Haltija is a spirit and often gnome or elf-like creature in Finnish mythology, that guards, helps or protects something or somebody.
The word is possibly derived from Gothic *haltijar, and referred to the original settler of a homestead, even thought this is not the only possible etymology. When written as haltia, the term usually refers to the elves in Tolkien's mythology or other such fantasy works.
Some haltijas are divided in races or folks, which are called väki. There are different kind of väkis of haltijas, like veden väki (water folk) or metsän väki (forest folk). However, väki should not be simply translated to folk or race, because it has also another meaning at the same time; it means folk, and it means (magical) powers. Sometimes väki is more like folk, and then it is a group of individual haltijas. Sometimes väki is more like magical power, and then it is the qualities of certain environments and elements, or powers that can make diseases or cure. Usually the both meanings are true at the same time. Magical powers are caused by groups of haltijas. For example, if someone gets sick while swimming, this can be caused by väki of water that is attached to a person. In this sense väki is more like magical power of water that can make people ill, but it can also mean that very small or invisible haltija-spirits are attached to a person. However, if someone goes fishing, (s)he can ask for väki of water to bring fish by calling individual haltijas belonging that väki by their names. In latter case väki is understoon more as a folk, but it can be seen also as (luck bringing) magical force.
Some väkis of haltijas:
- Väki of forest (metsän väki) means haltijas of forest. Their leader is Tapio, the king of forest. It also means magical powers of forest.
- Väki of water (veden väki) means haltijas of water. Their leader is Ahti, the king of the sea. Veden väki is also magical power of water that can make people sick or heal them.
- Väki of woman (naisen väki) is usually understood as special magical powers of women
- Väki of death (kalman väki) means ghosts and spirits, but also magical power that can be found from graveyard. This power can make people ill, and it can also be used against other people.
- Väki of fire: (tulen väki) means spirits of fire, but also the destructive forces of fire and healing power of warm air of sauna
- Väki of mountain (vuoren väki) means usually evil haltijas of hills and big stones
- Väki of wood (puun väki) means race of haltijas of trees, and also power of wood material, which can cause for example pain if you are hit by wooden object
- Väki of iron (raudan väki) means haltijas of iron, that can hurt people which are hit by bladed weapons. Väki of steel can also be commanded to heal the wounds they have done.
Even humans have their personal haltijas, which are their protecting spirits like angels in christianity. One of them is Luonto, which means "nature". The Tonttu or Maan Haltija (Haltija of land) is considered as a household spirit.
Haltija väkis of different environments and materials were thought to be in conflicts with each other. For example, when wood is burned, it is an assault in which väki of fire is beating väki of wood. Väki of fire can be used to scare other väki away. For example, if you were made ill by väki of water, that has attached you while you were swimming, this väki and the illness could be removed in sauna that had a lots of väki of fire.