St Katherine of Alexandria: Her Legend and Her Memory in Finnish and Estonian Vernacular Religion

Irma-Riitta Järvinen

St Katherine of Alexandria was one of the highly venerated martyr saints in medieval Scandinavia, Estonia and Finland. Her cult was promoted especially by the Dominican order. In my paper, I shall present the many-layered traditions centered around St Katherine. I shall discuss one of the most important sources of her martyr legend, by Jacobus de Voragine (13th c,), and track the traces of her legend in Finland and Estonia. I am asking, how St Katherine was interpreted in Finnish and Estonian folklore and ritual traditions, and paying attention to the songs about St Katherine in Finnish: Kalevala-metric song about the death of Katherine, and a rhymed ballad called Pieni Katri, "Little Katri". I shall also analyse the ritual traditions on Katherine, who has been venerated as a women's saint and promoter of the welfare of the cattle and sheep. The Estonian mumming traditions with songs, and the importance of Katherine as a protector of sheep, "lambajumal" is discussed, as well as the connection of this tradition with Finland.