Some approaches to the sacred places in Estonia

What is the meaning of the natural sacred places? How should we approach them? When and how should we use them? This is the question often asked in relation to the public debate over natural sacred places in Estonia such as sacred groves, cultic stones, sacred trees, which sometimes have very few context in public knowledge.

Occasional notes in media bring the places into public focus when the agreement, that these places possess values of symbolic national heritage, is in conflict with the interests in forestry and reorganisation of land use. Estonian Heritage Board (Muinsuskaitseamet) has initiated the project to inspect and map the natural sacred places that have some historical records in folklore archives, approaching the places as sites of historical religious heritage. Followers of indigenous religion maausk stress the meanings associated with folk calendar and traditional way of living.

Alongside of cup marked stones, stones used for healing situate the stones that are called as mirrors, portals, channels, that attract UFOs or otherwise supernatural accounts. Sacred groves, that public knowledge would associate with the intact and secluded environment could have political meaning or host the festival such as Purtse in East Estonia. Otherwise mainstream touristic destinations offer personal touch through healing or balancing qualities of certain spots. These, vernacular voices address the alternative approaches of meaning making, being often global, but enabling people to approach, feel and make sense of the places.

Kolila village, West Estonia. The particular stone, ‘A Mirror Stone’, is a stop, a channel on the local healer’s landscape which consists of different transformative places. It reflects back the strong energy column, coming from the cosmos. The site has reported as a cause of diagnosing, healing, and out-of-body experiences. The rocky area is known for the tradition of healing stones that were used to cure skin diseases mainly, but this particular rock does not have this knowledge association.

Võnnu village, West Estonia. Offerings at the gate of Hiie-farm. The farm has got its name after sacred grove, which has situated on the rolling landscape nearby, used as a field. Despite having owners, the farm is abandoned and its buildings are in ruins.

Toila village, East Estonia. Poplars in the park of Oru palace, which are promoted by ability to discharge negative energy. Beautiful park at the high banks of river Pühajõgi (Sacred river) is a reminiscent of the Oru palace, which was demolished in at the WW II, previously used by Estonian President as a summer residence.

Toila village, East Estonia. Hõbeallikas (Silver spring) in Oru park, which springs out from a sandstone cave  is nowadays organised as romantic grotto. People take the water for its refreshing and healing qualities.

Purtse village, East Estonia. Purtse hiiemägi (sacred grove), situating at the mouth of Purtse river has been re-designed on 1990s as a memorial park for the people deported to Siberia. The map on the grass (Valukaart – The map of the sorrow) shows the number of the deported from each county.  Presidents, politicians and other famous guests have been planted young oak trees on the hill, the trees carry the sign of their donator.