Mäetagused vol. 72


Cultural competencies and the meaning of migration history in palliative care and hospice work: A hermeneutic discussion guided by patient narratives

Piret Paal
Institute of Nursing Science and Practice, Paracelsus Medical Private University Research Associate and Coordinator of the WHO Collaborating Centre in Salzburg, Austria

Keywords: palliative care, hospice, culture, migration, patient narratives

This article discusses the need for cultural competencies in hospice and palliative care. The following discussion is based on patient narratives. The interviews (37) were conducted in Munich, Germany, in 2016. Half of the interviewees had a migration history. Thematic analysis revealed that (1) for most of the patients the aims of palliative and hospice care were ambiguous; (2) the end of life was connected with a loss of autonomy and wish for hastened death. Discussions about life, illness, and death were not perceived as burdensome, whereas discussing the end of life seemed challenging. A comparison between two groups revealed that for people with migration history the notion of ‘dying at home’ may cause additional suffering, and thus may need screening and additional attention from professionals. Cultural competence in the hospice and palliative care setting is providing safety by treating each patient as an individual and not as a member of some specific group. The task for medical anthropology in this context is to strive for research free from standpoint epistemology and stereotypes.

Why Listen to Music and Silence?

Airi Liimets
Professor of Philosophy and Sociology of Education School of Educational Sciences Tallinn University

Marit Koit
Lecturer on hourly basis School of Educational Sciences Tallinn University

Keywords: becoming-one’s self, identity, listening to music, loud music, school youth, silence and being silent, speaking loudly

The present article falls into two major parts. The title of the first part, “Listening to music as the creator of youth identity”, gives a partial answer to the question “Why listen to music?” One listens in order to create one’s identity. The empirical evidence presented in the first part, which explores the preferences of school youth in Estonia in relation to whether they listen to overly loud music and to music of various styles and whether they tolerate silence, refers to different ways of creating one’s identity, as well as to the mental health of our society.

It appeared from our empirical research that listening to music features as number one in the lineup of daily activities of the school youth: it is valid both when they assess the time they dedicate to activities and when they are ranking their areas of interest. Many teenagers like to listen to music with volume turned up, and this has medical consequences. The physical consequence is that their hearing suffers damage. The mental consequence is that their relationship with one another and with the world suffers damage, which manifests itself in alienation, consumerism, and fusing in entertainment. All this is accompanied by fear of silence, which can be explained as a consequence of temporalizing or creating selfhood not from one’s own potentiality (Zeitigung). We can also say that fear of silence expresses the fear of one’s own vacuity and illusiveness.

Teenagers claim that their “self” is either totally or partly formed by their musical preferences. As it appeared from the research, classical music encourages being silent and alert to silence and this is also valid for jazz and traditional music. Pop and dance music are not related to creating one’s own “self”, nor to being alert to it – these music styles allow only illusory feeling of affinity with oneself and with the world. While listening to rock music, one’s connectedness to oneself and to the world is ambivalent, comprising some features from both configurations named above.

Talking about people who prefer pop and dance music, we can observe paradoxical connections between the person, the music they listen to, and the world around them. The more they seem to relate to the world by the omnipresence of the music and by listening to it, the less it actually is the case, because pop music that has been alienated from individuality as such is not capable of reaching the body of the one who listens to / hears it. It will not become a constituent of their personal space, even though they are convinced that the respective style of music is their true self. The listener of pop music does listen to it, but obviously does not hear it, because this style of music tends to overpower the type of person who lacks both the perception and the knowledge that they exist in this world. These three significant components in the process of listening to music – the listener, music, and the surrounding environment – are linked by illusory meanings and connections through pop and dance music.

The answer to the question how this paradoxicality can altogether occur is found in the second part of this article and is first and foremost based on Martin Heidegger’s lingual-philosophical thinking. The paradoxicality of the development of human identity with music as intermediary is explainable with the paradoxicality of being-in-the-world. A person’s being-in-the-world is coincidently being-one’s-self (Selbstsein) and being-with (Mitsein). A person’s being is taking root and is accomplished within his language and via his language, and this is what elicits the lingual tuning of the world and the perception of the human being. Whether it is the aspiration for substance or the fear for it expressed in our lingual being depends on our own choice – whether we prefer silence or idle talk; whether we wear the fake dress of idle talk or transform the whole world into homeland, using the language filled with silences. Just like any other language, music with its embedded silences can support a person who is alert to silence on their journey into themselves. In case music as language is spoken too loudly, it can divert the person on their journey to themselves and they can get trapped in a network of unreal meanings void of content, which is rather difficult to escape from.

