of The Gift Economy
Many Voices discuss The Gift Economy
return to top
Pan Dora Revisited
From Patriarchal Woman-Blaming to a Feminist
The article revisits the myth of Pandora’s Box as the source of mankind’s scourges
and foregrounds Pan Dora as a pre-patriarchal All-Giver and Guardian of Giving
and Abundance. After addressing the gendered assumptions about “human nature”
underlying neo-liberal economic thought, I present an example of a Nordic/Finnish
Pandora variant with her gift–related aspects. I suggest that the naturalization of a
masculated worldview behind the “human norm” needs to be exposed. It is merely
one among many possible ways of ordering human life and understanding human
nature. In the alternative gift imaginary and logic, instead of homo economicus, the
norm may well have been femina donans, the giving human, Kave.
The goal of my engaged research consists in reclaiming gynocentric imaginaries
with their implicit ecological economics and sustainable worldview, one that also
honours women and nature. In this paper, I will revisit the Greco-Roman myth
of Pandora as a cross-cultural motif and its Finnish variant. This master narrative
of humanity’s creative origins consists in transforming women’s gift labour into
a woman-blaming narrative of male superiority. I introduce at the same time
the gift imaginary with its philosophical tenets based on giving back to nature
the goods it bestows on humans. Both patriarchal and gynocentric variants of
“Pan Dora” as All-Giver, the goddess of abundance and life-centered values can
be found across the world. My discussion of the fate of Pandora in Finnish, and
more broadly Nordic mythology, is an example of how we can draw on local,
situated mythologies to rediscover and make more visible the submerged and
symbolically non-masculated (Vaughan l997) ways of relating to and ordering
the surrounding world.
I call the dominant western paradigm and worldview to do with human
nature and values the master imaginary, which echoes aspects of the exchange
economy on which Genevieve Vaughan (1997) has elabourated and what eco-
feminist scholars have labelled as either the master identity (Plumwood l993)
or consciousness (Warren 2000: 48). The concept condenses the artificial and
arbitrary dichotomies that have allowed mostly white heterosexual elite men to
dominate nature, women, Indigenous populations, and people of colour as well
as men defying the hegemonic gender contracts. The master imaginary refers to
the totality of cultural customs, etiquettes, gendered divisions and processes of
labour, attitudes, behaviours, activities and gestures that lend legitimacy and inner
strength to patriarchy’s asymmetrical gender system. Among the central elements
of this logic are assumptions and projections of non-egalitarian and hierarchically
constructed difference (e.g. men vs. women, humans vs. animals, mind vs. matter
or spirit, rationality vs. emotionality). This includes a gendered segregation of
“male” and “female” realms of reason, influence, prestige, power or social activi-
ties and a relegation of the less prestigious “emotional” labour mostly to women.
This imaginary rests also on a perceptual pivot which privileges a worldview of
strict boundaries to ground ownership rights, competition and social hierarchies.
Establishing society’s moral boundaries via the female body is an effect of asym-
metrical power relations, not of a categorical logic within social structures.
Women can and do, at different locations of power and privilege also embrace
the master imaginary and its logic of mastery over the “other.” Many women
embrace themselves a system of boundaries projected on the (female) body, on
territory and society that marks and defines female corporeality in its “open and
vulnerable stage” (menses, pregnancy) as polluted and polluting (Douglas 1996
). However, it is necessary to distinguish between the internalization of
patriarchal societal values and conscious, informed consent to sex/gender systems
that subjugate women through a misleading politics of idealization/denigration of
the “feminine.” If one does not grow up knowing of alternatives to a patriarchal
social order, one cannot really claim that women willingly embrace asymmetrically
constructed social systems.
Although the master imaginary in its current, markedly economistic form can
be embraced by whites, non-whites, men and women, its roots are in the asym-
metrical sex/gender systems of patriarchies and thus it contains gendered and
gendering as well as class-related processes. David Korten (1996) has provided a
succinct and useful summary of the current master imaginary, i.e. the neo-liberal
visioning of human nature and worldview.1 Competitive behavior is believed to
be more rational for the individual and the firm than cooperation; consequently,
societies should be built around the capital-hoarding, non-giving motive. Also,
human progress is to be measured by increases in the value of what the members
of society own and consume (Korten l996: 20). These ideological doctrines as-
sume according to Korten that:
People are by nature motivated primarily by greed, the drive to acquire is
the highest expression of what it means to be human, the relentless pursuit
of greed and acquisition leads to socially optimal outcomes, it is in the best
interest of human societies to encourage, honour, and reward the above
values (1996: 70-71).
These neo-liberal ideas, although a form of extreme capitalistic ethos, fit to
some extent what Vaughan (1997) labels as the patriarchal exchange economy
and the hegemonic belief system of today.2
The mythologies and patriarchal epics of the western world reflect the tenets
of the master imaginary, a gaze where women are defined in relation to men and
where war, conquest, hero-worship take priority over narratives of life-sustaining
events, collaboration and peaceful co-existence. Mythologies are powerful means
of mind colonization, and stressing humanity’s capacity for good is itself a revolu-
tionary and mind-altering process. Many scholars studying archaic societies ignore
the gender-molding cultural processes and refer simply and in a gender-neutral
way to a society’s social order. Few comment on how the various social contracts
are established and consolidated through explicitly patriarchal mechanisms and
values where women’s views are not as a rule solicited. The socialization through
patriarchal myths and grand narratives explains in part why women more than men
have internal glass ceilings and self-limiting attitudes regarding power, leadership,
authority and other attributes associated positively with men.
The gift imaginary contrasts with the masculated ethos in terms of its goals
and values; it is a worldview, an alternative imaginary and ideology that one can
perceive dominating pre- and non-patriarchal societies. Although it is important
to heed historic and culture-specific variations, generally speaking in such com-
munities economic life is built on balanced human and environmental relations, a
recognition of our interconnections and interdependencies and a forward-looking
use of resources to ensure future cycles of abundance, fertility, and rebirth of all
species. Its logic consists in the rationality of care and responsibility to ensure
collective survival and well-being (eco-social sustainability). Giving and sharing
the Commons is at the root of this worldview and the norm of the human is best
embodied by the care-circulating individual whose logic of action and ethics is like
that of the ideal mother, not a distant, absent and judgmental father (see Ochs
1977). Today westerners in particular need to become aware of the white mythology
and worldview that has been naturalized as the universal and desirable one. This
is one precondition for the kind of ethnosensitivity required for us in the West
to become open to alternative, more eco-socially reliable styles of knowing and
living (Meyer and Ramirez 1996). The gift and give back economies of by-gone
eras appear not to have been as dualistic and based on strict hierarchies of being,
knowing and wielding power. Modern westerners have been so conditioned by
the dichotomous worldview, however, that it takes a special effort for many of
them, as well, to re-imagine the more integrated, holistic model of cognition,
perception, and beingknowing. The gift imaginary, rooted in the ethos of group
cohesion, circulation of a community’s resources is not pure utopia (although
we also need utopian visions to help chart us towards a more justice-oriented
world). Heide Goettner-Abendroth (1987, 1995, 2004) has found evidence of
such societies even in the contemporary world3 and provides much evidence of
matriarchal societies having combined sustainable green economics and a world-
view of balanced/complementary gender relations beyond the hierarchical and
asymmetrical dualisms of western sex/gender systems. In these societies the social
imaginary is not rooted in the idea that self-interest and fierce competition are
natural or desirable; in contrast, their social rituals serve to guarantee collective
survival and not to ground private accumulation.
The myth of Pandora’s box epitomizes patriarchy’s historical appropriation and
reversal of the gift-circulating and woman-friendly mythologies and economies.
