Key words: hyperventilation, ritual dances, traditional Nganasan culture
We have a video recorded by the author on the Taimyr Peninsula (1989). It is the Nganasan bear dance demonstration, which did not take place in its traditional context, and therefore lasts only for about 15 minutes. In authentic situation the Nganasans performed their dance after a sacrificial rite occurring at the commencement of the polar day. Not a single person could leave the circle of dancers: they had to continue until they collapsed. We also use the descriptions of round dances of Nganasans in North Siberia, documented in 1884 (Middendorff 1956), in 1961 (Simchenko 1963) and in (Ojamaa 2002).
An overview of the musical accompaniment to the dance, consisting of rasping sounds to imitate the roaring of a bear, is presented by the three authors. Besides the specific timbre, an essential feature of such accompaniment is a frequent rhythmic respiration.
The descriptions and spectral analysis indicate that the sound quality of the accompaniment is similar to that of Dhikr. Dhikr is a religious practice known in Arab countries which involves slow dancing accompanied by a specific sound (described as panting and/or roaring). The breathing technique has been defined as hyperventilation, and may cause dizziness, as vibration modifies the vascular and neurological balance of the encephalon. This may result in trance (Rouget 1985).
Based on the information given above, we propose the following hypothesis:
Neuropsychological symptoms in Nganasan ritual dancing and music making are related to the effects of hyperventilation (and hypocapnia). Vibration caused by specific imitative timbre may be an additional component to attain various psychodynamic effects.
In ritual practice, dance serves as a medium for falling into the state of trance. It is usually caused by a
gradually escalating tempo. In Nganasan dance the tempo remains moderate. Thus we argue that tempo is not
the most important factor. Nganasans may have fallen into a trance with the help of breathing. A specific
respiratory technique is also important in terms of imitative timbre. Capturing a desired timbre is connected with
a specific respiratory technique. We can define it as controlled breathing similar to hyperventilation.
Hypocapnia resulting in hyperventilation explains certain features of trance (fainting) in the Nganasan religious ritual.
Key words: hyperventilation, medicine, respiration
In applied medicine, respiration is viewed as the chemical process of gas exchange of oxygen and carbon
dioxide. Corresponding experimental studies have enabled to observe the condition of all systems involved in
respiration. In relaxation state, the cycles of inhalation and exhalation generally follow the temporal ratio 1:3 (1:1 for
infants). The acceleration of breathing rate usually occurs on account of the shortening of exhalation cycle. The situation
in which the exhalation phase is longer than the inhalation phase cannot be seen in normal circumstances. In
the treatment of acute respiratory failure, this pattern of breathing is in rare cases used together with
artificial pulmonary respiration. Hyperventilation always leads to hypocapnia of a healthy lung, since the exchange
of carbon dioxide in alveolus occurs very rapidly by means of diffusion on the principle of redistribution of
concentrations. From the viewpoint of medical practices, hypocapnia resulting from hyperventilation has a negative
regulatory effect on humans. Scientists have explored the role of hyperventilation in various
physiological psychoemotional conditions and activities. Various scientific theories and empirical studies link pathological
anxiety and panic with hyperventilation. A patient may deliberately use hyperventilation to bring on clinical
symptoms and in this case it is used as a diagnostic tool. At the same time, respiration training (including
deliberate hyperventilation) is used for the same psychiatric disorders. In this study, the author's approach to
hyperventilation is somewhat overgeneralised but is accurate in principle. The hypothesis posed by the author of the
article, arguing that dancing (a motor activity), the technique of singing and/or breathing, the psychological disposition
of participants of the ritual and the cultural context may evoke the state of trance, is a theory generally
recognised also by other scholars.
Key words: labour, folk medicine, children's diseases, mythological diseases, midwife, healer, Besermian
The article is based on fieldwork conducted during 1986-2000 among the Besermian (a small ethnic group in North-East Udmurtia, the districts of Iukamen, Iar, Balezino and Glazov, and the Cheptsa watershed). The article overviews the beliefs, customs and healing practices related to labour, care of the mother and the newborn.
