Mäetagused vol. 51


The Evil Eye: Descriptions of Operation According to Ancient and Medieval Theories of Perception

Meelis Friedenthal

Key words: evil eye, extramission, intromission, theories of vision

The mechanism of evil eye can be explained according to the ancient and medieval theories of perception in natural terms. The damaging qualities of evil eye are caused by the bad qualities present in the person and are naturally affected onto his environment. Since all the senses operate essentially with the same principle, this happens not only through vision, but also through sounds (words), touch and smell. Accordingly the evil eye is often described in connection with infectious diseases (miasma theory). Only because the vision is the most noble, and “most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things” (Aristotle, Metaphysica, I.1.) are eye and vision highlighted in the context of fascination. All ancient theories of perception allow such affecting from long distance. This applies not only to the extramission (emission) theories of vision (what are usually mentioned in connection with the phenomenon of evil eye) but also some intromission theories of vision are able to account for the effects of evil eye. In the present article examples from Plutarchos, Aristotle, Roger Bacon, Peter of Limoges and others are employed to illustrate the principles. A central concept that emerges is the Aristotelian principle of eidos (in medieval times usually translated as species) what transmits qualities incorporeally to recipients. Every act of perception is in some way connected with the soul. Thus it is generally necessary for evil eye to operate, that direct contact between eyes is established, but in some cases it is also possible to damage the other even if the affected person does not herself have direct contact with the evil eye. This can happen when the evil qualities inside the fascinators soul are transmitted by other means (sound, smell, etc) or when the virtus visiva inside the eyes of the fascinator is extremely strong (as with the case of Triballi and the Illyrii described by Pliny). Another possibility is the extreme sensitivity (malleable soul) of the victim. As children and women are more sensitive than men usually evil eye is more dangerous to them. How qualities inside human soul are able to affect inanimate matter is illustrated with the example of red mirrors (Aristotle, De somniis 459b24ff). Such general understanding of fascination was in use till Early Modern times, when the phenomenon of evil eye become to be explained not any more by natural but supernatural means (demons).

Noor-Eesti and folklore

Ruth Mirov

Key words: Johannes Aavik, Villem Grünthal-Ridala, Gustav Suits, Friedebert Tuglas, Noor-Eesti, Kalevipoeg, relations between literature and folklore, runic song

The Noor-Eesti (Young Estonia) group, which gradually developed into a literary-cultural movement, was initiated by Gustav Suits in the early 20th century. Being a gymnasium student at the time, he gathered around himself active nationally-minded young people, some of whom later on became renowned scientists and writers – apart from Suits himself, Friedebert Tuglas, Johannes Aavik and Villem Grünthal-Ridala. In 1905 and 1906 Suits, Aavik and Grünthal-Ridala left for Helsinki to study at university. Besides other courses, they also attended lectures on folkloristics. The young men were supported in their endeavours to study national sciences by Jaan Tõnisson, Chief Editor of the newspaper Postimees (Postman) published in Tartu, as well as Aino and Oskar Kallas, the latter of whom had received his PhD degree in folkloristics at Helsinki University in 1901. Friedebert Tuglas, due to his revolutionary activities, did not complete his studies at university; yet, in 1906 he also left for Finland – as an exile.

Folklore achieved a high status in Estonian cultural life from the mid-19th century, in the period of National Awakening, when Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald published the national epic Kalevipoeg (Kalev’s Son) and Jakob Hurt started to organise the collection of folklore under the auspices of the Society of Estonian Literati. In 1888 Jakob Hurt initiated extensive collection of folklore through the correspondents’ network, which in the Russification campaign of the last decades of the 19th century became the only nationwide undertaking. Concurrently with Hurt, Matthias Johann Eisen took up folklore collection, and in 1904 Oskar Kallas initiated an extensive campaign for collecting folk music. Due to all this, by the time of the foundation of the Noor-Eesti literary group, folklore had been established in the public mind for nearly half a century and was recognised, especially by the intelligentsia, as one of the pillars of national identity. Therefore it is understandable that the members of the Noor-Eesti group were eager to be academically trained in the field of folklore and that folklore and especially the runic song acquired an important role in their lifework. However, in addition to their literary creation and literary and linguistic studies, their activity related to folklore has not evoked any wider response.

