Night thoughts

I have heard many times that there exist two kinds of people: morning people and night people. I certainly belong to latter kind. I think that many creative people tend to be a bit stuck in their heads. I count myself as one of these people. My lunar character makes me turn my gaze naturally inwards. I love to daydream and to dream at night. This is why I need a routine for the mornings to get my day started like I described on my last post, but I sure don’t need a routine for the night. I begin to thrive at nighttime. When the sun sets, I find my creativity surfacing instantly. When I look outside my window, I don’t see the dark. I see a canvas with blank spots that I can paint on with my imagination. I live in an area in Helsinki where I can still find little spots without electric lighting. I am thankful for this since I can enjoy the atmosphere of the dark and I am able to see at least some of the night sky. I love going outside for walks with my dog after the sun has set and stare at the stars and the moon.

Silhouette of a forest. Photographed from my balcony while writing this text.

Elias Lönnrot, the author of the Finnish national epic Kalevala, has said that the rune songs which he collected for the book were born out of “night-knowledge”. Lönnrot suggested that the sages who sang these songs had a way of tapping into a stream of eternal wisdom. He suggested that these songs were born out of an altered state of consciousness, from night-knowledge. The contrary of night knowledge is of course day-knowledge. Day-knowledge can be described as our mundane state of consciousness.

In Kalevala, new perspectives are often searched for from the dark, from under the earth, from the land of the dead, from the furthest north where the sun never shines. In Rune XIX, ‘Ilmarinen’s wooing’, the eternal forger of the sky Ilmarinen descends to the land of the dead in search of a bride. In order for Ilmarinen to get the bride, the empress of the land of the dead Louhi gives Ilmarinen multiple challenges. In this rune Ilmarinen has completed the final challenge of fishing a great pike from the river of death.

”Then the blacksmith, Ilmarinen,
Took the pike-head to the hostess
Of the ever-dismal Northland,
Thus addressed the ancient Louhi:
“Let this head forever serve thee
As a guest-bench for thy dwelling,
Evidence of hero-triumphs;
I have caught the pike of Mana,
I have done as thou demandest,
Three my victories in Death-land,
Three the tests of magic heroes;
Wilt thou give me now thy daughter,
Give to me the Maid of Beauty?”

– Kalevala, Rune XIX.

In his search to find beauty and his counterpart, Ilmarinen needs to travel to the underworld and face the depths of the river of the dead. In the river there lies a monstrous pike which he has to defeat. The pike is damaged in the battle and Louhi is disappointed when she receives only the head of the pike and not the whole fish. After hearing this Ilmarinen proceeds to defend himself:

“When the victory is greatest,
Do we suffer greatest losses!
From the river of Tuoni,
From the kingdom of Manala,
I have brought to thee this trophy,
Thus the third task is completed.”

– Kalevala, Rune XIX.

After hearing this statement Louhi accepts that her daughter will be married to Ilmarinen.

There are monsters to be found in the dark but the greatest of rewards also lie there. A dive into the depths is a dangerous task but the one who survives it is gifted with the Maid of Beauty. One can only do this if he has the ability to acquire night-knowledge. To go where the sun doesn’t shine, to dive into the depths, in modern terms can be considered as a metaphor for encountering one’s subconscious.

The night doesn’t hide what can be seen by day. It unveils a different mode of consciousness, a different mode of being. Only some can see what the night has to offer. Some are too scared to take a look. The call of the night can only be heard by those who are willing to listen.