By re-owning this myth in the North and elsewhere, we can trace our steps back
towards the more sustainable view of the human and of communal life that we
sorely need today’s world of global warming and the green house effects.
On Pandora and Spirit Guardians of the Gift
The myth of Pandora’s box is an appropriate “case” for making visible the attributes
and values to do with women, gift giving and nature that have been overwritten
to make way for the master imaginary and politics. Although our knowledge of
pre-patriarchal times is uncertain, there is sufficient scientific data to allow us
to speculate that a gift circulating and more gynocentric socio-cosmic order has
existed. If matriarchy refers to “mothers at the beginning,” and not “maternal
domination” as Goettner-Abendroth argues (see her article in this volume), the
Pandora myth refers precisely to the world’s first woman and beyond the story’s
patriarchal rewriting to social systems where the primal mothers were honoured
as gift providers. There are innumerable versions of the story particularly in Greek
and Roman mythology.4 I will introduce first some patriarchal versions of the myth
before elabourating on their feminist reinterpretations. According to Encyclopædia
Britannica, “Pandora” refers to “All-Giving” and the first woman:
After Prometheus, a fire god and divine trickster had stolen fire from heaven
and bestowed it upon mortals, Zeus, the king of the gods, determined to
counteract this blessing. He accordingly commissioned Hephaestus (a god of
fire and patron of craftsmen) to fashion a woman out of earth, upon whom
the gods bestowed their choicest gifts. She had or found a jar—the so-called
Pandora’s box—containing all manner of misery and evil. Zeus sent her to
Epimetheus, who forgot the warning of his brother Prometheus and made
her [my emphasis] his wife. Pandora afterward opened the jar, from which
the evils flew out over the earth. According to another version, hope alone
remained inside, the lid having been shut down before she could escape. In
a later story the jar contained not evils but blessings, which would have been
preserved for the human race had they not been lost through the opening of
the jar out of curiosity by man himself. (Encyclopædia Britannica 2002).
In another, more recent encyclopedia version we read:
... in Greek mythology, first woman on earth. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to
create her as vengeance upon man and his benefactor, Prometheus. The gods
endowed her with every charm, together with curiosity and deceit. Zeus sent
her as a wife to Epimetheus, Prometheus’ simple brother, and gave her a box
that he forbade her to open. Despite Prometheus’ warnings, Epimetheus allowed
her to open the box.... (The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia 2005)
One finds the earliest extant (patriarchal) Greek text of Pandora in 700 BC
in Hesiod’s Works and days with the classic image of Pandora and the box; the
latter however is really a “jar,” and the story does not specify exactly what was in
the box Pandora opened. The idea of humans as giving beings (femina donans)
epitomized in the giving, creative and procreative mother, the first woman, is
far removed from the above variants of Pandora. As in today’s archi-capitalist
ethos of marketization, commodification and structural violence, men and male
gods wage war between each other with women merely as trophies, objects,
beauty queens or screens on which to project the weakest links of dysfunctional
patriarchy itself. In the patriarchal versions of Pandora, a natural impulse—the
desire to understand one’s surroundings, one’s life, one’s gifts—is turned in the
case of the subaltern—women—to a sin, a transgression. This is no doubt an
attempt to keep the lid on women’s mental, psychological, spiritual and cultural
authority. Both Genesis and the myth of Pandora’s Box are among the primal
myths that serve to manipulate women to distrust their own impulses, instincts
and epistemic desires, and, at worst, to perceive the critical, probing, question-
ing mind as evil. Both types of narratives of course help keep women obedient,
flexible, and malleable—and humble enough to internalize the master imaginary
in its various historical manifestations. In patriarchal mythic narratives, blame
for the most unimaginable wrong-doings have been passed on to the female sex,
and this is one way of producing free-floating collective guilt as a precondition
for submissiveness. Of course, many women can negotiate their gender script
and disown parts or even all of it. Yet, the performative repetition of the pri-
mal story and woman’s role in it does lend dubious support to society’s other
woman-blaming mechanisms.5 The bringing of gifts to the first woman echoes
another story of divine creation, the birth of Jesus, to whom gifts were brought
from near and far. Could it be, then, that even this incidence is an appropriation
of the historically more remote gift-bestowing to the Goddess? It is particularly
dis-empowering for women to be told that Pandora as first woman was created
as a curse and as revenge for the theft of fire by Prometheus. This epitomizes the
patriarchal notion of woman as mere currency of exchange in relation to men and
male interests. On the other hand, Pandora was fashioned as a bewitching beauty
endowed with gifts from all the gods and goddesses. Pandora’s beauty, instead
of representing the inherent beauty of creation, nature and humanity becomes
a pawn of power in the struggle between men for dominance. Indeed, the rapes
of women during wars serve precisely the same function of projecting shame on
victims rather than the perpetrators of violence. It is a means of dishonouring
men and entire nations by depriving their women of honour (sexual “purity”).
Woman is honourable only as male property. Pandora’s box is a proto-narrative
of domination-submission and “power-over” relations beginning with Zeus’s
power over men and ending with men’s power over women’s nature, female
beauty, and the female body. The story and its many variants epitomize how the
ancient mystical vessel—the womb, female blood, and related myths have been
turned to their opposite. Philosophically, in Vaughan’s terms (1997), the story
epitomizes how the gift economy as a particular quality of other-orientation and
metalogic has been replaced by a more ego-oriented exchange economy, although
both imaginaries continue to co-exist in more or less visible and complex gen-
dered and culture-specific forms. In many variants cited by feminist scholars and
numerous research articles, Pandora’s mythic origins are foregrounded to reveal
the transformative politics of the master imaginary. Sandra Geyer Miller (1995)
for one refers to Anesidor as one of the Earth Goddess avatars that the writers of
master narratives have sought to replace. Jane Harrison (1975) sees in Hesiod’s
story evidence of a shift from matriarchy to patriarchy in Greek culture. As the
life-bringing goddess Pandora is eclipsed, the death-bringing human Pandora
arises (283-85). The above-cited patriarchal variants also hint at a historical and
narrative shift from a more peaceful to a more violent and militaristic male order,
whereby men are turned into each other’s enemies. Eros is replaced by logos, an
all-pervasive and positive sexuality transformed into a denigration of women,
corporeality, matter, earth, even physicality.
