The English translation of the article will be published in Folklore
The Sky Gods in Australian Folk Belief
article on Australian sky gods focuses on material from Southeast
Australia. Little is known on aborigines of this region as they were
destroyed already by the end of the 19th
In the first part of the chapter I will present an overview of
Australian sky gods from the viewpoint of different authors. The
second part discusses extant fragments of myths.
Though material on Southeast Australian sky gods is almost completely
lost, we might agree that the heavenly Supreme Being is inherent of
the Australian tradition. It has not been borrowed directly from
the Europeans, although the concept contains numerous borrowed
motifs, and researchers and recorders have probably embellished
it with assumptions that originally have not been a part of the
tradition. Certainly, we cannot speak of aborigines as monotheist
people. At the same time we cannot be certain whether they were
henotheists in a sense. Researchers have centred their studies
only on anthropomorphous sky creatures, but the extant material
suggests the existence of a huge number of chthonic beings in shapes
of animals, plants, and humans, which in literature are referred
to as totem ancestors.
Due to inadequate and unfeasible information the analysis of the
Southeast Australian material remains marginal. Some of the most
recent authors, C. H. Berndt and R. M. Berndt have pointed out the
same. The material is attributed some significance in terms of
religious history, as many celebrated religion historians in the
late 19th and
have based their arguments on this information (among them
W. Schmidt, A. Lang, É. Durkheim and many others).
Why do I Remember as I do?
There are numerous sorts and functions of remembering. While I was working
with Juho Oksanen, a great narrator, one of his performances
of his favorite narrative was something of an enigma to me. Having
listened to the tape recordings many times over, however, I
discovered how the diverging performance was part of a logical
thematic entity. But the narrator's memory is also linked with the
emotions. When Ingrian Finns in Russia speak of their lives, their
narratives concentrate on emotional «landmarks» like the
forced transfers and difficulties. A good personal history narrative
calls for different markers from a good life.
History and Narrative Tradition: Tales of Ancestors among the Siberian Estonians
In the current article I attempt to observe the narratives of the
Siberian Estonians concerning their origin and ancestors, follow
their folkloric history and compare it to historical sources. During
1991-2000 I collected oral narratives in about 30 native Estonian or
Anu Korb and Indrek Kaimer.
Photo by Ell Vahtramäe 1995.
The villages are scattered over a wide territory stretching from
West-Siberia to East-Siberia. The Siberian Estonians questioned were
the descendants of deportees or refugees. The first settlements of
deportees were mixed Lutheran settlements. Ryzkovo in West-Siberia
(founded ~1804) and Upper-Suetuk (founded ~1850). Due to the building
of Siberian railway and the enactment of emigration policy by
the Czarist government, mass migration to Siberia began only in the
1890s. Most respondents had been born in Siberia between
1915-1935 and could speak Estonian. Their knowledge of ancestors
varied from village to village and from person to person, and often
proved very superficial.
In their narratives the descendants of deportees mainly focused on the
reasons of deportation. In stories of ancestors they mentioned the
reasons for deportation but also described the migration journey and
life in Siberia. Narratives about one's origin and ancestors help to
locate oneself in the history of community and belong to the sphere
of family and village history.
Stories about the original settler(s) belong to village history rather than
the limited family circle, because through knowing these stories
people identify themselves as part of a certain group - the village
community. Such stories are often supported by documented
historical facts, though the family tree of deportees and emigrants
in Siberia can rarely be traced from historical sources.
Family and village narratives support and complement each other. Stronger
family tradition often results in a more detailed and informative
The earliest villages in Siberia, mostly those of deportees, have
preserved their narrative heritage in its original form. Living
in one place throughout generations (Upper-Suetuk) has favoured the
survival of native language and traditions. It is remarkable that the
descendants of emigrants have lost touch with their native
tradition more often than have the descendants of
deportees. The settlement of the former was relatively free and
left a weaker impression in their minds. In Siberia the native
culture and tradition is upheld only by the older generation. They
have recognised the uniqueness of their culture and know how to
mediate it to the outside observer. Moreover, the younger
Russian-educated generation might not necessarily succeed in
their strive to integrate into the Russian community. These
processes, though, appear to be irrevocable.
Folk Belief in Local Community
Among the large quantity of Saami materials filed in the Sound Archive of
Folkloristics and Comparative Religion at the Turku University
is included a collection of about 480 tapes from Talvadas
(Dálvadas), a small River Saami village in northernmost
Finland. The material was mainly produced during the years 1967-1975,
when an in-depth research project was conducted in the village. All
of the adult population of the village was repeatedly interviewed by
altogether twelve interviewers. A wide range of Saami folklore was
discussed during the interviews, but special weight was laid on
topics concerning folk beliefs, memorates and belief legends. Some
supernatural beings and forces, as well as the topographical
distribution of the supernatural, are briefly described in this
article as examples of the village's belief tradition.
