Mäetagused vol. 27


Whom should one thank for a narrow escape? Lessons drawn from a perilous journey from Vormsi and Noarootsi to Finland in 1796

Jürgen Beyer

At the end of the winter, some men from Vormsi and Noarootsi (North-West Estonia) went out onto the sea to hunt seals. The sea was still frozen. However, suddenly the weather changed, and they drifted out onto the open sea on an ice-floe. After two dangerous days their ice floe reached Finland, and they were saved.

The article analyses reports about this journey written very shortly after the event. The most important of these were penned by the Vormsi pastor and by his Noarootsi colleague. Both seem to have belonged to opposing theological traditions (Pietism, Enlightenment), and their reports differ considerably. This can be explained by the two group's different story-telling traditions - none of which so far has aroused much interest from folklorists, since these stories do not fit neatly into traditional conceptions of folklore.

The article aims at highlighting that the way a story is told not only depends on the facts to be reported but owes much to the attitudes and previous experiences of the story-tellers. This, however, is not only applicable to stories told by the "folk". The author also raises the question of whether folklorists and historians can or should tell a good story in a thrilling way that nevertheless satisfies scholarly demands.

Investigation into the Records of the Communal Court of Nursi: The Discussion of the Beating Cases in Estonian Rural Village Society in 1868-1911 in the Perspective of Legal Anthropology

Maarja Kaaristo

This article aims to study the beating cases - one of the problems and conflicts in the 19th century Estonian peasant society and their transformation in time on the basis of a study of the Communal Court of Nursi materials. The article investigates the modernization process of Estonian society as exemplified in the transformation of court practice on the background of general modern legal reform.

Local communal courts constituted a class-specific peasant court system in the Baltic guberniyas of the Russian Empire. These courts tried peasants for their minor offences and solved their civil disputes. The present study is based on Communal Court of Nursi records from 1868 to 1911, currently being preserved in the Estonian Historical Archives.

It is requisite for the better comprehension of the topic to provide a survey of the institutional development of communal court. This task has been accomplished in the first part of the article, which contains an overview of the general peasant court system that existed on the Estonian territory and a more detailed historical account of the institutional development of communal court set in stages.

The second part discusses the general problems and themes of legal anthropology. The theoretical framework is to a great extent based on Simon Roberts' social stratification scale of disputes.

The court disputes from 1868-1888 are discussed on the basis of Simon Roberts' social stratification scale of disputes. I will give separate treatment to the beating cases of municipality and court officials, conflicts between the employer and the employees, and the cases between the peasants themselves.

Last part of the article is devoted to the survey of the court minutes from the period after the judicial reform of 1889 (court dispute from 1883-1911). The beating incidents and fights in taverns will receive here a lengthier treatment, since the taverns had become in a way a source of social problems.

It was the period of transformation in the general perception of justice by Estonians and the modern legal reform. The nature of conflicts was also changed, as smaller disputes gave way to bigger and more important economical matters. In comparison with the 1870s the court practice in Nursi had been considerably transformed by 1890s. The number of court disputes decreased and their nature was changed.

The beating cases were quite frequent in the second half of the 19th century among Estonian peasants, occupying the second position after theft. Most beating cases in 1870s and 1880s (67,7%) occurred between social equals. But quite a number of cases (almost a quarter) crossed the borders of social stratification: these were the conflicts between landlords and their servants. Only two cases were found, where the peasant beat the municipality or court officials.

Most of the court cases in 1890s and the first decade of 20th century occurred also between social equals - the peasants themselves. It is significant, that the cases that crossed the social stratifications had decreased considerably. Most of the beating cases occurred between the peasants: neighbors and family members, and the majority of fights took place in taverns.

