Light and Dark — The Great Mother in Astrology, Tarot, and the Finnish Epic Kalevala

21 min read

A few weeks ago, I shared some of my current insights about the polarity of light and dark, the Feminine, and the Great Mother on my Instagram. In this blog post, I expand a little on my thoughts.


Content

  1. One, Two, Three… Many… One
  2. Depictions of the Feminine
  3. What’s Said About Louhi
  4. Far in the North
  5. Reflected Through Astrology
  6. Saturn and Louhi
  7. Saturn and the Goat-Fish
  8. Could She Be?
  9. Final Thoughts

I can’t remember since when, but the topic of polar opposites has fascinated me for a long time. A year ago, I began deep diving into mythology beyond the Greco-Roman pantheon related to the planet Venus. I learned about the Sumerian goddess Inanna, the first deity in recorded history associated with our sister planet (read more in my blog post “Open the Gates!” — Inanna, the Female Sex, and the Venus Archetype | Astrology and Myth).

My interest in tracing how the Feminine is depicted in history, myth, and astrology has stuck with me ever since. I read a lot last year (I’ve listed a few books which might interest you at the end of this post). My to-read book pile keeps growing. Praise to the invention of transferring knowledge through the written word! Btw, do you know who the inventors of writing were?

Last year, I also learned a new way of tracing the Venus cycle by studying the Venus Star Point® (VSP) system with Arielle Guttman. I’ve continued deepening my understanding of Venus’ cycle and the five-pointed star pattern it creates through further reading into myth and contemplating the phases in Venus’ 584-day journey. I know the Venus cycle is a topic that will occupy me for a long time.

Currently, we are in a Capricorn VSP phase, which began in January and will last until October. This phase has pushed me deeper into studying the Great Mother, which isn’t surprising as Capricorn and Saturn have been activated by profections on a personal level for me for the entire phase. Both are key factors in my chart. Activated or not in your unique astrological cycles, this Capricorn VSP phase has a message for you.

Enough for the intro. Let’s get into the polarity of light and dark.

One, Two, Three… Many… One

The world is built in polarities of which light and dark, day and night, are the most visible expressions. Counterparts to each other, together, they built a whole. Day and night make what we call ‘vuorokausi’ in Finnish (vuoro = turn/shift, kausi = period), meaning 24 hours, a full day (Gr. Nychthemeron). Light and dark are also metaphors describing concepts like that of the conscious and subconscious mind.

Polarities make up our world. The mixture of various pairs and degrees of polarities creates diversity. Through understanding polarities, you understand uniqueness, and finally, oneness – the source of all polarities and the sum of all creation. The All.

Depictions of the Feminine

The Tarot associates the Empress with the planet Venus, which is said to represent the Feminine. How often are her depictions single-sided – sweet, young, innocent, and pregnant! The same applies to the planet Venus, which is nowadays mostly linked with beauty, harmony, and love. Called the lesser benefic in the Greco-Roman astrological tradition, Venus signifies prosperity and the pleasures of life.

You see wider and deeper when you study the Venus cycle and learn about older than the Greco-Roman myths. I recommend starting with researching the Sumerian goddess Inanna, the first deity associated with the planet we today call Venus.

In a previous post, I mentioned Louhi, the Empress, of the Mythologia Fennica Tarot deck (watch my walkthrough of this stunning Kalevala-inspired deck here). In her study Finnish Goddess Mythology and the Golden Woman. Climate Change, Earth-based Indigenous knowledge and the Gift, Ph.D. Kaarina Kailo associates Louhi with the Great Mother and the Goddess of Life and Death.

Louhi of the Mythologia Fennica Tarot deck corresponds to The Empress in the RWS system. The Finnish epic Kalevala depicts her as an evil witch, blaming her for all hardships humankind experiences. Is being a villain truly Louhi’s nature?

Louhi is called Mistress of Northland (Pohjola) in the Finnish epic Kalevala. In that particular collection of folk poetry from 1835/1849 by Elias Lönnrot, the powerful matriarch of the cold North got a bad rep as a wicked witch and the opponent to the male heroes of the South. Myths change according to who tells them.

