use as propaganda, often changing them to suit their political agenda.
The earliest known written collection of myths dates from 1434, in an illuminated manuscript now held at Känton University. This contains several stories familiar to modern readers. The first 'complete' collection of Karolian myths was actually published in Romans in 1802. Today more scholarly versions which use authentic medieval texts and first-hand recitations as sources are available.
Today most Karolian children will hear at least a few of the important folk tales, as often through cartoons, comics and television as via the oral tradition.
Figures and objects in Karolian mythology
- Lautinen, chief of the gods, who could also visit the human world as one of several avatars.
- Aulaume, mother-goddess who created the earth and human life. Often associated with swans and birds and could appear as one.
- Sarepä, goddess of beauty and art and daughter of Lautinen. Often associated with the Firebird, she would be called upon to avenge wrongs or sometimes do this of her own volition, using her beauty to lure men to her vengeance.
- Poitolen, first son of Lautinen, god of war and the guardian of heaven.
- Viisäälä, an immortal sorceress who is usually on the side of the gods, but not always. Lives in the far north.
- Puustiis, second son of Lautinen. Exiled for sharing the secret of fire with humans, and condemned to sail his ship carrying a fiery orb around the sky for eternity.
Demons and monsters
- Juutokäpii, demon-king who rules the underworld and snatches souls travelling to heaven or too close to the edge of the world. Can also appear as a crow, a black eagle or a black dog.
- The Thunderbird or Devilbird; a terrifying dragon-like bird which could change its shape and turn to smoke, fire or ice, or grow to be as big as the sky. In physical form, usually described as black with burning red eyes, a toothed beak and a cry that could make humans insane.
- Juutokäpii's minions, mostly goblins, man-eating plants and other creatures who dwell in forests and snare the unwary.
- Trolls, both evil and friendly.
- Various sea monsters, including giant-squid and whales that can devour whole ships.
- Kalet; hero of the Vaaräsiin, a boy who grows to be the mightiest warrior in the world and ends years of war by unifying the kingdoms.
Other spirits, creatures and magical objects
- The Siike, an object possessing great magical powers including the ability to communicate with and restore the dead to the real world. Its exact form is vague, but is usually understood to be a bowl or cauldron made of gold.
- A Siikesilla is a device, usually in the form of an amulet, which is related to the concept of the Siike.
- The Firebird, the Thunderbird's antithesis; a red eagle or phoenix-like bird which could undo evil spells and see anything in the world.
Myths and stories
The Vaaräsiin contains several stories from other sources as interpolations in the text, but numerous other tales have survived from the ancient times.
Form and creation of the universe
The earth is a flat but almost limitlessly wide disk which is the centre of all creation. Around the edges is the hell of Tuoomaa; below the earth is the heaven where ordinary souls dwell and above the sky is where the gods live, using the small gaps (stars) to travel between worlds. The sky is formed from the inside of an egg-shell out of which Aulaume hatched to create the world. The sun is the ship of the exiled fire god Puustiis who sails around the sky continuously, searching for a port.
Birth of the gods
All the gods are descendants of Aulaume and Lautinen, who were both hatched from the eggs of a goose which fell to earth from its nest in the sky. The pile of eggshell fragments formed the Taamras mountains and the liquid in the egg Kiisjarlvi lake. The land was called Kariik Aulaume from which it is theorised that the word Karolia is derived.