Honko, Lauri

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HONKO, LAURI (19322002) was a Finnish scholar of comparative religion and folklore and one of the most prominent scholars of cultural and religious studies in late-twentieth-century Finland and abroad. His prolific literary output reflects his status as professor of folklore and comparative religion at the University of Turku as well as stints with the Academy of Finland, UNESCO, Folklore Fellows Communications (FFC), and other national and international learned societies.

Honko began his career in the 1950s at the Finnish Literature Society as a student and assistant of Martti Haavio. Honko's doctoral dissertation discussed folk medicine and phenomenology of religion. His 1962 publication Geisterglaube in Ingermanland was a breakthrough that extended research on supernatural experiences into the perception and social psychology of religion on the basis of the folk beliefs he had thoroughly studied in peasant Ingrian society, using archival and field materials gathered from Ingrian refugees in Finland and Sweden.

Honko worked actively to legitimize the academic study of comparative religion in Finnish universities. He was a founder of the Finnish Society for Comparative Religion in 1963, and he launched its journal Temenos in 1965 as well as Uskontotieteen näkökulmia (Viewpoints on comparative religion) seven years later. He fought equally hard for the discipline of cultural anthropology, which entered Finnish university curricula with Kulttuuriantropologia, the 1970 textbook he wrote with Juha Pentikäinen.

Honko emphasized the importance of observation in empirical research. His early studies of Ingrian narrations and Karelian laments focused on function and genre analysis, oral poetry in relation to rites of passage, and perception psychology in folk belief. His 1967 fieldwork extended into the lappmarks (territorial divisions) of Lappland.

Honko also cofounded the Academy of Finland Sami Folklore Project, in which the Sami themselves worked to establish a folklore collection. He directed the Nordic Folklore Institute (NIF) from 1972 to 1990, producing volumes on such subjects as the ecological tradition. Honko's career culminated in the 1990s with annual visits to India, where he made audiovisual recordings of epic singers. The trips were detailed in his publications Intian päiväkirja, Textualising the Siri Epic, and The Siri Epic as Performed by Gopala Naika III.

Honko's main theoretical contributions were discussions on the phenomenology of religion and the religious traditions of both oral presentations and sacred texts. He wrote several books and encyclopedias on Finnish and Finno-Ugric religions and published numerous works on the Kalevala and other epics, tracing their histories from oral tradition to literary transcription. His last book, a study of Setu (south Estonian) epics, was published posthumously in 2003.


Holbek, Bengt, ed. On the Comparative Method in Folklore Research. Nordic Institute of Folklore (NIF) Papers 3. Turku, Finland, 1992.

Honko, Lauri. Krankheitsprojektile: Untersuchung über eine urtümliche Krankheitserklärung. Folklore Fellows Communications 178. Helsinki, 1959. This was originally his Ph.D. diss.

Honko, Lauri. Geisterglaube in Ingermanland. Folklore Fellows Communications 185. Helsinki, 1962.

Honko, Lauri. "On the Effectivity of Folk-Medicine." Suomen uskontotieteellisen seuran eripainoksia 1. Helsinki, 1963.

Honko, Lauri. "Memorates and the Study of Folk Beliefs." Suomen uskontotieteellisen seuran eripainoksia 3. Helsinki, 1964.

Honko, Lauri. "Finnische Mythologie." In Wörterbuch der Mythologie, vol. 1, edited by Hans Haussig. Stuttgart, 1965.

Honko, Lauri. "De finsk-ugriske folks religioner." In Illustretet Religionshistorie, vol. 1, Red. af Jes Peter Asmussen og Jørgen Læssøe. Copenhagen, 1968.

Honko, Lauri. "Genre Analysis in Folkloristics and Comparative Religion." Folkloristiikkaa ja uskontotiedettä 2. Turku, Finland, 1969.

Honko, Lauri. "Memorate und Volksglaubenforschung." Folkloristiikkaa ja uskontotiedettä 12. Turku, Finland, 1969.

Honko, Lauri. "Role-Taking of the Shaman." Folkloristiikkaa ja uskontotiedettä 9. Turku, Finland, 1969.

Honko, Lauri. "The Problem of Defining Myth." Studies on Religion 2. Helsinki, 1973.

Honko, Lauri. "A Kalevala és a mitoszok." Folklór, folklorisztika, és etnológia 115. Budapest, 1985.

Honko, Lauri. The Great Bear. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran Toimituksia 533. Helsinki, 1993.

Honko, Lauri. Intian päiväkirja. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran toimituksia 629. Helsinki, 1995.

Honko, Lauri. Textualising the Siri Epic. Helsinki, 1998.

Honko, Lauri. Kalevala and the World's Epics. 1990 Studia Fennica Folkloristica 12. Helsinki, 2002.

Honko, Lauri, ed. Science of Religion: Studies in Methodology. Proceedings of the Study Conference of the International Association for the History of Religions. The Hague, 1979.

Honko, Lauri, with O. Löfgren. Tradition och miljö. Nordic Institute of Folklore (NIF) Publication 11. Lund, Sweden, 1981.

Honko, Lauri, and Pekka Laaksonen, eds. Trends in Nordic Tradition Research. Studia Fennica 27. Helsinki, 1983.

Honko, Lauri, Anneli Honko, and Paul Hagu. The Maiden's Death Song and the Great Wedding: Anna Vabarna's Oral Twin Epic Written down by A. O. Väisänen. Helsinki, 2003.

Honko Lauri, Chinnappa Gowda, Anneli Honko, et al. The Siri Epic as Performed by Gopala Naika III. Folklore Fellows Communications 265. Helsinki, 1998.

Hultkrantz, Åke. "Lauri Honko and Comparative Religion." Temenos 27. Nordic Institute of Folklore (NIF). Studia Fennica Folkloristica 1, Helsinki, 1992.

Pentikäinen, Juha, ed. Sami Folkloristics. Nordic Network of Folklore (NNF) vol. 6. Turku, Finland, 2000.

Juha PentikÄinen (2005)