Who then is Louhi truly?

What’s Said About Louhi

In the Kalevala, Louhi is blamed for causing the frost and all hardships and diseases humankind experiences. Interestingly, the Finnish epic also tells us that Louhi keeps the lights, Sun and Moon, locked up behind nine locks in her mountain in the North. There, she also hides the Sampo, the mill of plenty. Below is, in short, how the latter came into being and what led to its destruction later.

Sampo (Wheel of Fortune), Liberation of the Sun (The Sun), and Gates of Pohjola (The Moon) of the Mythologia Fennica Tarot deck.

In one poem of the epic, Louhi rescues and heals the injured and lost Väinämöinen. Väinämöinen is homesick and asks Louhi to help him get back to his homeland, promising her the magic mill she requires in return. Väinämöinen doesn’t know how to forge the Sampo, so he promises to send his brother, smith Ilmarinen, instead. Ilmarinen refuses to leave for Pohjola; therefore, Väinämöinen uses his magic to send his brother to the far North.

Louhi saves Väinämöinen by Robert Wilhelm Ekman, 1859–1860, public domain.

Louhi had promised her daughter to the one who succeeds in crafting the Sampo “from the tips of white-swan feathers, from the milk of greatest virtue, from a single grain of barley, from the finest wool of lambkins” (transl. John Martin Crawford, 1888).

After Ilmarinen had forged the Sampo, the girl, however, didn’t feel ready to leave her home and refused to marry him. Only later, when wooing a second time, and after successfully passing another three difficult tasks given by Louhi (plowing a field full of vipers, hunting down the bear and wolf of the land of the dead (Tuonela/Manala), and capturing the giant pike from the river of Tuonela without the aid of net or rod) Ilmarinen, with the help of Louhi’s daughter’s wise advice, gets the maid as a reward.

Eventually, the three southern heroes of the epic, Väinämöinen, Ilmarinen, and Lemminkäinen, become aware that Louhi had locked up the Sampo in the mountain of Pohjola, which now brings riches to Northland. They want to benefit from the magic mills’ fruits themselves. So they set out on a quest to steal it. In the end, the Sampo shatters during a ferocious fight into pieces.

The Defense of the Sampo by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1896, public domain.

Far in the North

Here in Finland, above 60° latitude, we experience the stark contrast between light and dark. Far in the North, the Sun does not rise in the winter, while in the summer, it does not set. If you didn’t know yet, we not only have freezy dark winters here in Finland. We also experience real hot summers!

Louhi with the Moon and the Sun. Art by Herald Eelma in Kalevalan kuvat (Pictures of Kalevala), Kirjapaino Osakeyhtiö Kalevala, 1987. Photo by me.

Through her association with the North, the mill of plenty, and the hiding and releasing of the Sun and Moon, Louhi is connected with dark AND light – the cycle of the seasons, time, life, death, and rebirth.

Reflected Through Astrology

In the Thema Mundi (the mythical birth chart of the world) and the planetary rulership scheme derived from it, Saturn—the farthest, slowest, and dimmest planet visible to the naked eye—opposes the lights. This is where I advise you to start contemplating the polar/dual nature of life.

The planetary rulership scheme is derived from the Thema Mundi. Saturn opposes the Sun and the Moon. Together, Saturn and the lights build a whole, the one (center/source)) expressed in two (axis/polarity).

The Sun is in the Saturn-ruled signs Capricorn and Aquarius when the most amount of dark (winter) is experienced in the Northern Hemisphere. The Sun is in Cancer and Leo when we have the most daylight (summer). In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite is the case. Let’s have a closer look at the astronomy behind this phenomena.

Cancer and Capricorn are the signs the tropics (from Greek ’tropoi’ = turning points) were named after. The tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are imaginary lines parallel to the equator. They indicate the northernmost (Tropic of Cancer) and the southernmost (Tropic of Capricorn) position at which the Sun is directly overhead at noon.

