Time of Souls aka Halloween in Estonia

I thought it would be interesting to tell you about the old customs and traditions Estonians had, long before Halloween came around :)Time of Souls was a period in the autumn to honor the souls of ancestors and to welcome them at home. November 2nd is the Souls Day, nowaday we light candles on the graves of our loved ones and on the windows at home in the honor and memory of those who have passed away. The All Saints Day on November 1st gets overlooked by Estonians because of our Souls Day.

During the Time of Souls, people expected souls of ancestors to come home. For that occasion a table was prepared for them in the house, sauna or on the mezzanine level.  Then the owner with his wife had to call the souls by name to come and taste the food. In return they would ask the souls to protect the crops and cattle. And then they were sent away again.  It was forbidden to make noise, joke, laugh, scream and doing noisy jobs like cutting wood for the period of the Time of Souls. Also working with wool and yarn was forbidden. Everything needed to be silent and tidy for that time. The weather at that period was dim, dark and foggy, when the weather was windy, it meant that the souls are restless.

In The Middle Ages there was a tradition to make a soulcake/bread, children went from house to house singing and begging for the bread. Not too different from today, when children go asking for candy. For every cake they collected, they said a prayer for a dead relative, so these could get to heaven. In the 19th century and the beginning of 20th century, people (mostly children) in Mulgimaa (a part of Estonia) dressed in white and went around the village quietly or howling behind the windows. They didn’t ask for any gifts, but they were given nuts, cakes, peas and beans as a part of remembering the dead.

The shadow, breathing and name were associated with soul. The soul is in all body, but also in organs, nails, blood and hair.  The parts that contained the soul like hair, nails and blood were never left lying around, so no one could manipulate the owner or send illnesses. For example headache was associated with hair thrown outside. They believed that the devil or an elf would make himself an invisibility hat from nails fallen on the ground during cutting them. The soul could leave the body in the form of the person it currently was, invisible or as an animal for a short time during sleep, illness or fainting. Death meant the soul leaving the body for good, hinge heitma meaning throwing away/tossing the soul is synonym for dying in Estonian. After that the soul moved into another being (human, bird or animal), went to the other side or continued living amongst the living (as a ghost or came to visit for the the Time of Souls).

I hope you enjoyed reading about these ancient traditions and beliefs my ancestors had :) Do you know any cool stories about the way your ancestors celebrated Halloween? I would love to hear them!


sources: Telegram.ee – Maaleht

17 thoughts on “Time of Souls aka Halloween in Estonia

  1. Interesting reading! And a little bit spooky too. We have an All Saint’s Day and an All Soul’s Day in austria. But I don’t know any traditional rituals except going to the cemetery (I actually don’t). It’s also a very quiet time here with sitting together with the family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there might be some similarities, but I’m not sure if I could find correct information in german. We have the All Saint’s Day as well but we don’t really care about that one :P

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Che bello! Da noi non c’è una cosa simile, questa è molto più spirituale e in Italia le tradizioni sono spesso molto più sul lato religioso. Ha molti aspetti in comune con halloween, è una serie di cose che mi son sempre piaciute!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mi fa tanto piacere che ti è piaciuto questo articolo e le nostre tradizioni di una volta ^.^ Penso che una volta la morte faceva anche meno paura, visto come si rispettavano i morti e c’erano tutte queste tradizioni :)


  3. Che bello! Tra l’altro ho voglia di andare in Estonia/Lettonia/Lituania…mi attirano come posti. Quando sono andata a Expo ho fatto la foto al padiglione dell’Estonia, perché mi sei venuta in mente tu :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Che carina <3 Mi sorprende che c'era anche il padiglione dell'Estonia. Spero che potrai andarci un giorno non troppo lontano :) Io sono sempre libera per qualche consiglio ;)


  4. Love reading about your ancestors and in Holland we don’t celebrate Halloween but do go by the houses the 11 November for candies because of origin it was a bead party of the poor who was cold after Sint Maarten, a sacred man !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think this could be the same holiday we have Mardipäev (the day of Mart) somewhere mid November, children dress up as this Mart, a bearded man with poor clothing. They go around from house to house singing and bringing blessings and in return they get candies and stuff :)

      Liked by 1 person

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