The world sings back: autonomous religiosity, animism and singing in the eastern Baltic
(University of Toronto)
Paper short abstract:
This paper will describe and discuss the world of Estonian and Latvian singing traditions both of which are characterized by animistic imaginaries full of helping, empathetic and playful persons, only some of whom are human and visible.
Paper long abstract:
This paper will describe and discuss the worlds evoked in Estonian and Latvian singing traditions, both of which are characterized by animistic imaginaries full of helping, empathetic and playful persons, only some of whom are human and visible. The extant historical record tells us that the native peoples of Livonia maintained for centuries flourishing singing practices which also confounded and frustrated the German clergy and landowning class. Both continue to view themselves as singing nations and see their ancestors as singing individuals who held onto a distinct spiritual autonomy as they withstood centuries of oppression and serfdom. The folk song archives of Estonia and Latvia show that through recitative, as well as more melodic singing styles, singers engaged in active dialogue not only with other human beings but that they also conversed with a wide variety of other persons, including celestial bodies, animals, indwelling earth spirits and other natural phenomena, as well as non-material spirit persons who have been understood as deities. Religiosity here is indeed a fabric of tangled and conflicting threads for the people of the Eastern Baltic also needed to conform to the Christian practices demanded of them by conquering German crusaders and their descendants who gradually enserfed them and transformed them into a disempowered underclass.
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