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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/110

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Il Kalevala, o la Poesia tradizionale dei Finni, studio storico-critico sulle origini delle grandi epopee nazionali. Del Domenico Comparetti. Firenze, 1891.

Der Kalevala, oder die traditionelle Poesie der Finnen, etc. Von Domenico Comparetti. (The authorised German edition.) Halle, 1892.

Professor D. Comparetti, who is already well known to our Society for his researches respecting the Book of Sindibad, has now shifted the scene of his labours to the Far North, and presented his countrymen with a valuable and interesting work on the national epic of the Finns. Though his critical investigation into the origin of the Kaleala has chiefly a literary purpose in view, yet some of his conclusions are of much interest to folk-lorists. Our author starts from the assumption that the religion of the prehistoric Finns, before they entered Europe, was essentially shamanistic, coupled with an animistic conception of nature. By Shamanism he understands a belief in the special power of the Shaman over the good and evil Beings that represent and govern the operations of nature. He acts upon them in a twofold way : by means of certain actions and operations of which he alone has the secret, or by means of the spoken word. He is far more than a priest, he is a factotum ; he can work miracles, raise or lay a storm, cure or induce disease, ascend to heaven, or descend to the regions of the dead. One direct result of this belief in the power of the Shaman, combined with a very imperfect social and intellectual development, was that the idea the people entertained of their gods was confused and insignificant. Even at a much later period, after the Finns had been influenced by contact with Euro-