Mäetagused vol. 78


COVID-19 and Udmurt traditional culture

Nikolai Anisimov
Research Fellow Department of Folkloristics, Estonian Literary Museum, Estonia Junior Research Fellow Department of Philological Studies Udmurt Institute for Research in History, Language and Literature Udmurt Federal Reseach Centre of the Ural Section, Russian Academy of Sciences

Galina Glukhova
Associate Professor Institute of Udmurt Philology, Finno-Ugric Studies and Journalism Udmurt State University, Russia

Keywords: COVID-19, humorous songs and chastushkas, internet posts, ritual and holidays, self-isolation, traditional culture, Udmurt, virtual space

In this article, we examine the spring ceremonies, the Eastern Udmurt’s summer ceremonies, and the Udmurt holidays (the Great Day, the Day of the Plough, Easter, commemoration days, etc.) during the COVID-19 quarantine as well as the humorous songs and chastushkas inspired by the quarantine and self-isolation. This article is the first attempt to describe and characterise the influence of the pandemic on the example of the Udmurt traditional culture. In our analysis, we rely on internet posts, data transmitted by informants, articles in district papers as well as observations by the authors. The data allow us to evaluate the changes in Udmurt customs and people’s adaptation to critical situations. Self-isolation caused anxiety in many village dwellers, because it was not possible to party in real time and place. The internet posts confirmed that the Udmurt are happy to share preparations and proceedings of their feasts, they like to send congratulations to friends and kin, who are able to participate both in joyful and sad emotions. The humorous Udmurt songs and chastushkas posted on the Internet help to survive in the difficult situation in the republic due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Charity and solidarity medicine problems: The Estonian case

Mare Kõiva
Leading Research Fellow Department of Folkloristics, Estonian Literary Museum

Keywords: altruism, assisted suicide, donation medicine, solidarity

Alternative, folk, and state medicine services intersect in the spheres of voluntary assistance and joint financing, donation medicine, charity movement, and solidary charity. Voluntary activity involves many people in different age groups and with different opportunities, and is wider than changes in lifestyle and an inherent turn to local activities and stances. The global trend remains in the transitional area of different domains, yet its deeply humane message, joint assistance to people in an emergency situation, constitutes the continuation of traditional means of assistance in today’s society. Charity medicine has opened up new topics for humanitarian studies. The article discusses the state and local institutions’ supportive activities for health care and, for example, for the coping strategies of people with severe health damage, as well as the support provided by different media channels for people with health issues, and voluntary help based on personal free will. The article focuses on the following questions: What is the status of solidarity in today’s medicine and welfare services? What are the characteristics, approaches, and results of charity medicine in Estonia? What questions are raised by charity? Do we deal with only medical and health issues or with human fractals?

How children are seen: Tracing perceptions through the eyes of adults and children

Andra Reinomägi
Doctoral student in sociology Institute of Social Studies, University of Tartu

Keywords: children’s position in society, image, perception and attitudes related to children, rights of the child

The article analyses the image of the child as perceived from the perspective of children and adults and determines to what extent the perceptions vary between the children and adults. For this purpose, views of children widespread among children and adults are compared. The paper also examines the sociodemographic background of the adults who represent these beliefs. The analysis is based on data from the Estonian Children’s Rights and Parenting Survey (2018), which gives a unique opportunity to compare opinions held by children and adults using the same methodology. The data compared against adults’ responses in this analysis came from the two older stages of study in school (7th to 11th grades). The sample size in this analysis is 624 schoolchildren. The adults’ sample consists of 1,248 responses in the age group 18–74.

The statements used in the study were selected based on approaches mentioned in theoretical literature for describing definite categories of how children are perceived: children as a) immature; b) competent; c) vulnerable; d) irresponsible. Whereas in the case of adults, the theoretical model can be considered valid, the results of this analysis showed that the responses from Estonian children were at slight variance with theorized perceptions. Four perceptions of children could be distinguished from the responses from Estonian children, and they can be described as follows: 1) children as selfish and irresponsible; 2) children as competent and independent; 3) children as vulnerable and in need of protection and supervision yet having their own opinions important to be considered; 4) children as innocent and immature.

The findings show that, as compared to children, adults often see children as vulnerable, fragile individuals needing protection and who, lacking knowledge, need advice and supervision. Adults also strongly support the image of the competent child, which holds that children have their own opinion and preferences, that are considered important to be taken into account. Children themselves frequently see themselves as competent, while their responses also reflect a perceived need for protecting children and supervision by adults.

The findings of this study allow us to conclude that the model of perceptions of children created by adults on the basis of theoretical literature for describing how children are perceived is suitable for adults but not so much for children. Children view children differently than adults, and their attitudes can be grouped differently from those of adults: children themselves construct a different image of themselves than adults.

