The Muse Made Me Do It:
Reflections on the Louhi poem

John Major Jenkins


Louhi Gazes Deep is a poem based upon the material in Runo 42 of the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland. However, the events in Runo 42 are told, in my poem, from the viewpoint of Louhi. In the Kalevala, Louhi is cast as the evil witch of the Far North, and the Kalevala's heroes must overcome her hoarding evilness. In my Kalevala research, and in reading and comitting to memory parts of Friberg's 1988 translation of the Kalevala, I starting to see "between the lines" and realized that glimpses of history could be found within the ancient tales.

Specifically, I sensed that Louhi was originally the Earth Mother Goddess of the ancient Finns, the original matrifocal shamanistic society of Finland that thrived prior to Viking invasions from the west. Yes, Louhi was turned into a witch by the dominator consciousness, a historical process thought to have occurred gradually in the ancient Middle East and finally in Crete (See Eisler's Chalice and the Blade and Thomspon's The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light). However, the Kalevala proclaims otherwise, and gives us a more recent document revealing details about the process by which the dominator mind usurps the fertility and power of the Goddess-based partnership style.

The Kalevala's Runo 42 tells of the three Kalevala heroes sailing to Pohjola — the domain of Louhi — to retrieve the magic Sampo. The Sampo is a magical object that has multiple references on many levels. It's perpetual grinding out of treasures and seductive desirability make it synonymous with sex. But it is also the starry firmament centered upon the Pole Star — the source and center of life in the sky. Also, the Sampo is the sacred visionary mushroom that connects the adventurer with the true inner spirit of the Earth Mother, leading one into the cosmic knowledge of sky, earth, and life. And the invaders want it. But alas, they do not know how to imbibe life and spiritual vision with their hearts, and so the Earth Goddess will refuse to let them have it. In fact, given that the victors appropriated Louhi and the ancient stories for themselves, Runo 42 reveals that they never did "get it." Nevertheless, I was guided to parse out the deeper story, Louhi's story, hidden "between the lines" of Runo 42, and the result was my poem "Louhi Gazes Deep."

On May 7, 1995 I awoke from a restless sleep and in the early morning hours began writing in my notebook (see original pages below). Three minutes later Louhi Gazes Deep was on paper. I came back to it a few days later and made some minor changes and added a few verses, and it was done. I consider it to have been inspired by the Muse. I sent it to Eino Friberg (translator of the Kalevala), who I had been speaking with intermittently on the phone. I thought of it as a present for his 94th birthday on May 10th. However, he passed away on May 27th and I couldn't be sure if it had been read to him. — John Major Jenkins.

Original Louhi poem from notebook:

Copyright. John Major Jenkins. May 7-10, 1995. All Rights Reserved.