was a professor of folklore studies and comparative religion
Comparative religion is a field of religious studies that analyzes the similarities and differences of themes, myths, rituals and concepts among the world's religions...
Life and work
Honko was a disciple of Martti Haavio. The title of his doctoral dissertation was Krankheitsprojektile. Untersuchung über eine urtümliche Krankheitserklärung
(Disease Projectiles: A Study of the Primitive Explanation of Disease, 1959) at the University of Helsinki
The University of Helsinki is a university located in Helsinki, Finland since 1829, but was founded in the city of Turku in 1640 as The Royal Academy of Turku, at that time part of the Swedish Empire. It is the oldest and largest university in Finland with the widest range of disciplines available...
and developed a special typology for the analysis of ethnographic data in folk medicine. Here he put the Finnish folk tradition explanation of illness and healing into a global perspective and found distinct features and differences in geographical regions.
Honko’s seminal work, Geisterglaube in Ingermanland
(Belief in Spirits in Ingria
Ingria is a historical region in the eastern Baltic, now part of Russia, comprising the southern bank of the river Neva, between the Gulf of Finland, the Narva River, Lake Peipus in the west, and Lake Ladoga and the western bank of the Volkhov river in the east...
) was very influential for Finnish folklorists because it set apart the old and new science of religion. In this work he used new insights from social anthropology, phenomenology of religion, social psychology and sociology. Honko also interpreted the experience of guardian spirits in Ingrian
Ingrian can refer to:*Of or pertaining to the region of Ingria*The Ingrians, which can refer to:**Ingrian Finns, descendants of Finnish immigrants to Ingria in the 17th century**Izhorians, an indigenous people of Ingria...
peasant society by developing a genre-analytic and role-model theory.
In Geisterglaube in Ingermanland
he classified rituals into three main categories: rites of passage, calendrical rites, and crisis rites. Honko even stresses the importance of analyzing rituals within cultural context and the need to differentiate between small-scale and complex systems of belief.
In 1961 Honko became a assistant professor in folklore studies and comparative religion. In 1963 he was an associate professor in both subjects at the University of Turku
The University of Turku , located in Turku in southwestern Finland, is the second largest university in the country as measured by student enrollment, after University of Helsinki. It was established in 1920 and also has faculties at Rauma, Pori and Salo...
. In 1971 he received a special seat. In 1996 he was named professor emeritus.
Lauri Honko also became the head of the Nordic Institute of Folklore (NIF) in Turku
Turku is a city situated on the southwest coast of Finland at the mouth of the Aura River. It is located in the region of Finland Proper. It is believed that Turku came into existence during the end of the 13th century which makes it the oldest city in Finland...
in 1972. From 1974 to 1989 he was president of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research and then also the editor of Folklore Fellows’ Communications
. He was the editor of Temenos
from 1965 to 1969 and from 1975 to 1990, of NIF Newsletters
from 1972 onwards, and of Studia Fennica
from 1981 to 1989.
During the 1980s and 1970s, Honko compared popular traditions and developed a research methodology.
- Anna-Leena Siikala: Honko, Lauri. In: Enzyklopädie des Märchens Vol. 6 (1990), Sp. 1236-1239.