Mäetagused vol. 48


The Fall of Phaethon: a Greco-Roman Geomyth Preserves the Memory of a Meteorite Impact in Bavaria (South-East Germany)

Barbara Rappenglück, Michael A. Rappenglück, Kord Ernstson, Werner Mayer, Andreas Neumair, Dirk Sudhaus, Ioannis Liritzis

Key words: Bronze Age, Celts, meteorite, myth, Ovid, Phaethon

Arguing from a critical reading of the text, and scientific evidence on the ground, the authors show that the myth of Phaethon – the delinquent celestial charioteer – remembers the impact of a massive meteorite that hit the Chiemgau region in Bavaria between 2000 and 428 bc.

Astronomic motivation for some early mediaeval cult-places in Prague

Andrej Pleterski, Jiří J. Mareš

Key words: archaeostronomy, cult-places, Early Middle Ages, landscape ideogram, old faith, Prague, ritual mathematics

The authors present a structure of cult points in Prague which was used during the Early Middle Ages and till the 12th century partially destroyed as well as partly substituted during some churches. The structure was composed on the basis of astronomical and ritual principles. The former present a sun calendar, where the St.George’s feast day (23th April, one month after the spring equinox) denotes the beginning of the year. The latter principles led the authors to determine the use of a ritual angle, ritual measuring units and their multiples. The entire structure is thus also a well planned ideogram. It’s ideological core is the age-old belief in three fundamental forces of nature (heaven-sun-fire, earth, water), which humans help to maintain in balance by carrying out a series of ceremonial deeds. Constructing the landscape ideograms is one of them. The right time of ritual deed is of extreme importance. To match the time the elementary knowledge of astronomy was needed.

The Reflection of the Tunguska Phenomenon in Evenk Folk Tradition and Scientific Hypotheses

Natalia Dmitrieva, Vitali Romeiko

Key words: Evenk folklore and mythology, Evenks, meteorite, Tunguska phenomenon

On 30 June 1908, a so far unexplained peculiar natural disaster occurred in central Siberia, in the vicinity of the River Podkamennaya Tunguska, the right tributary of Yenisei. As the human memory cannot recall a similar happening, the Tunguska catastrophe provides abundant food for thought even a century later. The investigation of the Tunguska phenomenon commenced only 20 years after the event. The relevant subject matter continues to be exciting for the researchers of today. Yet, the most vivid impression is left on the life and folklore of the Evenks – the indigenous people of the area. The article focuses on how the Tunguska phenomenon has been reflected in the world-view related understandings and scientific hypotheses of the Evenks.

In 1995, the area of the Tunguska catastrophe was designated as the national biosphere reserve, including the Leonid Kulik’s research zone, the historical building complex of the first researchers.

Soil investigation, botanical, zoological and ecological research is conducted in the Tunguska reserve, and researchers have put much effort into investigating the development of taiga, and its revival following natural, cosmic and terrestrial catastrophes.

Tracing Prehistoric Observatories – Some Issues Concerning Archaeoastronomy

Tõnno Jonuks

Key words: archaeoastronomy, archaeology, archaeomythology, astronomy, cup-marked stones, source criticism, stone walls

The article takes a critical look at archaeoastronomy as a marginalised area of research and dwells upon the so-called “bad examples” with an aim to highlight the methodological reasons why archaeoastronomy is not considered a true science. The elicited examples are indeed made by amateurs, yet with an academic research background, and published in academic format. Thus, these treatments can potentially find their way into the knowledge of common people and shape their worldview. Until now, critical reviews of the relevant treatments have been non-existent, and the following article attempts to analyse the problematic issues in archaeoastronomy related treatments and bring out certain generalisations as to why such strange conclusions have been reached.

Astronomy and Centrography Regarding the Sacral Objects of Saian-Altai

Leonid Marsadolov

Key words: archaeoastronomy, centrography, megaliths, nomads, pyramids, sacral objects, sanctuary, sphinxes, the Moon, the Sun

Not only in settled civilizations, but also among nomads there existed outstanding individuals such as politics, soldiers, wise men, artists and religious figures, sometimes today being considered anonymous. The idea of the Universe is pronounced in detail in the large barrows of the chieftains of Saian-Altai nomad tribes. The centre of large Eurasian regions could be displaced depending on many time-wise and spatial factors. The necessity of astronomical observations, for nomadic peoples of Eurasia, existed in the sacral meaning of time. The celestial bodies, the Sun and the Moon were a part of the cult of the Sky. In the cult monuments of Siberia there was organised a complex system reflecting the relations of an ancient person with the natural environment, Space.

How Do We Understand the Twenty-four Hour Period

Asta Õim

Key words: day and night, lexicon, phraseology, real and naive worldview, semantics of images

The article focuses on the notion ööpäev (‘twenty-four hours, day and night’) and the subdivisions of the term in the Estonian language. Attempt is made to ascertain how Estonians render meaning to ööpäev and what are the content-wide considerations for periodising the ööpäev and päev (‘day’), and whether the reasons for periodisation in different languages are similar or not. In the Estonian language, the period of daylight is understood as work-time. Proceeding from this standpoint, hommik (‘morning’) as a productive section of the day is segmented in a detailed manner and time-wise lasts until lunch. The evening (õhtu), on the contrary, is understood, besides time-wise notion, as the finishing of work and transfer to the rest period from any time since lunch (kell kaks jäädi juba õhtule (‘they called it a day already at two o’clock’); õhtule saadi alles loojangu eel (‘they finished work only before sunset’).

