Estonian neopaganism

Estonian Neopaganism, or the Estonian native faith (Estonian: Maausk, literally "Native faith"),[1] is the name, in English, for a grouping of contemporary revivals (often called "Neopagan", although adherents of Estonian native religion generally don't use the term[2]) of the indigenous Pagan religion of the Estonian people.

It encompasses Taaraism (Estonian: Taarausk literally "Taara Faith"),[3] a monistic religion centered on god Tharapita founded in 1928 by intellectuals as a national religion; and Maausk[3] as a much broader definition of "Native Faith", encompassing grassroots movements of local gods worship, nature worship and earth worship.[2] Both kinds of movements are administered by the Maavalla Koda organization. According to Ahto Kaasik, an unspecified 2002 survey revealed that 11% of the population of Estonia claimed that "out of all the religions they have the warmest feelings towards Taaraism and Maausk".[4]

Jumiois, symbol of Taaraism-Maausk
The Jumiõis, symbol of Taaraism and Maausk used as the official logo of Maavalla Koda.

Religions

Taaraism

Taaraism was founded in 1928 by members of the intelligentsia with the aim of reaffirming traditional Estonian culture and identity. Viewing Christianity as a universal and foreign religion brought by the Germans, they turned to indigenous religion with its many deities.[4]

Taaraists hold a monistic or monotheistic worldview in which all the gods are aspects of one only pantheistic reality, which they identify with the god Tharapita or Taara (a deity connected to Indo-European deities such as the Germanic Thor or Thunor, the Gallic Taranis and the Hittite Tarhunt).[4]

They re-established the hiis, sacred groves, and coined the term hiislar to denote their clergy. The first hiis was founded in 1933, it was Tallinna Hiis (Sacred Grove of Tallinn).[4] There were several thousand members by 1940, but later the movement was banned under the Soviet Union, and many members were killed.[4] Nowadays the foremost center of the Taaraists is in the city of Tartu.[5]

Maausk

Maausk ("Native Religion") is an activist movement of nature worship, local gods worship, and hiis unrelated to the Taaraist movement. It stresses the claimedly non-Christian and non-European roots and tradition of Estonian culture. The Maausk movement emerged in the 1980s. It's mostly a polytheistic-pantheistic faith identifying the divine with nature itself.[2] In their annual cyclic calendar the most important holy days are the Jõulud (winter solstice festival) and the Jõulukuu (new year festival) on 25 December, the summer solstice (Jaanipäev), the Munadepühad, the Leedopäev, and the Kasupäev.[6]

Their shrines are hiis or any other natural place. A shrine is a location which may have ancient trees, glacial boulders, bodies of water or unique plants. There may be a swing, fireplace, sauna and a log storage shed at the shrine. People go to various shrines during important festivals or other important occasions, to establish harmony with nature, experience peace and gather strength. Before going to the shrine, body and mind must be purified.[7] Their ethics emphasises mõnu or mõnus, "enjoyment" or more accurately "harmonious life" or "balance".[8]

See also

Media related to Estonian Native Religion at Wikimedia Commons

Resources

References

  1. ^ Maavalla Koda. Estonian House of Taara and Native Religions.
  2. ^ a b c Jüri Toomepuu. Maausk, the belief system of indigenous Estonians. Presentation at KLENK 2011, published on January 7, 2012. St. Petersburg, Florida.
  3. ^ a b Ellen Barry for the New York Times. Some Estonians return to pre-Christian animist traditions. Quote: «Craving an authentic national faith, Estonians have been drawn to the animistic religions that preceded Christianity: Taarausk, or Taaraism, whose god was worshiped in forest groves, and Maausk, which translates as "faith of the earth".»
  4. ^ a b c d e Ahto Kaasik. Old Estonian Religion Archived 2011-08-11 at the Wayback Machine. Maavalla Koda.
  5. ^ Monika Hanley. Baltic diaspora and the rise of Neo-Paganism. The Baltic Times, 2010.
  6. ^ Jüri Toomepuu. p.5.
  7. ^ Jüri Toomepuu. p.6.
  8. ^ Jüri Toomepuu. p.7.

External links

Abkhaz neopaganism

Abkhaz neopaganism, or the Abkhaz native religion, is the contemporary re-emergence of the ethnic religion of the Abkhaz people in Abkhazia, a revitalisation which started in the 1980s. The most important holy sites of the religion are the Seven Shrines of Abkhazia, each one having its own priestly clan, where rituals and prayers began to be restored in the 1990s.

