Thursday, June 15, 2006

The mystical labyrinths "Jatulintarhat"

The Mystical ”Jatulintarhat” Jatulisgardens, stone labyrinths in Finland

Stone labyrinths could be found from all over the ”old” world: Germany, Iceland, England, Sweden, Russia, all around middle east and India.

In Finland, one could found more than 140 labyrinths, mostly around the coast line; inlands only dozen could be found. Most significant area where the labyrinths can be found is in the north end of Baltic sea (botniska havet), Hailuoto, Ii, Haukipudas, Pyhäjoki, Keminmaa, Haaparanda and Tervola. This area has more than 20 labyrinths in really small area, probably the most labyrinth stoned area in the whole world. ;)

It has been claimed that the age of labyrinths in Finland varies, first dating back to the bronze age, and the newest at 1800 AD.

The usage of the labyrinths is not clear due that there hasn’t been any artifact findings when being examinated, therefore, the knowledge of the usage is coming from folklore or tales, according them they must been a place for rituals, sacrifices or fertility, hunting and fishing luck related. Labyrinths have many names in Finland; Jatulintarha, Jungfrudans, Jerusalem, Trojaborg, Rundborg, Ninive, Laiska Jaakon rinki, Pietarin lenkki.

There is a myth about a tribe called “Jatulit”, also known as giants, which have been living up north (ultimate thule) even before the Lapps came there. The only historical identification of this “original” tribe can be found in place names; Jatuni, Jatuninselkä, and two Jatuli statues and of course several Jatulintarhoja (Jatulsgardens = labyrinths). In Scandinavian languages they are know also – iatul, iatun, jättul, jättur, jotunn and jötunn – in same context.

The legends tell that Jatuls were skilled with a witchcraft and sorcery, they were widely respected and surrounding tribes were scared of them. Mr. Fellman, a priest from Lappland, (1830’s he publish an article in Helsingfors tidnings) tried to find out what happened to Jatuls and where they went by interviewing the people, they whispered that they went to ”Hiiteen” (eng. devil/hell/devils’cave) which also means: go to Helsinki / go to Hell. In old times Hiisi / Helsinki were meaning a dangerous neighbour, a scary foreigners and a place were they lived. When Fellman was collecting information about Jatuls in north, it was common to say that they went to Helsinki “mene helsinkiin” meaning that they went to hell “painuivat hiiteen”. The origin of this expression might be “Helsinkien” tribe which was dwelling there, after them there is few place names; Helsingeby, Helsingintörmä and Helsinginkoski. Professor Jouko Vahtola says that the Helsinki word comes from old Scandinavian word; Hals, “kaula, kurkku”, “throut. eng.”, which refers the straits in Ostrobotnian sea (Baltic sea), between Vasa and Umeå (Sweden).

Sources: Tapani Niemi; Merkilliset jatulintarhat (30.11.1999), Tiede-lehti (science magazine), 6/2000

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