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[From Laura Stark-Arola: "Women and food in rural-traditional Finland"

In former times girls made 'cloud' cakes on their bare thighs, singing:  

eat my salts, this butter

melting in my mouth

will make your body pulse

your heart will melt

the surface of your flesh

now cold be broken 

you will fall in love

with me so wild

the blood will warm

will start to flow

through bones & flesh

through veins & marrow 

& if the blacksmith

from a fabled time

has melted tired iron

why can't I then

oh will of man

force you to bend 

English working by Jerome Rothenberg 


Related TEXTS & Commentaries 

There was a girl who was not at all attractive to look at. A boy fell in love with her so deeply that when he was at home he sat at the window and watched the road in the hope of seeing that girl. When he did meet her, he couldn't stand her, but rather wanted to get away from her. But once again he began to long for her so much that he shed tears. One of the girl's friends later told how she had seen the girl in question take her own menstrual blood, put it into coffee and offer it to the boy. (Viipuri. 1957. Artturi Railonsala 6931. -Aune Sopanen, b. 1921).  

It is told that the farm master Matti Savolainen was bewitched to take Kristiina S. as his wife in such a way that Kristiina's shirt, stained with menstrual blood, was put into the soup to boil. After this, the soup was fed to Matti, and when he left the girl's house, a kind of compulsion came over him and he had to turn back and promise to take her as his wife despite all objections. (Kurkijoki. 1935. Pekka Kyytinen 69. - Maria Kyytinen, farm mistress, 59 years).  

One woman made 'red cakes' and put some of her own "red" into the cake. She marked the cake and fed it to me. Innocently and sweetly she gave the food to me. Then I began to crave that woman. (Kittilä. 1930 (recorded in 1920). Jenny Paulaharju 10241. - Juho Koskama, farm master, 82 years).  

In former times girls made 'cloud' cakes on their bare thighs and said:  

Sys näitä suolojaini (Eat these salts of mine),  

Suustani sulava voi (The melting butter from my mouth),  

Rakeheni raivoks käykn (Be frenzied for my body),  

Sulakohon sytämesi (May your heart melt),  

Kylmä kalvo katketkoon (Let your cold surface be broken),  

Lämmin veri vuotakoon (May the warm blood flow),  

Läpi luitten ja lihasten (Through bones and flesh),  

Läpi suonten ja ytinten (Through veins and marrow).  

Saiha ennen seppä Ilmarinen (In old times Ilmarinen the smith),  

Rauan raukean sulaksi (Made tired iron to melt),  

Miks en mie sit soa (Why can't I make you)  

Miehen tahtoa taipumoa (Will of man, to bend)  

Rakastumoa raivoisasti (To fall in love wildly).  

(SKVR XIII3:9951. Kaukola. 1935. -Tuomas Osa, b. 1874).  

Repairing the couple's relationship (for the wife to do)To the mistress: Make cheese and put it in your armpit for three nights. Then take three drops of blood from the little finger of your left hand and put them in the cheese. Eat this cheese in exactly equal parts with your husband, no one else is allowed to so much as taste it. After this, take a sugar cube and put three drops of blood in it as before, over which you say the words: 'May our relationship be as loving as this sugar is made solid.' Eat the sugar with your husband exactly half and half, but take care that no one else gets it. Then take a box of butter. You should put the box overnight under the heads of a young couple who have recently been married and who still have the sweet love of a young couple. Then butter bread with this butter for your husband, and make the same for yourself. Say over the buttered bread: 'You are the bone of my bone and the flesh of my flesh'. (Ilmajoki. 1885. S. Pirilä 109).  

Lempi-bathing incantations describe the ideal of female bodily attractiveness in terms of all five types of sensory experience: vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell. It is the sense of smell, however, that is my focus here, since the smells associated with female desirability were smells of foods. In their ground-breaking study Aroma: the Cultural History of Smell, Classen, Howes and Synnott (1994) highlight the important role of smell in the cultures of past centuries. According to the authors, smell is not simply a biological and psychological phenomenon. Smell is cultural, hence a social and historical phenomenon. "Odours are invested with cultural values and employed by society as a means of and model for defining and interacting with the world" (Classen et. al. 1994:3). Although smell has been devalued and 'silenced' in the contemporary West, it was once a highly conspicuous, recognized part of everyday life. In ancient literature, for example, aromas and odors were metaphors for desirability: "the basic olfactory classification of women was to associate desirable women with fragrance and undesirable women with stench" (ibid.: 36). Finnish-Karelian folk concepts, too, made similar associations between desirability and smell. Lempi-incantations provide an inventory of olfactory images associated with desirability, often mixed with other sensory images:  

Mikä pisti piikaan (What has stung the girl),  

Nenääty neitoon (Infected the maiden),  

Kun ei sulhaset sukinna (Since the suitors do not caress her),  

Eikä nuuski nuoret miehet (Nor do the young men smell her),  

Eikä vanhat vainustele (Nor do the old ones sniff her out)?  

(SKVR VII5:4672. Kesälahti. 1896.  Ulla Loviisa Pennanen).  

Haisukohon suu voille (Let your mouth smell of butter),  

Suu voille, vehnäsille (Your mouth of butter, of sweet breads),  

Sieramet sian lihoille (Your nostrils of pork),  

Kainalot kanan munille (Your armpits of chicken eggs),  

Vittu voille, vehnäsille (Your vagina of butter, of sweet breads)!

(SKVR VII5:4610. Impilahti? 1847).  

Pala, tuli, pala, takla [=taula] (Burn fire, burn tinder),  

Pala, nuoren miehen mieli (Burn, young man's mind),  

Mesi keitä, mieli käännä (Cook the honey, turn his mind),  

Sima keitä, silmät käännä (Cook the mead, turn his eyes),  

Haju entinen hajota (Disperse the former smell),  

Jott' ei saisi yllä rauhaa (So that [the suitors] will find no peace at night)  

Eikä paivällä lepoa (Nor rest during the day)  

(SKVR VII5:4609. Impilahti. 1847).  

Jotta neito meeltä maistuu (So that the maiden would taste like nectar),  

Hunajalta haistahtavi (smell like honey)!


(SKVR XIII3:9988).  


eat my salts, this butter

melting in my mouth

will make your body pulse

your heart will melt

the surface of your flesh

now cold be broken

& will fall in love with me

so wild the blood will warm

the blood will start to flow

through bones & flesh

through veins & marrow

once the fabled blacksmith

melted tired iron

why can't I oh will of man

force you to bend 

Eat these salts of mine  

The melting butter from my mouth  

Be frenzied for my body  

May your heart melt  

Let your cold surface be broken  

To fall in love wildly

May the warm blood flow  

Through bones and flesh  

Through veins and marrow 

In old times Ilmarinen the smith  

Made tired iron to melt  

Why can't I make you

Will of man, to bend 


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