Studying interpretations of time and approaches to the past from the viewpoint of popular narrative history. On the example of two thematic narratives

Tiiu Jaago

In Estonia narrative history [pärimuslik ajalugu] as a field of study and research trend is internationally associated with concepts and trends known by keywords `oral history' and `ethnohistory'. Oral history deals mostly with popular interpretations of the near history and has sprung out of historical studies following the World War II. Ethnohistory is a folkloric approach to interpretations of the past, where the focus of study is narratives of earlier cultures in the recent past or of the ancient cultures.

The article observes two written narrative threads from the recent past. The stories, one written in 1961 and the other one in 2001, describe the formation of an industrial region in Estonia in the 20th century. The turning point of the narrative is World War II and the change of ruling regime in 1941 and 1944 in Estonia. The first story was sent to the Estonian National Museum by a correspondent, while the other was sent in response to the collection of life stories and is preserved in the Cultural History Archives of the Estonian Literary Museum. Both stories are true experience narratives and include an evaluation in the context of narrative period.

The main problem tackled in the article is the treatment of time and its manifestations in the analysed stories: how the authors have distributed the narrative events chronologically; how different periods (the time of events, time of narration) have affected the formation of narrative chronology; which factors affecting the interpretations and perceptions of the period become evident in the narratives. The texts are analysed on super, macro and micro level, whereas the main emphasis is on macro-structure (chronological markers, comments and transitions to new markers).

The central conflict in both narratives lies in the topics related to the mores, ethics and things considered sacred, in the second narrative the issue of power is added. Comparison of the two narratives reveals that the time lapse has distanced the narrator from the event, but has added the experience from the years between, i.e. the aftermath of the events and narratives about them. The intensification of political colouring in the second narrative (written in 2001) is inspired by the 50 years of living in the Soviet Union, during the period between the events and the narrative act (1944-1991; including the period of Russianisation, political censure, etc.). The experiences have begun to shape the interpretations of the events as source facts and therefore the distance has introduced both the course of events as well as the narrative of thought to the narrative history.

On Both Sides of the River. The Local History on the River Emajõgi

Mare Kalda


The article analysis the narrative history of three sites on the River Emajõgi, all of which are located downstream the town of Tartu. The Kantsi Tavern in Alevi village is located on the northern bank of the river, the Fortress Hill in Vana-Kastre is located on the southern riverbank, and the sinking site of Carolus, the flagship of the Swedish fleet, lies not far from the Kantsi Tavern. These are two former river fortresses, which had a similar function and narrative history (mostly concerning the underground tunnels and hidden treasures in cellars and the guardians of these treasures, but also historical war events). As the fortress hill of Vana-Kastre had no new function, it remained slightly off the beaten track.

The fortress near the river mouth, however, was once reconstructed as a tavern, and will now be rebuilt to house the administrative centre of a nature protection area. The narrative history of the reconstructed place is more extensive and the texts are also more expressive. In the historical account of the river battle, the Kantsi Tavern has been an important landmark in locating the events of other stories. The stories thus share territorial and historical elements as well as the same story lines.

To a greater or lesser extent, the texts mediate narrative history and may serve as evidence of several historical features. Narratives about these three sites also function as landmarks of the local identity and have been a part of the repertoire of people on either side of the River Emajõgi.

Cross-trees on Landscape and in Religious Narratives

Marju Torp-Kõivupuu

Cross-trees are an inseparable part of South-Estonian (South-East Estonian, to be more specific) funeral tradition, they have been the research subject of the author for the past fifteen years, and have been discussed in the short papers and popular-scientific articles by the author.

Sacred groves and trees belong to the rich Estonian cultural heritage. The article analyses the continuance or fading of the tradition of cross-trees as sacred (grove) trees from an important aspect of mediators of tradition - the possibility of continuance of customs and rituals related to religious convictions in modern natural environment, or, to put it differently, to whom the sacred trees in groves and the sacred stones on fields belong (have belonged) de iure and to whom they belong (have belonged) de facto? Is there a different attitude towards ritual objects of natural origin, which may tentatively divided in two groups, in modern times? (i) Ritual objects (including sacred springs, stones and trees, etc. under nature protection or under protection of national heritage) which reflect the passive and retrospective collective cultural memory, and which are no longer associated with the active lore and ritual behaviour of any social group. (ii) Ritual objects which continue to be associated with the lore and ritual behaviour of a social group (this active connection may have been revived in the course of folklorisation process), and which have a continuous, and active, meaning and relationship for transmitters of folklore.

