Mäetagused vol. 16


Taarapita - the Great God of the Inhabitants of Saaremaa Island

Urmas Sutrop

Taarapita is a god known to us already from the 13th century Estonian chronicles. In different versions of the chronicle, the name is written differently: Tharapita, Tarapitha, Tharaphitam, etc. - leading to the conclusion that the name Taarapita is the most suitable for use in Estonian. The name has been interpreted as a shout "Taara, help!", or "Taara's flash".

Today, Taarapita is often either misinterpreted (e.g. `owl god') or considered a minor god in the Slavic pantheon. Linguistically, it can be proved that Taarapita is not a Slavic loan. For a fact, in the 12th century on Rügen Island there was a monument erected for the great god of the inhabitants of Saaremaa.

The ancient Scandinavian god name þórr has a clear consonant at the end, making it rather identical with the German thunder god Donar and thus also clearly not a loan from Baltic-Finnic languages. However, the Turupið in Knytlingasaga is definitely the Estonian Taarapita.

Analysing the two parts of the name - taara and pita - while also considering kindred languages results in the interpretation of the name Taarapita as "Taara (is) great " or Taara-great. Taara itself, however, could be a loan from the name of the Scandinavian thunder god þórr.

African Folk Narratives as an Ethnological Religion Source: On the Example of Bulsa (North-Ghana) Heritage

Rüdiger Schott

The Bulsas are an ethnical group living in North Ghana that speak the Buli language (one of the Gari languages). The article aims to find out to what extent are Bulsa folk narratives used as an ethnological source for religion. The author has recorded Bulsa folk narratives on repeated expeditions to their territories. The stories were recorded on tape in Buli and later translated into English.

Relations between what the Bulsas consider real and fiction or of fantasy world are complex and many-layered. The majority of Bulsa fairy-tales of interest for religion ethnology are stories of why some custom is followed (e.g. why girls are not killed at birth).

The main Bulsa religious concepts are related to gods of earth (teng) and sky (wen or Naawen), also sacrifice of animals. The word teng has a wide semantic field, denoting land, but also village, in an abstract sense also the origin and cause of things. Teng is not only a self-explanatory act but also the influential religious power: every violation of the customs of ancestors "spoils the land".

In Bulsa stories, God is connected with fate. God has unlimited power over the lives of people while no person has the right over the life of another one. There is no happy ending in Bulsa stories, almost every mistake and oversight is punished with death.

As Fate Willed It

Leena Huima

The article analyses language usage in biographies of Estonian women published in Eesti Elulood. Naised kõnelevad ("Estonian Biographies. Women Speaking"; Tartu 1997); Eesti rahva elulood I-II ("Biographies of the Estonian Nation I-II"; Tallinn 2000) and Kured läinud, kurjad ilmad ("The Cranes Are Gone, Rough Weather"; Tartu 1997). For comparison, biographies of Finnish women are used.

The article is based on the assumption that language is a part of a society's semiotic system. Analysis is applied to texts where the whole life or certain events are explained with the actions of some external force. In a wider sense, this is a mythical metaphor, the characteristic feature of which is the existence of the main metaphors in two forms: verbal as well as symbolic.

Personified forces shaping the course of their life are war, life, events and time periods, fate, god. The forces acting on their life course are verbally expressed in passive voice and metaphors of the independent mover are used.

The biographies concern little what the women could have done to change the course of their life. Although these stories are more tragic than the Finnish biographies, the word `happiness' and its derivatives are fairly much used.

Estonian women born in the 1920s and 1930s speak of their life course as determined by some force. Most important are the dramatic events related to World War 2 that they had no way of avoiding. Under Soviet rule there was little they could do to influence their life. In their biographies, fate is personified, resembling the Christian concept of god. Finnish women contemplate more about why life turned out this way or that and believe more in the possibility of changing the course of one's life. Biographies of Estonians living abroad and younger Estonians differ little from those of Finnish women.

In Protection of the Ornament

Kärt Summatavet

From the cultural semiotic point of view, folk art is the text of oral culture. We are no longer able to explain the symbols, visual figures, ornaments, signs and colours used since the knowledge needed to read these records is forgotten. In the parts of Estonia where more ancient traditions have been maintained - the Setu region and Kihnu Island - ornamentation, embroidering and weaving are still called writing.

Folk art is inseparable from the world of beliefs and rituals, making it impossible to view an ornament as simple décor. It needs to be viewed as a complex structural set of popular beliefs concerning protection and warding magic, healing, numerical, colour and name magic. The ornament, signs and colours are important in interpersonal communication as well as in ritual communication with the deceased. Folk art is the oldest and most archaic of text corpora concerning our past, present and future.

The Milky Way

Andres Kuperjanov

Astronomically, the Milky Way is a big star system _ a galaxy. The word galaxy is derived from the Greek gala `milk'. In many languages the Milky Way's name is connected with milk. However, in Estonia this form of the name is rare.

The Estonian widespread term `Bird Way' most probably derives from the belief that birds use the stars as a guide on their migration paths to South and back North again. Another set of beliefs concerns the Milky Way as the path undertaken by the souls of the deceased, also found in the mythology of many peoples. Sometimes this is also the path used by `soul bird' to Toonela (i.e. Afterworld).

The Milky Way as footprints of some kind is not a common explanation in Estonian heritage. However, the Milky Way as the world tree is found in the mythology of many peoples. Songs about the world tree being cut may have resulted in the relative changing of the orientation of the Milky Way from vertical to more horizontal over time.

The Christian-related belief of the gates of heaven is little known in Estonia. In the old time-reckoning system, the Milky Way functioned mainly as a sign of the end and beginning of the year. The Milky Way was also used for orientation purposes and for making long-term weather forecasts.

In Memoriam. The Laatre Cross Pine

Marju Kõivupuu

The article is dedicated to the old pine known as the Laatre cross pine which has dried. Since old times, crosses have been cut into trees when people are buried. This pine was the oldest living cross-tree. The trunk of the tree is thickly covered with cross marks. The dried tree is still standing tall, but possibly not for long. Folk beliefs claim the feller of a cross tree to always have an accident or even die later.

Päevakera / Globus diei / Daylew

Reviewed by Vaike Sarv

The CD contains songs by Jaak Johanson in 1978_1999 but also runic songs, chorals, popular songs, bird voices, town noise, etc. The CD-cover imitates an altarpiece in the way it opens to reveal gardens and walls, playgrounds and sacred places. In the middle of all this we can glimpse the golden yellow disc, reminiscent of a setting sun.

Cleaning of the Well

Ülo Siimets

The continuation of Chukotka notes tells a tragic tale of how a drinking event leads to a person being killed and describes the course of the ensuing investigation. The investigation does not lead to discovery of the murderer - as forecasted by the involved parties - and could be viewed as a demonstration of the absurdity of Soviet lifestyle. Elaborated descriptions of situations and dialogues convey the atmosphere of contemporary times.

Memoires I. Childhood

August Tarendi (1890-1971)

A childhood story from western Estonia, Kullamaa parish. The excerpts convey the image of community life at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century in western Estonia as seen through the eyes of a child. Topics include games children played, books they read, relations to nature, fear of thunder, etc.