According to the 2003 census, 8% of the population of Abkhazia adheres to Abkhaz neopaganism. On 3 August 2012 the Council of Priests of Abkhazia was formally constituted in Sukhumi. The possibility of making the Abkhaz native religion one of the state religions was discussed in the following months.

Absolute (philosophy)

The concept of the Absolute, also known as The (Unconditioned) Ultimate, The Wholly Other, The Supreme Being, The Absolute/Ultimate Reality, The Ground of Being, Urgrund, The Absolute Principle, The Source/Fountain/Well/Center/Foundation of Reality, The Ultimate Oneness/Whole, The Absolute God of The Universe, and other names, titles, aliases, and epithets, is the thing, being, entity, power, force, reality, presence, law, principle, etc. that possesses maximal ontological status, existential ranking, existential greatness, or existentiality. In layman's terms, this is the entity that is the greatest, highest, or "truest" being, existence, or reality.

There are many conceptions of the Absolute in various fields and subjects, such as philosophy, religion, spiritual traditions, formal science (such as mathematics), and even natural science. The nature of these conceptions can range from "merely" encompassing all physical existence, nature, or reality, to being completely unconditioned existentially, transcending all concepts, notions, objects, entities, and types, kinds, and categories of being.

The Absolute is often thought of as generating manifestations that interact with lower or lesser types, kinds, and categories of being. This is either done passively, through emanations, or actively, through avatars and incarnations. These existential manifestations, which themselves can possess transcendent attributes, only contain minuscule or infinitesimal portions of the true essence of the Absolute.

The term itself was not in use in ancient or medieval philosophy, but closely related to the description of God as actus purus in scholasticism. It was introduced in modern philosophy, notably by Hegel, for "the sum of all being, actual and potential".

The term has since also been adopted in perennial philosophy.

Baltic neopaganism

Baltic neopaganism is a category of autochthonous religious movements which have revitalised within the Baltic people (primarily Lithuanians and Latvians). These movements trace their origins back to the 19th century and they were suppressed under the Soviet Union; after its fall they have witnessed a blossoming alongside the national and cultural identity reawakening of the Baltic peoples, both in their homelands and among expatriate Baltic communities. One of the first ideologues of the revival was the Prussian Lithuanian poet and philosopher Vydūnas.During the Pope Francis's visit to the Baltic states in 2018 Dievturi and Romuva sent a joint letter to Pope Francis calling him to urge fellow Christians "to respect our own religious choice and cease impeding our efforts to achieve national recognition of the ancient Baltic faith".

Druwi

Druwi (Old Prussian word meaning "Faith", cognate to tree; Samogitian: Druwē) is a Baltic ethnic religious revival claiming Old Prussian origins, and mostly present in Lithuania. Adherents uphold that it is distinct from Romuva, and that Romuva could be considered as a specific form of Druwi.The religion is primarily represented institutionally by the "Kurono Academy of Baltic Priesthood" (Lithuanian: Baltųjų žynių mokykla Kurono) founded in 1995. It trains men and women from the age of 18, into the Darna, as priests of the Baltic people. Like the Romuvans, they recognise Vydūnas as their founding father.

Finnish neopaganism

Finnish Neopaganism, or the Finnish native faith (Finnish: Suomenusko: "Finnish Religion") is the contemporary Neopagan revival of Finnish paganism, the pre-Christian polytheistic ethnic religion of the Finns. A precursor movement was the Ukonusko ("Ukko's Faith", revolving around the god Ukko) of the early 20th century. The main problem in the revival of Finnish paganism is the nature of pre-Christian Finnish culture, which relied on oral tradition and of which very little is left. The primary sources concerning Finnish native culture are written by latter-era Christians.

There are two main organisations of the religion, the "Association of Finnish Native Religion" (Suomalaisen kansanuskon yhdistys ry) based in Helsinki and officially registered since 2002, and the "Pole Star Association" (Taivaannaula ry) headquartered in Turku with branches in many cities, founded and officially registered in 2007. The Association of Finnish Native Religion also caters to Karelians and is a member of the Uralic Communion.

Hiis (sacred site)

A hiis is a term in Estonian used to denote a sacred natural site, often a tree covered hilltop.

List of Neopagan movements

Modern paganism, also known a "contemporary" or "neopagan", encompasses a wide range of religious groups and individuals. These may include old occult groups, those that follow a New Age approach, those that try to reconstruct old ethnic religions, and followers of the pagan religion of Wicca.

