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“åpp større” and the Finnish Inquisition

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A number of readers cast doubt on yesterday’s throwaway aside that in Finnish, “åpp større” means “fellate a demon”.

It’s true that in modern Finnish it doesn’t. That’s because it’s wrapped up in a dark era of Finland’s past, a past which modern Finns prefer to forget.

“Åpp større” means “fellate a demon” in the Middle Late High Hämeenlinna dialect. Hämeenlinna is a small city of 68,000 people, but in the fifteenth century it was a hotbed of Catholic religious fervour, centered around the monastery of Häme Castle. In 1498, the Finnish Inquisition began (unexpectedly), and most of the Inquisitors were recruited from Hämeenlinna.

Suspects were tortured until they confessed to carnal relations with minions of Satan – åpp større – and then punished by being weighed down with stones and thrown into a fjord to sink the accused to Hell, known as “Hell-sink”.

Although much of this is forgotten or suppressed in modern-day Finland and most Finns will strenuously deny it, some linguistic clues remain. The modern-day Scandinavian surname “Helsing” indicates a descendant of the Hämeenlinna inquisitors – indicating someone who sent people “sinking to Hell”. The city that was nearest to the fjord where executions took place became known as “rapids where they sink to Hell” – or, nowadays, “Helsingfors”: Helsinki.

You can’t argue with history.

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