Non-Patriarchal Reinterpretations of Pandora as Pan-Dora
Patriarchal and feminist versions of Pandora differ significantly, and one way to
epitomize the transformation is to view them as expressions of the gift and exchange
or master economies and the worldview to which they belong. An important point
revealed by male and female scholars critical of the hegemonic version is that the
very notion of a “box” may have been nothing less than a mistranslation, if not
an intentional effort to rewrite mythic herstory. Evidence suggests that indeed,
Pandora herself was the “jar”—the creative/procreative womb, the holy vessel
or grail. In Ancient Greece jars commonly bore images of women’s uterus. The
mistranslation is usually attributed to the sixteenth-century Humanist Erasmus
of Rotterdam.6 Various feminist scholars claim that in an earlier set of myths,
Pandora was the Great Goddess, provider of the gifts that made life and culture
possible.7 The Greek and Judeo-Christian versions of both the Eve and Pandora
myths serve above all now to propagandize the message of early patriarchy about
the status of women at that time and Hesiod’s tale is seen as part of a propaganda
campaign to demote All-Giver from her previously revered status (Geyer Miller
1998). A very different definition is provided by Barbara Walker (1983) who
notes, regarding “Vase” that as:
Forerunner of the funerary urn in Old Europe [it] was the large earthenware
vase representing the Earth Mother’s womb—of rebirth. When cremation
was the chosen funerary rite, reducing the body to ashes, small vases were
created to contain these remains and still serve as womb symbols. The uterine
shape of the vase so often bore the connotation of rebirth, that even when
corpses were no longer stuffed into actual earthenware vases like the funerary
pithoi of early Greece, a vaselike shape persisted in various receptacles for
dead bodies. The sacrophagus seems to take the shape of the uterus in many
societies.... In pre-Hellenic Greece, a title of Mother Rhea as the Womb of Mat-
ter was Pandora, the All-Giver [my emphasis]. Her symbol was a great vase,
originally signifying the source of all things, like the great cauldron of the
Mother Goddess in northern Europe. Hesiod’s antifeminist fable converted
Rhea Pandora’s womb—vase into the source of all human ills and evils. Cen-
turies later Erasmus mistook pithos (vase) for pyxis (box) and mistranslated
Hesiod into the now-conventional story of Pandora’s Box. The vase retained
its uterine symbolism in alchemy, where the Womb of Matter was called vas
spirituale. A vase containing the Water of Life remains the symbol of the
Chinese Great Mother Goddess Kwan-Yin. (160-161)
Among other data, the reference to female imagery, rebirth, and procreation
allow us to speculate that Pan Dora as the gift-giving human, the human norm
refers back to matriarchal worldviews; of course, more research is also needed to
specify and identify the local itineraries and processes of transformation from a
more gynocentric8 to a more patriarchal social order. The stories and myths of the
first woman, the Sacred Feminine and primal gift givers have been overwritten
across the patriarchal world, in alignment with the values of patriarchy and the
master imaginary. The hope that this provides—like Pandora’s box itself—is that
behind these layers of the myth, we can re-discover, unearth and reintroduce the
more originary, woman-friendly versions. I will next elabourate on the Finnish
Kave and Louhi: From Panarctic Gift Givers to the Origin of all Evils
As there has been a conscious and non-conscious suppression of the gynocentric
dimensions and layers of Finnish culture, the female goddesses in their broad
spectrum are practically unknown in Finland. Many of them have simply been split
along the axis of good/evil, plus replaced and condensed into a monomyth—Virgin
Mary or her demonic counterpart. It is therefore empowering to make visible and
to re-circulate the gynocentric stories and images, representations and fragments
relating to archaic Finnish goddesses, haltias, female spirit beings and guardians.
This is important because they are the matrix of a different worldview and can
be seen to preside over the gift imaginary.
The Finnish Kalevala, the canonized epic of the Finnish Golden Past was
compiled and put together by Elias L–nnrot, a folklorist and country doctor,
in a patriarchal framework and according to nineteenth-century Christian and
nationalistic ideas and values. It does contain reflections of the archaic worldview
that stressed ecological balance and the philosophy of thanking nature for the gifts
it bestows. The give back- based worldview is reflected in numerous poems in the
Finnish Folk Poetry collections where the sauna, guardians of game and animal
life as well as the forest, among other beings and things, are greeted and thanked
as part of a cyclical world order based on bonds rather than an ethos of unilateral
mastery over nature. The bear ceremonials and other festivities (Honko 1993)9
were occasions for sharing rituals and for both establishing and transgressing
boundaries of the sacred as a way of reconfirming them (Anttonen 1992). Much
has been written about this ancient system of combining economics, religion and
socio-cosmic order. Less, however, has been written about the role of the realm
labelled as “feminine” or of the gift circulating ethos from a gynocentric point
of view. The goddess tradition allows us to foreground prepatriarchal representa-
tions of female power, not as “power over” but as creation-power. I look upon
the goddess guardian of Bear and game, Mielikki as one such non-patriarchal
manifestation of an imaginary beyond the split female psyche, the whore-madonna
dualism, for Mielikki as a benign haltia need not be pitted against a separate
negative goddess. Rather, she contains in herself her shadow aspect; Kuurikki as
do all mortal beings. She withholds game if she is not respected and the balance
of nature maintained. In the patriarchal order, however, the first woman, the
mysterious Kave linked also with Ilmatar, goddess of the Air, is clearly split from
the destructive feminine dimension, following the patriarchal imaginary. Good
and evil become absolute, rather than shifting dimensions of a single goddess
which of old reflected the waxing and waning moon or cycles of nature’s death
and rebirth. In Finnish mythic herstory, the transformation of Pan Dora, “the
all-giver” has been replaced in prominence by the “procreator of scourges,” Louhi.
The Finnish goddesses of nurturance, fertile nature, sexuality, and rebirth are often
linked with or embodied in a figure called Kave, which Irmeli Nieminen (1985)
defines more narrowly as just the typical epithet of female haltias or goddesses
(M”kinen 2004: 60). A study of the Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot (SKVR) (a
collection of ancient Finnish folklore and poetry) reveals that Kave is indeed the
attribute of a host of different goddess or haltia figures. However, she is above all
linked with haltias associated with healing, midwifery and the enhancement of
nature’s gifts of plenty. Most importantly, she is the mother of Luonnotars, the
daughters of Nature that echo the Roman Parcea, the Nordic Norns, the Sami
Uksakka, Sarakka, Juksakka. Finnish mythology commands closer attention in
light of comparative mythological studies that allow us to reveal affinities between
Finnish/Finno-Ugrian, Nordic and Greco-Roman mythologies. It is challenging
both for the renewal of our imaginaries and for scientific reasons to recreate the
archaic gynocentric worldview from the fragments and more complete folk ma-
terials that have failed to inspire even female scholars identified with mainstream
folklore methods and schools of thought. European and Euro-American scholars
consider Demeter, Hecate and Persephone to be the proto-types of the three
ages of women, personifying virginal youth, sexually mature middle-age and the
menopausal age of the Crone. These figures in the culture-specific constellations
are part of the continuum of the cyclical worldview and its system of time mea-
surement; the ages of women and of all growth cycles, the waxing and waning
of the moon. Kave has obvious affinities with the birth-giving and omni-creative
aspect of the primal Guardian/haltia just as Louhi is her death-wielding aspect is
comparable to many Greco-Roman and international mythic figures from Kali
to Hecate. Although myths take on local form, expression and color, the notions
of women’s puberty, pregnancy, reproduction, coming-of-age and “ripening” are
likely universal land-marks of women’s life. As an instance of cultural translation
of mythic material, the myth’s variant is located spatially in the most holy site of
Finnish traditional culture, the sauna.
In Finnish folk poetry, Kave, as the principle of nourishing nature and creativity
is linked with the material abundance of nature (Luonto). John Abercromby, in
his two-volume, Magic Songs of West Finns (1898), reveals the links between the
mysterious Kave—transformed into Virgin Mary in later periods—and Louhi,
both of whom are put forth as principles of life protection and creativity:
The recuperative power of nature would naturally occur to exorcists and
wizards when healing the sick, and in a more objective form would be ap-
pealed to for assistance. Old mother Kave (the woman), the daughter of
nature (luonto), the oldest of womankind, [my emphasis] the first mother of
individuals, is therefore invoked to come and see pains and remove them.
Almost in the same terms she is implored to help an exorcist. And under
the same title she is invited to allay the pains of child-birth because she
formerly freed the moon from imprisonment in a cell, and the sun from a rock.
