Mäetagused vol. 32


The question of the ritual year and the answers to it

Emily Lyle

Key words: isomorphism, life cycle, lunar cycle, nychthemeron, ritual year, summer half, winter half

The author asks the question concerning the nature and identity of the ritual year. Other supplementary questions that can be asked are whether it is actually possible to locate an underlying coherence at all and, if so, what historical and geographical contexts would embrace it most fully. The author also inquires why there is no recognised current theory about the ritual year. In her approach she emphasises analogical thinking and takes the human life cycle as a key to the understanding of the patterning of the year. In the analysis, four levels are considered: whole eras or time itself at the large scale and with seconds or less at the small scale are dealt with, and the basic series of analogies has the human life cycle as the largest in scale and works down through the year and the month to the 24-hour day as the smallest. Thus, a reference set is established in which two tasks have to be considered: the first is to become familiar with the patterning of examples of the overall cyclical sequence, and the second is to categorise the divisions the cycle. The author has developed Tolstoy’s observation concerning “the isomorphism of the periods after midnight in the diurnal circle and after Christmas in the year circle” and also the idea that Dumézil’s triad of functions of physical force, prosperity and the sacred relates more fundamentally to the life stages of young men, mature men and old men than to the social groups he mentions of warriors, cultivators and priests.

Liminal Periods in the Udmurt Ritual Year

Aado Lintrop

Key words: equinox, folk calendar, folk religion, liminality, Udmurts

On the example of the Udmurt material we can see that there are two symmetrical liminal periods in the Udmurt folk calendar. Both their names are etymologically derived from the word associated with liminality, existing somewhere in-between. These periods differ considerably from spring and autumn equinoctial times – there is remarkable connection with water, taboo against making noise, etc. Spring festivity is celebrated by loud ritual singing, horseback riding and swinging. In some places they involve initiation rites – prayers by the boys and girls reaching full maturity. Autumn festivities siz’yl iuon and/or pukro are also accompanied by loud singing and making noise during dancing. Spring and autumn equinoctial times were not expanded into long periods, but were marked with specific festivities. They were the starting points for summer and winter halves of the year. Liminal times, conversely, were long sacred periods with severe restrictions. It is probable that the summer liminal period was originally dedicated to the heaven (upper world) and winter liminal period to the underworld (land of the dead). It was quite usual belief that after the winter vozho period all vozhos went downstream.

See also Lintrop, Aado. Liminal Periods in the Udmurt Ritual Year. Mifsud-Chircop, George (ed.). First International Conference of the SIEF Working Group on the Ritual Year: Proceedings: Malta, March 20–24, 2005. Publishers Enterprises Group, 2005, pp. 363–372.<

Time as a Category of Traditional Besermian

Elena Popova

Key words: Besermian, chronology, feast days, folk calendar, narrative lore, nychthemeron, traditional holidays, week, year

The article gives an overview of the traditional chronology of Besermians, which is a constantly developing and transforming system subject to various internal and external influences. As a part of a culture’s worldview, time determines the rhythm of nature, lore culture, economic activities, and cycles of human life. Each part of the day was given a name. Midnight and noon were considered dangerous and special times. Weekdays were seen as positive (easy) or negative (difficult). The positive or negative nature of the day may have influenced the outcome of the work undertaken. The yearly system was based on the change of seasons. The change of seasons had a significant influence on the entire economic life, which, in turn, determined the community life, including family and practical rituals. Until the adoption of mechanical clocks, time has been calculated with various means at people’s disposal. Observing the movement of the sun and the moon has been important. The Besermians have merged several traditional feast days, the tradition of commemorating the dead and other festivities with the Orthodox church calendar.

