Craving an authentic national faith, Estonians have been drawn to the animistic religions that preceded Christianity: Taarausk, whose god was worshiped in forest groves, and Maausk, which translates as “faith of the earth.”
Ancient beliefs have survived in the form of folk tales. In stories, the sins of humans reverberate in nature — lakes fly away to punish greedy villagers, or forests wander off in the night, never to return. Trees demand the respect of a tipped hat, and holes in the ground must be fed with coins.
That quotation is from a feature in Monday's New York Times that another writer shared on the Sur La Lune message board. The article, entitled "A Hole in the Ground Erupts, to Estonia's Delight," details folk traditions around the geyser known as the Witch's Well of Tuhala:
According to legend, the witches of Tuhala were taking a sauna underground, beating each other vigorously with birch branches, oblivious to the commotion they were creating on the surface.
The article is very well worth the read - both detailed and deeply respectful of its subject. There is also an elegaic note, as the article notes how a local project to build a limestone quarry may drain the waters, making this year's eruption of the Witch's Well the last.
For a little more Baltic lore -- or in this case Scandinavian -- read our post on the stromkarl, the talented though dangerous spirit of springs and waterfalls, or you can read Isabella's compelling translation of The Fossegrim in a previous issue of Dante's Heart.
You can also read here the tale of a Canadian storyteller who rejected a $ Now, wearing boots of reindeer fur, she brings to children rhyming tales from the far north, recited from memory.
Does anyone know more folklore from that part of the world (beyond the Finnish Kalevala and of course the mythologies and sagas of Norway and Iceland)? What stories would you turn our attention toward, and what folk traditions? Such tales as those of the fossegrim and the traditions around the Witch's Well alert us that there is a beautiful and very ancient tradition of tales and lookings-at-the-world in that northern place, but surprisingly little of it has reached the attention of the West.