Cross-trees In modern Estonian society the preservation of cultural heritage is concerned with the relationship between lore culture and the preservation of antiquities. Generally speaking, while objects under the protection of national heritage are also objects of cultural heritage, most objects of cultural heritage are not, and very likely will be not, under the protection of national heritage, which comprises only the most valuable part of cultural heritage. (Cultural) heritage, no doubt, is a political choice from the past: it is an evaluative selection, whereas the age of an object or phenomenon is not always relevant in determining its belonging to the core of cultural heritage. Of course, this division into valuable and non-valuable is of dubious nature - should the existing values be abandoned or destroyed to be considered valuable?

Next to relics associated with the formation of cultural landscape in present-day Estonia, the objects under the protection of cultural heritage theoretically include buildings and constructions; economic monuments, military monuments, and natural and seminatural monuments, and monuments associated with oral history (8 subcategories, including a separate division for grove sites, grove trees, sacred trees, cross-hills and cross-trees).

On the turn of 2003/2004 we faced the fact that in the course of felling the mature state forests many South-Estonian cross-tree groves, a unique part of the local cultural heritage, were destroyed partly from negligence, partly from ignorance. In the recent past some cross-tree groves and cross-trees have suffered heavily under illegal logging, as the reprivatised forest owners, often of advanced age, are often unaware of the whereabouts of their forest, of the biological species growing there, or the culturally significant monuments located in their forests.

Cross-trees and the fate of cross-tree groves in the areas of active commercial activity, have prompted media attention towards the tradition, and have activated the narrative lore about cross-trees among the local transmitters of folklore. While narratives on the topic of the earlier decades may have been categorised into three major groups:

(i) memorates, describing the supernatural experiences in the proximity of cross-trees; (ii) narratives about folk healing (curing ailments caused by ancestral spirits or evil eye); and (iii) narratives connected with religious ritual behaviour (the cause and explanation of cutting a cross in the tree; cross-trees, as "simply" sacred trees, etc.),

then now earlier cautioning plots activated and new ones emerged, warning that he (or his family) who fell a sacred cross-tree, will be punished (he will either die in a random accident in the forest; his hands will dry out; his family members will fall ill, etc.). To strengthen the truth condition of the stories, they were presented as memorates - the stories included an element of the supernatural or caution, and were told to have happened to a relative or close acquaintance of the narrator.

The topic of cross-trees and related events is an illustrative example of folklorisation process, quite unanticipated by both local and western folklorists. On the example of cross-tree tradition were may agree that the factors driving the folklorisation process, such as, for example, the ownership of land or forest, may often function independently from active lore bearers. We may agree that these objects of cultural heritage, which people have a passive relationship with and which reflect the values of the past, are slightly better protected. The fate of such ritual objects or sacred trees in the landscape, with which tradition bearers have retained an active ritual relationship, often depends of the ability and wish of tradition bearers to establish them in modern legal space.

A wooden god of pagan Estonians from before 1800?

Urmas Sutrop

Wooden god

Little is known about the ancient Pantheon of the pagan Estonian gods. One can find the earliest written record about the Great Estonian God Taarapita from the Chronicle of Livonia from the beginning of the 13th century. In South-East Estonia the cult of a corn god Peko was alive till the beginning of 20th century. Even a wooden Peko figure has persisted.

