Estonians' stories – myths and wisdoms

Source: Thomas Woland

Estonians' stories – myths and wisdoms

Vodka socks, searching for a fern blossom, hunting chanterelles in the deep woods and picking blackberries in a mystical bog.

Estonians are attached to nature for centuries and hence equipped with useful folk wisdom. Compared, perhaps, to many Western people, nature plays a big and significant role in the life of Estonians. It is such a natural part of Estonians and their daily lives. Take part in the traditions by walking around in Estonian nature, go to an Estonian massage and traditional smoke sauna, pick plants, berries, and mushrooms.

Here are some of our favourite picks:

Folk rituals

If you pick nine flowers on a Midsummer Night and put them under a pillow for the night, you should be dreaming of your future love.

Photo by: Siiri Kumari

According to folklore researchers, most magical rituals are designed to solve problems and achieve harmony. Although many beliefs are associated with the forces of nature, there are also those that are related to human relationships. When deemed necessary, ancient Estonians were known to use rituals to avenge their enemies.

It is quite difficult to draw the line magic and wisdom. For example, there's a saying that you can't sit on the naked ground before St. George's Day (23rd of April). The logical reason for this is that in early spring the ground is still cold and moist. Another wisdom places into the fantasy side of things – it is believed that in the spring land has not yet begun to breathe and is therefore poisonous. However, you are considered to be on the safe side after St. George's Day.

A lot of wisdom and tools were known to predict the weather, but the best time to predict the future was on New Year's Eve. 

Whispers from the forest

Collecting birch juice in the spring has meant a new beginning for the Nordic people.

Photo by: Visit Estonia

Estonians are a forest nation - there are many teachings on how to behave in the forest and what to pick from. In the forest, one should not swear or even think bad or evil thoughts – it is believed to open a gate to undesirable forces.

Wild animals could not be named, otherwise, they could come for an attack. For example, the wolf was called a cream eye, bush wool, a grey man, a forest puppy and St. George's puppy. It was thought, "If you talk about a wolf, it will come." Even harmless forest dwellers were sometimes considered dangerous: it was advised to avoid migratory birds, which spent the winter in distant lands and could bring trouble. But there were also good omens: it was believed that ferns, Rowan, and juniper could bring happiness. The forest helped with many diseases: juniper was a health tree, while rowan and strawberry flowers helped against nine diseases.

Healing forces 

Sauna - a healer and shelter

There are many rituals and signs associated with family and household. During the thunder, it was customary to close the doors and windows so that the devil could not enter through them. A new house was not allowed to be built on the site of a burned house, otherwise, it was believed that the same fate would have awaited it.

The sauna played a special role in the lives of Estonians: it was not only a place of washing, but it was also used to treat health problems and rituals were performed there. The smoke sauna (such as Mooska smoke sauna in Southern Estonia) was considered a sacred place, which was comparable to the importance of the church.

There is a saying that "Sauna is a doctor of the peasants" because the sauna provided relief for health problems caused by hard work. Even if the cause of the disease was unknown, whistling and sweating in the sauna was always a go-to remedy. 

Last updated : 19.03.2021