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Maavalla Koda

Maavalla Koda (literally House of the Native Land, short for Taarausuliste ja Maausuliste Maavalla Koda, Estonian House for Taaraist and Native Religion Followers) is a religious organisation uniting adherents of the two kinds of Estonian native religion or Estonian Neopaganism: Taaraism and Maausk.Maavalla Koda was registered as a union of religious associations (koguduste liit) in Estonia in 1995. The initial constituent members of the union were three local registered religious associations, Emujärve Koda (representing adherents from the south of Estonia), Härjapea Koda (with members from the north of the country), and Tartu Supilinna Koda (formed in the university town of Tartu). Later, Tartu Supilinna Koda has been renamed Emajõe Koda (after the river Emajõgi), and the newer association of Maausk adherents of the island Saaremaa, Maausuliste Saarepealne Koda, has been admitted to Maavalla Koda.

On the Estonian military NATO-standard dog tag (identifier), adherents of Taarausk and Maausk are identified with the abbreviation EST. A runic calendar noting festivals of the Estonian traditional religion is published annually by Maavalla Koda. The current focus of activity of Maavalla Koda is on traditional natural sacred sites in Estonia, with the aim of mapping and doing folkloristic research in order to preserve and perpetuate the local traditions relating to these. Along with the University of Tartu, Maavalla Koda co-operates in a government programme initiated to ensure the documentation and protection of natural sacred sites in Estonia.

Mari Native Religion

The Mari Native Religion (Mari: Чимарий йӱла, Čimarii jüla), or Mari Paganism, is the ethnic religion of the Mari people, a Volga Finnic ethnic group based in the republic of Mari El, in Russia. The religion has undergone changes over time, particularly under the influence of neighbouring monotheisms. In the last few decades, while keeping its traditional features in the countryside, an organised Neopagan-kind revival has taken place.The Mari religion is based on the worship of the forces of nature, which man must honour and respect. Before the spread of monotheistic teachings amongst the Mari, they worshipped many gods (the jumo, a word cognate to the Finnish Jumala), while recognising the primacy of a "Great God", Kugu Jumo. In the 19th century, influenced by monotheism, the Pagan beliefs altered and the image of a Osh Kugu Jumo, literally "Great God of Light", was strengthened.

Subject to persecution in the Soviet Union, the faith has been granted official status since the 1990s by the government of Mari El, where it is recognized as one of the three traditional faiths along with Orthodox Christianity and Islam. Some activists claim that the Mari native religion believers are subject to pressure by Russian authorities as part of a wider campaign to Russify Mari culture. Vitaly Tanakov, an adherent of the faith, was charged with inciting religious, national, social and linguistic hatred after publishing the book The Priest Speaks.

Mordvin Native Religion

Mordvin Neopaganism, or the Mordvin native religion or Erzyan native religion, is the modern revival of the ethnic religion of the Mordvins (Erzya and Moksha), peoples of Volga Finnic ethnic stock dwelling in the republic of Mordovia within Russia, or in bordering lands of Russia. The religion is often called Mastorava (Mordvin for: "Mother Earth"), from the homonymous epic poem or the mother goddess of the Mordvin pantheon. The name of the originating god according to the Mordvin tradition is Ineshkipaz.

The Mordvins have been almost fully Christianised since the times of Kievan Rus', although Pagan customs were preserved in the folklore and a few villages completely preserved the native faith at least until further missionary activities of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century and in the early 20th century. The Neopagan revival was started in 1990, alongside that of many other native religions in Russia, as the Soviet Union was on the brink of dissolution.

According to scholar Victor Schnirelmann, 2% of the Mordvins adhere to the Mordvin native faith, while more recent figures by the Evangelical database Joshua Project report 5%. Adherents of the Erzyan Mastor organisation organise the Rasken Ozks (Mordvin for: "Native Prayer"), a national Mordvin worship service held yearly, with participation also of members of the Mastorava organisation and other ones.

Religion in Estonia

Estonia, which historically was a Lutheran Protestant nation, is today one of the "least religious" countries in the world in terms of declared attitudes, with only 14 per cent of the population declaring religion to be an important part of their daily life.The religious population is predominantly Christian and includes followers of 90 affiliations, most prominently Eastern Orthodoxy and Lutheranism. According to Ringo Ringvee, "religion has never played an important role on the political or ideological battlefield" and that the "tendencies that prevailed in the late 1930s for closer relations between the state and Lutheran church were ended with the Soviet occupation in 1940". He further states that "the chain of religious traditions was broken in most families" under the Soviet policy of state atheism. Before the Second World War, Estonia was approximately 80 per cent Protestant; overwhelmingly Lutheran.