The Runo Song of the Great Oak – Synthesis

Matej Goršič

Key words: comparative mythology, cyclic space-time, integral interpretation, runo song poetry, symbolic analysis, thunder-god

A cyclic space-time concept in which one cycle corresponds to one year, can be used as a basis for an integral theory of a mythic world-and-time tree. According to this theory, mythic oaks of the runo songs are symbols both of the time/year and world/nature: growth of an oak symbolises growth of a year-nature (1) reaching its summit or balance at midsummer (representatives of the “good oak” in runo song poetry: the beer oak, the gold wheel oak, the love oak, the sun oak), (2) leading, due to its overgrowth, into the loss of balance reaching its bottom at midwinter when the sun disappears (the “bad oak” in the runo song poetry: the great oak overshadows the sun), when (3) a saviour ends the old year-nature cycle, starting, at the same time, the new one (by chopping down the great oak, he liberates the sun). For the world-and-time tree theory speak (1) the semantic connections iso tammi ‘great oak’ – isotammi ‘January’ – tammi ‘axis, pole’, (2) those variants of the Great Oak Song according to which the great oak grows on the location meaning the centre of the world, (3) the double nature of the oak-chopper expressing his role of a mediator between the old and the new cycle.

The oak-chopper’s double nature, his function as a bringer of a turn of the year, denomination ukko(nen) ‘old man, thunder-god, thunder’, fire-blazing axe, bell, beard, and hair strongly suggest that the runo song singers of the northern runo song areas interpreted him as a thundergod.

The closest cross-cultural counterparts to the great oak of the runo song poetry are the great apple and the great birch of the Mordvinian folk songs. It is very probable that the Runo Song of the Great Oak and the Mordvinian Song of the Great Apple/Birch have both been formed from one and the same proto-song which was very similar to them. Regardless of the unclear status of the oak-chopper in the proto-song, in Viena Karelia the thunderstorm myth or its transformations have most strongly influenced the Runo Song of the Great Oak.

News, overviews   

Doctoral Thesis on Estonian Hidden Treasure Traditions

Kalda, Mare. Rahvajutud peidetud varandustest: tegude saamine lugudeks. [Hidden Treasures in Estonian Tale Traditions: From Deeds to Folk Legends.] Tartu: Tartu Ülikool 2011.

The PhD thesis defended by Mare Kalda on May 30 is reviewed by Katre Kikas.

Doctoral Thesis on the Sociocultural Meaning of Estonian Riddles

The assessment of Piret Voolaid’s PhD thesis, Estonian Riddles as a Folklore Genre in a Changing Cultural Context, defended at the University of Tartu on June 30, is given by Mall Hiiemäe.

Fragments from the Meeting of Ethnographers and Folklorists

Impressions of the 10th International SIEF Congress in Lisbon, April 17–21, are given by Tiiu Jaago and Pihla Siim.

Young Voices 2011

The 6th conference of young ethnologists and folklorists took place in the Estonian Literary Museum on April 27, and in the Estonian National Museum on April 28. An overview of the two-day conference “Young Voices”, sponsored by the Estonian Cultural Endowment, is brought to the reader by Ave Tupits and Marleen Nõmmela.

Taking Malta out of the Box

Mare Kõiva writes about the 2nd Island Dynamics Conference, an international and interdisciplinary event that took place in Valletta, Malta, during May 11–15.


A brief summary of the events and activities of Estonian folklorists from April 2011 to August 2011.

Electronic Dictionary of Estonian Phrases – a Helpful Tool

Eesti fraseologismide elektrooniline alussõnastik. [Electronic Base Dictionary of Estonian Phrases.] Compiled by Asta Õim, Katre Õim. Tartu: Eesti Kirjandusmuuseum, 2011 (http://www.folklore.ee/justkui/sonastik).

An overview of the online Dictionary of Estonian Phrases, comprising 20,749 phraseological expressions or lexemes, is given by Katre Õim.

Interpretations of the Past as Part of the Social Process of History Making

Anne Heimo. Kapina Sammatissa. Vuoden 1918 paikalliset tulkinnat osana historian yhteiskunnallisen rakentamisen prosessia. [Rebellion in Sammatti. Local Interpretations of the 1918 Finnish Civil War as Part of the Social Process of History Making.] Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran Toimituksia 1275. Helsingi: SKS. 2010. 295 pp.

Tiiu Jaago’s overview of the book by Anne Heimo, where the focus is on the 1918 Finnish Civil War in Sammati, Southern Finland, using the prism of tradition. Sammati, the birth place of Elias Lönnrot, is a meaningful and significant site locally and also important regarding the cultural history of Finland in general.