When talking about countries and nationalities often the question about religion and beliefs comes up. Foreigners perception of Estonian people often seems to be that it’s a atheistic nation. Which is not far from truth since Estonia is one of the most atheistic countries in the world. What people often don’t know is how much spirituality plays part in Estonians life. For example in new year’s eve Estonians have TV shows where astrologists and psychics predict what the future holds. From 2010-2017 there usedto be a radio show called “Hallo, Kosmos” that mainly focused on topics like outer space, supernatural, esoteric, folklore, spiritualism, pseudo-science and conspiracy theories. Yes it sound ridiculous for many but that’s how it is. This type of thinking is nothing new in Estonia. Reading about the countries mythology there are a lot of stories about fairies, spirits, witches etc.
To understand where the love for nature starts you need to look in the history and beliefs that have been carried on from generation to generation. One of the easiest ways usually is to look at the mythology of the country.
But what is mythology. Rational person would say it’s a result of foolishness and imagination. Official definition would be a collection of myths, especially ones belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition.
There isn’t much information about Estonian mythology since people didn’t store the insights of it until the 19th century. Most of the info that has been gathered comes from historical chronicles and travelers’ stories. Because the oldest knownendonym of the Estonians is Maarahvas, which roughly translates into “Eath people” it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the country has strong roots in more spiritual beliefs.Before the Christianity took over, Estonianswere more drawn to animistic religions like Taaraism. Taaraism is kind of “faith of the earth” or “maausk” as Estonians call it.The main god is Tharapita. There’s a debate that Tharapita origins come from Scandinavian god Thor. Tharapita or Taara has many names in maausk and can be often called by nature elements or “Mother Earth” ( maaema). Mother Earth is said to have the most loving and caring characteristics. It’s shown in the fact that Earth satisfies all our needs food, shelter, beauty, excitement etc. Because of that there are things one should not do to Earth. For example people shouldn’t harm the ground with knives or other sharp things. By doing that you are harming Mother Earths heart . There are many similar saying mainly just to protect the nature. With things not to do there are also rituals that you should do. One of the most well-known celebration midsummer celebration or St John’s Day is actually a ritual. People use to go three times around the campfire and offered different food or things to the fire. This was done for various reasons, but mostly to ensure good livestock and harvest from year to year. Today people mostly just jump over the campfire or sit around it. But the celebration is still very important in Estonian culture.
Maausk says that there is a spiritual dimension in all and it can manifest itself in many different forms. For example it can be a god, spirit our afairy and there is no clear difference between them. Gods are described to have a perceptible form and other notable characteristics. In Maausk peoplehave the freedom to perceive gods and other spiritual creatures as natural forces or fairies. They can turn to them in a prayer or simple conversation to speak, but could also just feel the presence.
It’s rather interesting how the faith in nature has survived throughout the long periods of different foreign rulers and religions. While the modern religions like Christianity has had hard time staying relevant in Estonia. 2010 eurobarometer poll revealed that only 18% of people in Estonia believed in God. Whereas 50% said to believe in some sort of spiritual force and 29% rejected both.
It’s often said that Estonians are a nation that is not looking for an approval from higher power but searching for their own peace of mind. Going to bookstores in Estonia one would find a big selection of esoteric and spiritual books and there are specific shops just for crystals.
Every nation has their own mythology and in some weird way it really shows what people value or believe in. Also myths can show you the relations that nations have had with other countries throughout centuries. For example there are a lot of Scandinavian and Baltic influences in Estonian mythology. For that reason it is interesting to look into it. Also many of those beliefs have still stayed with people so knowing nations background help to understand them better.