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NESP Reviews


Finnish Magic: A Nation of Wizards, a World of Spirits by Robert Nelson. Llewellyn Publications, 1999.
       A Book Review by Sigmundr

       Llewellyn Publications has seen fit to publish a book on “Finnish magic”. Although this book came out in 1999 I think it would be in order to review it.
       The author Robert Nelson is a mental health professional with a doctorate in psychology, and an accomplished field worker. Nelson has stated that he wrote this book because his ancestors came to America from Finland in the 1600s and that one of them had been tried for witchcraft…
       The back cover of the book tells that
       “Finnish Magic explores the gods, spirits, rituals, folklore and shamanic practices of Finland's little known tradition. Learn how to practice the magic of song and the magic of nature. Discover ways to use trance, ritual, spirit communication, healing, dance, charms, sacred places, and the runes to live by the spiritual principles of the shaman.”
       When I started reading this book I immediately found out it was replete with errors, heavily dated, decades old theories on the genetic, linquistic and cultural origins of the Finns. Dr. Nelson tells that the Finns came out of Asia thousand of years ago, yet later on he suddenly tells ho Finnish language has left a deep impact on Celtic traditions! This reveals that good Doctor knows nothing of archaeology or the evolution of languages. Also the genetic heritage of Finns, according to any modern scientific test, is the same as that of any European people and there is not any scientific basis to consider the Finns related to Mongols or some other Asian folk such as used to be popular.
       The book is full of misspellings of Finnish words (indicating that the author not only does not know Finnish, but didn't even care to ask someone to correct the spelling.
       What he has to say about Finnish traditions shows he don't know anything about the subject and haven't even cared to find reliable source material, although theree are huge collections of Finnish lore available to those doing a research. Instead of real field-work and objective, scientific research he has chosen to mix different things together and present it as a “Finnish tradition”! Actually, Dr. Nelson repeatedly claims that it is the “Finnish way” to just mix up any traditions (basing this to the fact that there are some loan words in Finnish!) and do what one pleases.
       There are more funnier parts in the book as well. There is a drawing (propably by Nelson himself?) of a sauna where the stones are directly over the logs! I wonder if this guy has ever been to a real sauna?!
       It is difficult to find some solid substance for Nelson's work; it seems there is none. He has chosen to paint a totally fantastic and untrue picture of what Finnish traditions and shamanism are all about.
       Even all his examples on magical practice are empty of real content. Although I tried to find such thing, there is nothing positive, “traditional” or magical in Nelson's book. All I could do is to complain more – page by page – but it would be pointless. Once again Llewellyn, the universalist pseudo-magic book publisher, has done a bad job by publishing this book. If Mr. Nelson sees this, I might add: stay in America and don't ever come to Finland! Perhaps you would be “inspired” to write another book with more misinformation!

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