Ancient Culture Trail

Ancient Culture Trail  on the Island of Muhu

ANCIENT CULTURE ROUTE

Estonians have lived on the shores of the Baltic Sea for over five thousand years.

The Muhu folk have been on their island for more than three thousand years. Our ancient culture, however, goes beyond those millennia. Back then every person linked their soul with the power of nature. That way he could rely on spiritual support at all times and in every situation. This perception of the world meant harmony with the spirits of the land, the forest and the sea.

Mother Earth lets strawberries grow and every berry in turn contains the power of the land. Mother Earth also lets the flowers bloom in spring and the carrots ripen in autumn. We are in the care of Mother Earth.

We perceive the Forest Father as the bioelectromagnetic field of the forest. For the peoples in the wooded European regions, the forest is home, a source of living and the power of nature embracing one’s soul. Every tree and bush can be our counselor, for it carries the power of the Forest Father.

Ahti mediates the balancing power, fishing luck and bounty of the sea. Ahti separates and merges us with the realm of water to the north of Toonela, the realm of death. The River of Toonela (the Milky Way) opens during the time of spirits (October to December) towards the north where Toonela lies. The spirits of the dead can then get home and back.

Uku is the mediator of heavenly power. He gives support to our aspirations and dreams. Every farm had a grain bin for Uku in its granary for giving him offerings. Uku was also the target of the rites for granting wishes.

Our ancestors considered the link with nature’s power important at all times. There was much to do, but never in a hurry, because the basic spiritual support needed in life was constantly there.

The link with nature was maintained at ritual sites that had positive power – in the grove, on the curative chant rock, at the sacred spring or by a pleasant tree.

Coming to this place, a person knew that his family and kin have shared their best thoughts and bread with the local earth spirits and the latter shall respond generously in kind. We too leave our best thoughts along with our offering at these places so that the next visitors could enjoy them. A ritual site is a place where we keep our reserves of spiritual strength that we could lean on in times of need.

An offering can be a few grains or bread crumbs, a shaving of silver or a sip from the drinking bottle. It’s not the size of the offering, but the thought that counts.

The perception of life of our ancestors has been stored in our subconsciousness as our worldview.


ANCIENT CULTURE EXHIBITION AT THE TIHUSE EQUINE TOURISM FARM

The Island of Muhu has 82 sites related to ancient culture, 11 of them are represented in the photo exhibition in the tea house of Tihuse Equine Tourism Farm.

The exhibition is guarded by the World Oak of the Baltic Sea Finns that keeps up the firmament. The world tree of the ancient Scandinavians was the ash tree Yggdrasil. The ancient Germans also had a world tree, an ash. The cultural perception of Europe’s forest peoples offers interesting parallels.

The World Oak carries four skies revolving around Polaris: the four compass directions, the four seasons, the four maps of heaven, the four major forces of nature – Mother Earth and her bounty of the land, the Forest Father and the forest power as spiritual support, Ahti and the power of the sea, and Uku and the power of the heaven.

Thus the world tree carries the firmament and the person’s spiritual space, the link with nature and decency.

We kept our sacred sites secret so that the foreign occupation regimes that started back in the year 1227 would not destroy them. By remaining attached to our ancient perception of life, we preserved our identity and remained whole as a people. This is how we preserved a bright sliver of the culture similar to that of peoples in the wooded parts of Europe and this has lasted for millennia.

 

THE CROSSING OF SEVEN ROADS

In the old Muhu tradition a crossroads is formed predominantly by three roads. It is rare to find a four-road crossing. Evil power can be dispelled in such places for ensuring good future. One can also perform rites of abjuration magic to improve health. Nature has areas of good power that are loved by animals. When humans start traversing animal paths, the magical crossing of seven roads might come into existence.

This is a suitable place for greeting the Forest Father (Tapio for the Finns, Tenn for the Komi people). For all of us, he is located to the west. When we go to a walk in the woods, we come back refreshed – we have acquired something of the Forest Father’s power, i.e. the bioelectromagnetic field of the forest. As a sign of good will, we need to make an offering to the Forest Father – a few grains or breadcrumbs, a couple of shavings of silver. Then birds will not shun us, animals feel no panic and we sense that we have been allowed onto the lands of the Forest Father.