This article provides an overview of the folkloristic activities of the aforementioned four penmen from the Noor-Eesti literary group, introducing the corresponding articles, collections of texts, etc. In the case of Aavik and Ridala the role of folklore in their educational work is also worth mentioning. Besides, the article discusses literary creation based on folklore, in which Ridala was especially prolific, being represented by three voluminous rune poems and a collection of ballads. As they were educated in Finland, their ideal was the Finnish national epic Kalevala, which was based on folk songs, and the form inherent in the Finnish old folk song – the so-called Kalevala verse. They also appreciated highly the Estonian runic verse folk song, which employs the same form principle. The runic song was treated by them as artistically high-level poetry. Proceeding from these stances, they (especially Aavik and Tuglas) criticised the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg, whereas Aavik and Ridala made attempts to re-versify the epic in an ideal, regulated runic verse form.

The role of myths and legends in French anthropology

Laurent Sébastien Fournier

Key words: anthropology, France, myth, mythology

Migration researchers in different countries have noticed that while first-generation immigrants tend to remain loyal to the culture of their birth country, for the succeeding generations the scales are shifting in favour of the new country of residence. Here, the attitudes of the representatives of the minority culture towards the ethnic culture and the minority policy of the new country of residence play an important role.

The article introduces research into myths and legends in French anthropology, giving a general theoretical and historical overview of the discipline and its trends. Among the approximately five hundred abstracts, which have recently been published in “Fichier Central des Th?ses”, the database of French higher educational institutions, and which include the word “myth” either in the heading or the body of the text, less than 5% are researches into ethnology or anthropology, whereas the others come from the field of literary studies, psychology, sociology, linguistics, politology, etc. This proves that myths cover a considerably wider range of disciplines than anthropological studies.

This brief overview presents only a part of the diverse and complicated French myth and legend studies. From the point of view of terminology, it would be essential to establish if all the authors who discuss the notion of the myth mean one and the same thing. The article focuses on anthropology, disregarding research into stories and legends in literary disciplines and myth-critical trends, as well as myth studies carried out by psychologists. Recent studies using myths in a figurative meaning – for instance, politology – have not been included either. Only printed materials have been used, leaving aside cultural activities, including museums, where myths, folk tales and legends find wider response than among the readers of academic publications. The facts presented in the article direct the reader to the key texts, in order to arouse curiosity and interest in this so far poorly studied topic in the era where anthropology is meant to regulate, above all, social and intercultural problems.

Qualitative Changes in Phraseology: General Principles and Catalysts

Katre Õim, Asta Õim

Key words: Estonian, aspect, cognitive linguistics, conceptual metaphor, image schema, motion event, phraseology

The article observes the qualitative change of lexical units as a natural part of the language development process. The authors aspire to explicate the regularities in the changes that the meaning of phraseological expressions has undergone. This is performed on the example of the phrase läheb nagu lepase reega ‘goes as on an alder sleigh’ – an etymologically old and genuine phrase that is popularly used in Estonian dialectal, colloquial and literary language and whose semantic meaning has been subject to the largest possible qualitative change. The reconceptualization of the motif can be explained by the context of the image formation and the cognitive motivation of the motion event.

Proverbs in pedagogical speech

Liisa Granbom-Herranen

Key words: childhood, pedagogical speech, proverb

This article focuses on the relationship between proverbs and pedagogical situations in bringing up children. The research deals with the life-stories that speak about the childhood in the early 20th century Finland. As research material two collections from the Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society in Helsinki have been used. The themes of the proverbs in pedagogical speech were the following: 1) control of one’s own life and living with others; 2) work; 3) livelihood, support and care; 4) Christian way of living, and 5) proverbs without a context. As a conclusion it can be said that for a child proverbs are combinations of socio-cultural contexts, people, emotions and information in various situations. For a child as a listener the content of the proverb is, above all, connected with the situation and the person involved, and it serves primarily as a piece of concrete advice.

An axe for Nergal Observations on Sumerians’ and Akkadians’ conceptions of the netherworld Commented translation from Sumerian

Vladimir Sazonov

Key words: Akkadians, netherworld, Enkidu, Gilgamesh, axe, Kur, Nergal, clean water, dedicatory inscription, epigraph, Sumerians

The current short Sumerian literary text, which was written in Old Babylonian time and which consists of only 16 lines, is a dedicatory inscription. This text was written on a bronze axe that was dedicated to Nergal, the main Mesopotamian god of the netherworld. The text reflects the imaginations of ancient Sumerians and Akkadians concerning afterlife in the netherworld.

