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Kakskümmend kaks kala eesti rahvausundis. I

Author(s): Mall Hiiemäe

Journal: Mäetagused. Hüperajakiri
ISSN 1406-992X

Volume: 11;
Date: 1999;
Original page

The present article is a sequel to the series of articles about the birds and insects in the Estonian fauna (See Hiiemäe 1996, 1997, 1998). In folk tradition the utilitarian attitude towards the fish was much more prevalent than towards the birds or insects. Until today, fishing has been an important source of living for the population in coastal regions, and for centuries the Estonians have shared their fishing waters with the neighbouring peoples: the Latvians, the Livonians, the Swedes, the Finnish and the Russians. Teutonic supremacy established its fishing rights both on the coasts and inland waters already in the 13th century.As to the subject of fish, Estonian folklore is rich in fishing magic. The disappearance of fish in a certain fishing area was often explained by the conflict between the locals and foreigners, or the leaving or taking the fish by some supernatural means (cf. the Estonian proverb: Envy draws the fish from sea).The bulk of folk tradition introduces generalisations based on long-term observation of nature and experience, also different prophesies and methods of magic to secure fishing luck. A part of the information centres on the aetiology of the fish, focusing on fabulates of uncertain genre about fish with distinctive outward characteristics, unique figure and behaviour. A separately standing group is formed of narratives which originate in the hunter-gatherer culture and have gone through changes influenced by land-tilling culture and Christianity, which regards fish as (somewhat demonised) spiritual creatures of the sea world.European perch (Perca fluviatilis) is distinguished by its habitat, spawning time and colour. The bright colour of its fins predicts the coming of cold winter. The fall in the number of perch has also been associated with the threat of Latvian fishermen to «take away» the perch if the fishermen were forced to pay for the fishing permits.Eel (Anguilla anguilla) is believed to have developed from snakes, or they are assumed to have a common origin. Myths of origin emphasise their resemblance with snakes, and associate them with biblical characters, such as the God, the God and the Devil, Jesus Christ, Jesus and the apostles, Peter, Moses, Eve. A second group of stories, or religious reports, introduce snake's transformation into an eel and vice versa (explaining how a snake was found in water, an eel was found in the nettles, how the transformation depends on whether the first spring thunder rains down on the earth or on the sea, etc.). Even during the 19th century the use of eel for food was rather occasional because of religious convictions.When the fishes of the order of sharks (Selachomorpha) happened to appear near a ship it was considered an omen for shipwreck, accident or the death of a crew member.
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