wolf spell

Canis lupus. Photo by Bernard Landgraf, Wikimedia CommonsAccording to the wolf researcher Ilmar Rootsi, our ancestors considered the wolf (Canis lupus) to be the most important animal of the forests. Despite being a constant, persistent threat to the cattle-breeding culture, one cannot find hostility or outward violence towards wolves in our lore. Ancestors tried to “tell off” the wolf with spells and keep it away from cattle herds with magical acts, but they recognised the wolf’s inherent right to live, and even believed that if a wolf killed off an animal in a herd, it would bring fertility.

What a culture. Looking into my own history and folklore is like an endless quest – I know so few, and there is so much more to learn that sometimes, my mind cannot even comprehend. This is nature reverence for you, when comparing this to some Western European cultures where they hung wolves, or Russia where they skinned and burned them alive. I suppose the Little Red Riding Hood tale conveys some of that attitude as well. — In W-Europe, the collective violence outbursts drove wolves nearly to extinction. To Estonians, the philosophy seemed to be – do what you have to, to protect yours, but not more than scarcely necessary; respect, let others live.

Honestly I cannot right now imagine any other culture who would try to fight wild predators with… words. Words, of all things! Seems to be something we’re good at.

Too romantical and credulous? Maybe. Certainly there’s more historical, geographical and environmental background info to look into, in order to understand the reasons behind other cultures’ different attitudes. But the question still remains: why is one culture acting so very differently than another? Why is one culture trying to destory something alive with a lot of persistence and no consideration; and why is another not doing the same?* It wasn’t like my ancestors were so ‘well off’ that they did not feel the need to secure their cattles at any cost. They were enslaved and ruled over; food was scarce anywhere. Culture. It’s not genetics; they say it’s not so much linguistics, either. But then what is it?

Here’s the spell for you, translation following.

Metsa sikku, metsa sokku,
metsa kuldane kuningas,
metsa halli harvalõuga,
metsa peni pikkalõuga!
Ära salva salajalta,
ära näksa nägemata,
ära puutu minu pulli,
ära katsu minu karja!
Mine sohu sobistama,
mine laande luusimaie,
pikki puida murdemaie,
kivi külga kiskumaie!

[Billygoat of the forest, goat of the forest, golden king of the forest, grey scarce-hair chin of the forest, long-jaw hound of the forest! Do not inject poison stealthily, do not bite unseen, do not touch my ox, do not touch my herd! Go waddle in bogs, go rove in forests, slay along trees, tear at stones.]
(Vigala parish, 1894)
— The names and chants do not rely only on the dictionary meanings of the words, but their rhythm, sounds, in particular allitterations, and associations. A translation only conveys a small part of the power and charge of these strings of words.
From “The wolf – best-known animal in Estonian folklore.” Read the entire article in English »

* In the original research article by Rootsi (“Hunt kultusloomana Eesti rahvatraditsioonis,” PDF) it is shown that slavic and germanic traditions and lore also knew reverence towards the wolf. Is this simply the difference of prevalent practices within a culture, or what changed?

digging gold

With the evolving spring, I suddenly got bored with my life and started looking back on what I’ve done and dreamed of, and remembered that once I kind of wanted to be a researcher or something like that. Of course I’m a geek and at some point, books make definitely better friends than people, because they always have time for you, they never neglect you selfishly, and they can altogether teach you more than meager humans… Well, what an overstatement :) But books do look as if they didn’t have any humans behind them at all any more. Like they’re some kind of mysterious independent entities. Especially these kind of books like that one I’m going to talk about this time.

So I’ve done a lot of reading over the past weeks and become quite addicted indeed.

A few days ago I suddenly found the reason why I’ve maybe been so fascinated with the Mi’kmaw culture recently; maybe the reason why it seems so familiar – after all, we are from the same kind of environments, sort of; a piece of land with a lot of forest and a lot of sea, approximately on the same latitude; but to believe and find that our ancient cultures might actually have quite something in common!

Funny that the Wabanaki should call themselves basically “people of the rising sun” just like the Japanese. But it is correct – they both are. And in such a discourse, Estonians, maarahvas, we are the people of the setting sun, with the seaside inhabitants having songs and legends of the sun that goes to sleep in the sea.

Silas T. Rand in his book of Eastern Algonquin legends is talking about their folklore in general: “Wabanaki mythology is strangely like that of the Rosicrucians,” he says, commenting the fact that every created thing had its indwelling spirit (“Whatever had an idea had a soul”). — “But it created spirits for the terrible Arctic winters of the north, for the icebergs and frozen wastes, for the Northern Lights and polar bears. It made, in short, a mythology such as would be perfectly congenial to any one who has read and understood the Edda, Beowulf, and Kalevala, with the wildest and oldest Norse sagas. But it is, as regards spirit and meaning, utterly and entirely anything else that is American.” — How could someone with my background read this and not love it!? “… This Wabanaki mythology, which gave a fairy, an elf, a naiad, or a hero to every rock and river and ancient hill in New England…” — !

I find it funny, though, that folklorists would look for culture heroes in every people’s stories; I wouldn’t trust that judgement at all — it might be that they concentrated their interest on the “epical” ones only, based on their understanding of ‘what is supposed to be there’, and left unnoticed whole branches of stories and worldviews; and in that eager comparison, branded all the folklores of the world “somewhat similar”. Just like Kreutzwald the folklorist doctor created “Kalevipoeg” — an epos for us, Estonians, out of the folk, runic songs where he heard him mentioned. Oh yes, the folk songs mention someone called Kalevipoeg, but there are usually several and maybe it is just an average male character depiction, to have a name, with a few others; but after what Kreutzwald did, he’s turned into a definitive character with a couple of brothers (!) and he creates a lot of nuisance, in general, and is suddenly too well-versed and not realistic at all; not even as a giant spirit. I wonder if this is what’s also happened to the original Kluskap, or does he have deeper roots. He seems more of a creation character, though; Kalevipoeg has nothing to do with creating the world in our legends, basically it was all a bird who laid some eggs and that’s it.

I don’t know if all of this makes sense to anyone (lest to myself…) — but to find answers to the questions and ideas i have touched here; perhaps to find that some of these questions have been foolish; or perhaps to break some doctrines. I don’t know; only time will tell.

In any case – to books, the best friends a human could hope for … :)