In ancient Egypt the fate of people after death was decided by the great gods of the netherworld and people could be happy if they had not committed any serious sins. In Mesopotamia life after death in the kingdom of Nergal was quite different from that of ancient Egypt – people suffered under very bad conditions. They were in pain, frozen and hungry, and their drinking water was very dirty. Some other literary texts, such as “Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Netherworld” also describe these harsh conditions in the netherworld of Mesopotamia. Of course, if a person had donated to gods, especially to Nergal, abundant gifts and offered sacrifices, they might have been given a possibility to drink clean water. Nibrutalu, the author of this text, which was called by researchers “An Axe for Nergal”, dedicated this axe with inscriptions to god Nergal. With this act he hoped to be given the possibility to drink clean water.

From a heavenly guide to a messenger of the commercial world: Stereotypes of an angel in advertisements

Reet Hiiemäe

Key words: angels, contemporary folklore, folk belief, mentality, values

This empirical research intends to analyse the use and functions of the image of an angel in advertisements. The aim of the article is to follow the modifications and adaptations that the image of an angel has gone through during centuries, and to find out whether the portraying of angels in advertisements would allow us to draw conclusions about people’s contemporary beliefs and values in Estonia as well as elsewhere in the world. The analysis is based on about 50 advertisements that have mainly been produced during the last ten years.

Oysters, Smoked Salmon and Stilton Cheese

Edmund Leach

Key words: anthropology, Lévi-Strauss, strukturalism

French anthropologist, ethnologist and myth researcher Claude Lévi-Strauss adopted from linguistics the structuralist model and cause an epistemological revolution in anthropolgy. His works have proved most influential in the fields of studying kinship relations, classifications and mythology, but also general understanding of history, culture and thinking. Lévi-Strauss believes that the basic characteristics of human nature remain the same in all cultures, while great civilisations emerge as a result of synergy between cultures. His structuralist theory is analysed and commented by the British social anthropologist Edmund Leach.

News, overviews   

In memoriam Kailash Dutta (1976–2012) and Parag Moni Sarma (1967–2012)

The eulogy is available in English in Vol 51 of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore at http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol51/news.pdf.

President’s Folklore Award and the Year 2011 in the Collection Work of the Estonian Folklore Archives

The overview by Astrid Tuisk in English is available in English in Vol 51 of Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore at http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol51/news.pdf

Young Voices 2012

The 7th conference of young ethnologists and folklorists took place in the Estonian Literary Museum on April 25, and in the Estonian National Museum on April 26. An overview of the two-day conference “Young Voices”, sponsored by Estonian Cultural Endowment and the Nefa group, is brought to the reader by Ave Tupits and Piret Koosa.

The prise of the Estonian Folkloristics to Madis Arukask

In 2011, Academic Folklore Society founded the annual premium of the Estonian folkloristics in cooperation with the Cultural Endownment of Estonia in order to award the high level professional scientific work and/or work making popular the scientific results in folkloristics. On the 31st of May the second annual premium of the Estonian folkloristics was given to Madis Arukask at the annual meeting of the Academic Folklore Society in the Estonian Literary Museum in Tartu, Ell Vahtramäe writes.

International Folklore Symposium “Supernatural Places”

The 6th Nordic-Celtic-Baltic Folklore Symposium “Supernatural Places” organised by the Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore and the Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of Tartu took place during June 4–7. An overview by Reet Hiiemäe.


A brief summary of the events and activities of Estonian folklorists from April to August 2012.

Insight into the identity of punk music

Alan O’Connor. Punk Record Labels and the Struggle for Autonomy. The Emergence of DIY. Plymouth: Lexington Books 2008, 158 pp.

An overview of the book is given by Aimar Ventsel.

Profound insight into the American world of spirits and ghosts

Alan Brown 2011. Ghosts along the Mississipi River. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 238 pp.

The reviewer of the book is Reet Hiiemäe.

A selection of Georgian folktales

Michael Berman (compiler), Ketevan Kalandadze (translator). Georgia Through Its Folktales. Winchester & Washington: O Books, John Hunt. 2010, 154 pp.

The reviewer of the book is Reet Hiiemäe.

A book introducing a Swedish folklorist

Nils Arvid Bringéus. Carl Wilhelm von Sydow. A Swedish Pioneer in Folklore. FFC 298. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica. 2009, 272 pp.

The reviewer of the book is Reet Hiiemäe.

But what about girls? Introduction into girls’ studies

Entäs tytöt. Johdatus tyttötutkimukseen. Edited by Karoliina Ojanen & Heta Mulari & Sanna Aaltonen. Nuorisotutkimusverkosto/Nuorisotutkimusseura, Julkaisuja 113. Osuuskunta Vastapaino, Tampere 2011. 320 pp. In Finnish.

An overview of the book is given by Eda Kalmre.