Before You Call on Ukko…

When you read the Kalevala (the Finnish national epic), one of the first things you notice is that whenever a character is in trouble, he or she will call on Ukko, the sky god. The second thing you notice is that Ukko almost always obliges—whether it be with well-placed lightning bolts, gentle spring rains, or torrential downpours that wipe out everything within a fifty-mile radius.

Ukko's generosity and good nature make him a popular choice for supplication. Unfortunately, answering all those calls has left him with no time to keep track of his usual obligations. In many instances, the caller doesn't really need a rainstorm or thunderbolt—only some good advice. With this in mind, he has prepared the following list of frequently asked questions. Please read them before you call upon him.

Kalevala image, courtesy the Republic of Karelia

Q: I'm getting married soon, and I'm really worried about going to live in a strange household. I've heard awful things about how a daughter-in-law is treated. I grew up as a flower in the lanes, as a berry in my mother's lands; there was never anything to worry about, never anything to ponder over. My father calls me "Moonlight," my mother calls me "Sunbeam," my brother calls me "Gleam of Water," and my sister calls me "Blue Broadcloth." I'm afraid that my father-in-law will call me "Fir-Sprig Doormat," my mother-in-law "Clumsy Lappish Reindeer Sled," my brother-in-law "Threshold of the Outer Stairs," and my sister-in-law "Worst of Women." I don't want to be a perpetual slave, overworked and abused. Am I making a big mistake in getting married? If so, would you mind sending a flood to drown me?

A: Let a horse worry, a black gelding grieve; let a horse with a bit have sorrows, a horse with a big head lament! There is nothing to weep about, nothing to grieve about. Your bridegroom's house is a good place for a young bride, a fine place for a daughter-in-law to grow up; with a wooden mug of clotted cream in your hand, a dish of butter in your possession. There the master is like your father, the mistress like your mother; the sons are like your brothers, the daughters like your sisters.

Here's a word of warning, though: when your husband gets a new slave, don't bake a rock into his bread. I don't care how funny you think it is—just don't do it. Slaves have no sense of humor.

Q: My daughter is about to get married, and I have to brew a lot of beer for the wedding reception. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about the origin and preparation of table beer, and I have a lot of other things to do to get ready. Could you possibly send me a rain of beer?

A: You can make your own—it's easy!

The origin of beer is barley, of the superior drink the hop plant; it is not produced without water, or a good hot fire. A maiden took six grains of barley, seven hop pods, eight dippers of water; then she put a pot on the fire, put the liquor to a boil. She got the beer boiled, she could not get it fermented. She pondered, reflected, uttered a word, spoke thus: "What should one look for as a barm for the beer, as a leaven for the table beer?"

She saw a yellow mustard plant on the ground, she picked it up off the ground. The young girl rubbed it with her two palms, with both hands, with both her thighs: a bee was produced from it. In this way she counseled her bird, instructed her bee: "Bee, smooth-flying bird, king of the blossoms of the meadow! Fly to where I order you, to an island in the open sea. There a maiden has gone to sleep; at her side is honeyed hay, honeyed grass at the hem of her skirt. Bring some honey on your wing, carry some honey in your mantle, from the bright-colored tip of a grass stalk, from the cup of a lovely bloom."

The bee, smooth-flying bird, flew until it got there. It wet its wing in the honey, its plumage in the liquid honey. It carried it to the young girl's hand, to the lovely virgin's fingertips. The Osmo descendent stuck it in her beer, the young girl into her table beer. Then the young beer began to ferment, then the young drink rose up. It foamed up to the top of the kegs, it bubbled up to the brims; it sought to run down to the ground, to go down to the floor.

Before anyone could taste the beer, though, that good-for-nothing Lemminkainen showed up and drank it all. In order to make sure he doesn't drink all of your beer (and have sex with all of your daughters), I suggest you build a huge wall of poisonous reptiles around your house. That might slow him down.

Anyway, there are a lot of other things you can put in beer to give it a unique flavor. Spices, fruit juice, vodka…be creative!

Q: Those people over at North Farm married off one of their daughters yesterday, and they invited everybody but me! I went over there as soon as I heard, but they wouldn't give me any food, just some nasty beer. I looked in the mug, and there was a grub in the bottom of it! Snakes were in the middle; on the edges reptiles were creeping, lizards slithering about. Should I be polite and drink it, or give in to my baser impulses and kill that asshole Mr. North?

A: "Oh, you miserable beer! Now you have already become pointless!" First, take a fish hook from your wallet, a barb from your pouch. Thrust it into the mug, begin to angle in the beer. Catch reptiles fast on your hook, angry adders on your barb; bring up a hundred frogs, a thousand black reptiles, and cast them on the floor. Cut off the reptiles' heads, break the snakes' necks, and drink your beer. Then you can kill Mr. North.

Q: My wife was just torn apart by wolves and bears disguised as cattle (it's a long story). I'm real sad and lonely, but it's just too hard to find another wife. I'm thinking of making one out of gold and silver. Is this a good idea?

A: No, you pathetic pervert, it is not. No matter how pretty it is, a gold image won't speak to you with its mouth, or look meltingly at you with its eyes. If you sleep with it, the side of you that's next to the blankets will be warm, but the side of you next to the metal girl will be chilled through, frozen like sea ice. And don't go back to North Farm for another wife, either. They saw what happened to the first one.

Q: Umm, so, I made a new wife out of gold but it didn't work out, so I tried to give her to my friend Vainamoinen, but he said, "Ewww, why would I want that?" so I went back to North Farm to get a new bride, but that old bitch Louhi wouldn't give me any more of her daughters, so I grabbed one and brought her back with me in my sleigh, but all she did was whine and complain so I got really mad and I was about to kill her, but my stupid sword said, "You know, I don't think I was made to kill miserable kidnapped girls," so I turned her into a sea gull instead, and now I'm back where I started!

A: Look, I tried to tell you...

Q: ...and those North farm people are living high off the hog because of that awesome Sampo I made to pay for my first wife! It makes money and food and small appliances out of nothing! It's not fair that they still have the Sampo but I don't have a wife! I think I'll get my friends together and go take it right back!

A: No! Wait! Come back here...damn. Well, don't call me when Louhi comes after you in a giant magical bird made of weapons and broken ship parts.

Q: Umm, Ukko? I'm out on the ocean, and there's this weird black flappy thing on the horizon, and…

A: Beep! You have reached the offices of Ukko, god of the sky. I'm not here to take your call right now, but please leave your name and…

RedFeather, by

Although Ksiusia was widely denounced as paranoid, shortsighted, and dorky on her first trip back to the planet of her birth, she takes great pleasure in pointing out the shortcomings of the planet where she grew up. Because of this, not many people notice her equally profound appreciation for its many natural resources, not the least of which are the fiery patchwork of the Berkshire hills in autumn, feminist utopian novels, Tuvan punk music, and big round asses.

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