In Finnish mythology, a mysterious object that has been variously identified but is typically believed to be a cosmological pillar that supports the vault of heaven. Because it is the axis around which the heavens revolve, all life depends on it as the source of all good. In one legend, the creator-smith Ilmarinen forged the sampo for Louhi, the hag-goddess of the underworld, and then stole it back, resulting in its near-destruction. In the Kalevala, sampo is a magic mill that grinds out an endless supply of salt, gold, and meal for its possessor.
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In Finnish mythology, the Sampo was a magical artifact constructed by Ilmarinen that brought good fortune to its holder; nobody knows exactly what it was supposed to be. When the Sampo was stolen, it is said that Ilmarinen's homeland fell upon hard times and sent an expedition to retrieve it, but in the ensuing battle it was smashed and lost at sea.
The Sampo has been interpreted in many ways: a world pillar or world tree, a compass or astrolabe, a chest containing a treasure, a Byzantine coin die, a decorated Vendel period shield, a Christian relic, etc. In the Kalevala, compiler Lönnrot interpreted it to be a quern or mill of some sort that made flour, salt, and gold out of thin air. The world pillar theory, originally developed by historian of religions Uno Harva and linguistic Eemil Nestor Setälä in the early 20th century, is the most widely accepted one.
Ilmarinen works for several days at a mighty forge until finally the Sampo is created:
Later, Louhi the sorceress steals the Sampo, provoking Ilmarinen and Väinämöinen to enter her stronghold in secret and retrieve it. Louhi, in reply, pursues them and combats Väinämöinen. In the struggle, Louhi is vanquished and the Sampo is destroyed.
Episode 422 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, produced in the 1992–93 season, featured The Day the Earth Froze. Though the movie does explain what a Sampo is, the MST3K characters are talking during the explanation and miss it, and are therefore confused throughout the film as to what exactly a "Sampo" is. In Episode 506, Eegah, they receive a letter from a fan which includes a photograph of a portable television set with the brand name "Sampo".
In the Warner Brothers cartoon What's Opera, Doc?, Elmer Fudd sings, "Yes, magic helmet. And I'll give you a Sampo," mispronouncing "sample" but smiling knowingly at the camera to reveal the inside joke.
Some versions of the Grail myth emphasize how the Grail creates food and goods.
There is a Finnish brand of diverse products which is called Sampo.
Sampo is also the name of a Christian ska band.