Mäetagused vol. 10


The Big Oak, Maids A-Weaving and the Red Boat, Not to Mention the Lost Sweeping Brush
Aado Lintrop

The article focuses on the religious aspect of Finno-Ugric song types Big Oak, Sweeping Brush Lost and Sea in the Farmyard (Ring of Bone), based on neither the methods of textual criticism, editorial analysis nor any solely text-centred approach, since, traditionally, this type of songs or their redaction have never displayed the particular worldview that has been tried to apply to them as folk heritage.

In cultures without literary language, every performance transmitting religious or conceptual information is a recurrent creation combining at least two different types of texts of which one is the main carrier of information as far as heritage is concerned, and the other(s) include renditions, comments, attitudes, evaluations. In order to oblige the members of the group to perform heritage over and over it is necessary to establish institutions based on in-group rituals and/or rites. For those familiar with heritage (not necessarily the performer) the total effect of texts and rituals could result in preternatural experience at a critical moment, intensifying in its turn the topicality of heritage in traditional form.

If one link of the chain were to be missing for some reason, the others will be effected as well. Since the mythological songs of our ancestors were similar to rune songs in their quite a strong poetic character, other types of texts must have played a more important role for transmitting heritage. With their perishing or alteration the songs lost the touch with actual religion. However, if the ancient mythological songs were less poetic in nature (being therefore the main carriers of heritage) the alteration might have been caused by slight changes in religion and rituals. In both cases the song was not regarded as one of the possible ways of transmitting important information to the group but was values as the poetical self-expression of the singer, which in our cultural region brought along the influx of lyrical elements, the relatively stronger independence of figurative (also formative) motives, the absolutization of alliteration and the widened scope of the use of parallelism, which resulted in the emergence of rune and regi-song as we know them. Their connection with religion was based on a totally different foundation as they were considered as a distant and vague reflection of the past at best. As such, they or parts of them were perfectly good for entertainment or magic influencing (for the latter one can use even incomprehensible texts), but the did not reflect contemporary religious concepts. This is the reason why the comparison of the song types on the basis of textual analysis is not sufficient for understanding the former mythological background of the songs.

Only the more thorough comparison of the songs and drawing possible parallels with tradition enables us to reveal the possible reasons for their origin and study their former mythological contents. Thus we can find several traces of conceptions and beliefs connected to the summer equinox in the texts of the song types Big Oak and Sweeping Brush Lost.

The four (three) maids a-weaving/ a-scything/ a-sweeping the sea perform as symbols of unearthly creatures who cause the change of seasons, course of time and fate of people. It is impossible to provide mythological counterparts for them, in fact they probably did not exist as such. Regarding the song of the lost sweeping brush, the alteration of the Sun and the maiden, and the celestial weavers of the chain in Sea in the Farmyard, they might be considered as the poetic counterparts of celestial spheres (the Sun, the Moon, the Morning and the Evening Stars). The motif of weaving the belt in many song types is the best symbol for the course of time, life and fate.

In chain songs about the oak/ pillar supporting the heaven and the giant tree in the song Big Oak, three archetypal concepts interrelate, a motif that has occurred in beliefs about the world and life-tree all over the world. Such beliefs have been formed by a) concepts about a tree, pillar or mountain (the axis of world) supporting and/ or holding the celestial spheres, which in case of multi-level world-view also serves as a transitory way between different worlds, b) beliefs of a tree which in one or another way causes immortality and death and c) last but not least, myths about gods who cause the night and day and the change of seasons by its nature or actions (including their death and rebirth).

Relative from Across the River of Blood: Lapp Folk Tales About Totem Reindeer. VII
Drum Enn Ernits

The last part of the series of writings analyses the myth of the snow-white sun reindeer with golden horns called Meandash-põõrre published by V.Tsharnoluski. The collector of the published story has most probably combined the accounts of at least two different narrators. The current myth providing it is authentic represents in a classical manner how the god, the ancestor and the reindeer fairy of the tribe has become the god of sun. The name Meandash-põõrre has no mythological meaning, it stands for quarry (see the dictionary by I.Itkonen). The dropping of the horn in the story symbolising wealth, fertility and anything positive could be associated with concepts of horn fence and horn piles.

