Estonain Folklore

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You are visiting the Estonian folklorists' server Haldjas (fairy, guardian spirit), which was set up in 1995 by the folk belief research group of the Institute of the Estonian Language. Presently, the group and the server have been incorporated under the Estonian Literary Museum. The majority of electronic publications and data corpora in the server are in the Estonian language, which belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family. Estonia is a small country with ca one million people, who speak the Estonian language as their mother tongue.

The server offers a wide range of information on oral heritage, folklore and folk belief, on the institutions actively engaged in folkloristic research in Estonia as well as researchers and research projects. The covered aspects of folklore also include the heritage of other peoples of the Uralic language group. The server features two journals that have been published online and in print since 1996: Mäetagused and Folklore: An electronic Journal of Folklore.

Only parts of the material are currently available in English and/or German; in time the proportion of material in foreign language will grow.

Our news!

Seminar on Health Tourism in Austria

On March 15 at 12.00 Margret Jäger, medical anthropologist, doctorate from the University of Graz, collaborating professor of UFRN / School of Medicine in / Brazil will give a talk about definitions of health tourism and it’s gender aspects.
At the beginning definitions of health and medical tourism are shown to stimulate the critical reflection for differences within the study field of “health tourism”. Furthermore gender differences are presented to contextualize gender aspects in the field of tourism and health/medicine. “Health tourism” grows extremely worldwide and people spend a lot of money for different reasons to achieve better health, search for a cure, change their lifestyle and find relief for their health problems. The talk discusses the case of an Austrian “women-only” health hotel to show discrepancies between scientific knowledge about health and health promotion and industry´s interpretation of it. Anthropological knowledge may help to understand people´s search for better health and industry´s reactions to it.
As usually, the seminar will take place in the Estonian Literature Museum, Tartu, Vanemuise, 42 (Fourth Floor Seminar Room).

Seminar "'Folklore arrested'"

On December 1 at 12.00 Alexandra Arkhipova (Centre for Typological and Semiotic Folklore Studies, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow) will give a lecture entitled as “'Folklore arrested'”: court persecution for jokes, songs and rumors in the Soviet Union and today's Russia”.
The talk will focus on relations between political folklore and the power (from 1922 till 2015) – how secret police started to record political folklore in 1929, what had happened with uncensored folklore during the period of Great Terror and later, how this situation was changed after Stalin's death, and what is going now, when several people are in the middle of court persecution because of reposting visual folklore in Internet.
As usually, the seminar will take place in the Estonian Literature Museum, Tartu, Vanemuise, 42 (Fourth Floor Seminar Room).

Research seminars on Tuesdays in Estonian Literary Museum, Vanemuise 42, Tartu

On October 13 at 12.00 Tatiana Minniyakhmetova (University of Innsbruck) will present the paper “Conception of cleanliness in traditional worldview of Udmurts”.
Conception of cleanliness in the tradition of Udmurts is observed from the religious-ritual, ritualized and everyday life points of view.
The meeting will take place in the Fourth Floor Seminar Room.
All are very welcome!

Seminar on gender stereotypes

On October 8 at 12.00 Saša Babič (Institute of Ethnology, Scientific Research Centre of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts) will present a paper “Gender Stereotypes and Prejudges in Slovenian Joking Questions”.
Seminar will take place in the Fourth Floor Seminar Room, Vanemuise 42 (Estonian Literary Museum).
Joking questions are subtype of riddle and most common riddle in Slovenian cultural space nowadays. It has the function of joke, therefore it is the form on the border between two genres: between riddle and joke. It covers wide range of themes from everyday life and we can get them in all society classes and most of the age groups. Therefore we can observe some of the stereotypes and prejudges which are masked in “not serious/just a joke” form, like gender issues, racism, intelligence etc. I will focus on gender joking questions, collected from internet forums and e-mails: the material will be presented within the place of publication, cultural background and the motivation of their creation.
All are welcome to participate!