Between 2001 and 2011 census, Eastern Orthodoxy overtook Lutheranism to become the largest Christian denomination in the country due to increasing unaffiliation and very small conversions among Estonians and more migration from Russian neighbors. Lutheranism still remains the most popular religious group among ethnic Estonians (11 per cent of them are Lutherans while also 2 per cent of them are Orthodox), while Eastern Orthodoxy is practised mainly by the mostly non-indigenous immigrant Slavic minorities (approximately 45 per cent of them are Orthodox). According to the University of Tartu, irreligious Estonians are not necessarily atheists; instead, the years 2010s have witnessed a growth of Neopagan, Buddhist and Hindu beliefs among those who declare themselves to be "not religious".

Udmurt Vos

Udmurt Vos (Udmurt: Удмурт Вӧсь, literally "Udmurt Faith") is the ethnic religious revival of the Udmurts, a Finno-Ugric ethnic group inhabiting the republic of Udmurtia in Russia. Among the Udmurts, as in other Finno-Ugric republics in the Volga region, the revival of Paganism is inextricably intertwined with the revival of national-ethnic culture and awareness.The Udmurtian Pagan revival circles sprang out of the Demen (Udmurt for "Society") movement which was established in December 1989 for the protection and restoration of the Udmurt ethnic culture. Udmurt Vos as an institution was founded in 1994.According to 2012 statistics, 2% of the population of Udmurtia adheres to forms of Paganism. Victor Schnirelmann reported an adherence of 4% for the Udmurts alone.

Uralic neopaganism

Uralic neopaganism encompasses contemporary movements which have been reviving or revitalising the ethnic religions of the Uralic peoples. The rebirth has taken place since the 1980s and 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and alongside the ethnonational and cultural reawakening of the Uralic peoples of Russia, the Estonians and the Finns. In fact, Neopagan movements in Finland and Estonia have much older roots, dating from the early 20th century.

Among the Uralic peoples of the Volga Federal District of Russia (the Volga Finns and Udmurts), scholar Victor Schnirelmann has observed two cooperating patterns of development of Neopaganism: the reactivation of authentic rituals and worship ceremonies in the countrysides, and the development of systematised doctrines amongst the urban intelligentsia rejecting Russian Orthodoxy as a foreign religion. The Uralic Communion, founded in 2001, is an organisation for the cooperation of different institutions promoting Uralic indigenous religions.

Vattisen Yaly

Vattisen Yaly (Chuvash: Ваттисен йӑли, Tradition of the Old) is a contemporary revival of the ethnic religion of the Chuvash people, a Turkic ethnicity of uppermost Bulgar ancestry mostly settled in the republic of Chuvashia and surrounding federal subjects of Russia.

Vattisen Yaly could be categorised as a peculiar form of Tengrism, a related revivalist movement of Central Asian traditional religion, however it differs significantly from it: being the Chuvash a heavily Fennicised and Slavified ethnicity (they were also never fully Islamised, contrarywise to most of other Turks), and having had exchanges also with other Indo-European ethnicities,The Chuvash are not simply Finns Tatarized in language, but show evidence in face form, nose form, and in the scarcity of true blondism, that the Turkish influence did bring some mongoloid traits. Their religion shows many similarities with Finnic and Slavic Paganisms; moreover, the revival of "Vattisen Yaly" in recent decades has occurred following Neopagan patterns. Thus it should be more carefully categorised as a Neopagan religion. Today the followers of the Chuvash Traditional Religion are called "the true Chuvash". Their main god is Tura, a deity comparable to the Estonian Taara, the Germanic Thunraz and the pan-Turkic Tengri.The Chuvash Traditional Religion has an unbroken continuation, having been preserved in a few villages of the Chuvash diaspora outside Chuvashia until modern times. In the late 1980s and early 1990s together with the demise of the Soviet Union a cultural and national revival blossomed among the Chuvash, and its leaders gradually embraced the idea of a return to indigenous Paganism, also supported by Chuvash intellectuals. The identitary movement looked to movements in the Baltic states for inspiration.

The national movement, meanwhile embodied in a Chuvash National Congress, carried on its "national religion" idea during the 1990s. Intellectuals started to recover and codify ancient rituals and started practicing them among the population both in cities and countryside villages, declaring themselves the guardians of tradition and the descendants of elder priests.

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