Hence language as such unconditionally links the phenomena of loud talk, listening to overly loud music, being silent, silence, human being, and becoming-one’s self or journey towards oneself. The second part of this article reveals the content of the connections between the abovementioned phenomena and scrutinizes in a more detailed way the Dasein-language (die Sprache des Daseins) and Heidegger’s language of becoming-one’s self (die Sprache des Er-eignisses). Why listen to silence? As it transpired from the research, tolerance of silence and love for silence, as well as the urge to listen to overly loud music can be explained with the particularity of the process of a person’s becoming-one’s self or the journey towards oneself, one’s relation to language as such and one’s capacity to be receptive to the world and alert to the talk of silence. The capacity to listen to silence and understand the talk of silence teaches one to transcend one’s boundaries, to be one’s self so that one can comprehend being, and to reach the understanding of being as such.

While Heidegger claimed that a human being is a way, we claim that a human being as such is a combination of many intertwined ways which are endlessly gyrating in their togetherness. It apparently depends on several factors of being-in-temporal-existence which of these ways will be dominating at any moment of a person’s life. This metaphor is also valid when analysing the school youth’s mode of listening to music as a phenomenon. People are not inclined to listen to just one style of music – even during one certain period of life they listen to various styles of music. Which of these styles will be affecting the person most relies apparently on how they position themselves in the wholeness of being as such – the liminal value of which is infinity. Openness and ampleness or narrowness and closeness of a human being’s identity also depend on the latter.

Functions of personal experience stories related to conception, pregnancy, and childbirth on the Estonian internet family discussion forum www.perekool.ee. Folkloristic theme analysis

Maili Pilt
Doctoral student in folkloristics, University of Tartu

Keywords: childbirth, conception, internet, in vitro fertilization, personal experience stories, pregnancy

The focus of the study was to take a look at the functions of telling personal experience stories on the Estonian internet family discussion forum Perekool (Family School) subforums dedicated to conception, pregnancy, and childbirth. The analysis was based on four groups of stories and their comments: ‘strip catchers’’ stories (stories of women who want to get pregnant), IVF (in vitro fertilization) stories, ‘belly growers’’ stories (stories of pregnant women), and childbirth stories. The aim was to find out which role these stories play from the point of view of the functioning of the internet group, and which are these broader socio-cultural meanings and motives why women share their personal stories with delicate content on the easily accessible internet forum. The following categories of functions of personal experience stories emerged from the research: support and help, information exchange and advice, warning, self-presentation, and entertainment.

Sharing personal experience stories on an internet forum can provide support and help for both their writers and readers. The woman who wants to get pregnant, is undergoing in vitro fertilization procedure or is expecting a baby can feel lonely or isolated if she has no close people with similar experiences and understandings of her condition (what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’). Sometimes a woman prefers to conceal her experiences, thoughts, and feelings, because she is afraid of being misunderstood. For example, women’s long-term problems related to getting pregnant and in vitro fertilization seem to be topics that the wider public knows very little about, and that is why women prefer to share their stories and get support and help on the internet forum from those who have similar experiences and thus may understand them better. Both writing and reading the personal experience stories provide psychological support to group members, driven by understanding that only the women who have experienced the same can truly help. The so-called ‘success stories’ play an important role in mutual assistance. A woman can share her success story with the aim of getting in return other women’s stories with a happy ending or the aim may be to offer hope and support to others.

Personal experience stories function as information exchange in the sense that they are an important alternative or additional source of information that women get from their relatives, doctors, and midwives. Women may prefer to get information from others’ experiences and stories posted on the internet forum because they have not found a common language with medical staff. For example, women with endometriosis write in their stories that the diagnosis was a shock for them because they did not know anything about it and the doctor gave them very little hope (or not at all) to become a mother. On the other hand, women have found advice and information suggesting they might still get pregnant from other women’s stories. The stories have a kind of informal advisory function because they allow access to the experiencer’s point of view. Both configuring your own experience into a story and reading about others’ experiences help women better understand their condition and become aware of potential different solutions of their problems. The aim of the story writer may also be to initiate a discussion on her own experiences. In this respect, the study revealed that the longer narrative form (a detailed description of the experience, related events and emotions) can provide more specific feedback and advice from group members than a mere question-answer style conversation.

