Ancient Healing Practices in Finland 2: The back story

This trip began as an intuition, it landed as an insistent dream, and it has become something of a synchronistic headwarp before we even arrive.

A few months ago I had the feeling that if my mother and I were ever going to go to Finland together, this was the summer to do it. She hasn’t been there in 57 years and I have never been at all. I had the intuition that she needed to put her feet on the ground of her first language, and I needed to be introduced to my heritage – by her.

The Dream that followed this intuition told me that I was from a people known as the People of the Deer. That my heart was made of deer heart and I could feel it beating in my chest as I was taken over land where the Deer People are from. I was told that I was not only Finnish, but my ancestors actually descended from Lapland, a place I knew nothing about. The dream said, most clearly, go to the land of your ancestors and search out the ancient healing traditions of your country.  It turns out the Laplanders have a very rich tradition of Shamanism, as do the Finns. But I didn’t know any of that when I had the dream. Ot that the two things held closest to them are the Deer, and trees.

In fact, here is a video since found that suggests my dream was…well, maybe not just a dream…

I was not going to say No to a powerful dream directive like that, but keep in mind I’ve never had much of a draw to go to Finland. They have the highest rate of alcoholism and suicide on the planet, and I’ve already mentioned the lack of humour that, as a people, they are known for.

Ironically, the only two phrases I’ve ever known how to say in Finnish are, ‘I love you’ and “leave me alone’ – it sums up much of my Finnish family, as well as my own life…. I would love the explanation of how it came about that these are the two phrases taught to me out of a plethora of linguistic possibilities, but my mother can’t remember. And of course, it’s funny. In a dark sort of way that I’m beginning to think is where to find the Funny in a Finn. 

I committed to the trip, my mother was not hard to convince, and I flew to Toronto alone to do some work before she joined me from California where we had spent the winter filming her teacher training program in Somatic Stretch. This is significant because as obscure as this technique is in North America, I have discovered that Somatic Stretch is a name well known all over Finland – alongside Pilates. A strange coincidence, and one I will pursue when we get there.

Committing to the trip is one thing, but knowing what we’re going to do when we get there was another. We only had vague contact with one ageing cousin of my mothers. They have been writing a Christmas card every year for about 60 years but there has been no other contact and my mother wasn’t even sure if she was still living – having missed a Christmas card this past year. How you’re supposed to go to a Lutheran country and search out ancient healing traditions with no connections in a quick two week trip eluded me, but follow the dream I did. The next clue on the path came the day after I had just been asking myself if this trip was going to find us wandering together around Helsinki looking for restaurants that cater to my strange, celiac diet…or was there something more? If there was, I had little idea of how to follow up, save for asking random strangers on street corners if they happened to know any Shamans of Finnish tradition?

Around the same time I had this thought, I flipped open Toronto’s weekly magazine for the first time in a month of being in Canada. I glanced at its pages for two minutes before I got off the subway I was on at the time. And in that two minutes I saw a workshop happening the next morning in nothing other than Finno-Ugric shamanism.

I laughed out loud. I’d never heard the word before or ever known that there was a form of shamanism called Finno-Ugric – one I later found out dates back thousands of years, specific to the Finns and the Ural mountains they originate from. The Ural connection comes via Mongolia and Siberia. The Finnish language is more like Russian, Estonian or Hungarian, and these Mongol roots are the reason our skin is often much more olive coloured than the typical Scandinavian White. I called the number for the workshop at 10:30 that night, as soon as I got home, to register for the workshop happening the very next day. There was only one workshop being offered, led by a woman from Helsinki who is a carrier of the traditional ways and who had never come to Canada before to teach.

Despite this wonderful synchronicity, the man who answered the phone said I couldn’t come. The workshop was too full. I was silenced – a rare event – for lack of believing I could run into such a coincidence of being told to search out my roots, have something so random land in my lap and then be told I couldn’t go.

‘Are you sure?’ I asked. “I’m definitely supposed to be there’. He laughed. I convinced him some more. He asked the woman leading the workshop a second time and I heard her pause for a moment before saying ‘Yes, she comes’. I went.

I learned that Deer are the most sacred animal to these Northern Shamans, reminiscent of my dream of being told I was connected to this ancient way, and she and I have become great friends in the short time she was in Toronto. She is part of a drum making workshop in this tradition over the June 15th weekend near Helsinki, which my mother and I are enrolled in. This all happened before we booked the flight, so things were looking optimistic….

We then discovered that we have LOTS of family in Finland, and some are coming from Sweden (who knew?!) to meet us in Lahti, where my grandfather is from and his sister’s daughter is still living.

I then met another woman who I have become very close to in the short span of a couple of weeks. A friend of a friend, she had just returned from Helsinki only to fly back to see her mother who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a few weeks to live. Our initial meeting was due to the fact that she had heard of my work and wanted me to come and offer support for her mother while I was in Helsinki – a great honour to sit at the bedside of one dying. And a surreal visit to sit at the bedside of a mother dying while I am on a pilgrimage of sorts with my own mother….Sadly, the woman died before we arrived, and just today, I gave the daughter and her father each a session to help their nervous systems digest the load they are under just three short days since her death.

Because of this new friendship, and just after we had booked our flight for Helsinki, she had connected me with a friend of hers who lives on a beautiful lake in Helsinki. He is the curator/guardian of an art museum, and we are renting his place, connected to the museum and surrounded by Nature.

We had gone from wondering what on earth we were going to do in Finland to staying in an art museum just a short ride from the city centre of Helsinki when we arrive for a generously low amount;  connecting with a tribe of our family lineage we never knew existed and are about to meet; taking a Finno-Ugric drum making workshop and participating in drum circles of ancient ways; staying for free at the house of the woman running the workshop because we have come so far; having a place to stay in Lahti when we get there, all set up as ‘basecamp’ for our trip as offered by the shaman I met in Toronto; we have connections all around Finland and Lapland – cool festivals, people and links, lakes, cottages and saunas…and the list goes on.

The amount of effort and energy it would have taken to coordinate this red carpet roll out could have taken months. As of now, my personal vote is always to follow the dream and let the dreammaker work out the details. Because really, I just can’t plan parties as well as this one has been laid out.

Sweet dreams – and updates on actual ancient practices coming soon.