Astrological Beliefs II
Enn Kasak

Western astrology as such developed already in ancient times, partly based on Greek and Egyptian traditions, whereas the main part was elaborated in the Hellenic Egypt and Rome.

Ancient astrology was influenced by many factors as the conquests of Macedonians precipitated lively cultural exchange between Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Iran. The foundation, ideology and basic methods of astrology originate from Mesopotamia, though, the input of other regions is mostly its further elaboration. Accepting this theory, those interested in astrology go from one extreme to another and argue that astrology existed in Mesopotamia for millennia the same way it did in Europe in the Middle Ages. In Mesopotamia prophetic skills were held in great esteem, they were often related to healing magic. Foretellers used animal livers for prophesy, they also observed eclipses, atmospheric phenomena, the flight of birds, etc. Prophesy was carried out according to a strict system of omens. Later on the omens were regarded as a wish of gods, not as strict rules for prophesy.


Astrology is a study that forms characteristics and predictions on the basis of the configurations of spheres. Sky phenomena had a specific role in predictions since they were seen in the whole country; the appearances in sky were thought to influence the welfare of king and his country. In earlier times astrology was concerned with interpreting phenomena in sky as omens. Later, during the period of Assyrian empire, people started to study certain phenomena, mostly the course of planets and eclipses, as it enabled them to foretell omens. This possibility to foresee omens and the scale of the phenomena helped astrology to win a special role among other systems. Regular sky phenomena were associated with seasons by the observers, those relatively irregular were associated with the fate of empires and kings.

The astrologers of Babylonia started to cast horoscopes, but the more thorough elaboration of its technique was carried out later. The first known cuneiform horoscope originates from the year 410 BC and the most recent one from 69 BC. Babylonian horoscopes were based on planets, constellations (first they were not regarded as star signs), partly also on the positions of planets relative to the Sun. They introduced constellations as the secret homes of planets, where they have a certain influence. It is believed that this gave rise to the study of dominance and 'exile' of planets in the Hellenic period.

The system of astrological houses and the sc. star signs do not originate from Babylonia. Mesopotamian horoscopes focus on the pseudo-horoscopic elements, such as the phases of the moon and the time of the nearest eclipse, which were later abandoned.

The stories of astrologers about the ancient history of their occupation are correct, but arguments as if the influence of constellations and planets was discovered as the result of a long period of observation have no foundation in the history of Mesopotamia. Instead it is concerned with the casting and adjusting of horoscopes according to the need. First the flexibility of interpretation is established, and only then it forms rules and frames for casting the horoscope.

Wedding Dictionary III
Ülo Tedre

The key-word based dictionary (P-T) introduces Estonian wedding customs and ceremonial characters. To the customs are added their dissemination area and basic names with refernces to parishes.

The Early History of the Kalevala Metre
Mikko Korhonen

The main point of Mikko Korhonen's article «The Early Historyà» is that several questions of the origin of the Kalevala metre have not yet been thoroughly studied from the aspect of historical linguistics. According to the commonly accepted argument the metrical systems used in language and folklore in particular have formed in accordance with the prosodic features of the language. Therefore, the consideration of scientific research in linguistic history has a significant role in the formation as well as the development of Kalevala metre.

From the grounds of the historical prosody of languages and the characteristic features of folklore Mikko Korhonen views the arguments of several earlier researchers in a new light and argues that the metre of ancient songs of the Finnnish people cannot have the same origin as the syllable metres of Mordvin, that it is not of Baltic origin or the result of Baltic influence, but that it emerged as a spontaneous reaction to the phonetic and prosodic development of Proto-Finnic.

Historical Strata of the Estonian Folk Music III
Ingrid Rüütel

The article continues to present the historical strata of the Estonian Folk Music.

At the Pond behind the Sauna (Sauna taga tiigi ääres)
Marju Kõivupuu

The folklorisation process of authorial songs is by no means a remnant of the past. The works of local song composers circulate among wider public independently from their author's will.