A personal experience story can also function as a warning that leads women to stand up for themselves in communication with medical staff and to avoid their own thoughts and activities that they might regret later. In addition to the activities in the physical space, the purpose of writing a story can be to warn against the risks associated with the use of the internet.

Personal experience stories work as self-presentation on the internet forum in the sense that they show how women manage their experience. The stories also enable women to show that they belong to a particular group of people with similar interests and experiences. So, there is only one meaningful ‘my story’ per person within the Family School subforums titled Conception, Pregnancy, and Childbirth. The personal experience stories on these forums function as business cards, which allow women to introduce themselves when they join the group and by which other group members identify them later in the discussions even if women participate anonymously (for that purpose anyone can use the pseudonym Cuckoo). However, in spite of accessibility of the discussion forum (the postings are easy to find by a search engine and can be read by all internet users), the women do not write their stories to present themselves and their stories to the general public, but only to peers, i.e., other women with similar experiences. The easily accessible (public) internet forum is perceived as private communication space of a particular interest group because there is an implicit assumption that the forum is used and the conversations there are read only by those who go through a similar life period and who need, based on personal experiences, to participate in the group.

A personal experience story can be entertaining for both the writer and the reader. Entertainment as the function of women’s stories emerges in relation to comparing experiences and ‘expecting together’, but also in connection with the fact that sharing the story at the end of the journey of strip catching, in vitro fertilization or pregnancy has become an unwritten rule of the internet group – the woman who has spent time reading other’s stories is expected to share her own story as well. Also, entertainment as a function emerges if, in the passage of time, women share their stories on the forum in response to other ones, when the concrete topic and experience are no longer relevant to them.

To what extent and in what form one or another of the functions of the experience stories emerges, depends on the core experiences, interests, problems, and needs of the concrete subgroup.

Voldemar Sumberg and the folk medicine collection of the Estonian Museum of Hygiene

Ave Goršič
Researcher, Estonian Folklore Archives, Estonian Literary Museum

Keywords: collecting, Estonian Museum of Hygiene, folk medicine, medical history, questionnaire, Voldemar Sumberg

The Estonian Museum of Hygiene (predecessor to the current one) was established in 1922. One of its principles was to collect and analyse knowledge of folk medicine to inform the public about incorrect treatment and to enhance proper, advanced medical knowledge. The museum’s contributors were voluntary private persons as well as schools and medical students. The exact number of contributors is not clear. By 1935 around 16,000 lines of folk medicine data had been collected, and various folk medicine equipment was displayed as part of the permanent exhibition. The article introduces physician Voldemar Sumberg’s efforts as a student in 1921 (together with other medical students), and as the museum’s director in 1924–1925 in collecting folk medicine information, and gives an overview of the remains of the collection that are currently preserved at the National Archives of Estonia.

The museum stressed the need to save folk knowledge and data and to map the locations and activities of folk healers. The physicians tried to learn about the ‘enemy’ to point out the false treatment used among people. The 1921 and possibly also the 1924 collecting campaigns were conducted in collaboration with the Estonian National Museum, and probably also the Estonian Folklore Archives was consulted; the collecting strategies for folk medicine data did not differ much. The main difference lies in the attitude of the physicians to detect true and false in folk treatment, while the ethnographers-folklorists proceeded from the point of view of a ‘complete collection’, thus trying to collect every piece of information possible without adopting a disparaging attitude. V. Sumberg proved that medical professionals also tried to understand folk medicine, and to bring both folk and medical medicine close together without creating superfluous opposition. Considering the still strong position of folk healers in Estonia between the two world wars, it made perfect sense to gather such data to be preserved in the collections of the Museum of Hygiene.

The remaining documentation of the museum, which began to wane at the end and after the Second World War, does not clarify the extent to which folk medicine material, either manuscripts or healing devices, were on display at the exhibition. It is certain though that some of the medical tools were on display. It is not ungrounded to argue that this section of the exhibition drew response from the visitors.