In this paper two pictures from another wooden god attributed to the pagan Estonians are published. Eduard Philipp Körber (1770-1859) painted a wooden god of pagan Estonians in 1800. Now Körber's picture is in Johann Christoph Brotze's (1742-1823) collection „Sammlung verschiedener Liefländischer Monumente…." (part 8) in Riga. This collection also includes a comment by Brotze himself. He was not sure whether the wooden figure belonged to Estonians. This wooden figure was already mentioned by August Wilhelm Hupel (1737-1819) in 1774. In 1800 the wooden figure was held in the library of St. Olav's Church in Tallinn. The same figure is described (together with small picture) in the catalogue of the Provincial Museum of Estonia in 1875. After that there is no record about this figure. Probably the figure was destroyed or got lost in the turmoil of the 20th century world wars.

On Popular Mycology and Psychotropic Fungi in Industrial Society

Aivar Jürgenson

The article discusses popular mycology and its impact on the subcultures of drugs in industrial society. The introduction provides an overview of the leading representatives of ethnomycology and their works, such as R.G. Wasson, who has studied hallucinogenic fungi in Mexico and India, and J. M. Allegro, who in his language-centred approach has attempted to introduce evidence on the central role of the red toadstool (Amanita Muscaria) in oriental mysteries. The article provides an overview of the methods he used, indicating the speculative nature of his hypotheses, and describes Allegro's influence on the wider public and on authors from the 1980s onward (e.g. E. Klapp, W. Bauer, T. McKenna).

Literature about hallucinogenic mushrooms has partly shaped the ideology of these subcultures - almost as if the ancient cultures had observed a strong tradition of drug ingestion, which has been forgotten and needs to be revived. It is necessary to remember that culture functions as an entity and that the effect and function of a cultural phenomenon ripped out of the original context may constitute something altogether different after revival.

On the Phraseological Compound Nouns

Anneli Baran

The database of Estonian phrases includes a large number of nominative compound nouns. The rich compounding productivity in the Estonian language in the past and present is confirmed by the fact that the earliest 17th and 18th century Estonian grammars and dictionaries contained a large number of phraseological compound words.

Compound nouns refer to objects and phenomena on the basis of their characteristic features or relation to other objects and phenomena. The use of compound constructions is a productive method for improving lexica: such substantives are formed in order to describe real objects without the actual need to derive new nouns. Characteristically of a compound noun construction, the relation between the main constituent and the complement, i.e. the full meaning, depends on the lexical meaning and the context of the same words.

Most of the compound nouns are determinative: this endocentric construction includes the headword with the subordinate compound. The sc. immediate determining construct doesn't always have a specific meaning, i.e. the head word of the compound may fail to describe the general notion, where the denotative agent would belong to. Since the direct meaning has become secondary, the determinative relations between immediate constructs may be metaphoric. There are numerous individual, animal, plant and object references of this relation in phraseology.

Phraseological compounds constitute a source of synonyms as they enable us to diversify lexica. The semantics of these words may be extremely complex, owing to the uneven transmitting of its components. Phraseological compound may manifest either motivated figurativeness or an ambiguous motivation. Unfamiliar and archaic components often complicate understanding, and unfortunately, the collected Estonian phrases tend to reveal very little information about them.

The article analyses compound nouns from the figurative aspect, namely the semantical field of origin of the main components of phraseological compounds (other individuals, animals, or other zoological creatures, domestic paraphernalia, food, etc.). The classification is based on the relationship between the meaning of the headword and the meaning of the compound.

Macrocosm III

Roomet Jakapi, Enn Kasak

The scientific and religious thought of the Modern Age had a characteristic chronological pattern to describe the linear macrocosmic time scale. First happened the creation of the World and mankind, and the Fall, followed by the Deluge about two millennia later. The time scale was halved by the Crucifixion and Ascension of Christ, soon followed by the end of the world. What waits for mankind is the eternal bliss in Heaven or torment in Hell. The article discusses what happens to the soul after death and before the Last Judgment.

Modern religiosity also influences contemporary understanding of science.