The modern type of rhymed South-Estonian folk song of the recent years is represented in the works of poets Jaan Pulk, Jan Rahman, Contra (Margus Konnula) and many others.

Two South-Estonian authorial songs Haani miis [The Haanja Man] and Sauna taga tiigi ääres [At the Pond behind the Sauna] have been sung all over Estonia since the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Today, these two songs are known as folksongs. The first was composed by Jaan Räppo (b. on April 11th, 1880 in Võrumaa - died on April 14th, 1958), also known as a politician and cultural figure in the Ukraine. In 1897 he wrote the verse narrative about a poor man from Kasaritsa while studying at the Võru town school in Estonia.

The song Sauna taga tiigi ääres was composed by Hermann Julius Schmalz (b. on April 6th, 1870 in Räpina parish on the border of Võru and Setu region). According to the poet and literate himself he had not attended school for a day in his life; instead, he was educated (among other things in German language) by his mother and governess, also by independent study. As a youth he learned to play several folk music instruments, violin, piano and guitar, he could also read music.

In fact, his first publication was a collection of violin pieces (Tartu 1893). In 1896 Schmalz moved to Tartu; in 1879 he founded a Setu men's choir which consisted of 5 members and was known under the name of Tooste Acting and Choral Society.


Schmalz was one of the first Estonians to introduce elements of Setu folklore in his creation - living next to the Setu he was particularly fond of their culture. He wrote plays and poems in the Setu tradition and tried to perform them with his own acting group in the whole Estonia. He was also one of the first founders of the folkloric music group not only in South-East Estonia but in the whole country, which also indicates that he was well ahead of his contemporaries. The Estonian village music groups of the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century were characterised by a constantly increasing shattering: on the one hand they performed authentic popular music, on the other hand school and orchestrated music. Several Estonian intellectuals of the peasant class regarded folk music with contempt.

The introduction of South-East Estonian folk heritage by Schmalz in the popular folk form did not quite fit in this time and cultural context. Certain parallels may be drawn between his work and the authentic folkloric movement that begun in Estonia in the 1970s. Schmalz employed village musicians in his Setu choir, he popularised his local national costume and dialect. Moreover, he made an attempt to prove the versatile ways of using violin and bellows by playing school music on folk instruments. His work with the Setu choir might also be characterised by the features typical to national romanticism: reciting runo-verses, performing popular (authorial) songs, staging popular plays, etc.

H.J. Schmalz died on November 16th 1945 at the age of 75, suffering from poverty and insanity and unknown to the wider public; he is buried on Räpina cemetery. During his lifetime he never even imagined that his verses could later be published as folksongs in Estonian school song books as it happened with his songs Sauna taga tiigi ääres and Setukõsõ sõidiva.

Some .mp3 audio samples:
Sauna taga ... 01
616 kb .mp3
Setukõsõ ... 06
1.12 Mb .mp3
There are 6 different audio clips in this article!

Schmalz's elder brother Arthur Gottfried (ca 1865 - 1949) was also known to compose social-critical verse narratives, but nothing further is known of his life. His literary works were not conspicuous and never published. Nevertheless, people from his home village Kõnnu remembered his village chronicles as late as in the middle of this century.

Is Providing Proverbs a Ticklish Job?
Risto Järv

The article focuses on the use of proverbs in modern Estonian newspaper texts. The 231 proverbs found in the two largest Estonian newspapers indicate that most proverbs were used in the Politics, Reader's Letters and Culture columns of the newspapers. The term 'proverb' might be applied to familiar quotations, modern sayings as well as borrowed sayings. Proverbs are still used for justifying the user's attitude, sometimes also for jocular reasons. Although several proverbs found in the newspaper texts were 'searched' for a specific purpose, the majority of the proverbs appear to be found by "traditional» ways, i.e. spontaneously.

The English version of the article is available in the electronic journal Folklore no. 10 / 1999;
URL: http://haldjas.folklore.ee/folklore/vol10/toughjob.htm