Seminar on reflexivity in stand-up comedy

On October 6 at 12.00 Antti Lindfors (University of Turku, Folkloristics) will present a paper “Narration and Gestures in Stand-Up Comedy”. Seminar will take place in the Fourth Floor Seminar Room, Vanemuise 42.
The presentation will showcase the baselines of his current article in progress. In this article, he will continue and expand on the study of reflexivity in stand up comedy, a genre of popular cultural oral performance, one of the most striking characteristics of which relates to its highly contextualized and ostensibly “open” interactional form. Special attention will paid to gestures, which – when coordinated with narrative discourse, provide us with an entrance to look into how comics creatively manage their performances both spatially and interactionally, while conforming to or departing from the conventions associated with the genre.
All are welcome to participate!

The 61st issue of journal Mäetagused is dedicated to Ülo Tedre

The 61st issue of journal Mäetagused ( is dedicated to Ülo Tedre (February 12, 1928 – March 9, 2015), one of the most versatile Estonian folklorists, giving today’s readers and researchers an overview of his scholarly work in different fields of folklore.
Ülo Tedre was born in Tallinn on February 12, 1928, into a schoolteachers’ family. After finishing Tallinn Secondary School No. 7 in 1946, he continued his studies at the University of Tartu, and graduated in 1951 as an Estonian philologist, specialising in folklore. He considered the latter a field closest to history, yet also stressed its connections with linguistics. His degree studies were also related to folklore, with an interest in rhymed folksongs and parallel spread of oral and written forms of folksongs. He worked in the folklore section of the Institute of Estonian Language and Literature in 1949–1999, in the years 1962–1991 as head of the section, and the following ten years as senior researcher of the Department of Folkloristics.
Ülo Tedre’s scholarly work covered different song cultures and styles (runo song, newer song forms), studies of folk customs and especially masking, as well as the history of folkloristics. His legacy is comprised of more than 400 written, compiled and edited works, which cover practically all folklore genres as well as Estonian literary and cultural history, such as Eesti mees ja tema sugu (Estonian Man and His Kin) (1952-1954/2003), the four-volume Estonian folk song anthology (1969–1972), a short monograph Eesti pulmad (Estonian Weddings) (1973), a beautiful album to celebrate Jakob Hurt’s 150th birth anniversary (1989), the song collections of Jõhvi and Iisaku parishes in the series Vana Kannel (Old Zither) (1999), a voluminous overview of Estonian mumming and masking traditions published in Sweden (2007), to name but a few. In addition, he published a number of shorter writings about the Estonian runo song, beliefs and practices, and about Estonian folklore classics Jakob Hurt, Matthias Johann Eisen, Oskar Loorits, and Walter Anderson, as well as reviews of Estonian folklore in different collections and school textbooks, and more than 70 reviews on folkloristics, literature, and culture.
This special issue gives an overview of Ülo Tedre’s shorter writings concerned with different fields of folklore. The article about masking is dedicated to the masking traditions of the autumn and winter periods, starting with Michaelmas and ending with mumming at the end of the year.
The next article discusses Estonian mumming traditions at Christmastime: their spread, age and gender of the participants, costumes and masking, communication between the hosting family and the mummers, and the gifts given to the mummers.
The third writing is a discussion held by Ülo Tedre, Enn Ernits, Mikk Sarv, Madis Kõiv, Vello Lõugas, Tõnis Vint, Ants Viires, Ülo Stöör, and Heino Eelsalu about colours, numbers, and shapes in our ancestors’ worldview. The article about the runic verse in general and Vepsian runic verse in particular weighs the reasons why the Veps and especially southern Estonians preserved their song material, yet could not achieve the form of the runic verse.
The following article provides an overview of the Estonians’ everyday customs related to departures and being on the way, paying someone a visit, cooking, eating, and clearing the table. These customs also include new, urban, and international material, known in many countries and by different nationalities.
The article about great changes in the Estonian folksong speaks about the emergence of the rhymed song in the 19th century, analysing the reasons why the older folksong started to fade and was replaced by the strophic end rhyme folksong.
The next article discusses the 19th century as the period of great changes in Estonian folklore, which laid a foundation for folkloristics. The 19th century was characterised by the quick receding and even fading of folk culture; on the other hand, prerequisites emerged for extensive collecting of folklore and establishing foundations for national culture.
The subheading of the article about M.J. Eisen’s road to folkloristics reads: From the Ancestors’ Treasures to the Riddles of Estonian Folk. Eisen’s bibliography is comprised of 761 items, written between the ages of 19 and 77. The article follows the path of the versatile writer to folklore and his first steps in the field of folkloristics.
The article under the heading, What Oskar Loorits and Other Learned Estonian Men Thought about Estonians’ Character, provides an overview of the estimations of Estonians given, starting from older historical records, to the viewpoints expressed by several cultural figures and experts on folklore, such as Loorits and Masing.
The following writing is dedicated to the Institute of Estonian Language and Literature against the world level. Ülo Tedre and Rein Veidemann try to find an answer to why folklorists write monographs and not articles required by the academic system.
A retrospective look at the work of the folklore section of the Institute of Estonian Language and Literature in 1947–1990 introduces the main directions in the work of the section, its publications, and international cooperation.

