Väinämöinen – The Emperor (English version)


Keywords: the emperor, old wise man, sage, authority, elder, pioneer, inventor, initiator, will to act, fatherhood, taking control of life, inner willpower, ambition, responsibility.

Väinämöinen is one of the most important characters in Finnish mythology. He was a sage and a healer, who was an old, skilful man from the moment of his birth. In a tale of his birth, it is said that he was born at night, he went to the smithy at day and forged himself a stallion made of iron and a saddle made of horns. Then he mounted his steed, galloped to the sea and the horses hoofs didn’t get wet, for he was riding above the waters. Väinämöinen was so ancient, that he was almost as old as the world. The essential elements of the world already existed when he was born, but he had an active role in the creation of human culture. Väinämöinen had plenty of inner strength and an iron will, which aided him to succeed in almost anything he set his mind to. He travelled to Tuonela and raised Antero Vipunen, the ancient sage from the dead, and could, for example, also turn into a pike and a snake when crossing the river of Pohjola and escaping from Tuonela.

Originally Väinämöinen was a god of water, and the word “väinä” means a wide, calmly streaming river. In the stories he often travels by boat. Aino, whom he wanted for his bride, became a maid of Vellamo after going down to the kingdom under the waves, from where the old sage later tried to fish her up again. Väinämöinen turned to water folk for help concerning the felling of the great oak, and when the firespark fell in to Alue, the lake of fire. A small, black, supernaturally strong man rises from the water on his behest; he sings Joukahainen, his rival, into a swamp, and when the young man later retaliates, Väinämöinen was cast into water, and left to be carried by the waves for a long time. When his time came, Väinämöinen set out to sea and sailed into the maw of Kurimus, where the route to the Underworld was.

By his nature Väinämöinen is steady and strong-willed. He was adamant in his decisions, and his level-headedness and calmness made him an excellent leader. He also often advised Ilmarinen and Lemminkäinen. He strived to do his best when faced with challenges. In difficult situations he took control with his wisdoms aid. Väinämöinen’s enchanting skill with the kantele made the whole of creation, even the sun and the moon, to stop to listen to him play. He was the keeper of traditions and poem-singing, who always wanted to find the truth in all things, and wouldn’t accept something to be left half-done. Despite being a mighty sage he didn’t boast with his skills, but used them only when needed. He also wasn’t excessively proud, but able to admit defeat. Despite all this he didn’t have luck with women. Young maids didn’t care for the old greybeard, although their mothers would’ve gladly taken him as their son-in-law.

Conclusion: This card corresponds to the Emperor of the classical Tarot deck. You have strength and wisdom that help you overcome any obstacle. The card refers to highly perceptive and functional judgment, and to good qualities of a leader. True leadership doesn’t come from domination, but from supporting others in utilizing their strengths. Authority and the control of situations is always followed by great responsibility. Aim to act wisely, with consideration and by trusting in your life-experience. Remain calm and find out everything about the things affecting your situation. Make independent decisions, and don’t submit to the whims of others.


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