Easter in Estonia in the 20th Century

Mare Kõiva

Key words: Southeast Estonia, Easter, Easter eggs, folk calendar, tradition

This article aims to present an overview of changes in the Easter tradition in Estonia throughout centuries and to characterise its celebration in modern times. Also, a brief introduction of the local peculiarities of the tradition in a nation state, the role of an individual in continuing the tradition, as well as the impact of politics and the idea of ethnicity on calendar tradition will be presented. For the present article extensive use of one of our most recent Web-based databases/portals, which is intended to inform users about the ritual Estonian folk calendar, has been made. The sources to study the earlier calendar tradition are relatively scanty; moreover, the material has been primarily collected from the town population, especially members of the upper and middle class, which explains why the collectors recorded mostly the tradition of non-Estonians and integrated immigrants. The most popular Easter custom in the European countries and also in Estonia was decorating and eating Easter eggs and giving these as gifts: this is the main private symbol of the date in popular culture. In the Orthodox regions of South Estonia it was also customary to roll the eggs. An important part of the 20th century Easter tradition was self-made or printed Easter postcards sent to friends and family. In Estonia, the postcards usually depicted chickens with painted eggs, Easter bunnies with eggs, willow catkins, etc. Already in the 19th century, the masking and mumming tradition was particularly rich in west Estonia and on the islands, and shared similarities with the corresponding customs in Scandinavia or customs of wider spread. Easter masking and mumming, formerly more widely known, was later observed in the same area, probably because of analogous celebration of other holidays. A characteristic feature of the tradition in western Estonia and on the islands was “mummers” in animal or bird costumes who visited people to wish good luck or health. In the Estonian Easter tradition, decorated Easter eggs played an important role in the communication between relatives, godparents and godchildren, and villagers. Next to expressing liking, respect and family ties, Easter eggs were also used to demonstrate dislike and ridicule. While cracking eggs was a very popular and widespread custom, egg-rolling was mostly known in South-East Estonia, which the whole village gathered to look on. As the period coincided with the beginning of the swinging period, people used to swing, sing, eat home-baked pastry and chat. Over the centuries there have been many outdoor activities and celebrations during Eastertide.

An Easter custom practised in northern and central Estonia was board-jumping, which was skilfully mastered by youngsters and children. During the Holy Week and the Easter Sunday smaller rituals of magic were performed to secure good luck and health for the performer. Magic of the period focussed on cattle, aiming to procure them health and growth, and also to protect them against evil external magic. Maundy Thursday marked the symbolic beginning of outdoor work. Good Friday was also good for love magic, to make someone love you or break up someone else’s relationship. In the 20th century many folk feast days turned into important family holidays, which united and strengthened family ties, village communities, relationships between godparents and godchildren, teachers and pupils, friends and relatives. The bulk of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday rituals have disappeared. Easter traditions, on the other hand, have changed over the past few centuries but have retained their manifold relevance. During the past decades, kindergartens, schools and museums have become increasingly important in celebrating Easter and other national and calendar holidays.

For example, the list of holidays celebrated in Estonian schools includes a remarkable number of former folk calendar holidays. Official institutions have helped to support and promote the celebration of Easter, which is primarily a holiday of domestic culture; such institutional celebration has helped to preserve many folk calendar holidays and has revived the celebration of others.

Folk Calendar of Virulased in Ryzhkovo Village

Anu Korb

Key words: Diaspora, Estonians, community, multicultural, folk calendar, Siberia, Finnish

The article explores the folk calendar tradition of a mixed Estonian and Finnish lore group (called virulased) 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, and parallels have been drawn with material recorded in other Estonian and Lutheran settlements in Siberia. The article discusses the folk calendar holidays of the ethnic group, starting from the most popular of these – Midsummer day. The author observes, to the extent enabled by the material, the changes that the calendar tradition of the community has undergone and the cause of these changes; the origins of the tradition in Pre-Christian or Lutheran tradition; the changes that the communication of settlers with their homeland have introduced; the elements that have been adopted from their closest neighbours Latvians or the Russian majority; the extent to which the traditional elements of the neighbouring peoples have been adapted in their ethnic tradition; and also the extent to which virulased have participated in foreign culture without adopting it as their own. In addition, the article analyses the impact of the long years of ideological pressure on the tradition of the community.