[my emphasis] But the original idea is on the wane in a charm for relieving
pain, in which it is related that three Luonnotars sit where three roads meet
and gather pains into a speckled chest or a copper box, and feel annoyed if
pains are not brought to them. And the old idea of her functions is missing
where the woman (kave), the old wife Luonnotar, the darling and beautiful,
is asked to point out the path to a bridal procession. Or when she is invited
to bewitch sorcerers and crush witches; to weave a cloth of gold and silver,
and make a defensive shirt under which an exorcist can live safely with the
help of the good God. (Abercromby 1898: 307-8)
In this passage, Kave’s role is that of a midwife, helping women give birth through
imitative magic. She is referred to also as einesten em”, a dispenser of nature’s pro-
visions (Kalevala 38:82 and The Birth of the Snake 26:707).10 In the patriarchal
epic, this type of a variant of Kave is replaced with the one-sidedly negative goddess
variant, Louhi, now the mirror image of the midwife: no longer the giver or promoter
of the gift of life, she is turned into the symbol of spiritual darkness, greed, avarice,
denial of life.11 In Abercromby’s (1898) above description of the role of Kave, she is
referred to as freeing the moon from imprisonment in a cell, and the sun from a rock.
In the Kalevala the same motif is found in reverse: Louhi is depicted as imprisoning
instead of releasing the luminaries. The birth-giver and creator/releaser of new life
is transformed or split into a figure, Lemmink”inen’s mother, who can recreate life,
and the Pandora-like source of disease and chaos. The goddess with her temporally
and situationally changing aspects is thus split into the classic patriarchal dualism
of nameless, idealized mother and the whore so labelled because she transgresses the
acceptable female role. The copper box in which pains are gathered in the above
description, can also be related to Sampo, the Finns’ magic mill of prosperity and
endless riches (Kailo 1987). A multilevel, overdetermined and mysterious symbol, it
has been interpreted as a mythic mill of immaterial and material goods. However, in
connection with the Lapp matriarch, it is turned into a metaphoric source of greed
and treason. As patriarchy gets stronger, primal woman-blaming increases while the
role of female goddesses is replaced by the ascendancy of male gods (cf. Kemppinen
1960: 276-277).12 To foreground Louhi over Kave epitomizes the Finnish version of
Pandora’s role and fate from an All-Provider to the Christian projection of All-Evil.
The Finnish Goddess/haltia galaxy in its gynocentric form consists of numer-
ous shape-shifting complex characters and spirit guardians with overlapping and
context-specific symbolic functions associated with Life and Creation. They in-
clude Ilmatar, Rauni, Akka, Maaemo and Suonetar, to name the most common
ones.13, 14 The Finnish concept of luonto or nature is also their essential quality
and has very different associations from the kind of human nature to which Freud,
among others, ascribes aggressive and ego-oriented drives. In her form as Kave,
the goddess is her own excuse for being, the graceful materiality and ground of
existence, beyond the priority to trade and exchange, or horde and monopolize
spiritual power as a way of ensuring mastery over the other. Kave is a complex, yet
clearly beneficial energy force of nature in its procreative, fertile and autonomous
manifestation. Like all goddesses, she is part of a circle or web of interconnec-
tions, not comparable to the solitary hero or autonomous hero-god of patriarchal
lore. Kave condenses associations to do with mother, matter, nourishment, food
and is related to the Golden Woman, a mysterious archaic being in Finnish and
Finno-Ugric oral tradition, referring to honey and the magic meady (“golden”)
substance giving and maintaining life.15 She is a condensed Akka/Maderakka (the
latter being the Sami variant), with Louhi as her patriarchal version—Hag of the
North, Mistress of the North Farm.16
I foreground Kave as an appropriate role model and embodiment of the worldview
honouring nature, women and the Gift or Give back imaginary. This attribute of
the feminine divine allows us to retrace the historic steps back towards the more
“originary”17 meaning of Pandora or the Finnish version of the All-Giver in a
worldview based on abundance rather than scarcity and the creation of false needs
serving the master imaginary. Since traditional Finnish folk poetry has been above
all functional and performative—it was meant to be performed and hence was
communal rather than textual—it is misleading to posit anything like a Finnish
pantheon of gods and goddesses separate from such a performative function.18
However, just as patriarchy has created its own would-be-national pantheon of
significant male gods, the representations of a gynocentric imaginary can be rein-
troduced into the collective consciousness. The fact that it is impossible to posit
and prove a matriarchal or matristic imaginary beyond the constant give-and-take
of cross-cultural influences does not prevent such a goal. It has not prevented the
male elite of the nineteenth century from creating an imaginary male order to
reinforce male domination in cultural and political matters. If such an epic was
used to help Finland achieve its independence, why not use folk poetry also to
ensure women’s independency from the master imaginary?
In nineteenth-century folklore there are numerous descriptions of the sauna as
a sacred site becoming a demonic place in the presence of Louhi—the midwife
and “post-menopausal” crone associated with disease and pollution. Louhi as the
Finnish Pandora variant is represented as giving birth to various child-monsters
and ailments, and transgressing the holiest of societal rules by naming the offspring
herself—without the sanctifying intervention of Christian priests or pastors. Both
in folk poetry and the Finnish Kalevala, Louhi is described in numerous variants
as a harlot or demon, giving birth to a variety of illnesses and evils. Instead of
Kave embodying the life and reproductive force, however, the folk poetry is full of
references to the FinnishVirgin Mary, Marjatta, helping a male god cure ailments in
the sauna.20 Sauna itself can be seen as a kind of primal pithos or originary womb
of rebirth. The sauna is also where Marjatta gives birth to a child echoing the story
of Jesus. The sauna has traditionally been a symbolically feminine place—not
unlike a bear’s den, which is the site for Spring-time rebirth, it is also womb-like
in its darkness and warmth. One key recurrent attribute of Finnish folklore is
honey. In many folk descriptions Louhi is portrayed as a whore copulating with
the wind and producing, for example, nine sons as embodiments of gout and
other diseases. Thus the role of the divine midwife is turned to its opposite (SKVR
470, Source 2834. Ilomantsi. Eur. H, n. 178. 45. Hattup””) (Kailo 2005b). Not
only has Louhi in many representations been made to evoke otherness, blackness,
old age, animality and asexuality, but she has been represented in many films and
books even of today as the classic dispenser of disease and destruction, pollution
and black storms threatening human life.21
Emil Petaja (1966, 1967), an American-Finnish science fiction writer has
resurrected the character of the dark and “evil witch of the North” in many
of his science fiction stories based on the Finnish Kalevala, providing a good
illustration of the ongoing misogynous myth-making going back to the myths
of Pandora and Eve. His repetition of mythic woman-blaming underlines the
need to interrupt and transform the master imaginary as the psychological
anchor of asymmetrical gender relations. In Petaja’s novels the northern witch,
Louhi’s resurrected spirit is referred to as a black-faced Lapp. In Kalevala Louhi
requires the Sampo as booty, in exchange for her daughters which the Kalevala
heroes coveted and desired as their wives. She is represented as a matriarch who
breaks her promise and keeps the goods and the magic mill all to herself. At the
end of Kalevala, the Sampo is finally lost to both the men and Louhi, and it is
broken into pieces in the bottom of the sea. Petaja makes Louhi22 return to the
scene where she manages to pick up a few fragments of its mystical cover. This
echoes the lid of Pandora’s box which represents hope in the story reported by
Geller Miller (1995). In Petaja’s (1966) retelling, Louhi makes the Sampo grind
goods in reverse, i.e., she is depicted as the root of the ecological destruction
the book dramatizes. Thus Louhi’s avatar is identified in The Star Mill as the
“Mistress of All Evil” (200):
Sorcery and cunning were the Witch’s watchwords. Louhi’s evil nature was
so strong that it soaked up all of the other evil in the universe like a sponge,
and had done so for thousands of years. Her pacts with alien creatures who
were inimical to man had given her immense power. (Petaja 1966: 196).
