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Leib-olmai


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Literal meaning: ‘alder man’. The bear man, or bear god, honoured by the Lapps: he it was who gave luck to the hunter, preventing injury in the skirmish with the bear. At bear feasts the hunters’ faces were sprinkled with extract of alder bark, a ritual in honour of Leib-olmai.

An unfriendly forest spirit, quite the opposite of the bear god, was Ovda, the assailant of Finnish woodsmen. Ovda wandered in the forest as a naked human being, but its feet were turned backwards. Sometimes it appeared as a man, sometimes as a woman. The method of destruction used by Ovda was ingenious: it enticed people to dance or wrestle, and then tickled or danced them to death.

Subjects: Religion.


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