News in brief:

  1. Multicultural Europe
    On April 3-5, 2000 the Department of Folk Religion of the Estonian Literary Museum and Media Project Estonia-Sweden organised a joint seminar Multicultural Europe. Preservation of local and ethnic culture in the 21th century.
  2. On Folklore Spread in the Form of Real Life Reports
    On September 20-24 the Department of Folkloristics of the Estonian Literary Museum and the University of Tartu held a conference on narratology On Folklore Spread in the Form of Real Life Reports.
  3. Traditional spiritual culture of Baltic-Finnic peoples: connections between folklore genres, ethnic relations
    Doctoral dissertation by Kristi Salve.
  4. The Main Characteristics of Udmurt Religion in the 19th and 20th Century
    On May 10, 2000 Aado Lintrop defended his doctor's thesis in multimedia form.

N e w s

Multicultural Europe

On April 3-5, 2000 the Department of Folk Religion of the Estonian Literary Museum and Media Project Estonia-Sweden organised a joint seminar Multicultural Europe. Preservation of local and ethnic culture in the 21th century. Day first began with introductions of different digitalisation opportunities and e-projects for folklorists, also the theory and practice of simulation games in Estonia. Lectures were delivered by Anne Villems, Arvo Krikmann, Andres Kuperjanov, Mare Kõiva, Sander Vesik, Jaan Tamm. Panel discussions were held on issues of what to digitalise and how, and how to locate new target groups for folkloric publications and archives. On April 4 seminar participants acquainted themselves with the Võru Institute and its current lines of study, among other things projects concerned with mapping dialectal toponyms and widening the usage of the Võru dialect. Setumaa, or the Setu region, including the parish of Obinitsa in Southeast Estonia borders Russia. Relatives, graves and other most sacred places of speakers of the Setu dialect are located on the other side of the country's border. Economically the region is one of the poorest regions of Estonia, while judging by the remnants of the ancient spiritual culture, it is one of the richest. The parish elder of Obinitsa, Aare Hõrn and the head of local library introduced parish development programs and steps taken to record folklore events and popularise local heritage. Gatherings held at the Setu Clubhouse and the Värska Farm Museum were memorable. On April 5, the seminar day, presentations on archival work, issues of earlier and newer folklore and religious history were given by Evelin Lepp, Ergo-Hart Västrik, Enn Ernits, Eda Kalmre (Estonia), Liselotte Frisk, Ola Wennstedt, Staffan Lundmark, Asbjörg Westum (Sweden). Part of the presentations will be published in journal Folklore.

Liisa Vesik

Liselotte Frisk, Asbjörg Westum, Ola Wennstedt, Staffan Lundmark. Photo by A. Kuperjanov 2000.

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On Folklore Spread in the Form of Real Life Reports

On September 20-24 the Department of Folkloristics of the Estonian Literary Museum and the University of Tartu held a conference on narratology On Folklore Spread in the Form of Real Life Reports. The conference centred on text types from different periods and regions - medieval tracts, apparition stories collected from the inhabitants of African savannahs, as well as modern media myths, all that can be categorised under 'real life reports'. Lectures were given by Isidor Levin (Russia), Alfred Messerli (Switzerland/Italy), Helmut Fischer, Klaus Graf, Ines Köhler-Zülch, Rüdiger Schott (Germany), Jürgen Beyer, Reet Hiiemäe, Risto Järv, Eda Kalmre, Mare Kõiva, Merili Metsvahi (Estonia). Over several years it was the only conference held mostly in the German language. Conference proceedings will be published in the year 2001.

Reet Hiiemäe

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Traditional spiritual culture of Baltic-Finnic peoples: connections between folklore genres, ethnic relations

The doctoral dissertation of Kristi Salve consists a number of articles published over a lengthy period of time and collected within the same covers writings dealing with the folk tradition of the Vepsians, several counties of Estonia and some broader cultural regions. As for the concrete themes together put a writings on widely different topics: Estonian religious verses and Vepsian elves, the ancient custom of cutting the bride's hair and a heroic saga about a man and his little son who defeat the external enemy and the treacherous women in their own family, tales about the origin of the cuckoo and the magpie, Vepsian lullabies, a folk prophet from Võru county and a number of other traditional phenomena. Directly or indirectly, all of the articles deal with two problems: connections between different genres of folklore and reflections of ethnic relations in oral tradition. In both cases it is possible, in addition to synchronic registration of the situation, to view the problems from the aspect of their historical development. Sometimes connections between different folklore genres and issues of ethnic relations may even intertwine.