A child is not completely physically formed by the time it is born, and its arrival in this world does not mean that labour is over. Owing to this reason, the child had to be "completed". In the first weeks and months, attempts to achieve the child's correct physical shape were made. This applied particularly to premature babies. A prematurely born baby was wrapped in sheepskin, held in a fur coat's sleeve, or warmed on the oven until it turned nine months old, so that the child could "become ripe". In the first few months after it was born, the newborn lied in the cradle. Women usually continued with their household duties already in the first few days following childbirth, and partook in field chores far away from home, in the field or woods. To be able to take care of and nurse the child, women took it along. Children were carried in various specially designed rucksacks.
A separate group of taboos and beliefs is associated with children's clothes, especially to designing, wearing, keeping and washing the clothes.
In everyday life, the rules that were concerned with possible harm to the child's personality, behaviour and fate were strictly observed. For example, it was forbidden to put kitchen utensils, especially sieves, on one's head during play, as it was believed that a child would remain short. An infant was not shown a mirror, otherwise it might sleep restlessly.
The basic food of infants was breast milk, and since feeding was irregular, the child was fed when it was hungry or cried. Breast milk remained a child's basic food until it turned two or three years old, or until the next child was born.
Also, Besermian midwives and verbal healers and their practices are reviewed. The Besermian
retained traditional medicine longer than the neighbouring groups, especially as regards the methods for
treating children. Diseases and healing practices of complex mythological background are gradually forgotten,
knowledge and practices passed on within a family have survived better. Children's diseases and prophylactics
are treated similarly to these of adults. Receiving health from an adult and the ritual of "new" birth played
an important role.
Key words: Nganasans, reindeer herders, folk medicine, treatment session, shamanism, trance, Chukchi
The article attempts to answer the question "Who is a shaman?" on the basis of the available literature and
the author's observations made during his 1971 trip to the land of the Chukchi. The article opens with an
overview of materials published on the topic. Shamanism is one of the most intriguing and popular religious
phenomena, mostly practised by indigenous peoples in North Siberia and North America. The shamans control spirits
that reside in themselves and may distance themselves from the existing reality in order to travel or fly to
other worlds. A shaman, who is conventionally a man, may consume hallucinogenic substances to perform rituals
or alter the state of consciousness. The article concludes with a description of a healing session, carried out
by Ejgeli, the shaman of the reindeer herding group, who successfully cured the injured foot of a teenage boy.
Key words: community, multiculturalism, folk medicine, healing spell, healer, Siberia
The article explores the use of folk healing methods in the mixed Estonian and Finnish lore group (called virulased), who have settled in the village of Ryzhkovo. The village was established around 1803 as an ethnically mixed Lutheran settlement in West Siberia. The material is based on fieldwork conducted by the author in the village in 1999, 2000 and 2004. By this time, Ryzhkovo had become a multiethnic and multilingual village, where the territory was divided in half between the local Latvian population and the virulased.
Knowledge about popular healing methods and healing words has been better preserved in older
Siberian villages than in Estonia. In Siberia it was necessitated by both a practical need as well as living in the sphere
of influence of the neighbouring cultures, where verbal magic was well preserved. Folk healers, however, do
not emerge very prominently among the
virulased lore group in Ryzhkovo, since healing skills are viewed as a
collective traditional knowledge passed on from one generation to another. It is believed that healing skills and
spells are accessible to and can be learned by anyone. The multiethnic and multilingual environment has favoured
the adoption and incorporation of healing spells and methods of the neighbouring cultures in the local tradition;
folk healing methods have also been upheld owing to pragmatic reasons. Factors affecting the fading of the
tradition include the long-term socio-political pressure on folk healers, forceful development of the national medical
system, as well as the attitudes of members of the lore group, who traditionally accepted only healers of advanced age.
The changes have affected the adaptation of healing methods, types of spells, and narrowing of repertoire. At the
same time, in the contemporary situation of political and economic freedom, interest towards popular healing ways
and methods is definitely growing.
