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(about karelian women by karelian woman)


About women in Karelia,
Karelian beliefs, Karelian tips for pregnant women,
Karelian tradition & customs,
Karelian brides & wives.


Karelian women

MILENA: the author of article "Karelian women". Her profile >>

The Karelian spirit and Karelian women are united in their beauty, graciousness, northern reserve and self discipline.

“The measure of a nation's morality is dependent upon the respect that is given to its women.” This phrase, stated by German philosopher V. Humboldt, clearly defined the fundamental criteria for any civilised society. The tradition of being respectful towards women and honouring their authority within the family has deep historical roots. These qualities are referred to in the Kalevali runes (Karelian-Finnish national poetry). Even at the time that they were written, the woman's situation was shown in a better light than in developing Europe.

Thousands of years of Karelian wisdom has taught people to hold women in high regard and to value their maternal qualities. It is instilled in Karelian women to be attractive and to have excellent personal qualities. On witnessing the inhabitants of the northern region dressed in their splendid traditional costume, foreign guests have unanimously confirmed that such respect towards women cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Karelian qualities are almost poetic; like a fairytale. In Karelia there is a wonderful sense of kindness, refinement and a trusting attitude amongst the people. There is also a respectful, soft attitude towards women, a rejection of violence and a strong emphasis on marrying for love and having freedom of choice.

In traditional Karelian society family values were very important. It was believed that it should be a mutual decision to get married and, unlike the Russian tradition, it was very rare for couples to have a compulsory marriage. Men and women valued their parent's opinion and advice when the choosing a spouse. The reputation of the family and clan of the bride-to-be was also important. Everyone recognises the importance of a marriage union, and it has always been rare for people to marry at a young age.

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According to the statistics taken from 11 censuses in southern Karelia, from 1897 to 1905 the average age of marriage for girls was 22 years. For men it was 25 years. The censuses taken from the northern Karelian towns of Rebol'ski and Panozerkii showed that marrying at a young age was an exception, even until the middle of the 19 th century. Two out of three men and almost a half of the women got married at the age of 30 or above. Married women in northern Karelia were independent within the family and were always consulted by their husbands on all important affairs. Husbands would often let their wives control their expenses.

Rifts between couples and violence directed towards women were a rare occurrence in Karelia. A great deal of respect was shown to the elders in the family as they were considered to have great wisdom, worthiness and strict morals.

One of the most important factors in achieving family stability was to lead a sober life. The disciplined attitude that Karelians show towards drunkenness is explained by the following: women consider it to be vulgar, and this in itself forces the men to be sober.

Karelian traditions and customs are very interesting, as are their beliefs, which displayed elements of their ethnic past. Karelians were concerned about the physical and mental wellbeing of their children well before they are born.

This was evident in the fulfilment of the following rules which are based on national beliefs: in order that their future generations are healthy the bride and groom must first drink milk after the wedding so that their children will have pure white faces. They must then drink fruit juice to ensure that their offspring are rosy-cheeked.

Older people in Karelia tended to follow the moon cycles. When there is a new moon (when it is not visible) you ought not to conceive a child for this will produce unintelligent children or “simpletons”. If a child is conceived during the time of the waning moon, they will be born with illnesses and will not live to a great age. When there is a full moon it is the most fruitful time. Children conceived in this period will be healthy, highly intellectual and live a long life.

These Karelian rituals may seem a little odd but the demands which every woman should strictly adhere to for the wellbeing of her child were established by the Finnish researcher Samuel Paulakhariu in his writings:

“Never carry a sieve in your hands; your child will have bad eyes.

Never sit on a doorstep; your child will never be independent.

Never sit on burnt wood; your child will have a black face.

Never sit on a pillar when you are in the street or walk over a shaft in the ground; the child will be deformed.

Never dry your face with a towel after the bania (steambath/sauna) to ensure that your baby will be rosy cheeked.

Never walk around with a sieve or fabric; the baby will have stunted growth.

Never look a hare in the face, for the baby will be ugly. The same will happen if you look in a mirror.

Never watch while an animal is spade or look into a fire; the child will develop epilepsy…

Never go in the woods when there is a chance of seeing a bear; if you are carrying a boy the bear will assault and kill you at once. Bears know who is carrying a boy as they will be his future enemy.

Pregnant women need to remember never to swear or argue for their child will be wicked. Never sing or the baby will cry.

Always wear clean clothes; the baby will always be clean.

One must also watch what they eat. If you eat fish heads, the baby will have headaches; if you eat boiled potatoes the baby will be ugly.

If you eat from a plate; the baby will have a big mouth.

If you eat food directly from a can; the baby will be a thief. If you eat salt; the baby will be greedy.

Never eat from a can in secret; the baby will be sly. Complex taboos, linked to bearing children and their upbringing, indirectly ensured physical and good characteristics of a person which, in rural society, was considered normal or, on the contrary, undesirable.


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Author of article "Karelian women ":
Russian-English Translation by: Lauren.


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Karelian women, culture and traditions in Karelia

Karelian spirit, Karelian women, Karelian traditions.