Return to the Kaseküla village in Siberia

Anu Korb


In winter 1993 I was one of the four members of the expedition group in Kaseküla village, Tomsk Oblast, an Estonian community in Siberia. Our interviews, conducted with the descendents of emigrants who had left Estonia in the early 20th century, focused on the older generation - the bearers of Estonian language and culture.

After the first fieldworks I had corresponded with the Estonians in Kaseküla and had also sent them a publication from the series Estonian Settlements, containing a selection of the material collected in Kaseküla in 1993.

Now, some dozen years later I returned to the same community, aiming to observe possibles changes in the community. Interviewing the same people, there was no need to introduce myself, although I had to convince some interviewees of the necessity of the repeated questioning. This time I tried to collect more situational and biographical material, which I previously had not paid much attention to. Compared to my interviews in 1993 there was much less traditional heritage to collect.

For a minority group in a foreign country, with contacts with homeland weakened due to economic and political reasons, the increasing encroachment of foreign culture is inevitable. Folklore is subject to constant changes, although these changes are definitely faster and more extensive among a minority group, who have no support from homeland and need to make increasingly stronger efforts to cope with everyday life. The number of Estonian-speaking people in Kaseküla village has fallen considerably in the past decade, even among those who are fluent in Estonian. The active Estonians of the village realise the danger to native culture and strive to revive and revalue ethnic traditions, partly perhaps under the influence of the general rise in the ethnic identity of minority groups in Russia, though remaining unaware of the importance of native language.

Stories of Deportation: Siberia 1941

Pille Kippar

In spring 2001, on the 60th anniversary of the first wave of Soviet deportations, Lennart Meri, the then President of the Republic of Estonia and the acknowledged historian and writer, announced a campaign for schoolchildren for collecting memories about deportation. The general idea behind the campaign was that our children, the next generation, need to collect the memories of their grandparents in order to get acquainted with and to write down their own history: the history of their family, their nation, their homeland. The outcome of the campaign exceeded everyone's expectations. The article introduces a selection of the materials collected and recorded by 50 schoolchildren.

Ello Kirss-Säärits 90

On October 14 Ello Kirss-Säärits, the literary theorist who collected unique folklore in her home county Setumaa in South-East Estonia in the late 1930s, celebrated her 90th birthday. Editors of the journal would like to extend congratulations to her by publishing a fragment of her recollections.

In memoriam   

Loreida Raudsep 7 May, 1922 - 13 November, 2004

Vaina Mälk December 10, 1922 - April 7, 2004

News, overviews   

Seminar "19th Century Women Authors in the Baltic Area"

On June 4 a seminar of female authors was held in the Writer's House in Tartu. Even in the mid-19th century Europe a woman author was an exceptional phenomenon that was regarded an anomaly deviating from the norm ("Kinder-Kirche-Küche"). Regardless of that more and more women picked up the quill and by the turn of the century women had established themselves as writers in feuilletons of family papers and in reputed publishing houses, as well as in the hearts of their readers. Brave German and Estonian women authors were also known in the Baltic region. The seminar presentations aimed to explicate which hardships women authors had to endure in their contemporary time, which social norms they had to defy, the degree of criticism or support they received, how troublesome their path to the Estonian literature and literary history was. Which was the sociocultural situation which compelled Estonian women to write, and how it differed from that of their compatriots of German descent? How was women's writing controlled by the ideology of womanhood, the established gender, class and other discourses of the period? Was the primary purpose of writing for women a matter of self-actualisation, confession, compensation, registering the mores of the established social order, or was it a rebellion, protest, criticism? Overview by Liina Lukas, Leena Kurvet-Käosaar.

On July 19-24 2004 the 34th Conference of International Ballad Commission was held in Riga

The conference was dedicated to the 260th anniversary of J. G. Herder and the five years he lived and worked in Riga (1764-1769). More than fifty presentations were delivered on the conference, five of them by researchers of regilaul in Tartu. Overview by Tiiu Jaago.