The relations between genres could not acquire particular significance during the earlier period of Estonian folklore studies. Then the main aim was establishing the place of origin of a certain fairy-tale or song and the route of its distribution. Yet, even within the historical-geographical paradigm, cases have been discovered when the same plot occurs once as a story, another time as a song, if we mention only the most conspicuous difference here. The articles also view the relations between various genres of poetic folklore and folk religion, and the relations between cultural traditions of different origin (indigenous and foreign, Christianity and folk religion, written and oral memory). When speaking about relations between genres we may distinguish the cases when one genre as a whole has greatly influenced another, has inherited of taken over something from the other and also the cases when the common elements of two or more of them originate in a primary source outside of them.

Nonetheless, Estonian folklorists have dealt with relations between genres of folklore (in the widest sense, not only with the genres of poetic folklore) throughout several generations.

The other problem discussed, namely the relations between different ethnic traditions, has continuously attracted attraction in Estonian folklore studies that have been strongly influenced by the geographical-historical method. The relations between Livonian calendar customs with those of Estonia (particularly of Saaremaa) on the one hand and with Latvia on the other hand were also one of the central questions in Kristi Salve's MA thesis Views on the Livonian Calendar.

The thesis consists of articles connected with alliterative folk song, folk-tales, folk religion, oral and written tradition and on special cases of ethnic relations between finnic-ugric and other peoples.

For example in the articles about folk-tales she describes mutual relations between folk-tale genres. Popular classification of tales in the Setu area distinguished between «old-time» stories and other stories worth telling. Empirical material offers examples where genres grow from one into another. AA *967 is a story type which in one extremity is a clearly historical legend about struggle between hostile tribes; in another variant it is an almost pure fairy-tale. Also in some articles K. Salve analyzes folk-tales and songs. It is known internationally that the same plot can occur as both a tale and a song. Fairy-tales in song form occur to a smaller extent in Estonia too, in the Setu area more often than elsewhere. The sung stories of the Vepsians could be characterised as prose performed to a free-form melody. Sometimes Vepsian formula songs, popularly known under the name of sarn, are also performed to a recitative tune.

Religious beliefs may also occur in fairy-tales; they may have been taken seriously by the contemporaries or may have lost their topicality. Among the former we might mention a number of variants of AT 840 by which the narrators and listeners were really guided in their activities; among the latter - memorates about the shadow soul occur in a number of fairy-tales (AT 425A and 452 C*).

Kristi K. Salve argues problems connected with folk-tales and historical memory. In the Setu area memories have survived about the hopes for a better future under the Swedish rule and about the founder of Petseri monastery Ivan Groznyi. In East-Viru county a legend about the conquest of Narva by Russian troops has survived. The same plot has been related to the conquest of Riga as well. Even a person who has lived in a locality less than a hundred years ago may become inexhaustible subject matter for stories that may include even fantastic motifs and elements from internationally known fairy-tale types.

The first contacts of the Baltic-Finnic peoples with Christianity date back to the beginning of the ending millennium. Old beliefs and sanctuaries still preserved their vitality and attraction after Christianisation, which was rather formal at the beginning. There are marked differences between the Vepsians and Setus who were Christianised by the Russian Orthodox Church, and Estonians who first belonged to the Roman Catholic Church and became Lutherans after the Reformation. For example, in the case of Estonians the fairy tradition died out earlier. Believing in them was considered un-Christian and foolish. Nonetheless, attractive stories about elves and other fairies have been told almost until the present time. The Vepsians, however, included the fairies among other beings created by God; they have been experienced until the present. Simultaneously, fairies could also be demonised or equalled to evil spirits. Divine services for Vepsians were delivered in Russian which was not understandable for them; the Bible was not translated and most people were illiterate even by the time of World War I. Therefore, destruction of churches by the Soviet regime did not cause particular changes in the Vepsians' religious life. One could pray in the forests as well, sometimes turning to the God with the same words as to the fairies.