This happens once a year in each hemisphere, on the Summer Solstice when the days are longest and the nights are shortest. The opposite is the Winter Solstice co-occurring in the other hemisphere. There, the nights are longest, and the days are shortest. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice coincides with the Sun’s ingress into Cancer. The Winter Solstice takes place when the Sun enters Capricorn.

Left: Celestial sphere December 21, 2022, Sun at the southernmost point on the ecliptic. Right: Celestial sphere June 21, 2022, Sun at the northernmost point on the ecliptic. Made by me with Cosmic Watch.


While the equinox signs, Libra and Aries, are balancing points coinciding with the two periods of the year when light and dark are equal, Capricorn and Cancer represent the stark contrast between the most and least amount of light and dark.

All zodiac signs can be seen as representing aspects of the Great Mother, but the cardinal water-earth axis of Cancer-Capricorn most clearly symbolizes the life, death, and rebirth cycle so closely linked with Her.

𝗧𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗸 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝘆𝗺𝗯𝗼𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗺 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗖𝗮𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗼𝗿𝗻 𝗩𝗲𝗻𝘂𝘀 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗿 𝗣𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁 𝗰𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗯𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗩𝗲𝗻𝘂𝘀-𝗦𝘂𝗻 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗷𝘂𝗻𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗼𝘂𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗺𝗼𝘀𝘁 “𝗹𝗼𝘄𝗲𝘀𝘁” (𝗯𝗼𝘁𝘁𝗼𝗺) 𝗽𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗲𝗰𝗹𝗶𝗽𝘁𝗶𝗰!

The constant interplay of light and dark isn’t only reflected in the annual cycle of the seasons. As mentioned earlier, day and night are the most apparent visible expressions of the dual nature of life.

Light and dark are simultaneously present on our planet. Most easily, this is understood by the effect of the Earth’s daily rotation. When it’s daytime on one half of the planet, it is nighttime on “the other side” of the globe. Animation: Maulor, Earth rotation, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Understanding polarity, the polar expression of one whole, is fundamental for understanding life on Earth. One cannot exist without the other. There is no light without darkness. Both have equal significance. They work together.

The polarity of light and dark is connected to the Great Goddess—the maiden, the mother, the crone—and the cycle of life, death, and rebirth she orchestrates.

Saturn and Louhi

Louhi’s link to Saturn is obvious. Saturn signifies darkness, coldness, disease, fear, and death – all related to Louhi in the Kalevala. But Saturn also stands for old age, tradition, ancestors, and wisdom. Boundaries, authority, secrets, mysteries, and hidden knowledge also belong to Saturn.

Saturn is said to be the great teacher. Learning in Saturn’s sense is learning through obstacles. Think of the almost impossible-to-pass tasks Louhi gives her daughter’s wooers! One of the wooers, Lemminkäinen, even died during his third and final task – killing the swan of Tuonela. His mother later resurrected him. For Lemminkäinen, dying and being rebirthed gave him an opportunity to change the destructive course of his life.

Lemminkäinen’s Mother by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1897, public domain.

Louhi is a powerful leader, healer, shapeshifter, and shaman looking out for her people – traits given too little attention in the Kalevala. Interesting is also Saturn’s association with mountains and caves and the riches they conceal. Louhi hides the lights and the Sampo in the mountain of Pohjola (Copper Mountain).

An exciting find was the Russian tale of The Mistress of the Copper Mountain. Wikipedia tells us “The Copper Mountain” is the Gumyoshevsky mine, the oldest mine of the Ural Mountains, which was called “The Copper Mountain” or simply “The Mountain” by the populace. It is now located in the town of Polevskoy, Sverdlovsk Oblast. Look at the symbols on the coat of arms of Polevskoy! It contains the glyph for Venus (representing copper), the eight-pointed star (one of the Sumerian symbols for Inanna/Venus), and a lizard. The mine is a Saturn-ruled place!

Watch the outstanding fantasy film The Stone Flower (1946) directed by Aleksandr Ptushko. Understand its symbolism!