Today, there are approximately 2000 lines left of all the materials concerning the folk medicine collection in the funds of the National Archives preserving files on the Museum of Hygiene. This involves both direct folk medicine data with names of collectors, notes without clear authorship, and data of folk healers’ names, places of residence, and fields of activity. Additionally, there are corresponding newspaper clippings, offprints of newspaper articles, handwritten notes by Sumberg, etc. The article also presents examples of folk treatment.

The rest of the materials, field diaries of medical students hired by the museum, photographs, etc., were destroyed at the end of the Second World War or later. On the other hand, what is left of the collection is very versatile and offers both confirmation and addition to other such data in different folklore collections.

“Perhaps used for witchcraft”: Magic artefacts in Estonian museum collections

Kristiina Johanson
Research Fellow in Archaeology Institute of History and Archaeology, Faculty of Arts and Humanities University of Tartu

Tõnno Jonuks
Senior Research Fellow Department of Folkloristics Estonian Literary Museum

Keywords: material studies, materia magica, magic artefacts, museum collections, rationality

It is quite remarkable that the number of artefacts connected with magical practices in Estonian museums is rather small. It can be said that this scarcity is related to several factors. One of the reasons is the fact that collections that grew around the nineteenth-century antiquarian societies were formed randomly, and cherished the age and artistic or material value of the artefacts. The systematic collecting of contemporary artefacts or those from the recent past gained impetus only when the Estonian National Museum (ENM) initiated campaigns for collecting everyday items in 1909. The collecting activity started by the ENM was clearly influenced by the official national ideology – the museum collected artefacts that were valued, and items of despicable “superstition” were not part of these. The second reason for the scarcity of magic items is the fact that magic was mostly a verbal and behavioural activity and for some rituals no special artefact was needed. In magical practices everyday items were often used, and while these had more roles than being only magical attributes, they were not donated to the collectors or have been gathered and catalogued as tools or commodities. Recognizing magic is a matter of the worldview. Until it is not discussed in books or taught at schools, the users cannot regard the artefacts used in special healing rituals as magical – these were used in folk medical practices which in the beginning of the twentieth century consisted of some apothecary remedies, verbal spells, and herbal treatment, but to some extent also special artefacts were used. This leads us to the third reason for the scarcity of magic items in collections. Many apotropaic or folk medical artefacts could have been actively used at the beginning of the twentieth century, and people were not eager to donate these to the museums. Obviously displays and artefacts in expositions also influenced collecting – seeing and knowing what the museum valued made common people recognize the same kinds of things.

A notable feature in the small collection of magical items in Estonian museums is the clear focus on curative magic, leaving other aspects of magical practices represented only by single objects. The folk medical collection of the ENM contains several smooth pebbles and fossils used in healing practices. Similar material (more than 500 items altogether) has been gathered from Estonian archaeological sites. However, this kind of archaeological finds have very rarely been interpreted, although it is clear that folkloric background played a role in collecting these in the first place.

The reasons for the scarce interest in material magic in academic research vary. Firstly, both archaeology and ethnography have tried to appear as scientific and credible disciplines which hardly deal with matters of magic or superstition. The general rational worldview has played a significant role also in the theoretical and methodological background. Nevertheless, religion and magic have been discussed to some extent, and artefacts with a magical background have reached museum collections. However, due to the valid rationalistic worldview, their interpretation has been clearly function-centred (e.g. the dolostone disk from Rattama), with mostly utilitarian functions in the foreground. This explains the higher representation of curing magic in collections, whereas the use of ear-stones (Bryozoan fossils), for example, clearly involves rational elements like heating the stone and pouring water on it to create curative steam for the ears. The function could also be non-utilitarian, for example, apotropaic amulets have been created for this purpose. If magical interpretations were used, these tended to be general and common-sense, for instance, related to the fear of natural forces. These interpretations often degenerate to academic naivety, and are grounded neither by arguments nor by reasoning. Also, the nature of artefacts used in magical practices in Estonia has played a considerable role in the lack of interest towards material magic. In most cases natural or everyday artefacts have been used, which, without an accompanying narrative, cannot be regarded as magical. High magic and more complicated teachings did not spread outside the University of Tartu in Estonia until the nineteenth century, and the scarcity of artefacts specifically made for magical practices has inhibited magic from becoming an attractive research topic.

