Meet the “sjörå”, keeper of the sea, on Europa stamp from Åland

Åland Europa 2022 stamp water nymph Sjörået

On 9 May, Åland Post issues the annual stamp in the PostEurop Europa stamp series. The 2022 theme is stories and myths, and the Åland stamp shows the “sjörå”, a female water spirit according to Åland folklore. Illustrator Lasse Harkkala is responsible for the interpretation. “The stories about the sjörå were inspiring and appealing because the figure is unpredictable and uncontrollably primitive; you don’t know if it’ll contribute to fortunate events or cause sorrows, and the uncertainty is both frightening and attractive to us humans.

The stamp motif is largely based on stories recorded in the 1890s in Åland. A ‘rå’ is a keeper of a specific area. Stories about the water nymph, however, are told in all the Nordic countries. The sjörå, also known as mistress of the sea, is closely related to the mermaid. She rules the sea and the lakes and, also, predict deaths and bad weather.

Considered a beauty, her good looks only extend to the front. From behind, she is a hollow rotten stump. She likes showing herself to humans and is fond of young men, awarding he who joins her with good hunting and fishing luck. She keeps a pike as a pet and also her own livestock. Her manatees can be seen grazing among human livestock and even mating with them.

The 2022 Europa stamp is Lasse Harkkala’s first stamp commission. The tales of the sjörå sparked his imagination and the images flowed from his pen. Lasse explains:

“You could say that Vellamo in the Kalevala or the sirens in the Odyssey are the impulse for the sjörå itself. I also wanted to include many animals in the images, because I think it would be cool to be friends with nature’s wild animals, like the sjörå, and to be able to see the world from their perspective.“

Order the stamp, first day cover, and maximum card at, by post to Åland Post Stamps, P.O. box 1100, AX-22111 Mariehamn, Åland, Finland, e-mail stamps(a) or telephone +358 18636641.

Date of issue9 May 2022
ArtistLasse Harkkala
DesignJohanna Finne
Edition 45000
Stamp size35 x 35 mm
Sheet size2 x 15 stamps
Paper110 g/m²
Perforation13 per 2 cm
Printing process5-colour offset
Printing houseCartor Security Printing