Polevskoy (Sverdlovsk oblast) town coat of arms (from left to right): the Venus symbol (♀), which represents the chemical element copper and was the brand of the Polevskoy Copper Smelting Plant, the character Lizard Queen of Russian folklore, the symbolic representation of the Stone Flower from the story of the same name, and the eight-pointed star, the brand of the Seversky Pipe Plant, public domain.

Saturn is the last of the planets visible to the unaided eye, symbolizing the threshold between what we can and can’t see and differentiate and therefore comprehend. Everything happens within the sphere of Saturn (the other six traditional planets, lights included, are located within Saturn’s sphere). Saturn is the great regulator called Father Time.

Could we call Saturn Mother Time?

Geocentric and heliocentric models. Saturn’s sphere is the last in both perspectives.

Saturn and the Goat-Fish

Some have proposed that Saturn is rather feminine than masculine, which begins making more and more sense to me. Whichever notion is closer to being right, Saturn has, like all planets, two signs it rules over, one feminine (Capricorn) and one masculine (Aquarius). The sign most interesting when thinking of the Great Mother is Saturn’s feminine sign, Capricorn.

Capricorn is associated with the mountain goat representing willpower and endurance to overcome the most challenging obstacles. But did you know there is another creature associated with the cardinal earth sign of the Zodiac? I’m talking about the ancient mythical sea goat, a  half goat half fish hybrid. You may have noticed the tail of the sea goat in the glyph for Capricorn ♑.

The association of the sea goat with Capricorn goes back to ancient Mesopotamia. The Sumerians called Capricorn “The Goat-Fish” 𒀯𒋦𒈧𒄩 (Mul Suhur-Maš-Ku).

Goat-Fish in the top register of Kudurru of Melishihu (Louvre), Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net), Museo de la Ciencia y el Cosmos 2018 042, background erased, cropped, colors adjusted, CC BY-SA 4.0. Collage by me.

In Babylonian Star-Lore: An Illustrated Guide to the Star-Lore and Constellations of Ancient Babylonia, Gavin White writes: ”In the mid to late 3rd millennium, when I believe the Goatfish was originally created, its head and horns would have risen at the time of the winter solstice, while it’s fishtail would only have become fully visible during the course of the following month. This all suggests that its character is likely to be informed by the rebirth symbolism associated with the winter solstice. […]…the Goatfish became increasingly associated with Enki during the course of the 2nd millennium. Enki or Ea was one of the great trinity of deities recognised in Babylonian tradition. He was loved and respected as a wise and benevolent god who, long before the Great Flood, had invented the arts and crafts of civilisation. Alongside the Seven Sages, he was thought to live in the freshwater Abyss that extended below the earth, where he was attended by a whole entourage of mythical beings such as water-monsters, mermaids and mermen.”

Enki on the Adda Seal, 2300 BC, © The Trustees of the British Museum, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

How does knowing about the ancient association of Enki, deep waters, mermaids, wisdom, and the arts of civilization alter our understanding of Capricorn? To me, the mythology of the sea goat appears to represent the symbolism of the Capricorn-Cancer axis, the feminine signs of cardinal water and earth ruled by the Moon and Saturn. Remember, the Thema Mundi has Cancer/Moon rising and Capricorn/Saturn in the seventh house!

Btw, did you know Saturn is sometimes called the “old Sun?” Another fact worth pondering is that Enki, in the myth of Enki and Ninmah, is referred to as the son of Nammu, the Prime Creatrix. Sandra Bart Heimann (The Biography of Goddess Inanna; Indomitable Queen of Heaven, Earth and Almost Everything: Her Story Is Women’s Story) sees Inanna as the maiden aspect of Nammu. There is a story about Inanna (re-)gaining the arts of civilization (the ME) from Enki.

Could She Be?

After what you’ve just read, could the Finnish Louhi be an expression of the Great Mother? An aspect of her? What do you think? Is there a figure from mythology close to your heart similar to Louhi?