These collective images shape everyday reality for children and the beliefs related to children, and thereby also mould people’s behaviour. This analysis indicates that the way in which children are seen is related to the gender and ethnicity of the adult respondents and also to whether the respondents have minor children of their own. These findings allow us to conclude that cultural context is significantly related to how children are perceived. Education has an important role as well – people with higher education tend to see children as competent. One particular finding of interest is that the way in which children are seen by adult respondents depends on whether the adults have heard of the concept of the rights of the child. Those who are well abreast of the concept tend to see children as competent with fewer of those who consider children immature. Thus, it appears that awareness of the rights of the child and human rights education in general is extremely important for improving children’s opportunities to have a say on matters concerning themselves and society in general.

The results of the study reflect children’s position in society, help to make sense of the relationships between children and adults and can serve as a basis for further research into describing the situation of children and opportunities. This analysis provides a first overview of what types of children’s perceptions groups could be traced from the attitudes expressed by children and adults.

Healers in Siberian Estonian communities

Anu Korb
Senior Research Fellow Estonian Folklore Archives, Estonian Literary Museum

Keywords: community, folk medicine, healers, Siberian Estonians

The article is based on manuscripts as well as sound and video recordings on folk medicine collected during fieldwork conducted by the researchers of the Estonian Folklore Archives in 1991–2013 from Estonians born and raised in different Siberian Estonian communities. The ancestors of the visited Estonians had either left their homeland in search of land in the last decades of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries or were descendants of those deported and exiled by the Russian tsarist authorities in the first half of the 19th century.

Fieldwork at Siberian Estonians in the last decade of the 20th century enriched the Estonian Folklore Archives with invaluable lore material, including the material related to folk medicine. Although the advance of the state medicine system with small hospitals and first aid posts had reached Siberian villages half a century before, and the activity of healers had been banned for decades, the collectors were surprised by the number of healers in villages and the extent of the practical use of folk medicine. The folk medicine tradition was upheld mostly by older women (as was the case also with other fields of lore), which resulted, on the one hand, from the demographic situation, and, on the other hand, from women’s leading position in the preservation of communal traditions.

In the older Siberian Estonian communities, which had been established by the deportees (e.g. Ülem(Upper)-Suetuk, Ryzhkovo), it was believed that healing words and skills were available and could be learned by anyone; they were often compared to God’s word. Some people thought that knowledge and skills could only be shared with those younger than yourself. In the villages established by exiles people were considerably more cautious about passing on healing words and the like. In most villages with southern Estonian background, healing charms were kept in secret, as it was believed that when sharing their knowledge, the healers would lose their abilities. It was only at their death’s door that the healers selected their successor. Not all the people who were offered to learn the healing skills were ready to accept the responsibility. The first or last child in the family was thought to have more prerequisites for becoming a good healer.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the situation with passing on the healing words and skills had changed considerably in older Siberian villages. Many of the healers had passed away, and there were not enough young people who were interested in continuing the tradition. So the healing skills inevitably concentrated into the hands of a few wise women. Currently, the folk healing tradition in Siberian Estonian communities is fading away, above all, due to the fast aging and diminishing of the communities.

Medical alchemy in the 19th century: Theoretical and practical foundations of electrohomeopathy

Kurmo Konsa
Professor Pallas University of Applied Sciences, Estonia Associate Professor Department of Archival Studies, University of Tartu, Estonia

Keywords: alchemy, Cesare Mattei, electrohomeopathy, herbal therapy, medical alchemy, spagyric

Medical alchemy emerged within the Western alchemical tradition in the 13th–14th centuries. However, well-established medical alchemy can be considered the iatrochemistry of the 16th century. In this article, I focus on the continuation of the alchemical tradition in the second half of the 19th century, using the electrohomeopathy created by Cesare Mattei as an example. Electrohomeopathy, also known as Mattei’s treatment of cancer or Matteism, is a form of homeopathy developed by Count Cesare Mattei (1809–1896) in the second half of the 19th century.

Because the drugs invented by Mattei had such strength and rate of action that allowed them to be compared to electric current, he called the method electrohomeopathy. They had no other connection to electricity. It is important to emphasize this again, as later interpretations and explanations of electrohomeopathy link the effects of drugs to plant electricity or bioenergy (Odyle energy, organ energy, prana).

Electrohomeopathy created by Mattei is based on homeopathy, but he thought it was in need of further development. In his electrohomoeopathy he saw a great reformation of homoeopathy. Mattei acknowledged Hahnemann’s similarity principle while criticizing his doctrine because it used, as he said, only remedies that were not combined and only addressed the symptoms. Like complex homoeopaths he thought that the use of single remedies was a mistake that held back the development of homoeopathy. Mattei relied on both homeopathy and an earlier alchemical tradition in creating the treatment system. At the same time, he took over the ideas of contemporary science and integrated them into his treatment system. Electrohomeopathy is a further development of iatrochemistry, clearly based on the science of its time, and has nothing mystical or occult in it. Electrohomeopathy is very well characterized by the fact that alchemical practices and theories changed over time and adapted to changed contexts. According to its developer, this is an empirical treatment system, which says that the first step is to test the effects of drugs and to establish a theory on that basis. Modern electrohomeopathy is characterized by an abundance of drugs used and the introduction of mystical explanations.