Estonians became literate after the Reformation, particularly what concerned reading the Scriptures. Therefore there was no ground for the emergence of Christian legends and other oral tradition. On the other hand, the Bible continuously called for interpretation. Sc. folk prophets appeared and pietist movements spread (particularly Herrnhut awakening). In this framework, original oral tradition emerged, which included dreams, visions, etc.

Special cases of ethnic relations describes mutual relations between the Baltic-Finnic peoples on the basis folklore. Work songs and ritual songs are reflect the relations between the ancient Estonian tribes. The relations between the traditions of the Setu area and Võru county are a special case. As speakers of the same South-Estonian dialect, the inhabitants of these areas have entered the modern ages as bearers of different cultures. A number of common elements, for example, many motifs in laments and alliterative folk songs, date back to the time before the formation of the confessional and administrative border between them. On the other hand, it is also possible that songs created by the Setus spread to Võru county. In recent past, legends about the folk prophet Kordo reached the Setu area from Vastseliina. Sacred songs also spread to the Setu area through their Lutheran neighbours.

The spread of one group of wedding songs and the institution of kaasiks, who performed them, extends from the Setu area through Võru county, the northern part of Tartu county and East-Viru county to the area of the Votians. This is a clearly archaic phenomenon that could be considered to be common heritage of the Baltic-Finnic tribes who settled these areas. Kaasiks were the relatives of the bridegroom who wore specific adornments and whose behaviour and songs were ritualistic. Some other groups or types of songs reveal connections between the northern part of Tartu county and Southeast Estonia only.

In the case of these peoples we can presume, on the one hand, a joint old tradition, on the other hand, reflections of later communication. The relations between the East-Viru county and the Ingrians behind the Narva River could serve as an example of later communication. It has been proved that they mediated fairy-tales to each other; memorates with a religious content and other stories about the neighbours were also told. As a result of later relations, the Vepsians, and probably through them also the Komis, have adopted an original version of the song Ransomed Maiden. Joint old heritage can explain the existence of some fairy-tale types in addition to the repertoire of the Estonians (and other Baltic-Finnic peoples) in the tradition of the native peoples of Siberia as well, for example the etiological ending of AT 409 (16; 15). The fairy-tale Orphan on the Moon also has both a Finno-Ugric and Siberian background. The story AA *967, which is lacking in the Estonian tradition, is known to the Vepsians, Karelians and Finns. It has some parallels in Siberia; the Samis also know it and, as a substrate, obviously the Russians as well.

The contacts of Baltic-Finnic peoples with their Indo-European neighbours - the Baltic, Slavic and Germanic tribes - date back to remote antiquity. The relations of the Baltic-Finnic peoples (including Estonians) with the Baltic peoples (Latvians) have left their trace even on alliterative folksongs. The articles presented here pay more attention to the relations between fairy-tales. Many Estonian fairy-tales of the more archaic type have their Baltic-Finnic and Baltic equivalents. There is also a small group of fairy-tales that have been found only in the Setu area and Lithuania. A few types from the repertoire of the Baltic-Finnic and Baltic peoples have also their Eastern Slavic variants.

The Vepsians have been surrounded by Russians for many centuries already. Still, one should take into consideration that the Russians surrounding the Vepsians now or in the recent past are actually Russified Vepsians, and the folklore of north-western Russia as a whole includes Baltic-Finnic features. Thus, the proximity of the Vepsian fairy-tale repertoire to that of the Russians is quite natural, although concrete cases can be interpreted in different ways. In the folksongs of the Vepsians most direct Russian influence can be noticed in quadruplets. The repertoire of Russian origin is represented in Estonia and Finland as well, particularly in the eastern regions of these countries. In the Setu area there are fairy-tale types that can be classified as purely Russian.

This overview has shown convincingly how closely and in how many ways different areas of popular spiritual culture, including the genres of poetic folklore, are related, what kind of expected or even unexpected connections exist between the cultures of different peoples or ethnic groups. Naturally, the picture one gets from the articles of this dissertation is far from exhaustive.

Everything is interrelated - even this phrase shows that we are not dealing with an amorphous molten mass but with very complicated and even surprising connections between colourful parts, which do not overshadow the originality of each of them but inarguably enrich the overall picture.

