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  • Writer's pictureNorse Norn

Ukko: Finnish Sky Father and God of Thunder

Ukko is the Finnish god of thunder. He carries an axe (and many other weapons) that was considered a symbol of protection among the Finns, just as Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, was a symbol of protection among the Norse.

But Ukko is more akin to the Greco-Roman sky gods Zeus and Jupiter, as he is also the supreme god of heaven who has domain over lesser spirits, which do his bidding.

Ukko Finnish Sky God
Ukko Finnish Sky God

Origins of Ukko

Ukko, who seems to be equivalent to the Estonian deity Uku and the Sami god Aijeke, is not from the Indo-European tradition but rather seems to be a distinctive Finno-Urgic idea. These people came out of the Ural Mountains in western Russia between 5,000-4,000 BCE before settling in the Baltic region from around 1,500 BCE.

While Ukko does not seem to have had the same source as Zeus, Jupiter, or even Thor, they do have much in common, and there was probably a lot of cross-influence. However, most of the surviving sources about Ukko date from Christian times, when Christian influence seems to have seen Ukko elevated from a weather god to a supreme sky god to more closely parallel the Christian deity.

Ukko and his Lightning Weapons
Ukko and his Lightning Weapons

God of Thunder

Ukko is principally a sky god connected to the weather. He makes it rain and controls the winds. He is principally associated with thunder, which is called Ukkonen, the diminutive of his name in Finnish. Thunder was usually represented by the image of a snake with a searted back.

According to an old Finnish poem known as the Kalevala, Ukko makes lightning and thunder with the axe that he carries.

Axe symbols and snake skins can be used to represent Ukko at your altar.

Ukko Lightning Arrow
Ukko Lightning Arrow

Warrior God

Ukko was also clearly considered a warrior god capable of providing martial protection. Many weapons were associated with Ukko. As well as his axe, he carried a hammer and a flaming sword.

In the Iron Age, images of Ukko's axe were worn as a symbol of protection, in the same way that the Norse wore Thor's hammer (Mjolnir) pendants as a symbol of protection.

Warriors would pray to Ukko for protection, hoping that he would grant them Umpiputki, a kind of magical charm of protection in battle.

Various Neolithic stone tools were found in the area by the ancient Finns, and these were believed to be old discarded weapons of Ukko. The Finnish people would bury these objects around their homes as a means of protection.

Several of his weapons were credited with being the source of lightning bolts, which were called Ukon Nuoli, which means thunderbolts of Ukko. It was also said that thunder was caused by his chariot traveling across the sky.

Other stories suggest that thunder was caused by the sound of Ukko making love to his wife Akka. She is the mother earth that gave all men their physical form and also the goddess of women and children. She also has a shadow self, Jabme-Akka, who is the goddess of the underworld and comforts babies who find themselves in her realm. The underworld is believed to mirror the world of the living, which is why in Finland, people were buried with things that they used in life.

You can protect a space by taking stones and marking them with tool marks by striking them with harder stones and then burying them around the perimeter of your space.

Ukko's Axe
Ukko's Axe

Healing God

Interestingly, Ukko was also considered a god of healing, but more than that, he was often explicitly called on for assistance in childbirth. It is very unusual for male gods to be associated with maternity.

Ukko's healing abilities also extended to the spirit world, and he was believed to be able to drive out and protect against evil spirits that attack the body.

Ask Ukko for Umpiputki whether you need protection for an endeavor or assistance in defeating a health challenge. You may borrow symbols from the Norse tradition to invoke Ukko as long as you have the Finnish god in your heart. Aegishjalmur is found in 18th-century Icelandic grimoires and invokes the protection and favor of the gods.

Aegishjalmur Symbol - Icelandic Grimoires
Aegishjalmur Symbol - Icelandic Grimoires

Sky Father

At least in Christian times, Ukko was also considered the supreme ruler of the sky, with power over other deities. He was often given the epithet Ylijumala, which means supreme god. But he may already have had this position as he was also called by the name Aija/o, which means old man or grandfather in Finnish and is used as a form of respect.

Ukko's abode was thought to be a central heavenly vault located at the navel of the sky. He was also sometimes called Jamala, which means heaven god.

Ukko is remote and is only called on for big things, such as controlling the weather, which is on a "global" scale. For day-to-day things, the Finns called on local guardian spirits, following a form of animism. While these spirits were much more accessible and could be prayed to and cultivated directly, they were ultimately under the command of Ukko.

Identify the smaller spirit more closely present in your life and invoke them as intermediaries for Ukko.

Ukko and his Chariot
Ukko and his Chariot

Symbols & Festivals of Ukko

While Ukko's most important symbol was his axe, there were various other symbols associated with the Finnish god.

The snake with the serrated back was connected with Ukko, representing lightning. The rowan tree also seems to have been considered his, as well as the ladybird, called the Ukonlehma, which means Ukko's cow.

Ukko seems to have had two principal festivals among the Finns. The first was midsummer, which was known as Ukon Juhla, the second was the May festival for spring sowing, known as the Vakkajuhlat. At both festivals, the Finnish people were working to ensure good weather for the coming harvest.

At both festivals, Ukko would receive sacrifices of food and alcohol. He seems to have been fond of sheep's meat. It was placed in a birch-bark chest for him, and he would eat his fill overnight. The next day, the community would eat the rest. These sacrifices were usually made at a grove considered sacred to the god.

At some festivals, bear meat was also eaten, and bears may also have been sacred to the god. The bear was also sometimes ritually married to a woman in the community, who could mystically become impregnated by the bear after it is slaughtered.


Invoke Ukko on May Day and Midsommer by sharing a drink with the god and barbequeing meat, letting the smell waft up into the sky.

Bear of Ukko
Bear of Ukko

Ukko: Finnish God of the Sky

Ukko is a complex deity with several domains, including the weather, harvest, battle, protection, and healing. He also seems to have had domain over the sky and the world of humanity, though this is a power that he exercises in a fairly remote way. Followers of the old Finnish religion are often best advised to call on the local spirits that inhabit the world around us.

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