The Ritual Year as Reflected in Proverbs: General Notes

Irina Sedakova

Key words: calendar prediction, folk calendar, ritual year, proverbs, Orthodox calendar

The article discusses expressions of folk wisdom which allude to the concept of time, the system structured according to the calendar and the rituals, performed on certain dates. The yearly cycle has developed a system of folk aphorisms concerning almost every day in the calendar and covering all the activities of the man and of the nature in great detail. Terms like aphorisms, proverbs, sayings, etc. are used to denote various folklore (speech) genres depicting the ritual year in a rather provisional manner. Apart from the genres mentioned, idioms, comparisons and some spells and curses are also examined.These speech folklore genres are a vast field of research. The question of whether we can speak of ethnic paremia, as asked by the prominent folklorist Dan Ben-Amos (1969) and supported by other scholars, is still very topical, especially in view of the type of proverbial sayings under discussion. The main issues that are examined in the paper are: what is universal and what is unique. The article mainly focuses on sayings which concern the ritual year and outlines the specific features of the folk perception of time as reflected in the calendar. Folk aphorisms reflect the ritual year through names of holidays, terms of ritual objects, food and participants, and through allusions to certain celebration throughout the year. The paremia can express direct meaning, appropriate for only one situation, or they can be of metaphorical nature, describing a set of situation. Each European culture has developed its own ways of seeing the ritual year through metaphorical proverbs, idioms and sayings. Although the set of holidays chosen by each folk paremiological tradition may be different, unique even, the major principles of mentioning a rite in a proverb have universal value and correspond to the structural and semiotic rules of the folklore genre.

From Scottish Ballads to Traditional Cosmology and the Ritual Year
Interview with Emily Lyle at the 14th Congress of the ISFNR, 27 July 2005, Tartu

Emily Lyle from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, speaks about two main lines in her research activities – editing 19th-century and early 20th-century Scottish ballads and songs and studying the element of the supernatural in fairy ballads, and how these evolved into the study of ritual year. Lyle introduces her two favourite fairy ballads categorised as the Child Ballads, speaks about scholarly influences on her work and current activities at the university and as the president of Traditional Cosmology Society and her fieldwork in Scotland and Australia.
Interviewed by Ave Tupits.

Celebration of Holidays and Festivities at the Viljandi Culture Academy

Ene Lukka-Yegikian

The celebration of yearly festivities and holidays has been one of the most important foci of the subject of lore culture offered to the students studying to become creativity and hobby managers and since 2002 also to students studying culture management at the Viljandi Culture Academy of the University of Tartu.

The important aspects of celebrating certain holidays and festivities are being knowledgeable of the former meaning and contents as well as the ability to conceptualise these in personal and future professional life in contemporary postmodern society. The idea is based on the conviction that holiday and festive rituals help to remember the basic values of life and provide an excellent opportunity to organise ourselves.

Making preparations for and carrying out a ceremony is based on rich folk calendar tradition. Choosing an appropriate event prompts a constant improvisation in tradition. For acquiring personal experience, it is important that all participants at an event are asked to join in on the activities. We have learned a great deal from participating in the celebrations of the Setu – the talsipüha or yuletide, and the women’s feast paabapraasnik in Obinitsa, St. George’s Day in Värska, etc. On these festivities and holidays, senior year students act in leading roles as farmers and their wives. In the first years, younger students take part in the events and get acquainted with the established tradition to learn the leading roles for the years to come.

The list of celebrated festivities and holidays has expanded over the years. Celebrating Lady Day has the longest history, as in 2005 it will be celebrated for the 9th time; also, St. George’s Day and Martinmas is celebrated for the 5th time. In recent years the collective celebration of All Souls’ Day, St. Catherine’s Day, küünlapäev (lit. Candle Day) on February 2, and Whitsuntide have been added. Over the years, specific rituals and activities have been developed for organising a certain celebration that students of the following years have not considered necessary to change.

News, overviews   

On Seven Dwarfs, Great Siberia and Tailor in Vastseliina

The introduction of Risto Järv’s PhD thesis The Text and Texture of Estonian Fairy Tales. An Archive-Centred View by Kristi Salve [Eesti imemuinasjuttude tekstid ja tekstuur. Arhiivikeskne vaatlus] (Dissertationes folkloristicae Universitatis Tartuensis 7. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus 2005, 226 pp, illustrated).