Mary Kaasik and Gustav Kallasto’s folklore collection and correspondence

Ave Goršič
Research Fellow Estonian Folklore Archives, Estonian Literary Museum

Keywords: correspondence, data collection, (folk) medicine, health, Soviet period

The broader source material for this article is the Soviet-era correspondence of the Folklore Department (FD) of the Fr. R. Kreutzwald State Literary Museum, today the Estonian Folklore Archive of the Estonian Literary Museum. This collection consists of letters and postcards of nearly 400 people, as well as transcripts of the FD staff letters to their contributors. The total volume amounts to roughly 4,000 pages and mainly covers the period from the 1950s to the first half of the 1990s. The article also discusses the contributions of Virumaa correspondents Mary Kaasik and Gustav Kallasto to the department, more specifically the folk medicine material collected by them, and focuses on Kaasik and Kallasto’s correspondence with the department, with the main emphasis on the personal health issues in their letters.

Mary Kaasik and Gustav Kallasto were among those who collected folk medicine material according to the 1959 survey plan, assembled in co-operation with the folklorists and medical doctors. Assessing the total amount of material collected by Kaasik and Kallasto (over 3300 pages), the folk medicine material is not very large (over 200 pages), but it is one of the topics in which Mary Kaasik and Gustav Kallasto wrote down personal knowledge or experiences. The correspondence shows that their health problems were constantly reflected both in their letters and as short comments among traditional folk medicine material. Mary Kaasik was more inclined towards sharing her problems and personal knowledge and was the one who wrote to the department on behalf of both collectors.

In general, it is concluded that personal health has been an important topic in the letters of the contributors to the folklore department. Health problems were a major obstacle to commuting and attending seminars; so messages about the health of oneself, one’s relatives or other collectors or informants are part of the content of the letters. On the other hand, health also comes to the fore in the letters of folklorists, who in turn informed their contributors about their own or their colleagues’ health, if deemed necessary. At the same time, writing about health issues creates an interesting dialogue thread between the correspondents and the folklorists, with mutual encouragement and pleas to take care of one’s health. Thus, a rather personal life goes hand in hand with the practical requirements stated in letters on collecting and archiving.

Thus, much data on health can be found in the department’s correspondence. Health-related messages are personal and trusting, the majority of correspondents did not have internal obstacles to share their health worries and to enquire for folklorists’ health. It meant sharing problems and probably provided some well-deserved mental relief. On the other hand, these kinds of letters also show the correspondents’ sense of mission – even when they were off sick, they were eager to get back to the field again.

Animals in the medical works of the Swedish-period University of Tartu

Kaarina Rein
Research Fellow Research Centre of the University of Tartu Library

Keywords: early modern disputations, early modern medicine, natural sciences in early modern era, orations and dissertations, the Swedish-period University of Tartu

At the Swedish-period University of Tartu there were four medical works which described or mentioned animals in some connection. Animals were often used as metaphors in these works in order to draw parallels with humans. In this connection animals were rather considered to be inferior to humans as it was typical to the early modern period.

In the medical works of the 17th century University of Tartu veterinary medicine is mentioned and also the use of animals as a source of remedies or even animals as their own doctors, teaching the humans how to heal certain diseases. There are hints to animals in scientific experiments. In the medical work Dissertatio prima de oeconomia corporis animalis, originating from 1698, the development of early modern physiology can be observed.

There is a clear difference between the works which were compiled in the first half of the 17th century and the dissertation written at the end of the same century. The works that were written earlier were mostly based on ancient authors, whereas the dissertation from the end of the 17th century delivers empirical knowledge.

Thus animals had their impact on the medicine of the 17th century University of Tartu as well as on the way of talking and writing about medicine.

Some remarks on the King of the Four Corners and the God-King in ancient Sumer and Akkad in the 3rd millennium BCE

Vladimir Sazonov
Senior Research Fellow in Ancient Near Eastern Studies Centre for Oriental Studies, University of Tartu, Estonia Senior Research Fellow, Estonian Military Academy

Keywords: Akkad, deification, God-King, King of the Four Corners, King of the Universe, Mesopotamia, Sumer

This article is dedicated to the issues related to the King of the Four Corners and the God-King in ancient Sumer and Akkad in the 3rd millennium BCE. The author shows that the title King of the Four Corners has always deified the ruler, but the ruler who used the title King of the Universe never claimed divinity.