A crossing of seven roads is also a good place to greet the lighting master Uku (a supreme deity for the Finns). For this, we need to knock thrice on the wishing rock. Uku mediates wishing rites. We must never wish something for ourselves, because such a request might harass someone else. We can wish something for a person, our family, a bigger or smaller group, our people or the humanity. The understanding is that if our loved ones are happy, we can be happy. It’s as easy as that. One must not disclose one’s wish or the magic decreases. In order to make a wish, one must knock in the hollow of the wishing rock with a stone, keeping our knee against the wishing rock because that is the mediator of power in this place.

Our ancestors had a personal relationship with nature that was independent of other humans; it meant finding oneself, building one’s spiritual space.

 

LALLI SLIDE ROCK

The northern people called the Nenets have a slide rock where pregnant women come from hundreds of kilometers away so that the Rock Father could help them alleviate childbirth.

Sliding down the rock leaves the person’s bioelectromagnetic print and that is the link between the forces of nature and the human.

A man or a woman who wants to build a house, start sowing spring seeds or write an interesting Internet article should also come and slide off the rock. The Rock Father supports and blesses everything we do and create.

When sliding down the rock, we should place both arms on it, focus on our wish and then push ourselves down the slide. The Rock Father is always there and always ready to support our aspirations.

Estonia has several slide rocks, but the Lalli slide rock is the only one in Muhu.

 

LEHTMETSA RASH ROCK

The Lehtmetsa grove pit is a sacred place where one could come to get a clear understanding or to ask for advice from natural forces. The grove pit’s power balances and relaxes the visitor.

The local rash rock is made special by the rare red moss that grows on the pit edges and does not appear every year; the Muhu people have not seen it grow anywhere else. Reaching the rock, we sense the natural forces’ readiness to alleviate one’s troubles if one is subconsciously ready for this.

Last century the rash rock rite changed. The afflicted place was massaged with powerful items at home. Then the afflicted body part was washed with rain water fortified with a rite; objects of power like ears of grain, coal, salt and horseshoe nails or silver shavings were then poured under the rock along with the wash water. The vessel used for bringing the water was not be taken back home, otherwise the illness would return home too. No wild strawberry, flower, leaf, branch or anything else could be taken from the grove. One cannot pass by a grove without making an offering.

 

GHOST ROCK

The Ghost Rock is a place of evil power that warned our ancestors of bad intentions.

Several visions have been seen here.

When Vassili Hobustkoppel (1896-1978) led the cows back home during sunset as a boy, he saw with his own eyes how a small, swarthy man in a black suit scraped grass there with his fingers and sparks flew from the grass over the rock. One man from the village of Vahtraste saw during one midnight how a horse started dragging an empty wagon from the rock at full speed. Soon the horse was covered in white foam. When the man looked back, he saw a black shape at the back of the wagon and this shape rolled himself off before the Lõetsa Creek, because evil spirits cannot cross water. Then the horse continued on with a light step.

Ghost rocks can be associated with Christian influences in the folk tradition. In the ancient local culture, good and evil are inextricably related to each other and can only form a whole together, revealing the nature of a phenomenon. In Christianity, God and the Devil are in opposition. When good (God) and evil (the Devil) were separated from each other, the locals needed personification to understand the haunting (the Devil). In the folk tales, the peasant outwits the Old Devil by recommending that he warm his hands by placing his fingers in a half-split log and then removes the wedge keeping the split open.

However, in the later Estonian folk tradition, the Devil is very much humane: „The Devil is no man too tart, he has a kind and gentle heart“.

Drunken villagers have run into trouble by the Ghost Rock if they do not have enough ale and vodka for an offering. One cannot come here with a black conscience; otherwise one might lose the peace of mind.

 

PÄRASE RASH ROCK

At the rash rock, a person will subconsciously seek support for defeating illnesses, using a site with strong power. The rock itself does not carry power. It is the mediator of power.

When Eleea Hobustkoppel (1901-1991) was curing a rash her 12-year old daughter’s child Martin had gotten from stale water, she touched his flesh with objects of power: ears of grain, coal, salt and nails taken from a horse hoof. The horse’s mane and hoof have power and horseshoe nails are the mediators of the power. The rite was long. Grandmother repeated over and over again: „Underworld grooms, take the overworld virgins (i.e. the sick boy’s rash)“. Then she symbolically washed his body with wet fingers. If possible, dew from the rock was used. With this rite, grandmother was able to affect the boy’s subconsciousness to such an extent that the organism was able to defeat the illness.

One cannot pass by a ritual site without making an offering.