A cult to use in your horror TTRPG: Heinoslaisuus

Laila Heinonen, preaching to the choir

Cults and horror TTRPGs go together like altars and ritual daggers. Finland has its own share of weird religious movements and pious nutheads, one of them being Heinoslaisuus. If you are looking for a nice cult with Nordic and Cold War flavor for your TTRPG, check this out.

Heinoslaisuus started in Oulu, Finland, in 1960 when a Finnish clerk named Laila Heinonen received an announcement from God on the exact date of August 23, 1960. This announcement later became known as “The Prophecy of Oulu,” which was central to the cult’s ideology.

The prophecy predicted that unless 800,000 people were converted within two years, God would allow the Finnish people to fall into the hands of their enemies (meaning Russia), much like what had happened to the Baltic countries. The prophecy also stated that Oulu would be “the blessed city” from which a massive revival would spread throughout the country and eventually to Sweden and Norway, forming a joint Nordic prayer front – a spiritual Nordic Union of sorts.

Laila and her sister Aune became the central figures of the movement, which drew significant attention in Finland. The cult was known throughout Finland and was even accused of burning down churches belonging to priests who opposed it. Rumors had it that in 1968, the group burned down the church on Hailuoto island.

Heinoslaisuus was also accused of brainwashing children and using fear tactics to convert people – basic cult stuff!

Church of Hailuoto burning down in 1968

Laila Heinonen published her end-time prophecies in a magazine called “With Burning Lanterns”. These prophecies were also compiled into a book titled “Finland, Your Salvation Is in the Blood of My Son”, which was printed in several different editions with a total of about 25,000-30,000 copies.

The Cold War, nuclear arms race, and Finnish neutrality characterized the time period, making it favorable for the cult’s apocalyptic message to resonate with people’s fears and suspicions. The prophecy offered an outlet for emotions that could not be expressed officially during Finland’s so-called neutrality against Russia.

The cult gained support among members of the Lutheran Church, including many priests who allowed the cult to come into their churches and preach their prophecies, which even predicted the destruction of Oulu. These prophecies gained traction after the explosion incident at “Typpi Oy” in January 1963, which killed 10 people in Oulu and shattered hundreds of windows in nearby areas.

The summer of 1967 saw the “prophet riots” sparked by the provocative behavior of the Heinoslaisuus movement. Hundreds of young people gathered in front of the group’s apartment building in downtown Oulu, shouting slogans, and causing tension that lasted for two weeks. Interestingly, the “riots” were a territorial battle between two religious groups – Heinoslaisuus and Conservative Laestadianism.

As the cult’s predictions failed to come true, Heinoslaisuus dwindled down to a small group of loyal followers centered around the prophet sisters. However, the cult still exists. Laila Heinonen herself moved to Turku in the 1980s, and nowadays, the movement operates in Kaarina under the name “Suomen esirukoilijakansan esirukoilijat ry.” The group has a prayer room, but only a small number of followers, and it remains a closed-off organization.

Oulu in all its bleakness, 1962.

Adventure ideas for TTRPG scenarios

Player characters may be investigating the authenticity of the prophecy that Laila Heinonen received. Did God really send it? Or was it someone else, or something else?

Alternatively, Heinoslaisuus can simply provide a strange backdrop or a unique flavor for events unfolding in northern Scandinavia. The cult members may believe too strongly in their omens and try to enforce their prophecies.

Player characters could also be investigating the explosion at Typpi Oy. Who was responsible, and why?

Another possibility is that the players investigate a series of church burnings in the Oulu area during the 1960s, and they come face to face with the cult’s most hardcore and fundamental members.

Finally, perhaps the cult is gaining traction again in modern times, and some unfortunate investigators get in their way.

I hope you have fun incorporating this cult into your game! While they may be more grounded in reality than fictional cults, as a game master you can always add your own twists and turns to make things more interesting.