Key words: archive texts, ague, fuzzy categories, classification, malaria, legend, folk tale, folk medicine
This article is a part of my MA thesis entitled Estonian and Finnish-Karelian Ague Tradition - Analysed on the Basis of Archive Texts (University of Tartu, Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, 2004). In this article I will explore the aspects of practical magic connected with ague in Estonia and discuss the problem of classification in folk medicine research.
Ague treatment used various archaic techniques based on analogy and contact magic. I have divided these techniques into three categories, characterised by inaccuracy, flexibility, and unfixed boundaries. Many recent studies generally consider the so-called fuzzy categories the most suitable for describing human reasoning. The first group consists of magic rituals, in which the methods of treatment are based on imagery related to ague. Along with rituals, the texts also describe the use of rational methods of treatment. The herbs to be consumed for this purpose were predominantly shaky and had a pungent smell. Animal products used for this purpose include the flesh, blood, and excrements of animals that were believed to have magical powers. Verbal spells used during a healing ritual form the third category.
The healing rituals described in stories may be either common folk medicine practices or rituals characteristic of narrative tradition. Stereotypical methods of treatment include confining the disease in a tobacco pouch or taking it to a nearby farm on a horse. Although such descriptions are realistic in nature, they are fixed in certain types of narratives and used in the interest of a specific narrative. Thus, one can call them fictive rituals.
The initial function of ague legends has been sharing knowledge with a certain social group. The stories
were a way of acquiring basic knowledge about the causes and the symptoms of the disease, also providing guidance
on how to avoid and defeat the disease. All the records of tradition reflect ways of defeating the disease, which
are typical of folk medicine practices. This psychological process of delivering relevant information by means of
legend is typical of agrarian tradition, and marks the possibility of defeating a disease of unknown origin by using
easily available methods.
Key words: didactic literature, popular scientific medicinal literature, puberty, gender ideologies, health education in Estonian SSR, true experience stories
A Girl Becomes a Woman (Ene Kook 1978, 1979, 1986) was a widely available publication for young girls. A substantial number of the 47 stories within this book made a great impact on teenage girls in the 1970s and the teaching on women's bodies and hygiene was accepted as common knowledge. The text is illustrated by many stories and these stories actually appear throughout the book and not only in the passages specifically marked as such. In the book there are 47 well-formed tales with a perfectly balanced structure. The tales include certain formulas and structures which recur from story to story. According to the traditions of ethnology, the 47 narratives by Ene Kook can be categorised as exempla or cautionary tales, anecdotes and urban myths. Cautionary tales warn people about the consequences that wrong behaviour may have. These stories usually end with a moral note in which those who have behaved badly receive a just penalty, whether physical or otherwise. Anecdotes are usually based on some comic saying, which at the same time can function as the punch-line to the story. Beside well-developed anecdotes you can find other anecdote-like stories in the book where someone's utterance is the core and punch-line of the story. In these brief stories the sub-clauses may be elliptical and the stories do not contain a moral lesson.
A Girl Becomes a Woman is an educational book for young women, in which folklore and medicine meet. The teaching narratives found in the educational text, supposedly from true experience, in essence remind us of folklore texts, and their intended purpose is to teach young women the gender ideologies and taboos related to the human body in the given society. The traditional art of story-telling and old narratives and the established medical truths about female body and how women should behave meet between the covers of A Girl Becomes a Woman. The joining the "high" and "low" for educational purposes and constructing coherent narratives has been done with the intention of influencing the reader.
A Girl Becomes a Woman represents the norms and taboos of the society. Despite the academic inclination of the book much of the teaching has been delivered by means of taboos and traditions and gender ideologies rather than actual medical concepts. For example, the book supports the idea that menstruation and feminine sanitary products are considered to be shameful and by doing so stigmatises menstruating women.