What conclusions can we draw?

Except in two cases – the case of Erri-dupizir and the case of Utu-ḫeĝal – all kings who used the title king of the four corners were deified.

Erri-dupizir was a foreigner, more a warlord or tribal chief of the Gutians than a king, but he tried to legitimate his power by using Akkadian-Sumerian formulas, among them royal titles.

Utu-ḫeĝal freed Sumer from the Gutians’ yoke and re-introduced old Sumero-Akkadian ideological elements, among them the king of the four corners, because he wanted to be as powerful and strong as the Akkadian king Narām-Su’en, who was an example for Utu-ḫeĝal. We do not have any proof regarding the deification of Utu-ḫeĝal, as he ruled only 6–7 years, and we have only a few texts from the time of his reign.

More interesting is the fact that none of the Sumerian or Akkadian kings who used the title king of the universe in the 3rd millennium and even in the early 2nd millennium BCE (Isin-Larsa period) were deified (at least we do not have a firm proof). How to explain this phenomenon? Firstly, I think the title king of the four corners had a slightly different meaning than king of the universe; however, both are universalistic titles. The title king of the four corners was probably seen as a wider and more important universalistic title in the sense not only of universal rule, but also of ruling the divine universe and divine spheres (heaven, sun, stars, etc.). It seems that it included some kind of divine aspect, while at least the Sumerian version of the title lugal an-ubda-limmuba means “king of the heaven’s four corners”.

The title king of the four corners was related to the universe order, to the sun and the cosmos, and to cosmic divine powers, and they were connected to the universal order. We can see that sometimes the title king of the four corners was used to refer to gods in Ancient Mesopotamia – for example in the case of the god Tišpak in Ešnunna – but never king of the universe. Secondly, early dynastic rulers (e.g. Lagash or Uruk), who never used universalistic titles for themselves, addressed universalistic expressions and epithets to the main gods – e.g., Enlil, Ningirsu, etc. For example, Lugal-kiğine-dudu of Uruk claimed: “Enlil, king of all lands, for Lugal-kiğine-dudu – when the god Enlil truly summoned him, and (Enlil) combined (both) lordship and kingship for him”. Thirdly, ruling over all the lands from east to west or over the corners of the universe – these epithets may be used for gods. LUGAL KIŠ (later Akkadian šar kiššati(m)) in its early original meaning was seen only as “ruler over Kiš (or ruler over (the northern part of) Sumer)”; it was an important though more regional and geographic title. Fourthly, only much later did it acquire the meaning king of the universe but I am not sure about that meaning at all. In that case, king of the four corners had a different meaning; the title designated not only ruling over the world but it probably included some kind of divine aspect as well (Michalowski 2010). In that case the title šar kibrāt arbaˀi(m)king of the four corners could be seen as more universal than LUGAL KIŠ (šar kiššati(m)).

There still remain several questions which need to be solved:

  • Was LUGAL KIŠ in its Akkadian form šar kiššati(m) a universalistic title at all?
  • Or was LUGAL KIŠ a hegemonic title showing certain hegemonic rule or lordship over (all) Sumer (and Akkad?) but not including the whole world (here: Mesopotamia)?
  • Could it be for this reason that the king who used the title king of the four corners had to be deified but the king who was LUGAL KIŠ had not?

News, overviews   

Birthday Greetings!

Pille Kippar (85), Ingrid Rüütel (85), Anu Korb (70), Tarmo Kulmar (70), Guldžahon Jussufi (65), Terry Gunnell (65), Diarmuid O’Giollain (65), Irina Sedakova (65), Piret Õunapuu (65), Tiiu Jaago (60), Marju Kõivupuu (60), Kristel Vilbaste (55), Anneli Baran-Grzybek (50), Pauliina Latvala-Harvilahti (50), Liivo Niglas (50), Aimar Ventsel (50), Kristel Kivari (45), Helen Kõmmus (45), Atko-Sulhan Remmel (45), Elo-Hanna Seljamaa (40).

Joint Estonian-Belarusian webinar “Mission possible V: Adaptations, transformations and fundamental aspects of vernacular culture”

Overview by Anastasiya Fiadotava is available in English in Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore, Vol. 80 (http://folklore.ee/folklore/vol80).

The Nordplus project focuses on Norwegian Estonians

Triinu Ojamaa gives an overview of the adult training project “From past to present: Migration and integration through life-stories’ network”, supported by the educational programme Nordplus of the Nordic Council of Ministers.


A brief summary of the events of Estonian folklorists from August to December 2020.

Era document of Estonian religious world at the beginning of the 21st century

Reet Hiiemäe. Usundid ja vaimsed õpetused Eestis. Tallinn 2019. Varrak. 302 pp.
An overview of the book is given by Hendrik Valgma, student of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Tartu.