In light of Petaja’s science fiction stories where the “Louhi stereotype” is again
made to embody pollution, evil, destruction (Petaja 1966: 66x), the question
imposes itself as to the reasons for such stability of the oral tradition and their
literary offspring—and for the psychological meaning of such projections across
time and space, from Finland to North America. Louhi, something of a feminized
alter ego for the male heroes of Kalevala is as a woman of science and innovation/
power made to carry all the negative attributes of knowledge as mere black magic.
The Sampo, the major symbol of material and immaterial wealth in the Finnish
epic could also be related to Pandora’s box as the perverted mill of abundance.
Whereas a gynocentric story might portray the mill as a womblike pot of honey,
source of life and material/immaterial riches, the patriarchal imaginary has made
of it a mill of economic prosperity and a source of conflicts between two war-
ring groups, the matriarchal “man-eating Lapps” or their historically ambiguous
equivalent, and the patriarchal forefathers of the Finns. This epitomizes the contrast
between the master and the gift imaginaries. As is the case with the pithos-pyxis
translation mistake in the Greco-Roman stories, the woman-positive meaning of
which has been most intentionally re-interpreted, Sampo, too, can be rethought
through the word’s earthy, ecospiritual and gynocentric interpretations. Sampo’s
etymologies and possible linguistic variants have provided scholars with a wealth
of opportunities for creative speculation. Many of them somehow express the
ideas of connection, spirituality and community. It is possible to read into them
the most diverse meanings, for at the deepest level, the Sampo is the symbol of
symbolism itself. “Symbol” derives from Greek and means “Sun” (together) and
“ballein” (to throw). Symbolon originally referred to a concrete token of recogni-
tion for an object which had been separated from its other half, evoking original
oneness and its loss. On one level the symbol means whatever meaning a particular
object or phenomenon has been endowed with by a particular society through a
social contract. The Sampo can be seen as a condensation of all the etymological
theories that scholars over the centuries have given of it; it is a samovol (Slavonic),
a selfgrinding signifier capable of endless new meaning proliferations; it is also
a god-image (sam bog – Russian) for it can represent the metaphysical “nail of
the North Pole” around which an individual’s quest for metaphysical meaning
revolves and it is also summum bonum (Latin), the highest good, if, as a symbol,
cymbal-like, it allows a reader to enter into aesthetic ecstasy or expand his or
her perceptual horizons (Kailo 1987). Comparetti associates the Sampo even
with the Swedish sambu with its archaic meaning of living together (today one’s
living partner). These interpretations based on linguistic terms believed to lie at
the word’s root differ greatly from the economic reductions to which Sampo has
given rise today (Sampo as the name of an influential major banking institution
The myth of Pan Dora when linked with matriarchy is a powerful example of
how the world view of gift circulation has in the course of patriarchal history
been transformed into its opposite—gift deprivation or an exchange economy-
related interpretation of the very concept. It epitomizes how women as creators
and reproducers of humanity have been turned into representations of impurity
and pollution (Douglas 1966)—the scourges flowing out of Pandora’s box. The
widely-spread patriarchal narrative summarizes how power elites operate; among
other strategies by reverting/recoding/renaming symbols of power and by vilifying
those that threaten their monopoly on Truth, Justice, Good and Evil—totalitarian,
class-related, gendered and dualistic notions of the patriarchal master identity.
The dominant form of the human norm—the neo-liberal pseudo-autonomous
individual with his competitive and non-giving ethos—is not a natural reflection
of “human nature” and worldview, but one that has developed as elite male he-
gemony and the master imaginary have deepened.23 On the other hand, we need
the pre-patriarchal myths of Pan Dora myths in order to instill hope and trust
that the norm of the human can well be a caring immanent and life-preserving
mother rather than an abstract, feared, judgemental father-god. The myth mat-
ters also in terms of women’s renewed trust in their own power and authority.
When a dominant culture insists that power lies only outside the individual, in
hierarchical organizations, people eventually cease to believe in their own inner
power. This may be another reason why Pandora’s Box was “invented.” The sense
of union with the larger powers of life is tremendously empowering. Hence, the
connection between inner wisdom/strength and outer power is one that patriarchy
does not want women to make (Iglehart 1982: 294).
Over millennia, mythology has developed narratives about universal human
conditions. The gift imaginary represents for me a return to myth making of a
more holistic and eco-socially sustainable variety. The validity of a theory and
practice might be measured by the extent to which it enhances human/woman
rights, wellness and ecological sustainability, and how strongly it advocates the
rights of all to spiritual and other basic modes of self-determination and expression.
The feminist self-reflection has further ensured a constant process of realignment
and assessment of one’s own collusion with abusive ethnopolitical politics and
ways. As Audre Lorde (1984) notes, the erotic is manifest in everything that binds
us, as the eros and magic of everyday life. This is for me an essential quality also
of the gift imaginary where we can also give expression to utopias of gift-based
communities, equality and justice, the raw materials for change. As Vaughan
(1997) sums this ethos, it is based on listening to the sign-gifts of individual and
collective needs, and being able to respond to them. For an American writer on
ecospirituality, Cynthia Eller (1990), the creation of a feminist spirituality is a
logical extension of other feminist premises. The interest in reclaiming the female
body as a positive image and as an intrinsic and celebrated part of women’s existence
through the other imaginary, moves simultaneously with the desire of uniting
spirit, body, and mind into a more holistic, resisting or empowering lifestyle. In
this context, healing becomes a metaphor for any form of self-transformation,
whether physical, emotional, or mental; it is the name given to the overall effort
to gain self-knowledge and marshal personal power (Eller 1990: 110).24 Finnish
folk healing also contains the notion that in order to heal one must know the
words of origin (synnyinsanat), something that applies also to collective balance.
To know, cherish and honour one’s roots is to stay or become whole, what the
fragmented, atomistic modern self suffers from is loss of soul, loss of rootedness
and connectedness with the extended family of sentient beings. According to
old folk beliefs, people can only be healed by healing them together with the
environment and broader cosmic spirits and forces. After all, they all form one,
and hurting nature means hurting oneself.
The gift imaginary as the radically other worldview is, as I have tried to sug-
gest, a way of going back to the ecologically and socially sustainable roots of our
being and earth communities (the etymology of “radical” has to do with “roots”).
Feminists are among the groups today that are trying to make a difference through
their engaged politics and consciousness-raising. They are the transgressive women
opening Pandora’s Box, prying into patriarchal secrets and exposing the roots of
the inequities and structural inequalities making the world an unsafe and unstable
place for women and men alike. Social activism is also a form of traditionally
feminine gift and to such an extent feminists are the modern kinfolk of Pandora,
opening the lid on the scourges created by the modern corporate world with its
politics of unsustainable accumulation. They remind society that it is the corpo-
rate elite, not women that have released the evils that plague us today—global
warming, the bird flu, the mad cow disease. Today’s scourges unleashed by the
neo-liberal fundamentalist globalization are indeed gene manipulation and ter-
minator seeds, terminator technology, computer viruses, nuclear proliferation, a
deepening digital divide, and an increasing wedge between the haves and have-
nots between the industrial and overexploited countries. In sum, then, the other
imaginary means returning to Pan Dora her role as gift giver, not as an enemy of
patriarchy. In concrete politics, this also means listening and voting for gift-ed
men and women—for a change. And reminding us all what Pan Dora’s original
vase contained—honey. Not missiles and woman-blaming tales. In Geyer Miller’s
In mythology, gifts are symbols of power and authority. Pandora received many
gifts and thus came down to earth well equipped. The patriarchal overlay on
the myth has robbed the feminine descendants of Pandora of their birthright,
the knowledge of the meaning of the gifts and the power and authority to
utilize them effectively. It was the Horae who enhanced Pandora’s attractions
by embellishing her hair with floral garlands and herbs to awaken desire in
the hearts of men (golden grace). Thus Pandora wore the fruits and flow-
ers of the seasons, bedecked with nature’s finest perfumed offerings. She is,
herself, the most delectable offering in perfect timing, a “natural” gift. She
is the first earth woman, with her cyclic nature and ability to move in tune
with the tides and seasons. Pandora is the symbol of birth and death. By
her, a man enters and leaves the physical world. Like the Horae, she is the
keeper of the gates. Her gift is that of having an integral sense of timing....