Ene Kook's text refers to two types of body - one is an ideal and neutral female body in the anatomic descriptions and the other is an extremely dirty, sexual, badly cared for, injured, or sick body of the cautionary tales. The first type of body is neutral or even sacred; it is like a pure substance, an ideal type that does not refer to any real woman. The other type of body reminds us of the grotesque body á la Bakhtin, it is a vulgar body, which has orifices and which excretes smells and fluids, it is dirty, ugly and voracious and badly cared for.
While taking a closer look at Ene Kook's text, you may notice how this typical educational text establishes
a certain type of power relations, presents its standpoints as unquestionable ones, pathologises natural
behaviour or normal phenomena and contrasts scientific ("high") discourse with the popular ("low") one. Looking at the
given book in the context of folklore texts and comparing the narratives found in the popular medical literature
with folklore genres, a certain alienation effect will emerge. Through the comparison and alienation effect the
similarity between the popular medical texts and traditional story telling genres can be observed. The
deconstructed medical narratives will reveal their constructed structure and strong ties with the society or ideologies and
the texts appear to be something more than just a handbook of hygiene and good behaviour for young girls.
Key words: Estonian ethnopharmacognosy, folk medicine, pharmacy, medicinal plants, camomile
The ethnopharmacognosy is an acknowledged and modern trend when it comes to discovering new medicinal plants and broadening the field of use of the herbs that have been known for a long time. Throughout times, camomile has been the most widely used medicinal plant. It is also the most popular herb in the former Soviet Union and in Russia, and is also widely used in Germany, etc.
In Estonia, two types of camomile can be found. The German camomile with white ligulate ray-florets (Chamomilla recutita (L.) Rauschert, syn. Matricaria recutita L., syn. M. chamomilla L.) grows only here and there in nature and the drug is mainly obtained from cultivating the plant. Pineapple weed without ray-florets (Chamomilla suaveolens (Pursh) Rydb., syn. M. suaveolens (Pursh) Buchen, syn. M. discoidea DC., syn. M. matricarioides (Less.) Porter p.p.) is a widely spread weed in the nature.
The Pharmacopoeia of the Soviet Union, which was effective in Estonia for half a century, permitted the use of the inflorescence of pineapple weed as a substitute for the inflorescence of German camomile, but only for external use. According to the pharmacopoeia, the camomile inflorescence has an anti-inflammatory and spasmolytic effect. Different authors have different viewpoints as regards the internal use of the pineapple weed. It is also unclear whether pineapple weed could be used as a substitute for German camomile.
The present article analyses the vitality of Estonian ethnopharmacognosy with the example of camomile as our most popular medicinal plant. The available folk medicinal data has enabled us to propose the following hypotheses:
1. The complex of biologically active substances is chemically and pharmacologically close in case of pineapple weed and German camomile.
2. The complex of biologically active substances of pineapple weed and German camomile is quantitatively similar in inflorescence, as well as in leaves and stalks. It is possible to use the drug instead of the inflorescence.
3. Pineapple weed can be used for internal purposes.
The article gives an overview of the effect of the main components of the essential oil of German camomile; the process of working out the solubilisate of German camomile, the analysis of its toxicity and clinical research; the toxicity test of pineapple weed; the antimicrobial effect of the essential oils, herbal teas and powders of both German camomile and pineapple weed; the spasmolytic effect of the herbal teas of both plants. The article takes a closer look at the comparison of the chemical composition of both German camomile and pineapple weed. The article shows that besides the inflorescence of pineapple weed, it is pragmatic to use the drug of pineapple weed (top at the length of 2/3), which also is suitable to substitute the inflorescence of German camomile. The data from the pharmacognostic, phytochemical and pharmacological research introduced in this article has confirmed the experiences of our ancestors in every way. Corresponding research has been carried out by the authors in Estonia as well as in the former Soviet Union and other countries.
The authors believe that these results give us a reason and courage to proceed with
ethnopharmacognosy while planning pharmaceutical research also on other medicinal plants. This would help to propose hypotheses
for studying them and save time and resources needed for pharmacognostic research. In a philosophical sense,
the ethnopharmacognosy and pharmacognosy are opposites that do not exclude each other.
