Niina is a folklorist and a storyteller who loves to research and explore myths from all around the world.
Mardipäev Estonian Day of the Dead
Mardipäev is a holiday celebrated in Estonia on November 10th, the Day of St. Martin. Festivals and other occasions in the northern hemisphere that were connected to agriculture frequently occur at the same time. Mardipäev and celebrations like Kekri in Finland, Vélinés in Lithuania, Calan Gaeaf in Wales, and Samhain in Ireland have a lot in common.
On September 29, Mihklipäev, the Day of St. Michael, marked the start of the Hindedaeg era. It was thought that during Hindedaeg, which is derived from the Estonian term "hing," which means spirit and breath, souls and spirits interacted with the living. There are several accounts of how long Hindedaeg lasted. Some accounts place the end of Hindedaeg on November 25, Kadripäev, the Day of St. Catherine, while other accounts place it on Christmas Eve.
Additionally, some sources claim that Hindedaeg came to an end on Mardipäev. Hinedaeg was a season for honouring departed loved ones, friends, and neighbours. Some of the last nations in Europe to convert to Christianity were the Baltic states. All Saints Day, for example, is still not observed in Estonia today and has no religious significance for the majority of people.
Superstitions and Traditions
The practice of cooking dinner for the family and departed relatives was one of Mardipäev's customs. For the deceased, food and beverages were provided. The ghosts had access to the sauna as well. It was customary for the lady and the head of the household to invite each deceased relative inside one at a time. They praised the ancestors for keeping an eye on the family and begged them to guard the crops and the herd. After the meal and sauna, the master and lady bid the ancestors farewell and wished them a safe journey home, wherever they were going.
The Mardipäev supper included a dish of barley porridge, boiled beef, broth, beans, and peas. Goose is a typical Mardipäev dish in Estonia. Any form of noisy chores was prohibited during Mardipäev. Women in particular were forbidden from working with cotton, including weaving. It was thought that would curse the expansion of flax in the upcoming year.
Mardis are a crucial component of Mardipäev in Estonia. Children (and occasionally adults) who rubbed soot in their faces were known as mardis. To resemble the spirits, they dressed in furs and dirty linens. Mardis sang songs and short skits while moving from home to home in small groups. In exchange, they were given treats, meals, and beverages. There was a notion that the more mardis people welcomed into their homes, the more plentiful their harvest would be.
This tradition has its roots in France, where it was common practice in monasteries to distribute so-called soul-cakes to the underprivileged throughout the Middle Ages. Each person who received a soul cake was required to pray and reflect on a deceased loved one. German conquerors introduced the tradition to Estonia in the late Middle Ages.
Large numbers of Mardis walked around the town during Mardipäev parades. The Mardipäev parade was headed by the Mardipäev Father, followed by the Mardipäev Mother, Mardipäev Children, and occasionally a Mardipäev Baby. Parade participants made their way towards a sizable structure that was hosting a major gathering that had singing, dancing, plays, loads of delectable food, and drinking. The tiniest children beat pans together to make noise, and people performed harps, trumpets, violins, and other musical instruments. It was once thought that making a lot of noise would ward off evil spirits.
Mardipäev is still observed in modern-day Estonia, mostly in smaller cities and rural areas. People dislike inviting outsiders to their houses in larger cities. Mardipäev celebrations take place in the Mardipäev market in larger cities like Tallinn. Groups of kids still go from home to house in smaller towns and villages, singing and acting out plays. Mardipäev is still celebrated at many Estonian schools nowadays.
The autumnal season in Latvia began with the event Abjumidas. In order to honour the god Jumis, people celebrated Abjumidas. He was a pagan god of harvest and fertility who was honoured between September 22 and 24 at the time of the autumnal equinox.
Both a Catholic saint and the archangel Michael are honoured on October 1st as Mikeli or the Day of St. Michael. Mikeli was most likely a nature spirit in his early life. St. Michael was considered to be the sole receiver in Latvian folklore. That was the role of the god Jumis before Christianity came to Latvia.
As the "portal to winter" in both Finland and Latvia, Mikeli was responsible for completing all farm labor.
People in Latvia believed in the dividing time, a time in the fall when all of the dead's ghosts roamed the planet. Ledus likes, which means the time of the ice, came after Velu Laiks, which means the time of the dead. After Ledus, walking on the ice was secure.
On November 10th, a holiday known as Martindiena or Martini was observed. The day is referred to as Martinpäivä in Finland and Mardipäev in Estonia. Martini bears the name of the Catholic saint Martin of Tours. The Day of St. Martin is celebrated throughout Europe, but the event itself is far older. The name of the celebration is derived from the Latin and French words for death, mori and morti, respectively. Martini was a pre-Christian holiday observed in Latvia to honour the horse god Martin. He had two godheads. He would transform into the god Usin, in the spring.
Before going to bed on the Martini night, young women would toss their skirts to the ground, and in their dreams, their future spouse would pick them up.
Parades of masqueraders, sleigh rides, dances, and a lot of food preparation were all part of the festivities. Martini was the scene of martiparades as well. Small martis were babies, whereas big martis were adults. Marti's were individuals who painted their faces and donned ghostly garb. Other nations like Austria, Germany, Finland, Holland, Sweden, and Estonia also frequently held these marches.