I’m leaving you with this wonderful video, a short documentary (37 min.), which “introduces the worldview and mythological cosmos of ancient Finno-Ugric peoples; it provides information on traditional ecological knowledge and the culture of guardian spirits, totemistic animal mothers and other nature beings.” Script by Kaarina Kailo & Irma Heiskanen. Directed by Kirre Koivunen, Myyttikehrä & Valokuvalabo production, 2015.

Final Thoughts

Despite that Louhi and her land are depicted as dreadful and evil in the Kalevala, the heroes Väinämöinen, Lemminkäinen, and Ilmarinen still desire the matriarch’s and her land’s riches, symbolized by the Sampo, and Louhi’s beautiful daughter(s) who they compete over.

One could say the heroes’ sight is blinded. They reject the mother and the land but lust for their fruits. Could the same happen to us? Is our perception of life complete? Do we accept the cyclical nature of our earthly experience with the continuous ups and downs? Or do we only acknowledge the sunny side of life, refusing to see and walk through the shadowy valleys of disappointment, loss, and hurt our path on this terrestrial plane inevitably leads us? Are we refusing to live?

Are our eyes closed or open to see the many opportunities for growth through adversity? Are we outsourcing our responsibility to take part in the collective growth of humankind here on Earth, longing for a better time, a better place, Heaven – somewhere far away giving up on humanity and this planet?

Do you have hope for humanity here on Earth?

I’m continuing to contemplate how the Feminine, light, and darkness are depicted in myth, history, and astrology. You’ll probably read another piece from me on this topic in the future.

For now, be well wherever you are, in the light, dark, or somewhere in between.

Sindy 🕊️

P.S. Connect with me on Instagram at @venus_star_astrologer for regular and more concise content. Please, also visit and subscribe to my YouTube / Odysee channels.

*******

Saturn as Feminine

Obert, Charlie. Saturn as Feminine, Part One. https://studentofastrology.com/2016/02/saturn-as-feminine-part-one/. Accessed July 16th, 2022.

Obert, Charlie. Saturn as Feminine and Crone. https://studentofastrology.com/2016/02/saturn-as-feminine-and-crone/. Accessed July 16th, 2022.

The Astrology Podcast, Episode 86. Saturn as Feminine, and the Earliest Female Astrologer. https://theastrologypodcast.com/2016/07/31/saturn-feminine-earliest-female-astrologer/.

Books

Bart Heimann, Sandra. The Biography of Goddess Inanna; Indomitable Queen of Heaven, Earth and Almost Everything: Her Story Is Women’s Story. Balboa Press, 2016.

Brinton Perera, Sylvia. Inannas Abstieg zur dunklen Schwester: Eine weibliche Initiation. Title of the Original Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women, published 1983 by Inner City Books, Toronto. Transl. into German by Sibylle Schmidt, 1985. German reprint, Eagle Books, 2018.

De Shong Meador, Betty. Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna. University of Texas Press, 2001.

Gadon, Elinor W. The Once and Future Goddess: A Sweeping Visual Chronicle of the Sacred Female and Her Reemergence in the Cultural Mythology of Our Time. HaperCollins Publishers, 1989.

Kailo, Kaarina. Finnish Goddess Mythology and the Golden Woman – Climate Change, Earth-based Indigenous knowledge and the Gift. Lore & Loom, 2018.

Kalevala: The Epic Poem of Finland Into English by John Martin Crawford, 1888. The Project Gutenberg eBook of Kalevala: the Epic Poem of Finland, by Elias Lönnrot. Updated March 21, 2022.

Finnish Mythology-Inspired Tarot Deck

Mythologia Fennica Tarot (Ukon pakka – Kalevalainen tarot) by Susanna Salo: https://www.salakirjat.com/product/338/mythologia-fennica-tarot—deck.

My Video About Oneness, Polarity, and Diversity

Understanding Oneness, Polarity, and Diversity — and How These Are Symbolized Through Astrology. https://youtu.be/i7Yq3HJPvY8, March 24, 2021.

Published by

Sindy 🕊️

Certified astrologer and Venus Star Point® practitioner | 🇫🇮 🇬🇧 🇩🇪

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