The same holds about the relations between regional traditions, relations between the heritage of different peoples. There are no clear-cut borders like on a political map. The pure national tones acquire new shades in contact areas, making the overall picture more soft-coloured and beautiful. I hope that the ideas presented in this dissertation also confirm these truths.

Mall Hiiemäe

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The Main Characteristics of Udmurt Religion in the 19th and 20th Century

On May 10, 2000 Aado Lintrop defended his doctor's thesis in multimedia form The Main Characteristics of Udmurt Religion in the 19th and 20th Century at the University of Tartu.

Aado Lintrop's dissertation The Main Characteristics of Udmurt Religion in the 19th and 20th century is one of the two fundamental works in the area of traditional spiritual culture of the Udmurts. His thesis is based on the book Udmurdi rahvausundi piirjooned (Outlines of Udmurt Folk Religion - Tartu 1993), but compared to traditional publications, uses a variety of novel solutions and is furnished with figures and coloured illustrations. The electronic and CD version of the publication offers valuable illustrative material in the form of author's video-recordings from fieldwork, which enables to better understand the contents of study and perceive information flow that connects it with semiotic context through visual associations.

A. Lintrop's doctor's thesis aims to present a homogeneous treatment of the Udmurt religion, which focuses on a complex analysis of the fundamental principles of religion. The author views folk religion as a process, which is particularly important in studying the oral forms of religion. Nearly all publications on the Udmurts issued in the 19th and 20th century, fieldwork materials conducted in the Udmurt settlements through several years and the author's audio-visual documentaries constitute the source material.

The work begins with a historical overview. The author emphasises that the evolution of the Udmurts has proceeded on the boundaries of different worlds. The woodlands and steppes along the banks of the Kama and Vyatka rivers have witnessed the collision between the worlds of native woodland tribes and travellers-herders of the steppes, the worlds of Finno-Ugric, Indo-Iranian and Turkic-Tatar tribes, the worlds of Muslims, Christians and heathens. The northern and southern Udmurts lived in different cultural environment - while the former mingled mainly with Russians, the latter socialised with the Turkic peoples. These cultural contacts affected the culture of the Udmurts and shaped it into two distinctive cultures, though the common (and inherent) worldview and perception never entirely perished. A. Lintrop also points out the characteristics of the evolution of the Udmurts in the Soviet period and their future prospects.

The doctor's thesis has approached the Udmurt worldview through their mythology and customs. Centring on this area of study the author emphasises that the folk religion of some nation can not be treated in general terms, without reference to time - it is important to make a difference between the statements «the Udmurts believe» and «the Udmurts believed». Discussing the creation of the world on the basis of literary sources and observations from his fieldwork A. Lintrop concludes that no Udmurt believes in creation myths today.

Similarly to other Finno-Ugric and Siberian people the mythological world of the Udmurts is divided in three - the heaven, the earth and the underworld. Each of these three follows a distinct model with its primordial inhabitants. The most concentrated of these is the middle world, or to be more precise, its current worldview, which is closely interrelated with the life of a given individual or family and consists of three concentric spheres. The religious worldview of the Udmurts has not always been regularly active, it actualised in certain situations or certain periods of time, during prayer observance, funerals, commemoration of the deceased, but also during summer and particularly winter solstices.

A. Lintrop characterises the sky god and earth spirits, Mother Earth, Mother Thunder and Mother Sun through many examples. Analysing epithets or attributes describing with certain supernatural beings the author has gathered together all designations suggested by other researchers, including those contradicting in principle. A good example of the constant changing of the Udmurt mythology is the set of notions and beliefs connected to tutelary spirit of the tribe. Most researchers regard vorsud as the guardian deity of the tribe and family, who was prayed and sacrificed to in the family prayer house. Prayers were also addressed to mudor and invu. Even today the Udmurts call the ledge and icons of the prayer house mudor. Different authors have argued that mudor signifies the ledge or branches of fir against the rear wall of the prayer house, but also the World River, objects connected to home, or the centre of earth. Invu symbolises the special divine power of blessing. When a shaman is performing the ritual of electing the priest of the family prayer house, a zither accompanies the shaman's dance and the tune of this instrumental piece is called 'the tune or melody of seeking the heavenly dew or the shamanic gift'. Invu may also refer to the projection of something longed for and expected (rain, for example) in the sacral sphere. Invu is sometimes associated with the concept of river running through the three worlds - the World, Family or Shaman River, along which travelled human souls and shaman.

