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2008 | 40 | 7-24

Article title

WOLF AS AN ANIMAL OF WORSHIP IN ESTONIAN FOLK TRADITION (Hunt kultusloomana eesti rahvatraditsioonis)


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Actual worship or veneration of wolf is not known in Estonian folk tradition. Wolf is a wild animal and oral lore about it, which has sprung from herding lore, is versatile and affluent. In the Estonian tradition, wolf was a force of nature that had to be considered and respected. Already the large number of euphemisms about the wolf is evidence of the great respect for this animal. A wolf - parts and substances of his body and the animal itself - was expected to provide help and protection. The narratives mention wolf's flesh, throat, skull, fangs, tail, hair and faeces. These were believed to help people to cure their ailments, ensure success and luck in household chores, work, offer protection against evil forces and bring luck in personal life. In Estonian folk medicine, wolf meat has been used to cure rheumatism; a person who ate its meat was believed to get the magical power to heal other people. Throat was used for beekeeping and growing crops. The skull was kept in the granary as a protective charm. Fangs were used for two purposes: to speed up babies' teething and as amulets or charms. Tail was used in both love and work magic. Wolf's hair was used for treating typhoid fever (hundiviga, soetobi, literally 'wolf's disease'). Excrements were used for treating colic. People expected wolf itself to offer help. When they were seen accompanying a traveller, people believed that this is their way of protecting people against all kinds of malevolent spirits (revenants, ghosts, devils and others) who try to spite people. It was believed that the wolves that protected people were of special kind: toonehundid, or wolves of the underworld, which did not kill sheep. Wolf is also featured on the coats-of-arms of some Estonian and Livonian families.







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  • Ilmar Rootsi, K? Eerika 90-37, ?lenurme vald, 40512 Tartumaa, Estonia


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