Slovenian academician Niko Kuret (Trst/Triest, April 24, 1906 - Ljubljana, January 25, 1995) not only laid the foundation for the ethnological institute and steadily developed it as an institution, but also contributed valuable research in the fields of ethnology and folklore studies in which his successors continue to discover scholarly and professional challenges. Overview of the lasting and meaningful life work of Niko Kuret by Slovenian folklorists Helena Ložar-Podlogar, Ingrid Slavec Gradišnik and Jurij Fikfak.
On October 2, 2006, Paul Hagu, folklorist and the reputed scholar of Setu folklore, whose roots are in the
Setu region, turned 60. After three post-graduate years (1972-1975) and defending his PhD thesis on the
agrarian tradition and beliefs of the Setu in 1983 at the Chair of Literature and Folklore (supervisor prof. Eduard
Laugaste), he has worked at the University of Tartu until the present time. As a member of the Chair of Literature
and Folklore, which was renamed the Chair of Estonian and Comparative Folklore during the independent Republic
of Estonia, he has held various positions: senior technician, lecturer, senior lecturer, docent, associate professor
(1994-1995). From March 1, 1991 until March 31, 1993, Hagu had a second position as the senior researcher at
the Estonian Literary Museum. At the present moment, in autumn 2006, Paul Hagu is the docent and senior
researcher extraordinaire at the Department of Literature and Folklore and the head of the Centre for Research
into South-Estonian Language and Literature. For decades, his responsibilities as a professor of folklore studies
have included carrying out fieldwork expeditions. For several years, Paul Hagu has taken his students to the
Setu region, where authentic Kalevala-metric folk song can still be heard. In his scholarly works, Paul Hagu has
focused mainly on Peko, the Setu fertility god, and has also studied the lyroepic ballads of Anne Vabarna, a
Setu singer, and the creation of other Setu singers. Next to the mentioned research topics, he has explored the Setu
folk calendar and Kalevala-metric folk song. Overview of Paul Hagu's scholarly career by Rein Saukas.
Phraseologie disziplinär und
interdisziplinär, the conference and the general meeting of the European Society
of Phraseology EUROPHRAS (Europäische Gesellschaft für
Phraseologie) took place on June 9-11, 2006 at the
Institute of German Studies at the University of Pannonia (Veszprém, Hungary). Overview of the topics discussed
at the conference by Anneli Baran.
On June 26-28, the outing seminar of the Department of Folkloristics of the Estonian Literary Museum Keelest meeleni (`From Language to Mind') was held at Norrenda tourist farm in the littoral village Rumpo on the island of Vormsi. Presentations were held by Pille Kippar, Aado Lintrop, Ülo Siimets, Kristi Salve, Nikolay Kuznetsov, Asta Õim, Katre Õim, Anneli Baran, Liisi Laineste, Karin Maria Rooleid, Ell Vahtramäe, Mare Kõiva, Marju Kõivupuu and Piret Voolaid. The topic of Piret Voolaid's presentation was closely connected with the island, presenting an overview of the project of collecting children's lore, which was instigated by the Nordic Institute on Åland and resulted in a collection of school lore on Åland, Gotland and areas of coastal Swedes in Estonia in spring 2006. Fieldwork in the schools of Noarootsi and Vormsi showed that Estonia continues to be an area between the East and the West in terms of the unique child lore established here. The material collected within the framework of the project has so far resulted in a publication in Swedish Skrattar bäst som skrattar mest.
Seminar participants took a hiking trip to Hullo, the "capital" of Vormsi, to see the 14th-century Church of Saint Olav and the cemetery with numerous wheel crosses.
The outing concluded on day three with a sightseeing tour in the Museum of Coastal Swedes and
Bishop's Castle in Haapsalu. Overview of the seminar by Maris Kuperjanov.
