A matriarchal island: Kihnu |  Life

A matriarchal island: Kihnu | Life

An isolated island in the Baltic Sea on the west coast of Estonia. Kihnuis known as the island of women. Known as Europe’s last matriarchal order, the island community is ruled by powerful women. Kihnu at the same time UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural HeritageIt is also included in. Kihnu women also balance their farming, childcare and daily life obligations with their ancestral traditions.

Since men have not been able to be found on the island due to their work at sea or abroad throughout history, the burdens on Kihnu women go beyond traditional gender roles and reach every aspect of life. Kihnu women reflect their traditional culture with dances, songs, celebrations and skillfully handcrafts, but due to the lack of economic opportunities on the island, the young people on the island prefer to move to Estonia and therefore the traditions of Kihnu are slowly beginning to disappear.

Handicrafts are among the most important traditions of Kihnu. Kihnu women wear hand-knitted, colorful and patterned pieces. Since making these clothes takes a long time and requires effort, women come together and do this job together. If men are watching the women as they sew, they need to stand quietly without disturbing them.

Kihnu music has its origins in the pre-Christian era and is known as Runic or Kalevala. Most of the songs are described in lyrical or narrative style, and most are sung in everyday life. There are also lullabies and songs sung for children. Although these songs have begun to be forgotten over time, Kihnu women are making great efforts to preserve these traditional songs by passing them on to future generations.

Most of my Kihnu society is now Russian Orthodox, but they also continue to keep the shipping and pre-Christian traditions. The people of Kihn have been holding baptism ceremonies since Soviet times, but these ceremonies are a little different from the Russian Orthodox ceremonies. During the ceremony, godparents and other relatives give gifts to the child, and the mother pours the holy water on a planted apple tree. After this ritual, we all eat together.

Kihnu wedding traditions are based on the unification of the tribes, and pre-Christian traditions are still practiced. Reflection of ancient Finnish traditions can also be seen in items of a Kihnu wedding. At the wedding, the families of both parties give gifts and the bride is taken from her mother’s house and taken to her mother-in-law’s house. In this process, the bride’s face is covered in order to protect it from spells. When she arrives at her mother-in-law’s house, a ritual is performed where songs are sung, dances are performed, and the bride’s head is worn with a married woman headdress. Weddings usually last a few days.

Compiled and translated by: Dilara Preserve

References: Culture Trip. Georgian, Elizabeth. 6 Traditions Unique to the Kihnu: Where Women Rule. Taken from: https://theculturetrip.com/europe/estonia/articles/6-traditions-unique-to-the-kihnu-where-women-rule/

BBC. Jørgensen, Anders. Kihnu: Europe’s last surviving matriarchy. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20210513-kihnu-europes-last-surviving-matriarchy?referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.com%2F

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