Saturday, September 24, 2016

Forest singing to wake up the spirits

I am teaching in Estonia again. Here is a scene from my first visit, early in 2011.

Pärnamäe, Harju County, Estonia

The gate is a simple weathered beam, fastened to young birch trees to make an arch. I tap three times with the wooden beater hanging below.
    "Tere tulemast minu juurde," says the smiling, bear-like man standing in the midst of the grove. "Welcome to my roots."
     He helps me to see the tree-sisters around us. Lindens, where ancient Estonian women offered sacrifice for fertility and domestic harmony, still held to offer psychic protection and many forms of healing; "bee-trees" in summer. Mountain ash. Birth. A solitary oak whose trunk divides into three near the roots. The oak, so important to my ancestors, is a rarity in Estonia these days. Once called "peasant's iron," the oak was the preferred wood for ship's timbers and barrels and much else.
    The trees are leafless in this season. Spring fire comes late to the Baltic. We feel spirit stirring, however, as we drum and sing together. "My house is built on the wind," sings the big man. He smiles again, after many verses, and says, "Some of the big spirits are sleepy. We have to sing runo-songs for a long time, to wake them up."
     Later in spring, he will bring school groups and their teachers into the woods and the groves, and teach them - as he says - "that a fox is not as big as a horse" and thaty inspiration, in-spiriting, comes in communion with nature.
     What does he want for the people he re-connects with the animate world of the forests? "That you can speak to everything, including your own body. And your soul. You can say to your soul, May you be like a beautiful berry."
     His English is excellent, but the strangeness of that Estonian phrase requires further translation. "A berry is good. A berry is full of juice. A berry is whole," he tries to transplant the thought.

When you are whole, you soul is a beautiful berry.

Still not sure I can take this in, until it hits me that this is Bear-talk. The Bear, lover of berries, would get it immediately.
    The man of the grove laughs when I make this observation, and mimes the action of the Bear eating berries. He grabs me in a powerful bear-hug and says, "Meel sa meeldid mulle. You come close to my soul."

Art: Albrecht Dürer, Three Linden Tree

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