Vol. 60 of Mäetagused came out!

Issue 60 of the journal Mäetagused discusses political and religious rituals and interethnical relations.
Jurij Fikfak (Slovenia) describes political rituals and discourses on the example of Slovenes and Austrians living in the province of Carinthia (Kärnten), Austria.
Ekaterina Anastasova (Bulgaria) overviews the dynamics of celebrating the day dedicated to the authors of Cyrillic script, the brothers Cyril and Methodius in the national and ethnic practices in the Ukraine, among Bulgarian communes in Odessa and the Crimea.
Mare Kõiva, Andres Kuperjanov and Liisa Vesik (Estonia) overview Bulgarian pilgrimage destinations, including expressions of bi-religiosity in Orthodox or Islamic sanctuaries. New spiritual movements with special interest in national monuments include the church and abbey of Baba Vanga, recreated ancient Thracian religion, and the White Brotherhood.
Vladimir Sazonov reviews power relations in the kingdoms of ancient Sumer and Akkad, how state ideology developed and policy towards temples changed in 2500-2154 BC.
Liina Eek provides a qualitative research analysis on the relationship Estonian-speaking Orthodox believers have with their confession.
The journal provides an overview of folklore conferences, new publications and defended dissertations. All articles in Estonian have a summary in English.
The peer reviewed scientific journal Mäetagused has been published continuously since 1996 and provides open access online

Symposium "Scala naturae: Symposium in honour of Arvo Krikmann's 75th birthday" in Tallinn, August 18, 2014

On Monday, August 18, the symposium “Scala naturae: Symposium in honour of Arvo Krikmann's 75th birthday” will be held at the Estonian Academy of Science (Kohtu 6, Tallinn).
The symposium is dedicated to the 75th birthday of Arvo Krikmann, one of the most versatile and productive Estonian folklorist, senior researcher at the Estonian Literary Museum and a member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences.
The current and past works of Arvo Krikmann include an array of topics, ranging from the origin, historiography and textology of Estonian and Baltic-Finnic short forms of folklore to the applications of quantitative methodology in folkloristics and dialectology, but also to the sources of Estonian phraseology and folk rhetoric, the structural levels and interrelations of the short forms of folklore, the syntax, logic, modalities and semantics of figurative speech, classification in paremiology, theoretical approaches to the study of metaphor and other figures of speech, geographical distribution of folklore and dialects, and last but not least, humour.
Some of these topics will be addressed at the symposium by researchers from Estonia, Finland, Russian Federation, Poland, Austra and the USA. Presentations will be in English.
11:00 Welcome coffee at the Academy of Sciences
11.30 – 14.00
Peeter Tulviste (Estonian Academy of Sciences)
Joanna Szerszunowicz (University of Białystok) – Priamels as Carries of Cultural Information
Ülo Valk (University of Tartu) – Animals, Animism and Vernacular Theorising
Alexandra Arkhipova (Russian State University for the Humanities) – To Fear Stalin, to Laugh at Fidel: Two Ways of Tabooing in Authoritarian Societies
Yuri Berezkin (Russian Academy of Sciences (Kunstkamera)) – Three Tricksters: World Distribution of Zoomorphic Protagonists in Folklore Tales
Mare Kõiva (Estonian Literary Museum) – Invented Sacrality
14.00 Coffee break
Peter Grzybek (University of Graz) – Estonian Proverbs: Some Linguistic Regularities
Pekka Hakamies (University of Turku) – Meetings with Arvo Krikmann
Władysław Chłopicki (Jagiellonian University) –The Power of Metonymy
Wolfgang Mieder (University of Vermont) – Futuristic Paremiology: A Plea for the Study of Modern Proverbs
16.30 Book launches
17.00 Reception and speeches
The symposium is organised by the Estonian Literary Museum and the Estonian Academy of Sciences and is supported by the Estonian Cultural Endowment.
Information: Anneli Baran,; Liisi Laineste,; Piret Voolaid,

