HAAVIO, MARTTI (1899–1973) was a Finnish poet, folklorist, and scholar of comparative mythology and phenomenology of religion whose multifaceted career and comprehensive scholarship stemmed from a deep knowledge of Finnish history. After a childhood spent in Lutheran vicarages in Ostrobothnia, Tavastia, and southwestern Finland, which gave him a taste of the diversity of Finnish folklife, he became one of its leading scholars, analyzing Finnish language, literature, folklore, religion, and culture. As a poet who published under the pseudonym P. Mustapää, Haavio also introduced modernism into Finnish poetry while emphasizing its roots in the past.
Haavio began his scholarly work as a student of Kaarle Krohn, who was the University of Helsinki's first professor of Finnish and comparative folklore, in 1908. Haavio's doctoral dissertation Kettenmärchenstudien was based on the principles set forth in Krohn's Der finnische Arbeitsmethode (The Finnish work method). The dissertation was published in Folklore Fellows Communications (FFC) in 1929, a long-standing folklore series that was later edited by Haavio himself.
In the 1930s field experience and work as director of the Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society made Haavio an expert on various folklore genres, both prose narrative and oral poetry as well as folk beliefs. The genre of Karelian saints legends was introduced as a result of his fieldwork with Nastja Rantsi, a narrator and singer of saints' legends in Onega. Haavio's archive-oriented research produced numerous titles, including Suomalaisen muinaisrunouden maailma (The world of Finnish old poetry, 1935); Suomalaiset kodinhaltiat (Finnish guardian spirits, 1942), a geographical and psychological study of Finnish folk belief; and Viimeiset runonlaulajat (The last rune singers, 1943).
Haavio's rich scholarly output deserves a more thorough presentation than this brief article can undertake. Unfortunately the bulk of his work remains untranslated, despite its many valuable insights into the study of comparative religions. The few samples translated include Väinämöinen, Eternal Sage (FFC 144, 1952), a study on the roles of the main hero of the Kalevala (the Finnish national epic) as Orpheus, creator god, and shaman and the oral tradition behind them; Essais folkloriques (Studia Fennica 8, 1959), a comparison of Finnish sacred vocabulary with Homer, the Edda, and other mythological traditions; Heilige Haine in Ingermanland (FFC 189, 1963), which compares regional phenomenology of religion on Ingrian sacred groves to Greek temenos and Egyptian Osiris.
Haavio's contributions to the disciplines of comparative religion, mythology, and phenomenology of religion in particular could be better appreciated if more of his research were translated. His ability to analyze and write is comparable to that of the well-known religious historian Mircea Eliade. What unites these two scholars is their shared ability to build an intuitive bridge from a single mythical symbol or sacred space to universal spheres of meaning and comprehension.
In his fieldwork Haavio was a master of qualitative methods. He rejected the quantification typical of Krohn and the Finnish Folklore School as well as the sociological approach that emerged after Word War II. His emphasis on field observations as purely individual experiences that could not be replicated by any other observer stem from his training in Finnish ethnography but are also related to his perspective as a mainstream scholar and poet.
Haavio's first memoir Nuoruusvuodet (Years of youth) is a chronicle of the years 1906 to 1924, but it was not published until 1972. After his death in 1973, his notes and correspondence were compiled by his wife, Aale Tynni, an Ingrian-born poet, and his daughter Katariina Eskola completed their publication through 2003 as a series of books of his correspondence with Autius lehtipuissa, a unique narrative history of Finland, filtered through the life and times of a multitalented man.
Haavio, Martti. Über orientalische Legenden und Mythen un Grenz-Karelien und Aunus. Studia Fennica 2. Helsinki, 1936.
Haavio, Martti. Die Vögel des Schöpfers und andere kerelische Legenden. Aus dem Finnischen übertragen von Barbara Frankfurth. Berlin, 1967.
Haavio, Martti. Der Oberste Gott der skandinavischen Lappen. Temenos 5. Turku, Finland, 1969.
Haavio, Martti. Mitologia finska. Warsaw, 1979.
Honko, Lauri. Martti Haavio 1899–1973. Temenos 9. Helsinki, 1973.
Pentikäinen, Juha. "Auf der Suche nach universellen Strukturen: Eine erneute Untersuchung von Eliades 'ewiger Wiedeerkehr' anhand finnischer Volksquellen." In Die Sehnsucht nach der Ursprung zu Mircea Eliade, edited by Hans Peter Duer. Frankfurt am Main, 1983.
Juha PentikÄinen (2005)