Due to the lack of academic studies, the cataloguing of magical artefacts has been complicated: sometimes the artefacts have been ascribed magical meaning that they actually did not have, sometimes their actual magical use has been ignored or hidden behind utilitarian functions. The only solution seems to be the increasing level of systematising studies on different forms of magic, with the purpose of creating a widely used and well-reasoned theoretical discussion.

Belarusian Maslenitsa: Local features and current situation

Alena Leshkevich
Researcher, Centre for the Belarusian Culture, Language, and Literature Researches National Academy of Sciences of Belarus

Keywords: Shrovetide, bidding farewell to winter, calling the spring, burning a dummy, masking, songs

The article gives an overview of the celebrations held during Maslenitsa (Butter Week, the week before Great Lent) in Belarus, describing local peculiarities and the current situation.

In Belarusian calendar-related customs, Maslenitsa stands on the borderline between the winter and spring calendar cycle. The name of the holiday in Belarusian (maslenka) and its variants are derived from the word maslo (butter), which refers to the importance of dairy products in the holiday meals.

During Maslenitsa, all Belarusians eat blini and dairy products, go for rides, visit friends, and sing. Local variants of celebrations have been very diverse. The peculiarity of northern Belarus was masking and the symbolic ‘burying’ of winter, carried out mainly by women. The reminiscences recorded in the borderland regions of the Vitebsk, Mogilev, and Minsk oblasts (north-eastern part of Belarus) describe the honouring of young families and midwives, as well as processions related to these events, marking of young bachelors, swinging, and singing Easter songs – the entire diversity of Maslenitsa. The eastern part of Belarus featured the burning of straw dummies during Maslenitsa, and in the south a characteristic ritual was calling the spring, for which bird-shaped cookies were baked. Swinging is also classified as a spring ritual, which was known mainly in the northern part of Belarus. The most peculiar feature of Maslenitsa in western Belarus was the so-called women’s rituals.

Archaic motifs have survived in the customs of Maslenitsa until today, although in Belarusian cities not local traditions but rather those rooted in Russian cultural heritage are maintained – the ones that were disseminated in the mass media and methodological guidelines for cultural workers of the 1950s–1960s in the republics of the Soviet Union. Most of the rituals have lost their magic meaning, yet Maslenitsa has preserved its inherent playfulness, world perception characteristic of holidays, energy, and activeness.

About us   

Eight questions to Eda Kalmre

Mare Kalda interviews her fellow-folklorist who celebrated her 60th birthday this autumn.

Kärt Summatavet opens the way to Finno-Ugric spiritual landscapes and primary sources of her oeuvre by means of symbols

Henri Zeigo’s interview with the artist on the eve of her 55th birthday.

News, overviews   

In memoriam

Isidor Levin
20 September 1919 – 27 July 2018.

Mare Kõiva reminisces about the Estonian-related folklorist Isidor Levin.

Barre Toelken
15 June 1935 – 9 November 2018

Mare Kõiva’s eulogy for the distinguished and colourful figure in American folkloristics.

Birthday Greetings!

Ruth Mirov (90), Heino Räim (85), Edgar Saar (80), Anne Hussar (75), Asta Õim (75), Ülo Siimets (70), Kazuto Matsumura (65), Triinu Ojamaa (65), Andres Kuperjanov (60), Krista Aru (60), Eda Kalmre (60), Mall Leman (55), Peter Pomozi (55), Karin Maria Rooleid (55), Janika Kronberg (55), Kärt Summatavet (55), Janika Oras (55), Anzori Barkalaja (50), Jaan Tamm (50), Astrid Tuisk (50), Liisi Laineste (40).

I will remember it for the rest of my life! I will never forget it!

Mari Sarv writes about the collection competition organised by the Estonian Folklore Archives under the heading “Catch grandma’s tales in the can!”


A brief summary of the events of Estonian folklorists from April to July 2018.

Midsummer Day, nettles, and the Estonian language: We are still alive!

Astrid Tuisk writes about the production of “Midsummer Day” at the Estonian Drama Theatre.

Doctoral thesis about proverbs in today’s communication

Liisa Granbom-Herranen. Proverbs in SMS messages: Archaic and modern communication. Turun yliopiston julkaisuja – Annales Universitatis Turkuensis. Turku 2018. 223 pp.

An overview by Anneli Baran-Grzybek.