Mythic Wrath-disease and Psychological Essentialism

Siria Kohonen, University of Helsinki

In Finnish early modern worldview some diseases or wounds were considered as “wraths” (vihat in Finnish) of natural elements. For example fire, water, iron or animals were considered having an ability of transmitting their wrath to a wound (in Finnish e.g. wrath of the fire, tulen vihat), and this would make the wound worse.

The wrath of an element was seen as a negative part of the elements väki-force, a mythic dynamic essence of the element. Wrath was a harmful part, with a connotation to a harmful but mighty emotion, which helps to raise one’s own väki or luonto as well.

Väki has been considered an essence-kind of dynamic force by many scholars. But rarely the concept of väki has been connected to psychological essentialism, a thinking process natural to human beings. Considering väki via psychological essentialism -theory gives us tools to study the concept of wraths as well, from the viewpoint of cognitive science. How the healing practices against wraths reflect the idea of wraths as essence, a cognitively natural idea?

In this paper I present the theory of psychological essentialism and adapt it to the academic subject of väki and study of vernacular healing practices of essence-like diseases, especially wrath-diseases.