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The One True Power of Madder Atcha

Updated on March 26, 2016
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher. He is a former journalist who has worked on various community and college publications.

By Orland - Sámi mythology shaman drum ,  Possibly contains early image of Madder Atcha
By Orland - Sámi mythology shaman drum , Possibly contains early image of Madder Atcha | Source

First the body, and then the soul; the process of creating human life was like a factory assembly line for the Lapland Gods of the Sami people. The process would start with the goddesses known as the Akka, and then finish with the male God, Madder Atcha.

Madder Atcha had only one power. However, to the people of the Sampi region (now part of present day Finland), his power was the most important. And for that reason, he was praised with high honor.

While he was held in high esteem, however, Madder Atcha was elusive. Little exist in terms of written text about him. Much of it had been passed down through oral tradition and seemingly lost in translation.

Still, his existence says a lot about the Sami people. It indicates what they considered important at the time, and how they saw the world before Christianity came to the region.

Additional Information: Don’t Call it the Lapland

Sampi Region is known to outside world as the Lapland, which stretches along the northern-most sections of the Scandinavian nations. This, of course, includes Finland. However, the Sami people of this region are not fond of the name “Lapland”. Sampi is the name they gave the region and that’s how they will refer to it.


So who exactly was Madder Atcha?

In the most northern region of Sampi in the Scandinavian and Baltic area, the Sami people once believed that several gods were responsible for humanity. While three female spirits known as the Akka were tasked with creating the physical bodies of humans, a single male god with only one task supplied the soul. And, despite this one, lone power, Madder Atcha was considered the creator of humanity.

Madder Atcha (also known as Madder Archa) belonged to several mythologies and folklore in the northern Scandinavian-Baltic region. He was part of a polytheistic religion that pre-dated Christianity by thousands of years. Most of these mythologies – often told in epic poems and passed down from generation to generation barely -- managed to survive the test of time.

The Sami passed down the stories through oral tradition, as did the neighboring Finnish and Estonian tribes. Unlike other mythologies of Northern Europe - such as the Norse and other German’s - the Finnish-Baltic mythologies wouldn’t be written down until the 19th century. And, this mostly happened in Finland where their version of the gods’ names was used in place of the ones given by the Sami people.


Deities Working Together

Much of what is known about Madder Atcha is that he was part of process. He worked together with other deities such as his wife Madder-Akka and their three daughters, Sarakka, Juksakka, and Uksakka. The goddesses in this family created and protected newborn children.

Madder Akka created the baby’s body; Sarakka supported the women during childbirth; Juksakka helped with gender roles of the child; and Uksakka protected the new-born child.

After the creation of the baby, Madder Atcha added the final touch; He inserted the soul into the body. Afterward, he helped his wife place the child in the womb. From there, his task was complete. The rest of the process of the creation of human fell upon Madder Akka and the three daughters. They are tasked with inspiring would-be mothers with a name for their child, and to act as guardian angels for children in their formative years.

In Finnish mythology [Madder Atcha] may have been known by another name, and may have been combined with another God. The Finns called him Ukko.

Why One Task Was So Important

From observation, it seemed that Madder Atcha had little to do with the creation of humans. However, his contribution was the very thing that made humans a thinking, functional and moral being. In other words, he made humans more human.

The Sami people believed that the physical body was merely a vessel that held the soul – the real essence of a person. Thus, Madder Atcha was credited by the Sami as being the creator of humanity.

Same God in Another Myth?

As mentioned, characteristics of Madder Atcha – or gods with similar tasks and importance – could be found in other mythologies throughout Northern Baltic Region. In Finnish mythology he may have been known by another name, and may have been combined with another God. The Finns called him Ukko. Ukko (derived from the Finnish word ukkonen meaning thunderstorm) was a sky god who controlled the weather, crops and other natural things.

This particular god was the most important god in ancient Finnish society. The connection between Ukko and Madder Atcha is very minute. Much of these connections between Sami and Finnish myths can be found in the Kalevala, the definitive written account of Finnish mythology. The collection names Akka as Ukko’s wife. Some scholars speculate that Akka is the same “Madder Akka” from Sami myths. This may indicate that the Finnish Ukko was actually Madder Atcha.


The Kalevala

Madder Atcha may have been an ancient god from an ancient religion. But, he managed to be woven into modern times – and to be an influence on Finns during the early 20th century. This time his power would be revealed through Kalevala.

This collection of ancient Baltic myths (most Finnish) was compiled by Elias Lönnrot. In part, it was collected and recorded to shed light on Finland’s mythic past. But, most importantly it was designed to inspire a nationalist movement that helped fuel the country’s independence from Russia in 1917.

Still, as powerful as Kaleveka was in telling the story of the Finnish version of Madder Atcha, the Sami version has yet be written down. It’s hard to say to say if this version would have the same impact as the Kaleveka had. One thing is certain: despite a lack of written account, Madder Atcha’s soul survives in the stories and beliefs the people that live in the Sampi region of Finland.

© 2016 Dean Traylor


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