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Places - South Paris, “Raatikko”

Song: “Raatikko”
Singer: Walfred Hamari
Town: South Paris, ME
NA 2095    CD 2121    Track 12
Collector: Jeff McKeen
Date: 1988

“Raatikko” is a traditional Finnish song and dance. The song tells of a mountain in southern Finland, Kyöpelinvuori, which is known in Finnish mythology as the place haunted by the spirits of virgins who die young. These spirits are known in Finland as witches, or trulli. Kyöpelinvuori is also known as Raatikko, hence the song’s title, and is Finnish for “ghost mountain.” The mountain, which is a real place and a nature preserve, is especially important around Easter because the witches who inhabit the mountain are said to leave only at that one time of year. At Easter, the witches leave Kyöpelinvuori and go about making mischief and scaring children. In modern Finland, these beliefs from Scandinavian paganism combined with traditions from the Orthodox and Lutheran churches. Around Easter – the exact day varies across different parts of the country – Finnish children dress as witches and carry willow twigs. Stopping at houses, they receive treats for reciting a special verse and whisking the residents with their lucky willow branches. The lyrics of this version actually refer to a different legend about the mountain. The song refers to a joke about how unmarried elderly women go the Kyöpelinvuori; according to this legend, the witches who inhabit the mountain are actually these old women. The lyrics translate roughly to “Into Raatikko, the place for old maids. Over at Kyopelinvuori, where they are not with boys.” The last phrase of Hamari’s singing (…vanhat pojat taa) is awkward in translation. This phrase is more commonly “…pojat nähdä saa” or something similar, which is used for our English translation. Some versions also include a second verse, but Hamari did not indicate that he knew any more of the song.

Finns first came to Maine around the turn of the twentieth century. In Maine, they found an area that reminded them of home. Unlike some of the other prominent ethnic communities in Maine, the Finns spread out across the state instead of centering all in one area. As a result, Finnish settlements popped up in several areas, including the Moosehead Lake region, around South Paris in the western mountains, and in the Mid-Coast area. They brought with them a rich tradition of music and song, and their heritage continues today with such organizations as the Finnish Heritage House in South Thomaston and the Finnish American Heritage Society in West Paris.

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Raatikkoon, Raatikkoon vanhat piiat pannaan. (Repeat)
Tuonne, tuonne Kyöpelinvuoren taa, ettei niitä, ettei niitä, vanhat pojat taa. (Repeat)

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Sources: For a general history of Finnish folk music, see Makinen, Timo and Seppo Nummi. Musica Fennica: An Outline of Music in Finland. Translated from Finnish by Kingsley Hart. Octava: Helsinki, 1985, especially the first chapter; for a broader survey of Scandinavian folk music – though it does not directly deal with Finland -, see Yoell, John H. the Nordic Sound: Explorations into the Music of Denmark, Norway, Sweden. Crescendo Publishing: Boston, 1974, 30-32. For some discussion, see Laura Stark, “Narrative and the Social Dynamics of Magical Harm in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Finland,” in de Blecourt, Willem & Owen Davies, eds. Witchcraft Continued: Popular Magic in Modern Europe. Palgrave: New York, 2004, 69-88.


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