Individual and Collective in Traditional Culture
Ingrid Rüütel 70

On November 3, 2005 Ingrid Rüütel, the grand old lady of Estonian folklore studies celebrated her 70th birthday. On the same day the international conference Individual and Collective in Traditional Culture, organised in cooperation by the Estonian Literary Museum and the Estonian National Folklore Council, was held in the conference centre of Reval Olümpia hotel in Tallinn. Overview of the conference by Andreas Kalkun.

Haldjas 10, Winter Conference of the Department of Folkloristics

The winter conference of folklorists, dedicated to the 10th anniversary of Haldjas, the first and so far only Estonian server of folklore http://www.folklore.ee, was held on December 15-16, 2005 at Marguse recreation centre in Nüpli, near Otepää. Andres Kuperjanov provided a retrospective overview of the formation, development and financing of Haldjas, the folklore server. Mare Kõiva observed online communities and levels of communication on the example of two portals (http://www.rate.ee and http://www.newpets.com). The presentation Postings in Delfi Portal - Toilet Wall or Treasure by Arvo Krikmann discussed the intriguing topics posted on the popular Estonian polyfunctional portal Delfi (http://www.delfi.ee) and the juicy readers’ comments to the topics. Heli Kautonen, representative of the Finnish Literature Society, discussed several issues connected with digital collections. Kalev Jaago from the Estonian Historical Archives introduced the digital database available at http://www.eha.ee/saaga/, which contains the traditional archive sources of the family history of the Estonians (presently the personal and statistical records of the Estonian Lutheran and Apostolic Orthodox congregations). Ell Vahtramäe discussed user names in the Internet environment. Liina Paales introduced in her presentation Sign Language Users in Virtual Environment the technological means which facilitate the communication of people with hearing impairment. The presentation on the formation and development of lore material in the Estonian family portal Perekool was presented by Reeli Reinaus (‘Formation and development of lore material in family portal Perekool and its manifestations’), and the same portal was the source for the poster presentation by Maili Pilt (‘On collecting birthday lore in the online family portal Perekool. The effect of collection methodology on the results and research possibilities’). Marju Torp-Kõivupuu discussed in her presentation electronic databases and the Internet in the service of teaching the humanities at the Chair of Estonian Language at the Tallinn University. Karin Ruul introduced the seven models of e-learning and Tiiu Jaago her personal experience in applying e-learning in carrying out lecture courses in folklore. Berk Vaher discussed the inner life of mailing lists on literary topics. Aado Lintrop analysed in his presentation Old Tradition, Young Performers the narrative and song texts in research into the Khanty by W. Steinitz. Tõnno Jonuks introduced in his presentation Experimental Archaeological Project “Prehistoric Estonian Burial Types” three burial experiments carried out in 2005, and the background information. Veiko Taluste, who has authored several documentaries, introduced in his presentation entitled The Recording of Anthropological Material by Electronic Means. Computer Editing the preparation process for shooting a documentary. Aimar Ventsel spoke in his presentation about a virtual beauty pageant organised in Yakutia. Presentations of CD-versions of digital projects Berta (by Liisa Vesik) and Radar (by Priit Lätti) were held.
The overview of the topics discussed at the conference by Liina Paales.

49th Annual Kreutzwald Conference on the Events of 1905 in Estonia.

On December 20-21, 2005 the 49th academic conference dedicated to the memory of F. R. Kreutzwald was held in the Estonian Literary Museum. The central theme of this conference was the events which took place in 1905. Presentations were held by Tiit Rosenberg (on the social, political and national aspects of the situation in Estonia in 1905), Jaan Kaplinski (1905 as a critical year in his family history), Peeter Olesk (about the literary relations between Estonian writers August Kitzberg and Oskar Luts), Linnar Priimägi (Märt of Mogri - the Hero of Our Times), Vello Paatsi (about his investigation in the archives in Riga, including August Kitzberg’s first literary work Äraneetud ja äratõugatud ehk Mis sõda ühes toob (The Cursed and the Rejected or What War May Bring)), Marin Laak (about the century of Kreutzwald in the era of new media), Linda Kaljundi (Manifestations of Spiritual Force or Mental Delusion: Mutiny in the Historical Consciousness of Estonia and its Medieval Root Texts), Aado Lintrop (who compared the facts of the war in Japan with news articles and certain verses in rhymed folk songs on this topic, which generally reflect the course of events in quite a correct chronological order), Tiiu Jaago (who compared the different descriptions and sources (church records, historical tradition, literature, oral family history and interviews) of narratives about the fate of two Estonians - Mihkel Keremann from Jõhvi and Bernhard Laipmann from Vigala), Mare Kõiva (who spoke about the infliction of punishment in the yard of the Põltsamaa Castle, describing the growth of liberalism and the revolutionary events as well as factors provoking these relying on the recollections of Jaan Roos and others), and Marju Torp-Kõivupuu (on the representations of the fate of B. Laipmann in art). Overviews of the conference by Helen Hanni and Kadri Tamm.