22nd Annual Perspectives on Contemporary Legend Conference at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth, 21-24 July 2004.

The conference included 33 presentations from 36 delegates on topics ranging from new interpretations of old legends and regional legends to legends connected with the cinema and advertising sphere. Conference participants were provided an overview of all the topics pertaining to legend research in the world. The researchers touched upon the intriguing topics of the ancient beliefs in witches and banshees, relationships of legends and fairy lore, the phenomenon of contemporary ghost stories, heroes created by pop culture and media. Overview by Eda Kalmre

Estate in Estonian Literary Canon

On June 5, 2004 the conference "Estate in Estonian Literary Canon" was held in Raikküla. Among other topics the presentations discussed folklore connected with estates. Overview by Ell Vahtramäe.

Biographies of Estonians in Russia. Folklore Collection Campaign

In spring 2004 the Cultural History Archives of the Estonian Literary Museum and the Society Estonian Life Stories announced the collection campaign "Emigration and Life in the New Homeland". One of the aims was to acquire additional information on the existing and also the perished Estonian settlements. The majority of compilers were representatives of the older generation, though some works were contributed by younger people, some even by schoolchildren. Overview by Anu Korb.


Anu Vissel defended her doctoral thesis "Children's Lore in the Changing Society" on Monday, October 25, in the Council Hall of the University of Tartu. Thesis opponent Kristi Salve (PhD), senior researcher at the Department of Folkloristics of the Estonian Literary Museum. Overview by Kristi Salve.

On June 5, 2004, Finnish scholar Marjut Huuskonen defended her doctoral thesis, and presented her book based on the thesis "Stuorra-Jovnnan ladut. Tenonsaamelaisten ympäristökertomusten maailmat." Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran Toimituksia 986, Helsinki 2004, 322 pp. Overview by Kristi Salve.

On May 22, 2004, Senni Timonen defended her doctoral thesis in Helsinki and presented the mongraph "Self, Space, Emotion. Aspects of Kalevala-Metre Folk Lyric". Overview by Tiiu Jaago.

On September 23, 2004, Liisi Laineste defended her MA thesis "Characters in Estonian Ethnic Humour". The thesis, especially the part on ethnic humour, is based on material from the database of Internet humour. Overview by Arvo Krikmann

On June 30 Reet Hiiemäe defended her MA thesis "Uskumusolendite valiksõnastik", or "Selected Glossary of Creatures in Estonian Mythology". 38 pp.

Book reviews

Tiiu Jaago (ed.). Pärimus ja tõlgendus: Artikleid folkloristika ja etnoloogia teooria, meetodite ning uurimispraktika alalt. [Lore and Interpretation. Articles on Theory, Methods and Research Practices of Folkloristics and Ethnology] Tartu Ülikool, Eesti ja võrdleva rahvaluule õppetool. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus 2003. 258 lk. Overview by Elo-Hanna Seljamaa.

Dieter Harmening. Goldrausch. Abenteuer in Alaska um 1900. [Goldrush - Life of the Adventures in Alaska in about 1900] Stuttgart 2002: Thorbecke. Overview by Reet Hiiemäe.

Mari Sarv (ed.). Regilaul - loodud või saadud?[`Regilaul - Constructed or Inherited] Tartu : Eesti Kirjandusmuuseum, 2004, 276 pp. Overview by Tiiu Jaago.

Piret Õunapuu. Pühad ja kombed. [Festivities and Tradition] Tallinn: Tänapäev 2001, 189 pp.
Piret Õunapuu. Eesti pulm. [Estonian Wedding] Tallinn: Tänapäev 2003, 222 pp. Overviews by Pille Kippar.

Jurij Fikfak, Aleš Gaćnik, Naško Križnar, Helena Ložar-Podlogar. O pustu, maskah in maskiranju: Razprave in Gradina. Ljubljana 2003: Založba ZRC, ZRC SAZU. Overview by Mare Kõiva.