The Greek word for grace, “charis,” means the “delightfulness of art.” Aglaia,
the youngest of the Graces, was the wife of Hephaestus. Her name means
“the glorious” or Brilliant. Thalia (Flowering) and Euphrosyne (Heart’s Joy)
were the other two Graces. Older names were Pasithea, Cale, and Euphrosyne
which was actually a title of Aphrodite (Pasithea Cale Euphrosyne) meaning
“The Goddess of Joy who is Beautiful to All.” (9)
The gifts of gynocentric mythology and imaginary remain to be unearthed.
Ritvala’s Helka festival is one strong gynocentric ritual remaining of the pagan past
in Finland. As a women’s spring and fertility ceremonial going far back through
the oral tradition, it is one of the most promising gateways towards the other
imaginary, despite its strong Christian-patriarchal overlay (Kailo 2007). It is not
only possible to reconstruct the woman-friendly and ecosocially sustainable imag-
ined communities of the past, it may well be that without a radical change in our
worldview, there is not much of a world left to defend. Patriarchy as institution
and the master imaginary as its psychological order have let so many scourges out
of its arsenals of violence and destruction that hope is indeed the only thing we
now have left of a sustainable future.
Kaarina Kailo, senior researcher at the Finnish Academy, has held various women's
studies positions in Canada and Finland (1991- ), ranging from interim director
of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Montreal, Canada to professor at Oulu Uni-
versity. She has published numerous co-edited books on topics from postcolonialism
(Sami people) to feminist views on folklore, storytelling, literature, gift economy/gift
imaginary, neoliberal economic philosophy, honour-related gender violence, mythol-
ogy, ecofeminism, bear myths, sauna and sweatlodge as gynocentric ritual spaces. Her
current research compares Northern/Indigenous women’s writings on trauma and
healing. She is active in local, national and international Green-Left politics. Her
edited anthology, The Gift Gaze: Wo(men) and Bears will be published by Inanna
Publications in 2007.
He exposes the norm of the “human” behind the current value system; it is, I believe,
also the invisible Eurocentric norm, linked with a notion of “autonomous” subjectivity
that does not fit women’s and many non-European cultures’ values or perceptions.
We are, after all, all dependent on each other—and men particularly so regarding
the care work that women provide.
Vaughan (1997) believes that the current western norm of the human is, to use a heu-
ristic description of men as a group, a masculated male ego in the “exemplar” position,
pan dora revisited
reflecting the outcome of a male-specific upbringing and conditioning to become the
non-gift giving gender entitled to receive rather than bestow nurture. The individual,
cut-throat ethos of neo-liberalism is for educational and socialization-related reasons
less expressive of the values and behavioural mores with which women are brought up.
It is clear that the greater responsibilities and societal expectations regarding carework
fall mostly on women’s shoulders. My point in this paper is that the underestimation
of female contributions to society through reproductive, emotional and care labour
and the concomitant overevaluation of men’s realms of influence have their mythic,
psychological roots in the primal myths that circulate in and with which children
are conditioned in patriarchal Western societies. Hence the importance of exposing
and rewriting such myths operating in our deep unconscious.
See www.gifteconomy.org and www.akademia.Hagia for information and videoclips of
the Peaceful Societies past and present conferences organized by Akademia Hagia.
According to William E. Phipps (1988,1976), the myths of Pandora and Eve are
similar in that both attempt to explain why woman was created. Hesiod’s poetry,
entitled Theogony (507-616) and Works and days (West 1985: 47-105), provides the
only Greek source pertaining to woman’s creation.
Pandora is in some versions portrayed as the product of Hephaestus’ craft and Zeus’s
guile. Geyer Miller in “What is the Pandora Myth All About?” (1995) offers a version
of Pandora in which she is clearly a trophy between warring male gods, providing an
illustration of the “exchange economy” as an ideology adopted by men to trade in
women and other resources (Vaughan 1997): “Prometheus (fore-thought) and his
brother Epimetheus (after-thought) were Titans. Prometheus had remained neutral
during the revolt of the Titans against the Olympians and thus had been admitted
to the circle of Immortals by Zeus. Seeing that the race of men had been destroyed
in the deluge, it was Prometheus who fashioned another prototype man, into whom
Athena, the favored daughter of Zeus, breathed soul and life. As long as Cronus had
reigned, gods and men had lived on terms of mutual understanding. In the cool of
the evening the gods might wander down to earth and sit down together with men
to partake of the supper. With the coming of the Olympians, everything changed.
Zeus asserted his divine supremacy. Although Prometheus was now an Immortal he
harboured a grudge against the destroyers and favoured mortals to the detriment
of the gods. He tricked Zeus into choosing the fat-covered bones as the part of the
sacrifice for the gods, leaving the best meat for mortals. Zeus, in his anger, withheld
fire from man. Prometheus stole the forbidden fire and gave it to the mortals. Zeus,
enraged, called for Hephaestus the forger. He bade him make a virgin woman of
dazzling beauty equal to the Olympian goddesses. He requested all of the gods to
bring her their especial gifts. Her name was Pandora (anciently called Anesidor, which
was one of the names of the earth-goddess), rich in gifts, the all-gifted [my emphasis].
Zeus also ordered a large Pythos (casket) to be made in which were placed the Spites:
Old Age, Labour, Sickness, Insanity, Vice, and Passion to plague mankind upon their
release. Delusional Hope was placed in the jar to keep men from killing themselves
in despair and escaping their full measure of suffering” (Geyer Miller 1995).
See also Kramarae and Treichler (1985), “Pandora.”
The honey vase of gifts has indeed been transformed into the pot of poison, as even
the etymology of the word Gift suggests (it has both meanings of gift and poison in
German) (Vaughan 1997).
For an alternative view of Pandora, see Spretnak (1978) and Stone (1976).
To quote Goettner-Abendroth (2004): “Matriarchal women are managers and ad-
ministrators, who organise the economy not according to the profit principle, where
an individual or a small group of people benefits; rather, the motivation behind their
action is motherliness. The profit principle is an ego-centred principle, where individu-
als or a small minority take advantage of the majority of people. The principle of
motherliness is the opposite, where altruism reigns and the well being of all is at the
centre. It is at the same time a spiritual principle, which humans take from nature.
Mother Nature cares for all beings, however different they may be. The same applies
to the principle of motherliness: a good mother cares for all her children in spite of
their diversity. Motherliness as an ethical principle pervades all areas of a matriarchal
society, and this holds true for men as well. If a man of a matriarchal society desires
to acquire status among his peers, or even to become a representative of the clan to
the outside word, the criterion is “He must be like a good mother (Minangkabau,
Lauri Honko (1993) has elabourated in The Great Bear on Finno-Ugric festivities
and reflects the Maussian view that behaviour at a feast was characterized by some
element of competition between families and communities for whom the maintenance
of good relations was important: “The act of hospitality central to festivals and feasts
had two functions. On the one hand, it emphasized one’s own social position and
the status of guests in relation to it. On the other hand, acceptance of hospitality
also assumed reciprocity and the guest inevitably had in mind his own forthcoming
duties as host, while the host did not forget that it would soon be his turn to act as
guest. In this social exchange, not only bonds between individuals but, above all,
between groups were defined and strengthened. The host demonstrated his percep-
tion both of his own standing and that of his guest by his behaviour and the scale of
his hospitality. Sometimes a host might deliberately use the occasion to enhance his
own prestige and humble his guest either by exaggerated largesse or by deliberately
offering less hospitality than custom required” (259).