The Talvadas interviews form a thick corpus of material, which
reveals the complex character of folk belief tradition on the local
level. Variation occurs at least in
each and every individual's
fundamental attitudes towards the supernatural in general,
attitudes towards certain supernatural beings and forces, and
the means of narration and interpretation in different interview
Both the form and the function of narration vary in
the different interviews of the same interviewee. The character
of the interviewer (e.g. insider/outsider, age, sex) seems to be
a crucial factor: the narrative and its evaluation are closely
connected to the interview situation, and the result depends on
who is talking with whom.
The supernatural world is real to many of the villagers and strong
belief may be expressed in the narratives, but the narrator's
viewpoint can also be e.g. pedagogical or strictly humorous.
Belief topics can also be used as a means of testing the listener's
credulity, commenting on social relations, or displaying the
narrator's creative skills in traditional storytelling. Thus the
Talvadas-material breaks the ideal of a homogenous tradition
community with commonly shared beliefs.
Some Considerations on International Folktale Research. «Three
Christine Shojaei Kawan
The English version of the article will appear in print in journal
Old Stories in Contemporary Times - a Collecting Experience in the Orava
Village in Siberia
The article focuses on the folktale tradition of Estonian emigrants
collected during folkloric fieldwork in West-Siberia in 1998.
The author analyses narrative situation and compares the
collected tales with other variants of same story types found in the
Estonian Folklore Archives. All the narrated fairy tales are the
sc. Reward-and-Punishment Fairytales. Video samples of
fairytales are available in the electronic version of the journal.
The article has been translated into English and published in
journal Folklore vol 13/2000
The Brier Maiden. Tradition of story in Chianti of Siena
Translated by Merje Kala
The English version of the review in Folklore
1.4 Mb .mp3
A young Estonian poet nick-named Contra who is famous for his witty
political lyrics for well-known pop songs from the repertoire of
Nirvana, the Beatles, etc. Although Contra is no good at singing in
tune, he sings everywhere and everywhen. Despite his renown among
young people, professional writers and singers are reluctant to admit
to be one of them; Contra is here in the focus of attention as a
contemporary folk singer.
Comment by Taive Särg
About the Life of my Guinea Pigs
The central events of life touch us all. The beginning and end of life,
however, are today regarded as medical instances, taboos that
concern only the person involved and medical practitioners at
the hospital. Thus we can experience the miracle of birth and
death often only through events that happen to our pet animals. The
loss of a four-footed friend and the grief it brings sometimes hurts
more than the death of a distant and estranged relative. Children's
first contact with funerals is often connected to the loss of a
The article discusses the questions of the death and funeral of pets,
acquiring the pet and their procreation, and their behaviour with
offspring, drawing parallels among today's people. The article
concludes with readers' response and comments, which proved quite
surprising. People reacted most vehemently to the ridicule of
dwarves, for example.
The Chukchi. The Flood
On May 26 the ice on the river began to break. In the next few days the
water level was so high that the river rose over shores and flooded
the village of Vaeg.
At places water reached as high as first-floor windows. People carried
all their things to attics and roof and went to live in tents. And
though alcohol was usually sold in native Chukchi villages only at
national holidays, on this occasion people were permitted to buy one
bottle of brandy per person every day.
People gathered to sing, talk and drink alcohol. My friend and me found us
in the company of Moshalski, the local school principle, and two
other men. Our conversation began on the subject of the local
flood, then turned to the universal Flood and Jesus Christ.
Moshalski had been working as a school teacher in Kamchatka and told a legend
of a local deity Kutka, who resided in heaven and every once in
a while visited women on earth. Kutka had children with many women.
Having heard that gods wished to destroy all people on earth, he
built a large ship to save his descendants. Before the beginning of
the flood he gathered all his relatives, birds and animals on
board the ship.
Then the flood began and lasted for forty days. Mammoths came too late and
were all killed in the flood. When the water began to sink Kutka
landed his ship on a mountain peak in Kamtchatka. Thus he became the
forefather of all local tribes.
One of the local construction workers then told a version of a story of
Jesus Christ as the son of Herod's twin brother.
On the following day of the flood in Vaeg, local girls told me story of
a Chukchi hunter, who had lost his way in the tundra. Having
been missing for six months he could not remember where he had been.
After having sought help from the local shaman, he learned that
he had been in an underground cave with mammoths, who fed on the
frozen grass of permafrost. One of the mammoths had taken pity in him
and had helped the man out.
The article concludes with descriptions of the universal Flood written
on fragmentary Sumerian clay tablets.