Contents of 'Tree People' by chapter
1. The World Tree myth -- In the midst of Paradise He planted the Tree of Life
The legend of the World Tree is a myth that occurs in many different versions in various cultures. It describes a time long ago when gods and humans lived together, and the breaking of this link.

2. The sacred grove -- Neither gold nor marble; merely trembling trees under a naked sky
Sacred groves -- 'hiisis' -- were the communal cult sites of local communities. On the orders of the Church, they were destroyed during the 13th-19th centuries. The word 'hiisi' later came to mean 'devil', 'hell'. Place names beginning with the element 'hiisi' often point to old cultic sites.

3. The forest is a boundary
The Finnish word 'metsä' -- forest -- originally meant a place far away: an edge or boundary. It was the shimmering, dark rim of the forest beyond the familiar domestic sphere, a strange realm extending endlessly in all directions, with its own laws and its forces that did not bend to the human will. Crossing the boundary was an event that required preparatory rituals. The various kinds of spirits were instruments of communication between humans and the forest.

4. The bear, the sky and the pine
In the myths of the Finns and related peoples, the bear is the king of the forest and the ancestral father. A slain bear had to be helped back to its celestial home by putting the skull in a pine tree dedicated to the bear. Place names with an initial element such as 'Otso-', 'Ohen-', 'Kouko-' or 'Karhu-' point to the sites of bear rituals.

5. The karsikko
The making of a 'karsikko' -- the carving of a cross on a tree -- was a method of ensuring that the departed did not return from the Beyond. The tradition dates from the Christian era and is still practised in a few places.

6. Good-luck tree, custom tree, sacred tree, yard-tree
In the yard of almost every house there used to be a sacrificial tree. It formed a link with past generations, and the family's destiny was also intertwined with it. The Church's orders to destroy sacred groves also extended to sacred yard-trees; but despite this, offerings were still made to trees in this century, and some of these trees are still standing in Finland -- and especially in Estonia.

7. My soul is the thick forest
Finnish prose and poetry stresses the value of unspoiled forests as a reservoir of spiritual energy. The forest reflects feelings of fear and security. It is seen as bringing out people's deepest, largely unconscious wishes. Intensive forestry has diminished the forest's protective characteristics. It has been blamed for the destruction of a lost paradise.

Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo


A description of Finnish myths associated with trees and forests.

'Tree People' provides a comprehensive picture of the traditional beliefs of our ancestors concerning trees and forests and of the remnants of this tradition that Finns still carry within them. 'Tree People' describes what trees can offer people besides game animals and utility articles or raw material for industry.

Photographs, text, editing and layout

Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo

The book also includes Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen's

series of photographs entitled  ”Wings and Roots'.

English translation

Roderick Fletcher

Traditional poems translated by

Keith Bosley

Original Finnish edition

"Puiden kansa" 1997 / 1998 / 2006 / 2014

192 pages and more than 300 photos

Published by

Hiilinielu tuotanto and Miellotar

Printed by

Bookwell, Porvoo, Finnland, 2014

Isbn 978-952-99113-6-3

Suomi (Finland) Prize, Finish state award for artists 1997

The most beautiful books- Award 1997

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edition 2014 35 € (ABROAD + POSTAGE)