Mäetagused vol. 14


Cognitive Religious History

Ilkka Pyysiäinen

The article is concerned with a scientific approach which emerged in the 1990s and uses scientific results in psychology, linguistics, neurology and other sciences for studying religious convictions and behaviour. Cultural anthropology tends to explain religious beliefs through «cultural context», but this has often proved insufficient: beliefs also reflect the essence of human perception. The spectrum of religious ideas not unlimited as the ideas are based on human cognitive structures. The author makes a reference to Boyer by categorising the forms of perception into «intuitive» and «counterintuitive». Pyysiäinen concludes that specifically religious cognitive mechanisms do not exist. Religious reasoning and behaviour can be explained without reference to God's revelation. By that the author does not claim that «revealed» perception does not exist, but that it cannot be distinguished from «natural» perception.

Christian and Non-Christian Religious Communities in Estonia in the 1990s

Jaanus Plaat

Lutherian Church
There was a national reawakening in Estonia at the end of the 1980s. Most denominations that had remained active in Soviet Estonia revived. Increasing interest was felt for religion. Since the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, many new Christian and non-Christian denominations and religious movements began to spread, often introduced into Estonia by foreign missionaries. After the opening years of the 1990s, broader public began to lose interest in different churches, denominations and religious movements. However, most of the new religious communities still continue their activities in Estonia. Estonian religious organisations receive legal status after registration, and by the year 2000 more than 500 religious congregations had been entered in the church register. There are also many religious organisations and movements which have not been registered. This article gives a review of the latter, as well as the brief description of legal churches, congregations and organisations which have been active in Estonia during the 1990s.

Word of Life: Salvation, Healing and Success

Tuija Hovi

The author provides an overview of the predecessors of the new religious group Word of Life(the healing-revival of the Pentecostal Church in the 1950s and other Charismatic Ministries), its emergence in the United States and spreading to Scandinavia, incl. Finland. The paper presents a more detailed account of the versatile activities of the «Elämän Sana» congregation in Turku.

The author also observes the so-called 'success theology' from the historical aspect and its manifestations in denominations discussed here. Main focus is on how members of the congregation define success, which they perceive as a sign of God's blessing.

The Beginning and Activities of the Word of Life Congregation in Estonia, Word of Life Church in Tartu

Tiina Eier

The overview by a congregation member serves to complement and intends to draw parallels with the article by Tuija Hovi. It introduces events preceding the formation of the Estonian Word of Life congregations and their development in the late 1980s. The main focus is on the work of Tartu congregation.

On the Transformation of Apparition Stories in Scandinavia and Germany, c. 1350-1700

Jürgen Beyer

The article explores the transformation of apparition stories after the late Middle Ages and the Reformation in Scandinavia and the Lutheran parts of Germany. Angelic apparitions replaced the former Catholic Marian and saint apparitions. Lutheran apparitions did not, however, lead to the establishment of a cult, nor was the place where apparitions had occurred viewed as sacred. Theologians have argued that while a number of apparitions (and apparition stories) were true and useful (historiae), many of them were perceived as fiction (fabulae). Since the apparition stories contain a number of recurrent elements, the author observes different factors, which might have influenced the development of these elements. A number of motifs have stayed active and are used in new stories by common knowledge, ecclesiastical teaching and practice, oral communication and cheap broadsides and pamphlets recounting accounts of former apparitions.

O, Who Could Speak of Heavenly Matters in the Earthly Language?
The Apparition of Mart Saal

Kristi Salve

The publication describes an apparition experienced by the Estonian peasant and member of the Brethren's Congregation (Moravians) Mart Saal in 1807 while seriously ill. He had seen himself walking through the Golden Gates, seen the abode of the righteous and Jesus Christ, the place of Last Judgement, etc. The paper presents his account of the apparition (partly also in the form of a facsimile copy), provides a transcribed and edited version of the same text, and includes oral heritage about Mart Saal's family collected by J. Oidermann, who had discovered the manuscript and forwarded it to the archives some 117 years later.


The article discusses oral and written heritage concerning the Brethren's Congregation preserved in the folklore archives of the Estonian Literary Museum. Mart Saal's apparition has been compared with other authentic apparition accounts (i.e. those recorded by the recipient) in a collection published by Rudolf Põldmäe in 1937, but also with other oral narrative accounts and modern records, often contributed by people sceptical of those who experience apparitions.

Popular Orthodoxy, Official Church and State in Finnish Border Karelia before World War II

Teuvo Laitila

Published in Folklore 14

Postmodern Sites of Catholic Sacred Materiality

Leonard Norman Primiano

The article gives an overview of a general material culture of American Catholicism and the changes in it on the example of a St Jude Shop in Havertown, Pennsylvania.

Earth as a Relic of the Sacred and the Profane

Reet Hiiemäe

The article attempts to shed some light on beliefs and customs concerning the concept of earth as a relic, and clarify the origin of the notion 'Holy Ground' and popular concepts associated with it. The author draws parallels with the cult of saints, brings examples of the transitory role of earth in connection with the burial sites and apparition places of saints, and discusses the essence of contact relics. The article concludes with drawing parallels with the profane. The final comparison indicates that the reverence of earth as a relic of the profane and the sacred coincides in several aspects. This allows us to conclude that even today's irreligious people have need for objects of worship, and the traditions associated with earth and soil are regarded as an acceptable way of satisfying this need.