The poems have been primarily collected from Juhana Kainulainen from a spell used in
bathing a sick person: “Kaveh eukko, Luonnotar,/kaveh kultainen, koria” (SKVR VII 4,
1758: 90-91). Kave woman, golden, beautiful is implored with other forces to help the
one to be bathed be relieved of his or her problem. Luonnotar sometimes also manifests
as one of Tapio’s daughters (Haavio 1967: 68; Krogerus 1999: 131).
Tuulikki Korpinen (1986) reveals through her study of Louhi’s etymologies that her
name has both the meaning of “flame” (Swedish lÂga) and lux (light), suggesting how
patriarchy has turned this fiery bringer of light into a figure of death and darkness.
Iivar Kemppinen (1960), for example, analyzes the history of Finnish mythology and
spiritual life and views the gradual replacement of the goddesses with the one god of
resurrection as the Finn’s heightened maturity and “development” towards a higher
form of religion.
On Nordic mythology and goddesses from a feminist perspective see Sjoo (1985).
In Christian dualistic mythology women are not generally represented as belonging
to the sky-world but are kept associated with the inferior “other” of the “masculine”
mind (matter), spirit (body), or culture (nature). In the pre-patriarchal representation
of the creative spirit women are images both of nature and culture, where such a di-
chotomy does not exist. The Luonnotar daughters can be associated with an alternative
social order and alternative sex/gender system; after all, they create the products of
“culture” such as iron out of maternal milk, expressing thereby an imaginary where
maternity and the female breast are not restricted to their patriarchal functions:
nurturing babies or being objects of the male erotic gaze, the fetishized breast. This
is one telling example of an alternative worldview or way of endowing prestige to
social contributions. The above representation of the feminine is not dependent on
an approving male order but is defined in relation to itself and its own values, e.g.
the inherent value of women creating both life and technology.
“Using clay and water, he fashioned the beautiful artifice. The forges and fires of the
earth are the artificial womb from which Pandora is born. This Hephaestian passion
for creative expression is deeply of the mother. Pandora was not the product of a union
with the masculine but through Hephaestus, the most primordial feminine influences
of nature are mimicked and made real. In addition to the gift of life, Hephaestus
fashioned a golden crown, which was placed on Pandora’s head by Athene. On this
shining masterpiece were carved all of the creatures of the land and sea. They were
complete with voices and movement, an animated world of instinctual and natural
energies. It was a crown for an earth goddess (Rhea Pandora), the first woman, Queen
of nature, and a symbol of fertility and seasonal life” (Geyer Miller 1995: 2). As this
quotation suggests, the earth goddess may well have affinities also with the Finnish
Golden woman or Kave. In patriarchal lore, for instance the Kalevala, the Golden
Woman is turned into a mere fantasy of the eternal smith and hammerer, Ilmarinen.
Echoing the Greek Hephaistos, he is the prototype of the engineer-innovator-scientist
who tries to reproduce through technology what he cannot own in a flesh-and-blood
woman (Kailo 2002). Ilmarinen hammers for himself a kind of primitive cyberlady
and exemplies the male effort to create through mechanistic means and machinery
what men cannot bring to life in a womb. These efforts of “artificial insemination”
or possible womb-envy projected into technological innovation and projected to the
level of the nature/culture split and myth fail. The Golden Woman remains lifeless, as
indeed are classic dualistic male fantasies of women. They are projections and hence
cannot give life to women as complex humans beyond the restricting and unrealistic
“The givers of gifts were living there and the old wives that give game lay just in their
working dress, in their dirty ragged clothes. Even the forest’s mistress too, the cruel
mistress Kuurikki was very black in countenance, in appearance terrible; bracelets
of withes were on her arms, on her fingers withy rings, with withy ribbons her head
was bound, in withy ringlets were her locks, and withy pendants in her ears, around
her neck were evil pearls. The evil mistress then, the cruel mistress Kuurikki was not
disposed to give away, or inclined to helpfulness” (Abercromby, 1898: 179-180). As
this description of Kuurikki and its broader context by Abercromby reveal, Mielikki
and Kuurikki are not a separate good and bad goddess but two aspects of the same
game-giving female haltia. For studies of Louhi see Nenola-Kallio and Timonen
(1990); Siikala and Vakimo (1994) and Kailo, in English (e.g., 1996, 2000). Siikala
(1986) discusses the connections between Louhi and words or etymologies connot-
ing trance states, addressing the chthonic projections on Louhi as the mistress of the
domain of death, the North and the otherworld
By “non-imaginary” originary meaning I refer to the postmodern insight that ul-
timately any one primal version is unknowable. To refer to origins is a “no-no” of
postmodernism because such a quest presupposed unified origins and a linear history.
While I embrace the constructivist nature of postmodern theory, I refer to originary
meanings as part of a conscious strategic essentialist claim to a founding mythology
aimed at empowering a group, in my case, women.
My source for the analysis of Kave/Louhi is the vast collections of folk material in the
archives of the Finnish Literature Society in Helsinki, primarily the Suomen Kansan
Vanhat Runot (SKVR), plus the Finnish national epic, Kalevala.
The sauna is at its best when bathed in meady vapours, and there is a haltia of beer,
Osmotar, associated with the drink that raises spirits and energies (Kailo 2005a).
She is best known through the Finnish Kalevala, an epic that is an appropriate mise-
en-abyme of the tendencies persisting in literature on the North. The striking feature
about these stories is that their representations of femininity and masculinity, male
heroes and female anti-heroes could not be further removed from reality, in light of
historical facts or contemporary developments (Kailo 2005b).
See Sawin (1998) for an excellent feminist analysis of Louhi.
As Myram Miedzien (1991) has demonstrated, there are numerous peaceful cultures,
among them Indigenous nations that have been able to heal from a violence-based
social structure. Goettner-Abendroth (2004) has also gathered proof of existing
matriarchal social systems with little or no violence. It may be idealistic and naÔve to
argue that archaic societies or matriarchies were either peaceful or that aggression did
not characterize humans at all times. However, it is necessary to distinguish between
worldviews that have or have not sought to naturalize giving and a sustainable cultural,
economic and biological order. If the peoples labelled as “noble savages” have never
been simplistically noble, it is still of great significance that their worldview, if not
all individuals, have more humane cooperative values built into their visions of life
and way of living than is the case in today’s dominant ethos of “each for his own.”
However, it is important to stress that feminist approaches to power emphasize power
within and empowerment for all rather than power over.
Abercromby, John. 1898. Pre- and Proto-historic Finns. Both Eastern and Western. With the
Magic Songs of the West Finns. London: np.
Anttonen, Veikko. 1992. “Interpreting Ethnic Categories Denoting ‘Sacred’ in a Finnish
and an Ob-Ugrian Context.” Temenos 28.
The Columbia Encyclopedia. 2001-05. Sixth ed. New York: Columbia University Press.
Douglas, Mary. 1996 . Purity and danger. An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution
and Taboo. London: Routledge.
Eller, Cynthia. 1990. Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in
America. New York: Crossroad.
Encyclopædia Britannica 2002.
Geyer Miller, Sandra. 1995. “What is the Pandora Myth All About?” Online: http://www.
Geyer Miller, Sandra. 1998. “Did Pandora Bring Trouble or Transformation for Women?”