On October 4-6, an international seminar, organised and financed largely by the Russian and East
European Institute in Finland under the lead of Prof. Seppo Lallukka, was held at the Russian Museum of Ethnography
in St. Petersburg. The seminar, which the organisers and participants called `the Vepsian seminar' already before
it started, became to be officially called Vepsians and Ethnocultural Influences in the
20th Century. Participants came from Finland, St. Petersburg, Petrozavodsk, and Estonia. The only Estonian speaker at the conference was
Kristi Salve, although Taisto Kalevi Raudalainen and Madis Arukask were given the opportunity to present their
documentary Buried Alive, a portrait of a recluse woman living in northern Vepsia. Overview of the seminar by
On July 3-7, 2006 the 18th Annual Conference of the International Society for Humour Studies was held in Copenhagen, with the participation of over 200 scholars from 34 countries.
Estonia was represented at the conference by Liisi Laineste ja Arvo Krikmann. The thorough but strongly cut (owing to the time limit) presentation about political jokes in the Soviet period by Arvo Krikmann was particularly popular, and the overview of the jokes in the post-socialist period remained perhaps somewhat superficial but still inspired a discussion and promoted the introduction of the project analysing post-socialist jokes by the both authors.
Overview of the conference by Liisi Laineste.
The Institute of Slovenian Ethnology SRC SASA had provided the initiative for and was the chief organizer (with the Slovenian Academy Sciences and Arts and the SIEF) of the international conference held in Ljubljana and Celje, which commemorated the centenary of the birth of academy member Niko Kuret. Kuret took the initiative to establish this institute and was its leading researcher for many years. At the two-day conference in Ljubljana on September 7-8, 2006 researchers first of all wished to draw attention to Kuret's exceptional contribution as a scholar who not only laid the foundation for the ethnological institute and steadily developed it as an institution, but also contributed valuable research in the fields of ethnology and folklore studies in which his successors continue to discover scholarly and professional challenges. Without attempting to delineate or limit his scholarly and professional profile in advance, it appears that one of the main elements of his research was tradition - its recognition, its evaluation, and finally its endurance - and with this, its significance today.
Overview of the conference by Ingrid Slavec Gradišnik.
The Ethnology of Religion group of SIEF met at the beginning of September at its 5th conference
Senses and Religion in Celje, the historical capital of Slovenia. St. Joseph's Spiritual and Retreat Centre, where the
conference was held, favoured the atmosphere of animated discussion, and the picturesque view to the city in the valley
and the mountains on the horizon elevated the participants' spirits. Presentations held in Celje probed the ways
of approaching religion through senses, and ranged from theoretical introductions to specific case studies, from
ritals to ritual objects, from old confessions to new religions and associated cult worship, and from representations
of folklore to sanctuaries and their typologisation. It has become a practice of the group to study analogous
phenomena outside Europe and to get acquainted with religious manifestations and monuments of the hosting country.
At this conference, a special focus was on the life and work of academician and local scholar Niko Kuret.
Estonian representatives at the conference were Mare Kõiva with presentation
The Era of Wooden Gods: Myths, Rituals,
Identity, in which the author discussed the development of pantheons into a contemporary ritual practice
and Andres Kuperjanov who introduced in his presentation
Celestial Pantheon various pseudo stellar maps and
motives behind creating these. Overview of the conference by Mare Kõiva.
Maarja Villandi reviews the anthology Sõja ajal kasvanud tüdrukud. Eesti naiste mälestused Saksa
okupatsioonist [Wartime Girls. Recollections about German Occupation by Estonian Women] (Tallinn: Tänapäev 2006. 306, 
pp, ill.), edited by Rutt Hinrikus, focusing on a selection of memories of Estonian women during the German
occupation that were sent to the collection campaign of life histories
Life under the German Regime.
Review of Slovenski etnoloki
leksikon [Lexicon of Slovenian Ethnology] (Ljubljana: Zalozhba Mladinska
kniiga 2004. 729 pp., with Angelos Ba as editor in chief) by Mare Kõiva.
Lembit Karu reviews Heiki Pärdi's photo album of architectural history Eesti taluhäärberid = Estonian manor homes = Viron talonpoikaiskartanot (Tallinn: Tänapäev 2005. 247 pp., illustrated).