Vol. 55 of Folklore: EJF came out

The current issue comprises five articles based on the papers presented at the session Archaeology of Holiness at the 12th Nordic Theoretical Archaeology Group meeting in 2012. Anne Carlie and Maria Petersson analyse Swedish archaeological material and its religion-related interpretations. Sonja Hukantaival studies folk religion and its manifestations in archaeological material. Tõnno Jonuks and Tuuli Kurisoo’s article focuses on the problems of Christianisation, the sources and interpretations of ‘Christian influences’. Ester Oras discusses the meanings and differences of two specific terms in the archaeology of religion – sacrifice and offer. In addition, the issue presents the initial results of the three-year research project, The Materiality of Religion: Religious Artefacts in Estonian Archaeological Collections, which was financed by the Estonian Research Foundation (ETF grant 8956).
The special issue of Folklore: EJF has been compiled and edited by Tõnno Jonuks and Ester Oras.
Folklore: EJF 55 can be found as a free online version at

Vol. 54 of Folklore: EJF came out

This special issue of the journal is dedicated to sport and physical movement culture, games and folk dance and is published on the occasion of the 50th jubilee of the Estonian Sports Museum.
The issue begins with an article on an extremely topical theme – doping in sport. Piret Voolaid and Liisi Laineste (Estonian Literary Museum) analyse the doping scandal that broke out in April 2011 and concerned the esteemed Estonian cross-country skier and Olympic gold medal winner, Andrus Veerpalu. The article provides a contribution to the evolution of an athlete as a mythic national hero on the Internet.
The first article is followed by two treatises on ballgames in traditional folk culture. Laurent Sébastien Fournier (University of Nantes) suggests that the example of folk football in England and Scotland enables us to better understand the relationship between sport and violence.
Junwei Yu (National Taiwan University of Physical Education and Sport) discusses in his article connections between baseball and magic in Taiwan, claiming that the Puyuma tribe in Taiwan indubitably applies its folk religion to baseball, and produces a unique sports phenomenon.
Two articles of the issue are dedicated to folk dance. In the first one Sille Kapper (Institute of Fine Arts, Tallinn University) offers an interesting overview of the changes in the concept of ‘folk dance’ in Estonia starting from the end of 19th century until today. Eha Rüütel, Iivi Zajedova and Angela Arraste (Institute of Fine Arts, Tallinn University) in turn analyse interviews with Estonians living abroad and try to find answers to two research questions: 1) What incentives have guided Estonians’ folk dance activity in historical perspective from World War II until today? 2) What qualities originating in Estonian folk dance have motivated people to carry on Estonian folk dance practices?
The section of research is completed by an article on playing culture. Sarita Sahay’s (School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University, Melbourne) article aims at exploring how children, particularly in rural areas of Bihar, an economically poor but culturally rich state of India, enjoy their leisure with limited resources available to them.
In addition to research articles, the special issue offers to the readers two writings in the discussion section. Kalle Voolaid (Estonian Sports Museum) introduces an interesting trend in the development of the School Olympic Games in Estonia – the use of traditional sports and games in the School Olympics programme. Dmitry Belyukov (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Velikiye Luki State Academy of Physical Education and Sports) discusses the traditions of fisticuffs in the north-west of Russia in the Early Middle Ages and in the modern world.
The special issue of Folklore: EJF has been compiled and edited by Piret Voolaid (Department of Folkloristics of the Estonian Literary Museum) and Kalle Voolaid (Estonian Sports Museum).
Folklore: EJF 54 can be found as a free online version at

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