Goettner-Abendroth, Heide. 1995 . The Goddess and her Heros. Stow, MA: Anthony
Goettner-Abedroth, Heide. 2004. “The Relationship between Modern Matriarchal Stud-
ies and the Gift Paradigm.” Paper presented at the conference, “A Radically Different
Worldview is Possible: The Gift Economy Inside and Outside Patriarchal Capitalism.”
Las Vegas County Library, Nov. 14-17. Online: http://www.gift-economy.com/atha-
nor/5.html/ Date Accessed: 2 July 2005.
Goettner-Abendroth, Heide. 1987. Matriarchal Mythology in Former Times and Today.
Trans. Heidi Goettner Abendroth with Lise Weil. Freedom, CA: Crossing Pamphlet.
Haavio, Martti. l967. Suomalainen mytologia. Helsinki: WSOY.
Harrison, Jane. l975. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion. New York: Arno Press.
Hesiod. Works and days. 700 B.C.
Honko, Lauri. 1993. “Festivities.” Eds. Lauri Honko, Senni Timonen, Michael Branch.
The Great Bear: A Thematic Anthology of Oral Poetry in the Finno-Ugric Languages.
Pieks”m”ki: Suomen Kirjallisuuden Seura. 259-284.
Iglehart, Hallie. 1982. “Expanding Personal Power Through Meditation.” The Politics of
Women’s Spirituality. Essays on the Rise of Spiritual Power Within the Feminist Movement.
Ed. Charlene Spretnak. New York: Doubleday.
Kailo, Kaarina. 1987. “Emil Petaja’s Star Mill and the Sampo’s Shifted Axis.” Ural-Altaic
Yearbook/ Ural-Altaische Jahrb¸cher 59: 107-117.
Kailo, Kaarina. 1996. “The Representation of Women and the Sami in the Finnish Kalevala:
The Problem with the “Overlap(p).” Simone de Beauvoir Institute Bulletin/Bulletin de
l’Institut Simone de Beauvoir 16: 33-49.
Kailo, Kaarina. 2000. “Monoculture, Gender and Nationalism: Kalevala as a Tool of
Acculturation.” Ethical Challenges for Teacher Education and Teaching. Special Focus on
Gender and Multicultural Issues. Eds. Rauni R”s”nen and Vappu Sunnari. Oulu: Acta
Universitatis Ouluenis. 13–37
Kailo, Kaarina. 2002. “Sukupuoli, teknologia ja valta. Nais- ja miesrepresentaatiot Kal-
evalasta ÷–piseen.” [Gender, Technology and Power: Female and Male Representations
from Kalevala to ÷–pinen]. Tieto ja tekniikka. Miss” Nainen Toim, Riitta Smeds,
Kaisa Kauppinen, Kati Yrj”nheikki, Anitta Valtonen. Tekniikan Akateemisten liitto:
Kailo, Kaarina. 2005a. “The Helka Fest: Traces of a Finno-Ugric Matriarchy and World-
view?” Paper presented at the World Congress on Matriarchal Studies, Societies of Peace.
September 29-30, Austin, Texas.
Kailo Kaarina. 2005b. “Mythic Women of the North: Between Reality and Fantasy.” Northern
dimensions and Environments. Northern Sciences Review Eds. Lassi Heininen, Kari Strand
and Kari Taulavuori.Oulu: Thule Institute, University of Oulu. 2005b. 173-223.
Kailo, Kaarina. 2007. The Gift Gaze: Wo(men) and Bears. Toronto: Inanna Publications and
Kemppinen, Iivar. 1960. Suomalainen mytologia. Helsinki: Kirja-mono Oy.
Korpinen, Tuulikki. 1986. Sammon ainekset. Helsinki: Heinola.
Korten, David. 1996. When Corporations Rule the World. Towards a Green Revolution. San
Fransisco: Kumarian Press.
Kramarae, Cheris and Paula A. Treichler. 1985. A Feminist dictionary. Boston: Pandora
Krogerus, Tuulikki. 1999. Kalevalan Hyv”t ja H”vytt–m”t. Eds. U. Piela, S. Knuuttila and
T. Kupiainen. Helsinki: SKS.
Lorde, Audre. l984. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. New York: Crossing Press.
L–nnrot, Elias. 1985 . Kalevala, The Land of Heroes. Trans. W. F. Kirby. Intr. Michael
Branch. London: Athlone Press.
M”kinen, Kirsti. 2004. Sammon sanat. Kalevalan sitaatteja. Helsinki: Otava.
Meyer, Leroy N. and Tony Ramirez. 1996. “‘Wakinyan Hotan’–The Thunder Beings Call
Out: The Inscrutability of Lakota/Dakota Metaphysics.” From Our Eyes: Learning from
Indigenous Peoples. Ed. Sylvia O’Meara and Douglas A. West. Toronto: Garamond Press.
Nenola-Kallio, Aili and Timonen Senni. l990. Louhen Sanat. Kirjoituksia kansanperinteen
naisista. Helsinki: SKS.
Miedzien, Myriam. 1991. Boys Will Be Boys: Breaking the Link Between Masculinity and
Violence. New York: Anchor Books.
Niemi, Irmeli. 1985. “Kvinnorna i Kalevala.” Tr. J. O. Tallqvist. Nya Argus 4 (April):
Ochs, Carol. 1977. Behind the Sex of God: Toward a New Consciousness: Transcending
Matriarchy and Patriarchy. Boston: Beacon Press.
Petaja, Emil. 1966. The Saga of Lost Earths and the Star Mill. New York: Daw Books,
Petaja, Emil. 1967. The Stolen Sun and Tramontane. New York: Daw Books, Inc.
Phipps, William E. 1988. “Eve and Pandora Contrasted.” Theology Today 45 (1) (April).
Online: http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/apr1988/v45-1-article3.htm. Accessed August
Phipps, William E. 1976. October. “Adam’s Rib: Bone of Contention.” Theology Today
33 (3) (October). Online: http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/oct1976/v33-3-article5.htm.
Accessed August 10, 2006.
Plumwood, Val. 1993. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. New York: Routledge
Sawin, Patricia. 1988. “L–nnrot’s Brain Children: The Representation of Women in
Finland’s Kalevala.” Journal of Folklore Research 5 (3): 187-217.
Siikala, Anna-Leena. l986. “Myyttinen Pohjola.” Kirjokannesta Kipin”. Kalevalan Juhla-
vuoden Satoa. Helsinki: SKS.
Siikala, Anna-Leena and Sinikka Vakimo. 1994. Songs Beyond the Kalevala: Transformations
of Oral Poetry. Tr. by Susan Sinisalo. Helsinki: SKS.
Sjoo, Monica. 1985. The Goddess/es of the Northern Peoples. Part I and II. London:
Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot (SKVR). Vol. I–XVIII. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran
kansanrunousarkiston kokoelmat. Suomalaisen karhuperinteen primaaril”hteet [Finnish
Peoples’ Ancient Poems and Foklore]. Suomen Kirjallisuuden Seura. Eds. Kaarle Krohn
and V. Alava. Helsinki: SKS.
Spretnak, Charlene. 1978. Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic My-
thology. Boston: Beacon Press.
Stone, Merlin. 1976. When God Was a Woman. New York: Barnes and Noble.
Vaughan, Genevieve. 1997. For-Giving: A Feminist Criticism of Exchange. Foreword by
Robin Morgan, Texas: Plainview/Anomaly Press.
Walker, Barbara. 1983. The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets. New York: Harper
Warren, K. J. 2000. Ecofeminist Philosophy. A Western Perspective on What It Is and Why It
Matters. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
West, Martin Litchfield, ed. 1978. Works and days/Hesiod. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
West, Martin Litchfield. 1985. The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: Its Nature, Structure, and
Origins. Oxford: Clarendon Press.