Pohjola or Pohja is a location in Finnish mythology and is usually translated as "Northland" in English. It is one of the two main polarities in the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, along with Kaleva or Väinölä. Its name is derived from the word "pohjoinen" meaning the compass point "north". "Pohjoinen", for its part, may have a cognate in the word "pohja" (base, bottom).

Different interpretations of the origins of the mythical Pohjola exist. One of them assosiates it with the Sami, the northern neighbours of the Finns. Some include parts of Lapland and ancient Kainuu in Kalevala's Pohjola. Some point out a similarity with the name "Pohjanmaa" (Ostrobothnia in English), a region in western Finland. Pohjola has also been thought of as a purely abstract place, the source of evil — a foreboding, a forever cold land far in the north.

In Kalevala, the Mistress of Pohjola is Louhi, an evil witch of great power. The great smith Seppo Ilmarinen forges the Sampo at her request as a payment for the hand of her daughter in marriage. The Sampo is a magic mill of plenty like the Cornucopia, which churns out abundance, but its churning lid has also been interpreted as a symbol of the celestial vault of the heavens, embedded with stars, revolving around a central axis or the pillar of the world. Other Kalevala characters also seek marriage with the daughters of Pohjola. These include the adventurer Lemminkäinen and the great wise man Väinämöinen. Louhi demands deeds similar to the forging of Sampo from them, such as shooting the Swan of Tuonela. When the proposer finally gets the daughter, weddings and great drinking and eating parties are held at the great hall of Pohjola.

The foundation of the world pillar, also thought of as the root of the "world tree", was probably located, from the Finnish mythological perspective, somewhere just over the northern horizon, in Pohjola. The pillar was thought to rest on the "Pohjantähti" or North Star (also known as the pole star in English). The forging and hoarding of the Sampo and its abundance by the witch Louhi inside a great mountain in the dark reaches of Pohjola; the struggle and war by the people of the south to free the Sampo and capture it for their own needs and the subsequent shattering of the Sampo and the loss of its all-important lid (which implies the breaking of the world tree at the north pole) together constitute the bulk of the Kalevala material.

Other uses

In modern Finnish usage, "Pohjola" or "Pohjoismaat" is Finnish for the Nordic countries, the equivalent of which in Scandinavian languages is "Norden" [http://www.pohjola-norden.fi] .

ee also

* Pohjola, an insurance company
* Pohjolan Liikenne, a bus company
* Pohjola's Daughter, the subject of a symphonic tone poem by Jean Sibelius
* Mika Pohjola, Jazz pianist and composer

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