In Finnish mythology Otso, Ohto, Kontio, metsän kuningas (the king of the forest), and mesikämmen (honeypaws) are some of the many rarely uttered circumlocutory epithets for the spirit that was never directly named. Generally, the spirit of the bear was referred to as friend, brother,uncle, or forestcousin, or ways were thought up that would bypass the need to refer to the spirit at all, even indirectly.
Some sub-traditions considered the bear to be a relative who had fled the community and been transmogrified by the power of the forest.
If a bear had to be killed, a sacred ritual of Peijainen (which some consider the source of the Odin and Wotan myths) was held, and the bear’s spirit in the form of its skull remained in a sacred clearing which was upkept, and people would bring expiatory and tributory gifts to it.
In Finland, Peijainen is the ritual burial of a bear that has been communally brought down and has died. A bear was never “hunted”; it was merely brought down. A single man could claim to have hunted and killed a bear, but in a community effort, the bear simply died. The ceremony was always a much more elaborate affair than the most influential member of the community would have merited. In eastern Finland it would have copious mourners and wailers, and the people would address the bear as a relative or as the son of a god. Its flesh was not eaten — that would have been cannibalism — or, if it was, an elaborate show was made to symbolically render the meat into that of another animal, e.g. venison. The bear’s head was usually mounted on the top of a young tree, or on a pike. Carrion-eaters would then eat it, leaving only the skull, which would then become an object of veneration. A courtyard would also be cleared around the skull. Traditionally, only bears were sanctified thus.
Sometimes the ceremony was held as a sacred marriage rather than a burial. In such cases the bear was either propped up inside a frame or strapped to a cross. With all due ceremony, the chosen bride would marry the bear.