Folklore Prize of the President of Estonia and Contributions to the Folklore Archives in 2005

Quite typically of recent years, the President’s Folklore Prize has been awarded to representatives of two different generations. Jüri Metssalu (born in 1981), student of Estonian history at the University of Tartu, is a young man at the beginning of his scholarly and collecting career. Tiit Birkan (born in 1938), who lives and works in Keila, is a person of considerable experience. The trace left in the Estonian Folklore Archives by the contributions of these two men mediates two different contemporary views on life.

Jüri Metssalu has collected local lore in his homeplace in the Rapla County and has inspired other young people to do the same. He and his fellows have recorded 45 hours of audiorecordings and more than 160 pages of local narratives, related information about memory locales, toponyms, official history, personal narratives and cultural history in 23 villages in Rapla County. Tiit Birkan has been submitting material to the Folklore Archives since 1981. During this time he has sent responses to many questionnaires sent out by the archive (on the topics of folk healers and medicine, children’s games, beliefs and narratives associated with hearing and visual impairment, Christmas traditions, contemporary legends, etc.), but has also submitted folk-lori, as he has written on the cover of notebooks in his neat handwriting, which he has heard and recalled in these more than twenty years. The material has sometimes filled a smaller notebook, at other times several notebooks, and at yet other times hundred or so pages. All in all, Birkan has sent 800 pages of recorded material to the archives.

Next to these two outstanding contributions, the Estonian Folklore Archives received a number of other material worth noting in 2005: Risto Järv, lecturer at the University of Tartu, handed over 35 mini-discs of folklore material collected by him and 11 students in Meremäe in the Setu region; Taisto Raudalainen submitted a considerable amount of material recorded in Ingermanland during 1998-2002; Jaan Malin gave the archives various lore materials collected in earlier years; Maimo Hõbesaar from Hiiumaa handed over four audiotapes of songs, games, descriptions of beliefs and rituals recorded on the island of Hiiumaa; Maret Lehto handed over audio, photographic and manuscript material about Kõue Liina (‘Liina of Thunder’), a folk singer from the island of Muhu, and the Muhukesed, the folklore ensemble of Muhu islanders, currently active in Tallinn; Lembi Sepp submitted two audiotapes of local narratives about Rapla parish; Koidula Ameerikas submitted two manuscript studies on local history; and Antti Ilomets handed over 14 verse and song books recorded during 1916-1960. Eda Kalmre introduced the most remarkable contributions to the Estonian Folklore Archives.

Volume 1 of the Encyclopaedia of Uralic Mythologies Introduces the Komi Worldview

Volume 1 of the Encyclopaedia of Uralic Mythologies is entitled Komi Mythology and edited by Vladimir Napolskikh, Anna-Leena Siikala and Mihály Hoppál (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó & Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society 2003. 436 pp.). Review of the book by Nikolay Kuznetsov.

Komi History in Lore Texts since the Beginning of Times to the End of the World

Павел Федорович Лимеров (ed.). Му пуксьöм - Сотворение мира [Creation of the World]. Сыктывкар: Коми книжное издательство 2005. 624 pp. Review by Nikolay Kuznetsov.

Overview of Calendar Traditions in West Siberia

Mare Kõiva reviews the collection Русский народный праздник: Научно-методическое пособие для работников культуры и образования (eds. Marina A. Zhigunova & Nikolay A. Tomilov; Omsk: Izdatelskij dom Nauka 2005, 284 pp., ill + 2 audio-CDs).