Other supernatural beings, grove spirits, belong to another intriguing group. These creatures reside in keremet or lud located in the field, and are named after personae of the Turkish mythology or with Turkish loan words: shaitan, aktash, sultan. Each was sacrificed to, whereas prayers addressed to the grove spirits were not much different from other prayers.

In the following several mythological beings related to the woods are characterised. Forest spirits of the Udmurts are known under different names in different regions, and they are usually anthropomorphic creatures. Forest spirit serves three functions: helping those who revere and fear it, punishing those who violate the rules, and reminding that not everyone can play the master in the forest. The work provides a diverse characterisation of water spirit and vozo. While water spirits are commonly known mythological characters, it is difficult to describe vozo in a few words. For the first time in academic research the author, relying on the opinion of other authors, outlines the main characteristics of vozo. A. Lintrop's characterisation provides a full conception of vozo, evidenced with Komi and Russian analogues of similar creations.

The closest surroundings of human residence - house or farm - is crowded with supernatural beings. In the Udmurt religion house spirits are the most personified beings. A. Lintrop describes this area most comprehensively and in detail, as it is the richest and most vigorous aspect of Udmurt folklore. This description enables to compare the unity and idiosyncrasies of the North and South Udmurt cultures throughout the 19th and 20th century.

The concept of two components of soul that animate human body has survived in the Udmurt religion - lul is associated with breathing and urt is seen as the shadow, and both are connected to the cause of unnatural illnesses and funeral customs. The dead are commemorated and sacrificed to in certain number of days following the death, and every spring and autumn. The Udmurts also follow rather interesting customs of 'horse wedding' or 'reverse wedding' and 'giving out head and feet'.

An analogous phenomenon in the spiritual culture of the Udmurts is tuno. A. Lintrop is the second to analyse and generalise this issue after the Udmurt ethnologist Dr. Vladimir Vladykin. A. Lintrop has concluded that the function of Udmurt tuno (wise man, seer) is locating prayer sites favoured by gods and spirits and appointing sacrificial priests, determining the cause of personal and communal problems, curing the sick, finding missing animals and objects, etc. Sacrificial priests of the Udmurts are distinguished by their various functions and vocations: prayer, or the priest of the great prayer house, superior, noble, foreman and smoker, priest of grove, drawer of blood. From this topic A. Lintrop proceeds to the sphere of healers and witches. Healer is a witch doctor who cures sicknesses by the use of herbs and spells. Distinct from the wise men, witches were and still are dreaded and disdained by people.

The last part of the book offers an overview of the religious and ritual life of the Udmurts of the Varklet-Bodja village, Agryz district, Tatarstan based on the extant customs and places of worship at the beginning of the 1990s. The author frequently refers to his fieldwork material, collected during the mass prayers in the aforementioned village in 1988, 1989 and 1993. The village is unique, because its inhabitants still hold on to the traditional Udmurt lifestyle and are the only heathen Udmurts left. A. Lintrop describes the village life in details: introducing local history and the current situation, places of worship, prayers (vernal festivity prayer, prayer of boys and girls, gershyd - 'plough soup', drinking gershyd, harvest prayer, entering foal's enclosure, foal prayer, earth spirit prayer, jybyrtton-worship, aktash - 'the white stone', kujaskon - the commemoration day). The names of customs bear witness to the vitality of calendrical and tribal traditions in the village of Varklet- Bodja. The initiation rites are particularly interesting. Throughout the book the author has indicated to phenomena that he believes have been borrowed or adopted from other religions, especially Christianity and Islam. In his analysis A. Lintrop does not employ the notion syncretism in its narrow sense.

A. Lintrop's mastering of the Udmurt language and active participation in various rituals have given him a wonderful opportunity to study the Udmurt mind, to fully comprehend the values, consistency and sufferings of this ethnic group. The author often illustrates the material with Udmurt-language examples that explicitly convey the uniqueness of Udmurt dialects.

Tatjana Minniakhmetova

Aado (right) in Khantyland. Photo from private collection.

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